While I strongly feel that active, hands on play is absolutely essential to development,  the iPad can be an awesome and motivating tool that we can use within our classrooms, therapy sessions or at home.  Today I am going to highlight some of my favorite iPad apps that I have used successfully over the years with students.  Some of the apps provide opportunities to practice certain fine motor, visual motor or visual perceptual skills.  Other apps can be used as a way to schedule and structure sessions, or as more of a reward that students can choose at the end of a session after other work is completed. The best part – many are free, and all are under $10 in the App Store! 

1. Dexteria/ Dexteria Jr.

  • Cost: $5.99/$3.99
  • Age range: Dexteria is for older students, Dexteria Jr. for early childhood students.

The Dexteria Apps are awesome! I use the Jr. version a lot in early childhood.  It has motivating games that work on a variety of fine and visual motor skills, such as index finger isolation, pinching (a big hit!), and tracing prewriting strokes.  The Dexteria app is good for older student, and targets similar fine motor skills.  You can even add different profiles for different students and track progress.  I have not done this, but it is an in-app purchase option.

2. Handwriting Without Tears: Wet, Dry, Try

  • Cost: $4.99
  • Age range: Early childhood and Elementary students.

Handwriting without Tears is the preferred handwriting curriculum of many OTs.  This app recreates the ‘Wet, Dry, Try’ activity from the curriculum.  The hands on activity includes using chalkboards, wet sponges, and dry paper to practice writing a letter 3 times.  That activity gives awesome feedback to the hands via the chalkboard, but the app is a nice supplement as it gives a lot of practice opportunities for each letter.  You can do uppercase letters, lowercase letters and numbers.  You can organize the letters in HWT order, or alphabetical order.  A great app to have!

3. Unblock Me

  • Cost: Free!
  • Age range: Any.

When I did some of my clinical training with adults at a rehab hospital,there was a game called Rush Hour that we used to address a variety of cognitive skills.  I loved using it with my patients and they were pretty motivated to engage with it.  Unblock Me is very similar to the Rush Hour game.  The goal is to move the pieces around the puzzle to get the red piece out of the puzzle.  This is a great app for older students, although my three year old has enjoyed attempting some of the puzzles as well.

4. Doodle Buddy

  • Cost: Free!
  • Age range: Any.

Many of my younger students have goals for copying prewriting strokes/shapes and drawing pictures.  Doodle buddy is basically a white board, but you can choose different features for your ‘pen’, such as glitter, different colors, stamps, etc.  It is a nice app to have on hand to offer another way for students to practice these prewriting and drawing skills.

5. Bugs and Buttons

  • Cost: $2.99
  • Age range: Early childhood and elementary students.

This app combines bugs and buttons into a variety of games, many that work on fine motor skills!  My students (especially my boys!) loved choosing this app during our sessions, often as a reinforcement, which was great as they were still practicing fine motor skills but having a lot of fun doing it! I have only used the original version, but there is a 2nd version available in the App Store for the same price.

6. Super Stretch Yoga

  • Cost: Free!
  • Age range: Early childhood to early elementary.

One year, I had a whole classroom of boys.  They were totally motivated to do yoga because of this app.  Super Stretch is a superhero, and he takes you through various breathing exercises and yoga poses.  Not only is there a cartoon for each yoga pose, there is a video of a child demonstrating the pose as well.

7.  Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame Street

  • Cost: Free!
  • Age range: Early childhood and early elementary.

This app uses Sesame Street characters to model self regulation skills, such as deep breathing.  I like showing the video where the monster gets frustrated because he can’t put his shoes on, and he has to take deep breaths and think of a solution to his problem.  Students have to touch the screen to help him take the breaths and to think of a solution.  Very motivating for young students!

8. Super Slime Simulator

  • Cost: Free!
  • Age range: Early childhood up to late elementary.

I just recently discovered this app, and my kids have enjoyed following the steps to make and ‘play’ with their own slime.  This would be an awesome app to use as a reward at the end of a session.

9. TOCA Hair Salon

  • Cost: Free!
  • Age range: Early childhood up to middle school.  

This is the number one app my students choose as a reward!  They LOVE cutting the hair and think the characters are so funny.  There are many options for hair cutting, dressing the characters, and even taking a photo in the photo booth.  


10. Choiceworks

  • Cost: $9.99
  • Age range: Any.

Given that I travel between many classrooms and buildings, I need to make sure everything I need for a session is with me no matter where I am.  I love using the Choiceworks app to whip up a quick session schedule.  I love that I can take real pictures of items if needed, which eliminates the need for me to carry around a lot of laminated boardmaker schedule pieces.  Also, the real pictures are a more age appropriate option for my older students.

What are your favorite apps?  Drop them in the comments!

Have fun!


This blog is for informational purposes only.  For specific recommendations, contact your OT.

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