Find the perfect app for you and your child!
Radio Jones and his Robot Dad
Reviewed on 02/06/17
Free on | iOS
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?
The Complete Fairytale Play Theatre
Reviewed on 11/02/16
Paid on | iOS
Retell your favorite fairytale or mix them all together to make completely new stories. Nosy Crow, creator of the best fairytale apps, has now combined all of them into one incredible, creativity-sparking app. You are provided with a blank, empty stage, then you have the option of adding any background, character, object or soundtrack from any of their popular fairytale apps. Once you've chosen all of the elements of your story, record your voice while you move the virtual "puppets" around on the stage. Create multiple recorded scenes and then combine them together to make one long story. This would be a great app for families to use together. Pass it around the table while waiting for your meal at a restaurant and challenge each person to come up with a new scene to add to the story, then watch the whole thing together when it's done! Add an extra layer of silliness by not allowing anyone to watch the previous scenes before adding their own scene! A fun way to practice the early literacy skills of sequencing and storytelling. This app is packed with content and the creative possibilties are endless. The price is scheduled to increase in the future, so grab it now!
Reviewed on 09/17/16
Free on | iOS
A line-up of animals invites you to pick which animal matches the verbal clue given. Which one is yawning? Which one is hiding? Whose birthday is it today? A wide varieties of types of clues keep this game interesting for little ones and friendly responses to incorrect guesses make for low-stress play. This app would be a great one to play together with your young child to encourage conversation. The app may ask, “who is yawning?” and you can also ask, “What does a yawn look like? Can you show me a yawn? How do you think the yawning animal feels?” – all excellent examples of the early literacy practice of talking together! The musical soundtrack can be easily turned off on the first page of the app where the animals each introduce themselves. This app would pair perfectly with a reading of the picture book “Who’s Hiding?” by Satoru Onishi or “Who done it?” by Olivier Tallec. Note: as of Fall 2016, the developer Duck Duck Moose has joined forces with Khan Academy and their entire catalog of apps is now free!
The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Creative Play
Reviewed on 07/04/16
Paid on | iOS
Play around with the textures and colors of Eric Carle’s classic collage illustrations in this unique art-making app. Choose from a number of templates depicting favorite Eric Carle characters like Brown Bear, The Mixed-Up Chameleon, and (of course) the Very Hungry Caterpillar himself or choose a blank page and create an original piece of art. Art techniques include “cutting” shapes from Carle’s brilliantly textured “paper,” painting (with a brush or finger painting), or drawing with a pencil. Completed pictures are hung in the Caterpillar’s in-app gallery, but can also be saved to your device to share with friends and family. I’ve seen many variations of DIY art apps for kids, but the textures (especially in the collage options) make this art experience unique and very inviting for kids (and adults!). The templates help users who might feel intimidated by a blank page, but the option to also just use a blank page is very welcome. I’ve also seen a variety of apps inspired by the Very Hungry Caterpillar and this one is by far my favorite for its interactive and creative nature. The tracing and other fine motor skills required for this app are great for early literacy pre-writing practice!
Knock-knock with Bato
Reviewed on 06/19/16
Knock-knock, who’s there? Come along with Bato the bat as she collects her friends for a music jamboree! Knock on each door, then guess who lives inside by the sound of the reply. Sometimes it’s an animal, sometimes it’s an instrument, but all are eager to join in the parade back to Bato’s house to make some music together. This app is perfect for very young players as the gameplay is exactly the same each time. The more they practice, the better they get at guessing who lives in each house. If you guess wrong, the resident gives you a little visual clue (like sticking their tail out the window or waving a hoof) and you can guess again as often as you need to. The watercolor illustrations, cheerful catchy music (which increases in complexity as more friends are added to the parade) and Bato’s friendly encouraging personality give this app a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Be sure to check out the parent’s section for some ideas on how to play this game off-screen too!
