Find the perfect app for you and your child!
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.
Create simple animated movies, now with three-dimensional characters and settings! The original Toontastic app has been a gold standard in the land of content creation apps for years. Now, the creators have put together this new app that takes all of the wonderful features you’ve loved in Toontastic, made them 3D and added a few new fantastic options. You can still learn a lot about the arc of a storyline by building your movie in several scenes, but now they’ve given you three options for the type of story you want to tell-- short story, classic story and science report! Each of these options starts by breaking down your movie into scenes (beginning-middle-end or more nuanced divisions like “conflict” or “hypothosis”) and you choose which part of the story you want to tell. Need more than 5 scenes to tell your story? Add more or take a few away--it’s completely customizable! Each of the scenes is now larger than just one static screen and your character can walk around inside the scene, zooming in or out. I also appreciate that ALL of the characters can be customized with variations in skin tone and clothing colors as well as adding a photo for character faces. If you don’t like their pre-made scenery, you can always draw your own original artwork for backgrounds, characters, props, etc. Get inspired in the “Idea Lab” by watching movies that others have created! A fantastic sequel to a wonderful app, Toontastic 3D is perfect for home, classroom or road trips. The whole family can work together to create their own original film masterpiece!
Foldify - Create, Print, Fold!
Reviewed on 11/17/16
Paid on | iOS
Design your own printable paper toys! Choose a shape, draw on it, add photos and digital "stickers," then print it, cut it out, glue it togther and you've got your very own designed toy. This great, open-ended creativity app has so many possibilities for all ability levels. Young children will need help with the cutting and construction, but they'll be able to swipe colors across the shape to design it. Some shapes are more complicated to put together than others, so choose carefully. For beginners, there are a few shapes already designed (just print, cut and glue) and a few "coloring book" options with designs drawn on with line drawings ready for you to color in the images as you please. You can also take photos right in the app or use any photos from your camera roll (or save images from the web). Users can also upload their original designs to the app's community and share them with the world! Once your design is complete, you can choose to print it in a small, medium or large size and you can e-mail it to anyone. What a fun treat to send to far-away family! If you love this one, be sure to also check out Foldify Zoo and Foldify Dinosaurs for more paper creatures that you can print, cut, fold & glue together.
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 09/26/16
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!
Add this app to your bedtime story routine for an easy way to let kids know that math is part of everyday life. Every day (I mean, night) features a new topic with three related math challenges at different skill levels (wee ones, little kids, big kids). There's also a really tricky challenge question under a cloud labelled "The Sky's the Limit" if all of the other questions feel too easy. The app does NOT include a "read-to-me" option which gives great incentive for parents and children to use this app together. Parents read the introductory information to learn about a new topic, then kids can choose which level of question they'd like to answer. The questions are never simple flashcards, but instead do a nice job of working a math question into a story-like scenario. Click on the "Get the Answer" star to see the answer when you think you know what it is. If you don't like the math challenge of the day, feel free to search for a different one--they are searchable by subject. Answering the questions doesn't take a lot of time, but if done daily, it builds those math skills and is a healthy habit to get into! Note: the app now includes both English AND Spanish language options!
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!
Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts
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!
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
Reviewed on 05/18/16
Paid on | iOS
Kids (and adults) will love to play “store” with this app! There are two modes -- the first mode is virtual shopping in which you fill your cart with the items you want off the shelves, then unload the items onto a conveyor belt at the checkout lane where the items are scanned and the prices rung up. Then, pay them from your virtual wallet. The second mode allows you to actually print paper versions of all of the products available in the virtual store. Each of these paper items also includes a QR code that you can scan (on the screen which has become only a cash register and scanner) and then the receipt prints. Then, pay with paper money (also printed from the app) and the cash register will tell the cashier if any change is required. The sound effects are so satisfyingly realistic! You could also choose to tape the QR codes onto any play food (plastic, wooden, felt, etc.) that you may already own and in that way create yet a third way to play “store.” There are so many possibilities and some excellent math literacy opportunities woven into this fun-to-play app!
Help a tiny robot navigate three-dimensional mazes, then create some mazes yourself! If you love Monument Valley, there is a good chance you’ll enjoy Mekorama. This is one of those rare apps that can be equally engaging for both adults and kids and is therefore perfect to play together! In each of the 50 levels provided, a robot needs to find his way towards a red button to advance to the next level. He might need to go underwater, stand on moving mechanisms, avoid getting knocked off of the mechanisms, avoid getting shocked and try to steer clear of the roadblocking red robot. While I enjoyed working my way through the levels and discovering new challenges, I was most excited when I began exploring the options and discovered the DIY section. That’s right--you (or your kids) can create your own mazes, buildings and obstacles for a little yellow robot to explore (I’m pretty sure Minecraft fans will enjoy this part of the app!). You can save the mazes you create and share them with other Mekorama fans (be aware that the app does allow users to instantly share levels via social media, but they can also just be saved as an image of the QR code and then parents can monitor the sharing options). The app creator has also quite generously made this app free to download, but gives users the in-app opportunity to choose-your-own-price if you’d like to support the developer. I will certainly be supporting this developer as I’d like to see him make many more apps in the future!