Released on May 3rd 2010, Mad Libs is an app version of the classic game that has been delighting and entertaining families since 1958. It’s a great addition to a virtual family game night, and is sure to keep the family entertained on road trips.
The app doesn’t differ much from the original game. You just fill in the blanks with the requested type of word, then try to get through telling your hilarious story without collapsing in fits of laughter. However, it’s easy to get carried away with the ‘part of the body’ part of the game that could invite foul language.
The app's features include 21 free stories to choose from, interactive hints and word banks, the option for solo, partner, or group play, stickers, badges and other awards for playing which kids will enjoy, and optional connection to the Game Center.
While Mad Libs has been reliable family fun for years, just how educational is the app and is there anything to be mindful of when downloading the app for your kids?
Is it free?
Mad Libs is free to download, and the 21 stories included in the app can be used again and again - such is the magic of Mad Libs! The 21 stories are sure to provide hours of fun and keep your kids occupied during boring car journeys or waiting in line.
While Mad Libs is free, there are in-app purchases available to buy more collections, such as extra story packs for $1.99 each.
Is it fun?
Considering Mad Libs is going strong after more than 60 years, we would say it is fun! While the Mad Libs app has been modified to fit a digital format, what’s great about the game is that it retains what’s so appealing about the original.
Just like the printed version, the Mad Libs app is set up for solo, partner, or group play. This encourages interaction with family, friends, and classmates so your child isn’t glued to their devices.
The suggestions are also a welcome feature, adding more of a challenging element to the game and encourages kids to move beyond simple words.
Mad Libs has long been a lifesaver for teachers wanting to re-energize the more boring parts of teaching speech and improving vocabulary.
While the digital version of the game works nearly identically to the printed version, one difference is that the players will not know much about the story when coming up with words. So no matter what word you use it’s sure to add to the silly fun of the story you end up with!
It gives children plenty of practice in using adjectives, singular or plural nouns, verbs, adverbs and more. They also learn what exactly these terms mean, as there is an option in the app to define the part of speech as well as a list of suggested words.
This helps to further clarify what these terms mean, and also revitalizes players' creativity if they’re struggling to think of a word. It also helps kids who are just starting to learn about grammar play the game more independently in the future.
Unfortunately though, if players enter an answer that is incorrect and not the part of speech the app was looking for, the app doesn’t let them know. For example, if players use an adverb instead of an adjective then it’s likely they will not know what they were supposed to enter instead.
Mad Libs does have gaps as an educational tool, and should definitely be considered a fun, quick treat when it comes to teaching children about grammar rather than a tool that teaches them all they’ll need to know.
It may be a good tool following grammar homework so kids can test what they’ve learned. After all, incentives can be very effective motivators and if kids know they can play a fun game after they’ve finished their homework then they’re more likely to get it done. A game that is both fun and educational is the best of both worlds.
In a classroom setting, kids can work individually but - as with most games - it’s a lot more fun in pairs or groups. This not only encourages social interaction, but sharing their funny Mad Libs creations and having a laugh with their classmates could boost confidence with speaking in front of a crowd.
Another great way to liven up the classroom is to have the app projected, and for students to submit a bunch of different words in boxes labeled for each part of speech and then randomly pull the words out. Mad Libs even has an Educator’s Guide for the creative and best ways to inject some fun into the classroom, and some could even be implemented for at home learning.
The Mad Libs app strives very hard to be child-friendly. When new users open the app they’ll be asked to enter their birthdays which is how the app determines if kids are old enough to access the Game Center and the App Store on their own - remember, to do this you have to be over the age of 13.
Something to be mindful of is that the app remembers the last age entered, so be careful if people of varying ages are using the app.
If the player enters an age under the age of 13, Game Center keeps an eye on private statistics. Admittedly, Mad Libs could have a more effective parent gate, and should protect the age entry screen so only a responsible adult can enter the ages of the people playing to avoid children sneaking past the age restrictions.
Things to Consider
While the app is free, Mad Libs does have in-app purchases you could make, which is always a worry when children are using apps.
It’s always worth having a conversation with your children about the importance of in-app purchases, their real world consequences, and how important it is to ask before they click anything that means parting with your cash.
There are also some precautions you can take to prevent eye-watering in-app purchases on Apple devices.
You can use Screen Time to disable in-app purchases made from purchases. To do this, simply turn on Screen Time and follow the prompts to select who the device belongs to, set up or enter your passcode, and then go to Content & Privacy Restrictions. Select iTunes & App Purchases, then select In-App Purchases and set it to Don’t Allow.
But if you don’t want to totally disable in-app purchases, you can set your device to require a passcode as soon as any in-app purchases are attempted. To do this just go into your settings, select your name, iTunes & App Store, then Password Settings.
You can also use Family Sharing. This is a great option if your children understand they have to ask before making any in app-purchases but you also want to make sure they don’t go too wild.
If they want to download paid apps, then you can activate Ask to Buy so that you can always approve or deny purchase requests even if the app is free. This feature is available to use with or without Screen Time enabled.
Always remember to set boundaries and establish expectations. It’s important to be consistent so decide if you’re happy for your kids to make some in-app purchases and how much you would be happy to spend.
For example, if you’d be happy to pay for a paid app but won’t be happy to make in-app purchases. If your kid wants a new app, do some research and see how many in-app purchases are available before making a decision. This can be found on the app description page.
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, another thing to be mindful of is kids getting carried away with their silly stories and using foul language. Make sure to have a discussion about what words are appropriate and the importance of using words in context.
There is also an Adult Mad Libs app available on the App Store that is only suitable for those 17+. When searching for the app, make sure you’re downloading the appropriate app for your kids!
Also, the ‘more apps’ section at the bottom of the story list is unprotected. Tapping one of the other apps you can buy does trigger the parent gate, but even if the question is answered correctly, the app will still attempt to open the App Store.
While the link will lead to a ‘page not found’ error this could very easily take your child outside of the app and into an open browser which could lead to more problems.
The Mad Libs app is a fantastic adaption of the beloved printed game but with intuitive additions and a clear format.
However, while this app is both fun and educational, it is more on the fun side. It also has a parent gate but we believe this could be improved, especially because the app remembers the ages inputted and the ‘more apps’ section is unprotected at the bottom of the page.
There are also in-app purchases available, so make sure you set boundaries for your kids if they’re playing this game solo.