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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

Robot Factory

Robot Factory

Robot Factory

Robot Factory

Tinybop

Reviewed on 06/05/17
Paid on | iOS
Freemium on | Google Play

Design your own robot, then take it for a walk in the great outdoors and see how it handles the environment!  Will your robot, walk, stroll or roll?  Will it have laser arms or a brain floating in a glass jar? Will it be able to chop down trees or leap over them in a single bound?  Or maybe, just maybe, you can design the master of the dancefloor!  There are so many options in Tinybop's Robot Factory.  Choose accessories, appendages, a color scheme, then take it a step further and give your robot a name and a backstory!  This app is crammed with options and the possibilities are endless.  That appendage there -- is it a leg?  An arm?  A head?  You choose where to install it on the robot! Feeling overwhelmed by the options?  Check out the robot manual that tells you all about each and every robot part and the different skills and traits it will impart upon your robot. Once you've created a few robots, challenge someone else to come up with a robot that can jump higher than yours or the silliest robot or the most beautiful robot.  Learn more about the makers of this app on the library's App Fairy podcast here!

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Creativity, Engineering, NBC15, STEM, 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

Radio Jones and his Robot Dad

Radio Jones and his Robot Dad

Radio Jones and his Robot Dad

Radio Jones and his Robot Dad

Nexus Productions

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? 

Age group: Grades 3-5
Tags: Art, Book App, Engineering, Growing Up, Stories, Technology, 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

Rhino Hero

Rhino Hero

Rhino Hero

Rhino Hero

Fox & Sheep

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!

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Animals, Engineering, Games, STEM

Busy Water

Busy Water

Busy Water

Busy Water

Edoki Academy

Reviewed on 08/20/16
Paid on | iOS

Play with the physics of water in a series of increasingly challenging puzzles while saving the life of a cute little goldfish. Starting with simple pipes that are straight or at right angles, then working your way through freefall mazes (gravity plays a role and players must turn their devices accordingly to make the water fall where they want it to go), gates that need to be opened, water cannons, freezers and heaters and sensors that turn on using either water, ice or steam, some of the puzzles can be truly challenging even for an adult, making this an excellent app for a child and parent to work through together, collaboratively. Most puzzles have multiple solutions making this app fun to play over and over again.  The best part is that once you’ve completed levels 1-4, you unlock Build Mode when you can create your own maze puzzles for Archie the fish to swim through (and share your levels with your friends)! Fantastic value with tons of play value and learning opportunities!

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Animals, Concepts, Creativity, Engineering, Family Play, Favorites, Games, Nature, Puzzles, Science, STEM

Skyscrapers

Skyscrapers

Skyscrapers

Skyscrapers

Tinybop

Reviewed on 08/19/16
Paid on | iOS

Build your own skyline full of towering buildings and explore how the insides work. Players begin with one building.  They can add floors to make it as tall as they want (topping out at 50 stories), choose the design for the top of the building and a color scheme and facade for the outside. Once they’re happy with the design of their building, it’s time to explore the inner workings.  How do the elevators divide up all the work?  What happens if too many people are using high-energy electrical appliances at once? What happens if a toilet gets clogged on one of the floors below yours?  There’s also an opportunity to experiment with different kinds of bedrock support systems and earthquakes and extreme weather.  How will your tower manage the stress? The people characters inhabiting and working in these skyscrapers are refreshingly diverse in race, gender and body shape. Filled with open-ended content to discover and experiment with and yet, I’m guessing that many kids will get the most enjoyment out of clogging the toilets--hilarious!

Age group: Grades K-2
Tags: Engineering, STEM, Technology

Tinybop

Paid on | iOS

Age: Grades K-2

Topics: Engineering, STEM, Technology

 

Moonbeeps: Gizmo

Moonbeeps: Gizmo

Moonbeeps: Gizmo

Moonbeeps: Gizmo

Moonbot Studios

Reviewed on 06/24/16
Paid on | iOS

An authentic dashboard for your pretend rocketship! This app invites users to create a play rocketship (they give instructions for making one from cardboard, but of course, you’re welcome to build it however you’d like!) and then use this app as the control panel. It’s got lots of buttons and levers and switches, it makes a whole bunch of different sound effects from calm beeps all the way to a more emergency-sounding alarm buzz. Some of the buttons you press (or levers you pull down or switches that you flip) make a light come on or change something on the control panel. Sometimes those lights change your ability to interact with another part of the control panel.  One of the windows opens to reveal a field of stars which are sometimes still (although if you move your tablet around it gives a very 3D effect as though you are looking all around your spaceship) and are sometimes zooming past as though you are traveling at light speed. There is no right or wrong way to interact with this app, no beginning or end to the play possibilities, so users could also make this into the control panel on the front of a robot costume or equipment in a science lab or build a flying saucer or submarine.  The sky is the limit!

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Creativity, Engineering, Technology, Things that Go