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Shake the Tree

Shake the Tree

Shake the Tree

Shake the Tree

minibombo

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! 

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Animals, Book App, Early Literacy, Nature

Billy's Coin Visits the Zoo

Billy's Coin Visits the Zoo

Spinlight

Reviewed on 03/18/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

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. 

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Amazon, Animals, Book App, Early Literacy, Google Play, Rhymes and Songs, Stories

Oh! the magic drawing app

Oh! the magic drawing app

Oh! the magic drawing app

Oh! the magic drawing app

Louis Rigaud

Reviewed on 03/03/17
Free on | iOS | Google Play | Chrome | Windows

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.

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Animals, Art, Book App, Concepts, Creativity, Early Literacy, Favorites, Google Play, Nature, NBC15, Stories, Things that Go

Fuzzy House

Fuzzy House

Fuzzy House

Fuzzy House

Fuzzy House

Reviewed on 02/28/17
Free on | iOS | Google Play
Paid on | iOS | Google Play

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
Tags: Animals, Art, Creativity, Early Literacy, Family Play, Google Play, Growing Up

The Complete Fairytale Play Theatre

The Complete Fairytale Play Theatre

The Complete Fairytale Play Theatre

The Complete Fairytale Play Theatre

Nosy Crow

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!

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Book App, Creativity, Early Literacy, Family Play, Folk/Fairytales, Stories

ChatterPix Kids

ChatterPix Kids

ChatterPix Kids

ChatterPix Kids

Duck Duck Moose

Reviewed on 09/26/16
Free on | iOS

Take a photo, add a mouth, then record your voice to make your picture talk!  There are a number of apps available that have this function, but this free app by Duck Duck Moose is the most kid-friendly and appropriate version so far. After you’ve made your talking picture, you can apply one of the funky filters, add stickers (like glasses, hats, crazy hair, eyeballs and, oddly, a fairly large selection of Christmas related images), a fancy frame or write your own words onto the photo.  Once your masterpiece is complete, save it to your camera roll, then share it with friends and family.  Challenge them to craft their reply in the same app and send YOU a silly talking picture.  What will you create?  A chatty cat? A silly sandwich? A talking toilet?  The possibilities are endless!

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Alphabet, Celebrations, Creativity, Early Literacy, Family Play, Growing Up, NBC15

Peek-a-Zoo HD

Peek-a-Zoo HD

Peek-a-Zoo HD

Peek-a-Zoo HD

Duck Duck Moose

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!

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Animals, Book App, Celebrations, Concepts, Early Literacy, Games

Toca Life: School

Toca Life: School

Toca Life: School

Toca Life: School

Toca Boca

Reviewed on 08/25/16
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon | Windows

A digital "doll house" that invites open-ended play within the environments typical in a school day. Whether your child is starting kindergarten this year and is a little nervous about what to expect in school or your child is in their last year of elementary school, everyone can find fun things to explore in Toca Life: School.  The app includes six different play areas (home, school, playground, cafeteria, after-school youth club and a storage building), tons of objects for kids to interact with and a whole crew of characters to choose from.  From food fights in the cafeteria to sitting on the toilet at home or school, there's plenty of giggle-inducing activities and others that can spark conversations.  One extra special feature of the app is the ability to record a 2-minute original "movie" using the people and objects on your screen. When you're done, the movie is saved to your device's camera roll and you can share it with whomever you'd like!

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Amazon, Creativity, Early Literacy, Google Play, Growing Up, Music, NBC15

Artie's Magic Pencil

Artie's Magic Pencil

Artie's Magic Pencil

Artie's Magic Pencil

MiniLab Studios

Reviewed on 08/20/16
Paid on | iOS

Help Artie use his Magic Pencil to repair all of the destruction caused by a wayward dinosaur! Artie discovers a magic pencil wedged into a rock (like the Sword in the Stone) on a walk through the woods.  He is delighted to discover that the objects he draws with the pencil come to life! The drawings in this app are pre-determined and made by combining simple shapes.  Players use their finger (or a stylus if you have one) to trace along the lines, connecting the dots to create the images that come to life.  Players can also change the color or the patterns decorating the objects.  Although the pre-determined drawings don’t allow for open-ended or creative play, tracing the lines and discussing the different shapes used to create the drawings are both excellent pre-writing practice.

Age group: Preschool
Tags: Animals, Art, Concepts, Early Literacy, Things that Go, Writing

Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts

Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts

Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts

Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts

Monkey Bar Collective

Reviewed on 08/01/16
Freemium on | iTunes | Google Play

Photo scavenger hunts ready to play on your mobile device! From hunts to keep your family engaged and entertained in the car or at a restaurant waiting for your food to hunts that lead players through the alphabet or inspire them to act out a detective mystery, this app is packed with open-ended inspiration to keep players working together to capture pictures inspired by the list of clues. Once they find something to photograph in response to a clue, they snap a photo then type answers to one or two short questions (yay, literacy!).  The app then incorporates their answers in a caption for the photo.  Each of the captioned photos can be downloaded to your device then used however you’d like to use them!  If you love this app, more hunts are available for purchase, including a grocery store hunt, look in a book, snow day, number and color hunts and many more!

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Alphabet, Animals, Art, Concepts, Creativity, Early Literacy, Family Play, Games, Google Play, Growing Up, Nature, NBC15, Science, Technology, Things that Go, Vocabulary