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Toca Life: Office

Toca Life: Office

Toca Life: Office

Toca Life: Office

Toca Boca

Reviewed on 09/24/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

Have your kids ever wondered what happens all day while you’re at the office? Here’s an app that gives then an opportunity to let their imaginations run wild! Similar to the other (many!) Toca Life apps, the app makers have created a very rich environment in which kids can do whatever actions they want and make up their own storylines.  There are several buildings to explore (including, of course, an office, but also an apartment, a daycare, a restaurant, a courthouse/jail, a bank and a superhero’s secret lair) and players can choose to use the characters that are already present in the scene or choose from a panel of other characters available at the bottom of the screen.  Outfits can be changed so that a chef can become a judge can become a ketchup-themed superhero and all of the characters can be moved anywhere in the scene.  The props are all interactive and include thoughtful details like a wall clock that shows the real-world time, lights that actually affect the brightness of a room, and a copier that makes copies (yes, even if your character sits on the copier…..). Each scene also includes the option to record a video so that kids can share their storylines with a friend or relative. If they need a little jumpstart for their inspiration, there are some short scenarios to watch and an invitation to continue those stories. If you love this app, be sure to check out the rest of the Toca Life series!

Age group: Grades K-2
Tags: Amazon, Characters, Creativity, Google Play, Growing Up, Technology, Things that Go

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

Scholastic

Reviewed on 09/17/17
Paid on | iOS

Fans of Captain Underpants will love this app!  The app contains a slightly animated version of the entire first book in the Captain Underpants series (you can choose to read it yourself or have the narrator read it to you) as well as an avatar generator (complete with ridiculous and somewhat crass silly names) and four fun mini-games.  The mini-games include one where players try to aim the hypno ring at Principal Krupp, one where they maneuver a skateboard through a maze to reach Captain Underpants, one where they slingshot pairs of underpants at robots (Space Invaders style), and a sound mixer full of all of the grossest sounds you can imagine set to some funky beats.  The longer you play, the more features will be unlocked. Perfect for kids who think fart noises are the funniest thing ever! *Side note: Scholastic also has a free app called Planet Pilkey which includes more content for fans, but also features a complicated coin-earning/spending system (boo!) and a comics generator (yay!) and overall is somewhat less user-friendly than the app reviewed here.

 

Age group: Grades 3-5
Tags: Book App, Characters, Games, Stories

Sago Mini Hat Maker

Sago Mini Hat Maker

Sago Mini Hat Maker

Sago Mini Hat Maker

Sago Mini

Reviewed on 08/28/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

Design a fancy hat for your Sago Mini friends -- you can even try the hat on your own head!  In this app, kids become the hat maker.  Each customer arrives (a standard collection of Sago Mini characters plus a new introduction: Larry the Log!) and users are given a few standard hat shapes to choose from (bowler? Top hat? Fedora? A swirl of soft serve ice cream?). Next, the hat maker can cut stencil shapes or cut with a scissors to change the shape of the hat and then change the print (polka dots? Stars? Sprinkles?) of the hat material and paint whatever design onto the hat that they desire.  Last, there are some accessories to add and finally, your character and the new hat are ready for their photo!  Choose a backdrop or choose to try the hat on yourself and snap a picture!  Before they leave the shop, don’t forget to ring up their purchase on the cash register!  As always, great opportunities for creative play by Sago Mini!

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Amazon, Animals, Art, Characters, Concepts, Creativity, Google Play

Sesame Street

Sesame Street

Sesame Street

Sesame Street

Sesame Street

Reviewed on 07/31/17

Tons of Sesame Street videos from the show plus mini-games that engage kids interactively in a way that videos just can’t achieve on their own combine to make this app almost as good as watching the show.  The only thing missing is the overarching storyline to tie everything together.  You can search by favorite character or browse through collections of 8 different “learning areas” such as literacy or emotional development. There are plenty of celebrity appearances and the signature Sesame Street humor.  Bottom line: if you’re okay with (or big fans of) Sesame Street, you’ll love this free app.

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Alphabet, Characters, Concepts, Early Literacy, Games, Google Play, Growing Up, Math, Music, Rhymes and Songs, Spanish, Vocabulary

Fox & Sheep Movie Studio

Fox & Sheep Movie Studio

Fox & Sheep Movie Studio

Fox & Sheep Movie Studio

Fox & Sheep

Reviewed on 07/30/17
Paid on | iOS

Make your own movie using characters and scenery from some of the Fox & Sheep apps! Featuring artwork from Little Fox Music Box, Nighty-Night Circus and Little Fire Station, players can mix and match the characters and scenery, add in some music, the press record while you speak the characters’ lines and move them around to film an original cinematic experience. Finished movies can be saved to your camera roll then shared with friends and family if you want to show off your masterpiece! In-app purchases feature additional special effects, props to add to your scenes and more. Similar to Nosy Crow’s Fairytale Theatre--if you liked that app, you’ll probably like this one as well.