Blue Hat, Green Hat
Reviewed on 04/15/16
If you love Sandra Boynton’s board books, try the apps for even more to love! The app developer took a very literal approach when developing this book app--the screen is designed to look like you’re actually picking up one of her printed board books and flipping through the pages. However, when you open the book you’ll discover that there are some new interactive elements not available in the print versions. For instance, on the page where each animal is putting on a shirt, the image starts off with the animals, arms up, halfway into their shirts. You can tap each animal to pull their shirt down over their head. There are some extra hidden surprises on each page, but since studies have shown that too much interaction can distract kids so much that they lose track of the storyline, it’s a good idea to just read the story straight through the first time and then if your child requests a repeat reading (which they usually do!) you can spend more time on each page, exploring all the silly surprises. If you like this app and you’re a fan of this author, rest assured that all of her book apps are of a similar high quality!
Red in Bed
One of my favorite book apps! This simple story about colors has the perfect amount of interactivity. There is no spoken narration, but the printed words are available in English, French, Spanish, Magyar and Japanese. The pictures support the text and reinforce the storyline and the interactions lead kids through from beginning to end without distracting from the flow of this simple tale. The sound effects also support the storyline (e.g. while the rest of the colors make a chiming sound when you tap on them, Red (who feels ill) makes more of a honking noise, as though he has a stuffy nose) and emphasize the emotional response to the action. One fun little detail is that the colors, arranged in rainbow order, sound a full octave if you tap on them in order (don't miss out on the little invisible dot at the end of the line!) and if you're musically inclined, you can play a song on them like a xylophone. Great choice for sharing together on your next sick day.
The White Book
Reviewed on 02/12/16
Paid on | iOS
A simple, wordless book app that invites players to discover what’s hiding on a white page. Choose one of 15 paint colors, then “paint” the white screen with your finger (or all of your fingers!) to reveal a white line drawing of an animal. Once the animal has been fully revealed, the rest of the page is flooded with the background color and the animal comes alive with a short, often humorous animation. Based on a print book of the same name, the app takes the surprises of the book to a new, interactive level in a brilliant way. The simplicity of the action and the rewarding animations make this book app appropriate for even young toddlers to use, together with a caring adult. Cozy up together to explore The White Book!
Reviewed on 01/24/16
Paid on | iOS
A simple flip book of silly animals and emotions, easy enough for very young children, but also a great conversation starter for older kids. Flip the top of the page or the bottom of the page to mix and match pictures of a dog, a cat, a pig and a bear. Swipe your finger across the page to distort the image for a fun-house mirror effect (with accompanying recorded giggles) or flip the book around to mix and match the back sides of the same animals. Each time you match the top and bottom pages with the same animal, you hear that animal’s sound (the dog barks, the pig snorts, etc.). One fantastic element of these drawings is that the faces are split right below the nose and the facial expressions have been created in such a way that every combination works together to indicate a new emotion. Eyes that look angry with a grumpy mouth look devious with a smiling mouth. This would be a great app to use when talking with kids who struggle to interpret facial expressions.
Cookie Next Door -- Rainy Days
Reviewed on 01/24/16
Free on | iOS
A graphic novel that invites you to record your own dialogue. Discover the story of Cookie, a sailor on some rough seas, as you create it! Open the cover of this virtual graphic novel and you’ll discover the first page of the story has only pencil sketches. Each pane contains a yellow star (usually in a speech bubble) and if you click on that star, you can record the dialogue you think should happen in that pane. Once you finish your recording, the illustration changes from a simple pencil sketch to a fully colored (and sometimes animated) scene. For each character in the story, you can choose whether the recording should modulate the voice to be pitched higher or lower. Once you’ve recorded the entire book, you can watch the whole thing playback in the “theater” area of the app. Although the story ends on a cliffhanger, be assured that Rainy Days II is also available in the app store to double your fun. Engaging and hilarious illustrations that appeal to a wide variety of ages and the imperative storytelling aspect make this a top-notch app pick.