Find the perfect app for you and your child!
Shake the Tree
Reviewed on 04/24/17
Paid on | iOS
Shake the tree and see what falls out! This simple app, based on their book with the same title (currently available only in the Italian language version) invites users to shake a tree (by dragging or tapping with a finger, not by shaking the device) to see what animal falls out of the tree next. A few more taps on the animal will produce a funny little animation as the animal figures out a unique way to get back up into the tree. The gameplay changes subtly with repeat play, giving it even greater value! This app is perfect for the youngest users as there is only very simple hand-eye coordination required and the app also includes a logical “ending,” making it easier to say “all done!” and turn it off when it’s finished. If you liked their earlier app called The White Book (also based on a print book), you will enjoy Shake the Tree!
Sago Mini Puppy Preschool
I am a huge fan of Sago Mini’s play-based app collection, so when I heard that they were putting out this app with “light educational content” I was skeptical. So skeptical that I actually refused to purchase it or look at it for months. Silly me. I should have trusted that if Sago Mini was going to do “educational” content, they wouldn’t get didactic. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this app is just as entertaining and pleasurable to play with as the rest of the apps they make. The app store description says that it includes “numbers, shape recognition, matching and music fun” but… they don’t mention that the shapes are not just your average square/circle/triangle set, but are instead the shapes of different objects that puppies like to chew on (like socks, shoes, bones and remote controls!) and you toss the objects to the puppies who then chew them to bits or shake them back and forth in a playful manner. They don’t mention that the “matching” is part of a game involving feeding the dogs different colored foods and that sometimes special guests show up alongside the puppies (I will admit to laughing aloud at a few of the guest antics!). They neglect to mention that the “music fun” is in the guise of a dog piano where each key is paired up with a different dog who barks (or howls if you press and hold the key) each pitch. The activity that is the most overtly “educational” is probably the numbers activity in which you pile up to ten dogs into a wading pool for a big bubble bath. This section of the app includes the first linguistic voiceover I remember ever seeing in a Sago Mini app as a child’s voice speaks aloud the number of dogs as you place them into the pool. My favorite part about this is that you can remove multiple puppies at a time if you use multiple fingers, so if you want to count down by twos or threes instead of one at a time, you can do that! As with all Sago Mini apps, there are some subtle little details that add to the quality of the app without distracting (try bouncing the objects in the matching & shape games and listen to the changing pitches!) and there’s plenty of kid-friendly humor throughout to keep kids engaged. Plus, those puppies are all so CUTE!
Billy's Coin Visits the Zoo
A simple book app with charming, hand-sewn illustrations and twelve different surprises to encourage repeat play. This is the story of Billy whose coin visits the zoo (although it’s not clear whether Billy himself ever actually gets to the zoo) after being dropped down a grate. The coin bounces along, being tossed from one animal to the next until it finally makes its way back to Billy who uses the coin to buy a ball from a coin-operated dispenser. The ball opens to reveal a wool felted animal. There are twelve different animals to discover in the balls (you get a new ball each time you read the story) and each is accompanied by an interesting fact about the animal. The rhyming story is presented using just two to three short lines of text per page. The illustrations are crafted from a variety of fiber materials with charming imperfections. Users can choose a male or female narrator or can turn off the narration completely for a read-it-yourself experience.
Oh! the magic drawing app
Inspired by their book, That’s My Hat!” the authors made this companion app. Choose from a long list of colorful shapes in the side bar and drag them out onto the screen and watch them transform, with a few lines automatically added, into a dog or a cloud or a snowman or myriad other characters and objects. Depending on where you place the shape on the screen the object will be different (e.g. a circle in the sky becomes the sun, a circle below the line becomes the top of a tree). You can also tap a shape to rotate it or press and hold to change the color. Rotate your device and your whole scene will change as up becomes down or left or right. Make up a story about the objects in your scene, then snap a photo and save it to your device where you can send it to a friend or family member along with your story. This deceptively simple interface is beautiful, easy for any age to use, and full of creative potential. It’s free to download, but the authors invite you to make a donation if you’d like to support the work they do. Winner of the 2017 Bologna Ragazzi Digital Award.
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.
