Cars 2 AppMates App with Manipulatives

Thanks to my OT and AT colleague Bonnie, I had the opportunity to attend a free in service hosted by Concordia College’s School of Education in Mequon, Wisconsin with presenters Sue Gorman, an Apple  Distinguished Educator and Ann Barry and Kate Sieg experienced AT/ IT educators from Racine Unified School District. It was a great day with reviews of familiar and unfamiliar educational apps and implementation ideas focusing on inclusion, instruction and access for special education. Sue Gorman also reviewed apps and software for iBook creation and apps for higher order thinking skills. This was a great in service for its content much less being free – thanks to Concordia College of Education!

Among the many apps presented, Disney’s  Cars 2 AppMATes   app (free, iPad) was presented and caught my attention as an appropriate fine motor – OT app that combines the use of the iPad as a mat with manipulatives –  cars that interact with the app! I love the iPad and all it can offer, but as a OT, providing manipulative activities to our students is still imperative for development of in hand manipulation, distal control, haptic and visual motor coordination skills for fine motor coordination. This app provides some of both with the user holding and manipulating the car that interacts with the app!

How does that work? Here’s screen shots of the Cars 2 AppMATes app to get a sense of how the app and physical car works. Note that there is an open web space of his thumb and index finger when kids hold the car – something we are always trying to achieve with our students!!

The physical cars are available for purchased separately, however, you can play the app using two fingers to drive “Paper Lightning” car on the app. Instructions of what to do are spoken aloud to the user as well as an animated arrow provides visual directions to where you need to be on the screen to make it work. The app give great verbal as well as visual feedback of how to play in this app.

There are other animated components such as a basic horn, gadgets (missle??- would not allow that choice!), and fuel that is free as well as more for purchase components which are not necessary to play. The app plays a game that you earn coins to purchase other parts for your car and leads you to other destinations in the app. Step by step auditory instructions are provided through out the app for what to do next. Here is a video of the app:

I am not particularly a huge fan of games on the iPad but this app, based on the Cars movie, is well done, easy to get started (even for me) and would be very motivating for students – certainly for boys on your caseload. It can provide a good reward activity with some visual motor and fine motor skill development qualities inherent in the app to motivate your students . I found driving Paper Lightning a definite motor planning challenge but the activity provided enough feedback to help me and was motivating enough for me to catch on and continue. Students may have an easier time that I not being much of a gamer.

Although you can play using Paper Lightning car, physical cars can be purchased online and typically come in packs of two. Here are some of the different cars available and links for purchase if interested:

Mater Finn McMissile

McQueen & Holley

Todoroki & Bernoulli

Do you have this app in your OT iTool Kit already? Are there more like this available?? If you have any experience please share!!


About Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, OTR/L, SCLV, ATP, CATIS

OTR/L with more than 35 years experience in pediatrics, school based therapy and adult rehabilitation. Masters of Science in Adaptive Education/Assistive Technology with 20 years experience in AT in education of elementary, middle school, secondary, post secondary students and work environments for adult clients. A RESNA Assistive Technology Practitioner with ACVREP CATIS credentials, AOTA Specialty Certification in Low Vision, USC Davis Executive Certificate in Home Modifications, servicing adults and students with disabilities in employment, education, and home environments. A 2020 graduate of the University of Alabama Birmingham Low Vision Certification Program.
This entry was posted in App Reviews, Apps for OT's, Fine Motor Development, iPad, Occupational Therapy, Visual Motor and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Cars 2 AppMates App with Manipulatives

  1. As far as I know, this Cars app is the first of its kind with more to follow. There was just an article in the WSJ about changing toys with apps – Mattel Apptivity has a line of accessories that they are rolling out for the idevices.

  2. Stephanie Sauer says:

    You can also get the cars at Target. I had recently seen them there and wondered if they were as good of a manipulative as they appeared to be at first glance. Thanks for the review, I will have to go get it.


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