Carissa's App Picks for Kids - March 1, 2017

Carissa's App Picks for Kids
 
Best Sellers
 
 

 
Fuzzy House

Fuzzy House

Reviewed on 02/28/17

If you loved to make tiny crafty things with your hands and household materials and you had the time to make a really elaborate doll house, it might look something like this.  Luckily, even if you don’t have the time, skills or inclination to make your own dollhouse, you can play in this virtual doll house for as long as you’d like to!  There is a free “lite” version that includes all four dolls and the first floor of the dollhouse, or you can purchase the full version and explore the entire house.  Each room is filled with objects for the dolls to interact with, furniture for them to sit on, even logs and a lighter to start a fire in the chiminea (thankfully, you can’t start anything else on fire!). Some of the objects (like the storybook in the bedroom or the fruity drink in the kitchen) allow a closer look and a deeper interaction (you can read through the pages in the book or customize the drink’s flavors, colors and garnishes). There are so many different things to do and explore and it’s quite natural for kids to start talking for the dolls, just like they would with physical dolls.  If you ARE crafty and would like to bring parts of this dollhouse to life, be sure to check out their website where you can get knitting instructions to make each of the dolls as well as their nightclothes, plus you can get DIY instructions for many of the handmade toys and artwork featured within the house.  There are no right or wrong answers or ways to play with this app, no timers, no cheering or buzzers or other distractions.  Just a great, almost tactile open play experience.

Age group: Preschool
Platform: Android, iOS
Keyword tags: Animals, Art, Creativity, Early Literacy, Family Play, Google Play, Growing Up

Busy Shapes 2

Busy Shapes 2

Reviewed on 02/06/17

This sequel to Busy Shapes adds a new dimension to the play. In the first highly rated app, players match shapes to the hole that most closely matches the shape (sometimes just by shape, sometimes also by color, texture or pattern).  In this sequel, the holes are often found on different, moving planes than the shapes and players must not only match the shape to the hole, but find a way to get the shape safely past the obstacles and across the moving platforms without falling off. Thankfully, there is still no stress-inducing path to “failure” at this game since a new copy of the shape will reappear in the initial position if your shape falls off the edge of one of the platforms.  Part of some of the puzzles involves exploding “bombs” (classic black sphere with a wick), so if those are too violent for your child, avoid this game.  There are also catapults, icy spots, rivers and barriers to add to the challenge of moving your shape towards its corresponding hole.  Great practice for understanding timing and depth as well as shapes and cause and effect.

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
Platform: iOS
Keyword tags: Concepts, Games, Math, Puzzles, STEM

Radio Jones and his Robot Dad

Radio Jones and his Robot Dad

Reviewed on 02/06/17

This wordless, animated graphic novel book app takes us on an adventure with a boy and his robot.  When his real dad spends too much time working, our hero, a boy named Radio Jones, decides to create a robot version of his dad who can play with him and take him out for wild escapades.  The app features gorgeous artwork with a muted palette, a subtle but beautiful soundtrack and unobtrusive hints to help readers find the interactive elements of the story. Generally, these are not descriptions that would lead to an app that will appeal to readers ages 6-8, but somehow, in this app, it works.  Maybe it’s the graphic novel layout.  Maybe it’s the slightly edgy shenanigans Radio enjoys with his “robot dad.” Maybe it’s the very satisfying ending of the story.  Maybe it’s all of these elements combining together to make one of the most appealing book apps for older kids that I’ve ever seen.  Especially impressive is how all of the interactive elements help move the storyline forward, they’re not just flashy distractions. This story could have been told as an animated short film, but it works great as a graphic novel because it puts the reader in charge of moving the story forward at their own pace.  This element of requiring input from the user engages kids more deeply than passively watching a movie. It’s also an excellent conversation starter.  What would your child do if they had a robot mom or dad? 

Age group: Grades 3-5
Platform: iOS
Keyword tags: Art, Book App, Engineering, Growing Up, Stories, Technology, Things that Go

Space

Space

Reviewed on 01/31/17

Explore our solar system with this app by Tinybop.  Visit each planet and drop objects (like a snowman or a tin can or a rock) onto the planet’s surface and check the results.  Does the object melt? Sink? Burn up in the atmosphere? Crash and create a crater? Each of those results teaches users something about the individual characteristics of each planet, but without giant paragraphs of text (a welcome change from most space education apps). Check out a cross-section of each planet to see what’s below the surface. Is it molten rock or a diamond sea? Fly over the surface of each planet or past all of the moons in your space craft and look at them up close. You can also compare the size of any two planets (or the sun) side by side or weigh two on a balance scale to see which is heavier. There is also a measuring page where you can gauge how many “Astronomical Units” each planet is away from the sun. If your child enjoys reading the discrete facts about each planet don’t miss the Dashboard where they have created an excellent handbook full of facts and discussion questions to delve deeper into an exploration of this topic. Once again, an incredible app by the Tinybop team! This one encourages exploration and learning through actions.  Highly recommended.

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
Platform: iOS
Keyword tags: Nature, Science, STEM, Technology, Things that Go

Mulle Meck's Boats

Mulle Meck's Boats

Reviewed on 01/29/17

Build a boat with Swedish book character, Mulle Meck! Players may choose which style of boat they’d like to use, add a cabin (various designs available) and then decide how their boat will move.  Will they choose large and colorful sails? An outboard motor? A steam engine? There are many options and all of them work differently within the app. Finally, paint your boat and you’re ready to head out on the open water.  Load up a package to deliver across the lake, then start your engines (or set your sails!) and see how your boat fares on the water. Dragging your finger across the screen can create a strong wind and rough waters, but Mulle Meck never looks worried! Once your parcel is delivered safely, the game rewards you with a new boat component to add to your menu of options. Beautifully designed game, simple enough for even very young children to succeed, but the constant addition of new components makes it fresh each time even for older players. What’s the wackiest boat you can build? How fast can you get across the lake? How choppy can you make the water and still make progress? A well-made app with lots of details to experiment with and no right or wrong answers makes this a great option for open-ended play that will spark interesting conversations.

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
Platform: iOS
Keyword tags: Characters, Concepts, Engineering, Games, Nature, STEM, Things that Go