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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

Old Man's Journey

Old Man's Journey

Old Man's Journey

Old Man's Journey

Broken Rules

Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid on | iOS

Invite kids to take a journey with an old man in this beautiful, calming app. Follow along with this wordless story and help the old man move through his journey by raising and lowering hills. As the old man reaches resting spots, he reflects back on his life in memory scenes. Parents should be aware that death via illness (not the old man) is an element of the game, but the ultimate ending is uplifting. The game was not created for children, but the self-determined pace, the simple game mechanics, the calming soundtrack and the gorgeous artwork add up to a great game for parents and children to play together. In fact, playing from the perspective of the old man might just give your kids a little more empathy or might spark some interesting conversations between the two of you!

Age group: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Tags: Engineering, Family Play, Games, Google Play, Growing Up, Stories, 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!

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

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

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

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

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