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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

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 | Google Play | Windows

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!

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Tags: Engineering, Family Play, Games, Google Play, Growing Up, NBC15, Stories, Things that Go

Love you to Bits

Love you to Bits

Love you to Bits

Love you to Bits

Alike Studio

Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid on | iOS

Although the game begins with Kosmo’s robot girlfriend, Nova, getting blasted into pieces that are scattered throughout the galaxy, this game is actually charmingly cute and relaxing to play. The goal of the game is to travel throughout the universe helping Kosmo to collect pieces of Nova as well as mementos of their relationship that will help to restore her memories of them together when she’s been rebuilt. Each planet that Kosmo travels to has a different scenario, but most of them are fairly familiar (like a children’s park or a library) with a few extraterrestrial elements (robot dogs, aliens of all sorts, etc.). Parents should be aware that one of the searches takes place in a bar, but it’s fairly tame (there is mellow banjo music on this level) and a few of the side characters shoot laser guns. Also, the front page of the app allows access to social media, so keep an eye on this unless you want your twitter feed to suddenly be all about this game. This is a fun one for kids and parents to play together!

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

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

Stop, Breathe & Think Kids

Stop, Breathe & Think Kids

Stop, Breathe & Think Kids

Stop, Breathe & Think Kids

Stop, Breathe & Think

Reviewed on 08/28/17
Freemium on | iTunes

Introduce your child to mindfulness and meditation through this playful, contemplative app.  When you open your account, you can create profiles for multiple children.  Each time you use it, choose which profile you want to enter, then you can choose from a list of all the possible meditations (“missions”) or you can “find a mission” by selecting up to 3 emotions from a provided emoji-style list which the app then will use to choose a meditation for you. Mission categories include predictable topics like Quiet, Focus and Sleep, but there are also Energizing meditations and ones you can use in case of a Meltdown.  The meditations range from about 2-6 minutes long and a simple animation is shown during the meditation to give kids something to look at and focus on while they’re trying out this technique.  The animations feature different animal characters (plus a cloud, a raisin, and a yeti -- all appropriate images for the particular meditation).  When the meditation is done playing, kids are asked once again to choose three emojis to describe how they’re feeling now and then they are given a virtual “sticker” (which just goes onto a sticker page, more like a badge -- it can’t be moved around). This emoji exercise is a great way to get kids talking about different nuances of emotion beyond just “happy” and “sad.” The app is based on the mindfulness games developed by Susan Kaiser Greenland and if you like what you see in the app, she’s written a whole book of mindfulness “games” for children.  The app is free to download and use over 15 meditation options, but if you want to unlock and access ALL of the meditations in their library, there is a subscription fee.  There is also a web-based version of the app.

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Animals, Family Play, Growing Up, Nature, Vocabulary

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

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

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

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