Create simple animated movies, now with three-dimensional characters and settings! The original Toontastic app has been a gold standard in the land of content creation apps for years. Now, the creators have put together this new app that takes all of the wonderful features you’ve loved in Toontastic, made them 3D and added a few new fantastic options. You can still learn a lot about the arc of a storyline by building your movie in several scenes, but now they’ve given you three options for the type of story you want to tell-- short story, classic story and science report! Each of these options starts by breaking down your movie into scenes (beginning-middle-end or more nuanced divisions like “conflict” or “hypothosis”) and you choose which part of the story you want to tell. Need more than 5 scenes to tell your story? Add more or take a few away--it’s completely customizable! Each of the scenes is now larger than just one static screen and your character can walk around inside the scene, zooming in or out. I also appreciate that ALL of the characters can be customized with variations in skin tone and clothing colors as well as adding a photo for character faces. If you don’t like their pre-made scenery, you can always draw your own original artwork for backgrounds, characters, props, etc. Get inspired in the “Idea Lab” by watching movies that others have created! A fantastic sequel to a wonderful app, Toontastic 3D is perfect for home, classroom or road trips. The whole family can work together to create their own original film masterpiece!
Reviewed on 12/07/16
Paid on | iOS
Stack the building up as tall as you can before it topples! Based on a card game by German game and toy company, HABA, Rhino Hero challenges players to make the tallest building they can, using blocks of different sizes to represent the different floors of the building. Along the way, you can receive assistance from Rhino Baby who has a pink ray gun that freezes your building to keep it from getting shaky. Villains occasionally fly into the scene and you can call in Rhino Hero to battle with them so that they can’t knock down your building (the battles are short and are mostly a purple cloud of dust and flying fists that leave the villains looking shabby and dejected more than actually hurt). The different blocks that make up the building often have silly scenarios in them and a few have special powers (like a super sticky honey bear one that can even hold blocks stuck to the side of it). Players can choose to stack carefully to build the most stable tower possible or just stack blocks one on top of the other to build up high as fast as they can. There are subtle lessons of physics involved as you work with balance, stability, wind and other forces (from villains) as well as immediate rewards of earning “new” silly blocks to build your tower with. As a parent who has played both the physical and digital version of this game, I’d venture to say that I actually prefer the app!
Foldify - Create, Print, Fold!
Reviewed on 11/17/16
Paid on | iOS
Design your own printable paper toys! Choose a shape, draw on it, add photos and digital "stickers," then print it, cut it out, glue it togther and you've got your very own designed toy. This great, open-ended creativity app has so many possibilities for all ability levels. Young children will need help with the cutting and construction, but they'll be able to swipe colors across the shape to design it. Some shapes are more complicated to put together than others, so choose carefully. For beginners, there are a few shapes already designed (just print, cut and glue) and a few "coloring book" options with designs drawn on with line drawings ready for you to color in the images as you please. You can also take photos right in the app or use any photos from your camera roll (or save images from the web). Users can also upload their original designs to the app's community and share them with the world! Once your design is complete, you can choose to print it in a small, medium or large size and you can e-mail it to anyone. What a fun treat to send to far-away family! If you love this one, be sure to also check out Foldify Zoo and Foldify Dinosaurs for more paper creatures that you can print, cut, fold & glue together.
An app made by kids (with a little help from Fiete!) takes users on a trip through a very creative zoo! The developers invited 30 kids to their offices to help create this app collaboratively. Each kid designed an animal, named it and recorded the sound it would make. Users can now wander the zoo, accompanied by the sailor Fiete, meet all of the animals, hear them make noise and feed them random “food” illustrations that fall from the sky when you press the knife/fork symbol. I love that they’ve honored the children’s illustrations by leaving them unchanged and true to their originals with all “imperfections” carefully preserved. The names are also obviously unedited and range from the literal (there are several fish-shaped animals named “fischi” or some variation thereof) to the pop cultural (the one named King Kong that looks like a purple cat is a favorite of mine) to the human-like names that make me curious (the monkey named Klaus Peter…. Was that the name of a sibling? Or an enemy?). The only thing that would make this app more perfect would be the option to allow users to add their own zoo animal creations along with names and sounds, but even if that’s not an in-app option at the moment, you can always extend the app play by creating and naming cut paper animals on your own!
Sago Mini Planes
It’s time to take a trip and you’re the pilot! Choose your plane (standard or silly like a corn-on-the-cob plane?), choose your travel companions, then take off and explore the skies! You’ll encounter all sorts of giggle-inducing surprises and you can fly for as long as you like. Do you want to fly really high among the stars or closer to earth under friendly blue skies? When you’re done (or want to try out another plane), simply fly down close to the earth and a runway will magically appear wherever you are. After your flight, be sure to check out the souvenir photos of your trip which will include the surprises that you actually encountered on this particular flight and the traveling companions that were with you--a subtle but really nice touch by the app makers. As with all Sago Mini apps, this one is easy and fun for young toddlers but older kids will also gravitate towards it to discover all of the fun details. Try this one the next time you travel or for kiddos who love vehicles!