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Animals, Characters, Creativity, Early Literacy, Folk/Fairytales

Pango Blocks

Pango Blocks

Pango Blocks

Pango Blocks

Studio Pango

Reviewed on 07/30/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon | Windows

Help Pango the Raccoon gather objects by building bridges and ramps!  Players can choose “easy” or “hard” mode, then they can choose which scenario they’d like to help Pango with.  Will it be the baking story where he gathers ingredients for a cake or the garbage story where he collects objects that have spilled from his trash can or one of the other options?  To collect each object, players must use the given set of blocks (squares, triangles, etc.) to build a way for Pango to get across some deep chasms.  Once a path has been constructed, Pango can walk across and pick up the object.  Once all of the objects for a storyline have been collected, players are rewarded with a little comic animation using all of the gathered objects.  The game can be challenging for both kids and adults (a great one to play together!) and it’s great that kids can choose whether they want to start with the first story (with the simplest puzzles) or skip straight to the last story (with more difficult puzzles). Many of the puzzles also have multiple correct solutions! Occasionally the physics is a little inaccurate, but if you don’t mind a little wiggle room in that area, this is an entertaining and nicely designed app.

Age group: Grades K-2
Tags: Amazon, Animals, Characters, Concepts, Engineering, Games, Google Play, Puzzles, STEM

Fiete Hide & Seek

Fiete Hide & Seek

Fiete Hide & Seek

Fiete Hide & Seek

Ahoiii

Reviewed on 06/29/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play

Play hide and seek with sailor Fiete!  In this game, Fiete will hide behind rocks, trees or plants.  Players can move the objects out of the way or tap on them to break them into pieces (with very satisfying sound effects).  Want a little help?  Tap on the puppy in the bottom corner of the screen. The dog will sniff Fiete out, bark at him and when Fiete responds, it’s easy to spot where he’s hiding.  There are lots of other animals hiding in each scene too, so even if you don’t uncover Fiete right away, there’s lots to discover.  Scenes are randomly generated and different each time you play, but all are beautiful and get increasingly more complex as you proceed through the game. Be sure to play your own game of hide and seek with friends or family after you’ve found Fiete.  Will you hide outdoors or indoors?  Find a good hiding spot!

 

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Animals, Characters, Games, Google Play, Nature

Sago Mini Town

Sago Mini Town

Sago Mini Town

Sago Mini Town

Sago Mini

Reviewed on 04/30/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play

Build a world for your favorite Sago Mini characters to explore! There are five types of building blocks to choose from (desert, road, grass, cobblestones and garden dirt) and each block yields a different sort of environment (e.g. the dirt blocks sprout different kinds of produce while the desert blocks often yield cactus or sandboxes).  Players can place the blocks wherever they like over the expanse of water present as the default scenery in the game.  As they place the blocks, things pop up on them (like houses, shops, plants, Sago Mini characters, etc.) and those things have interactions both with tapping and by dragging a Sago Mini character on top of them.  If you drag one of the characters out over the water, they’ll suddenly find themselves in a boat (convenient!).  The app allows for more than one person to play at the same time and there’s tons of opportunity for dialogue and storytelling, so try this one out with a friend or sibling.  Truly open-ended play with super-cute results.

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Animals, Characters, Creativity, Google Play, Growing Up, NBC15, Things that Go

Fiete Cars

Fiete Cars

Fiete Cars

Fiete Cars

Ahoiii

Reviewed on 03/13/17
Freemium on | iTunes | Google Play

There are many apps for kids about cars, but most of them concentrate on building the car or on painting the car or adding extra wacky accessories to the cars.  You might be able to drive the cars around a pre-determined track or you might drive on an imaginary road trip, but to the best of my knowledge, this is the first car-related app for kids that encourages kids to spend time building the road and that's really interesting!  How will the vehicle respond to driving on bumpy roads?  Or roads with steep hills?  Or lots of twisty curves?  What if we throw in some imaginary stuff like teleporters or superfast conveyor belts or super bouncy whoopee cushions? What if we do change up the car?  What if it was a monster truck instead?  Or a tractor?  Or a bulldozer? Or even a horse? There are so many different options to explore that they didn't want to overwhelm first time players, so they've designed the app so that when you first encounter it, you have only a small number of options, but as you play, you earn stars and those stars add up to earn you new parts for your road and new vehicles to try out as well. The app is free to download, but if you want to be able to use all of the unlocked items, you'll have to pay a one-time in-app purchase to access the full set of game elements.  Sort of like "Minecraft" but with cars, your 6-8 year old child will likey love this one.

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Grades K-2
Tags: Characters, Creativity, Engineering, Google Play, NBC15, STEM, Things that Go

Mulle Meck's Boats

Mulle Meck's Boats

Mulle Meck's Boats

Mulle Meck's Boats

PiuPiu

Reviewed on 01/29/17
Paid on | iOS

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
Tags: Characters, Concepts, Engineering, Games, Nature, STEM, Things that Go