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Windosill

Windosill

Windosill

Windosill

Vectorpark

Reviewed on 11/14/17
Paid on | iOS | Windows

Beautifully bizarre, surrealist puzzles that are great for adults and children to work on together. With no time limits, very little sound and a quiet atmosphere, this app is perfect for quiet afternoons or evenings at home, snuggled together on the couch. Explore this app together and my guess is that you’ll find that your child can solve the puzzles at least as often as you yourself can. If you get stuck on one, put away until another day and perhaps when you come back to it again you’ll have a new idea to try out.

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Tags: Art, Concepts, Engineering, Family Play, Games, Puzzles, STEM, Things that Go

Sago Mini Farm

Sago Mini Farm

Sago Mini Farm

Sago Mini Farm

Sago Mini

Reviewed on 11/14/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

Spend a day at the farm with your favorite Sago Mini characters.  In addition to the things you might expect to find on a farm (horses, cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, a garden, tractors, a barn, etc.) there are a few other additions that add to the fun -- a giant mud puddle, fruit trees, a llama, a unicorn, a seesaw, a farmer’s market stand, an outhouse and (my favorite) a large juicing machine and a BBQ grill with often hilarious outputs!  Even more than most Sago Mini explorer apps, this one encourages kids to play in this space however they want to.  See how many animals you can stack on top of one another!  What sort of wacky things can you grow in the garden? Can the llama play on the tire swing? If you love Sago Mini apps or if you love the farm, this app will not disappoint.

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Amazon, Animals, Characters, Concepts, Google Play, Nature, Science, Things that Go

Tell Time with Mulle Meck

Tell Time with Mulle Meck

Tell Time with Mulle Meck

Tell Time with Mulle Meck

Piu Piu

Reviewed on 11/03/17
Paid on | iOS

Telling time on analog clocks was a skill that was difficult for me to learn as a child, so I am always on the lookout for new great ways to teach it to my own kids.  This app does a nice job of first explaining the concept of measuring time, then building a clock face (numbers and hands), then explaining how to read the clock with lots of different clock designs.  If a child guesses the wrong time, a gentle (but clear) hint is given.  There are no time limits, no scores, only a gentle music soundtrack and a congratulatory word or short animation when correct answers are given. A child can practice telling time for as long as they’d like. The clock faces change in degree of difficulty from faces that include both the hour and minute numbers to clocks with no numbers, only the tick marks to designate hours and minutes.  If you’re looking for a simple way for your child to learn how to read a clock face, this is a great option!

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Characters, Concepts, Growing Up, Math, Puzzles, Science, STEM, Technology

Monument Valley 2

Monument Valley 2

Monument Valley 2

Monument Valley 2

Ustwo

Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid on | iOS

One of the best games in app-land now has a sequel! This app was not specifically created for children, but it’s kid-safe and a wonderful app for kids and adults to use together.  Since the first Monument Valley game came out years ago, other companies have been trying to copy it, using similar design elements and color schemes and dreamy music, but nothing has ever been quite as good as the original until now.  This sequel has all of the beloved elements of Monument Valley (mind-twisting 3D labyrinths, sherbet colors, self-pacing and a thread of a storyline), and it builds on those in ways that brought gasps of delight from both me and my son when we played through it together. You’ll see new friends, old friends, and encounter new game twists that keep the whole concept fresh and new.  If you liked Monument Valley, you will not be disappointed in Monument Valley 2.

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8
Tags: Art, Concepts, Engineering, Family Play, Favorites, Games, Growing Up, Math, Puzzles, STEM, Things that Go

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!

See this app reviewed on the news

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

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

The Creature Garden

The Creature Garden

The Creature Garden

The Creature Garden

Tinybop

Reviewed on 07/10/17
Paid on | iOS

Mix and match body parts from all different kinds of animals (including humans!) to create a new creature, then take it for a test run to see how well it works!  This app is set up similar to TInybop’s Robot Factory app, but instead of building something with mechanical parts, players build a creature using a variety of biological bits.  First, a creature body is hatched from a colorful egg, then you choose what sorts of legs, arms, wings, fins, tail, head, eyes, ears, mouth, tusks or horns your creature should have.  A zebra body with 4 sets of kangaroo legs?  A caterpillar body with a flamingo head and a gecko tail?  Why not?  Once you’ve designed your creature, try it out on the treadmill.  Does it move most easily on land, sea or water?  If your creature is really struggling to move quickly, what changes can you make to improve it? Once you’re satisfied with your creature’s design, give it a name, then set it loose in the wild where you can feed it, play a game with it, create a habitat for it or race it against other creatures you’ve designed.  There are so many different levels of creation in this game -- will you spend your time trying to make the fastest animal possible?  The most elaborately fancy animal?  Or will you throw together a few quick hodge-podge creatures and then spend your time playing in their “real world” environment with them? Whatever you choose, this app is rich with potential and inspiration.

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Animals, Concepts, Creativity, Engineering, Nature, Science, STEM

Toca Lab: Plants

Toca Lab: Plants

Toca Lab: Plants

Toca Lab: Plants

Toca Boca

Reviewed on 07/05/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

We’re back in the lab again, but this time we’re experimenting with plants instead of chemicals!  If you’re a fan of the original Toca Lab, you’ll probably like this one too. There’s the signature mix of authenticity (plants are identified with correct genus/species names as well as the common names) and whimsy (the plants have faces and say silly nonsense syllables) so don’t expect too much realism (no, when you shine light on a larch it doesn’t usually poop out a dandelion seed), but players will have lots of fun figuring out which of the 5 main actions to use on each plant to get a good reaction. The actions include the classic water, plant food and light, but they’ve also added a centrifuge (which appears to grown tiny baby versions of the plant being experimented on) and a hybridizer that produces comical results. A lighthearted introduction to botany and the concepts of the scientific process.

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Amazon, Concepts, Engineering, Google Play, Nature, Science, STEM

Sago Mini Puppy Preschool

Sago Mini Puppy Preschool

Sago Mini Puppy Preschool

Sago Mini Puppy Preschool

Sago Mini

Reviewed on 04/18/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

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!

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Amazon, Animals, Concepts, Google Play, Math, Music, STEM