Find the perfect app for you and your child!
Sago Mini Puppy Preschool
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!
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!
Mussila Musical Monster Adventure
Reviewed on 12/07/16
Paid on | iOS
Learn musical concepts through this monster adventure app! Travel along a game board and hone your skills through different challenges. Some challenges ask you to identify which instrument is making the sound you’re hearing. Others have rhythm challenges, melodic challenges or ask you to repeat short measures of music played on a keyboard (the keys that you’re supposed to play light up). Most of the challenges are listening and identifying rather than creating music yourself, but there’s also a fun play area where you can choose the players, the instruments, then they play a basic tune while you can play your own made-up addition to the band on a keyboard or on rhythm instruments. There are many apps that claim to teach your child how to play music, but this is one of my favorites!
Toca Life: School
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!
Knock-knock with Bato
Reviewed on 06/19/16
Knock-knock, who’s there? Come along with Bato the bat as she collects her friends for a music jamboree! Knock on each door, then guess who lives inside by the sound of the reply. Sometimes it’s an animal, sometimes it’s an instrument, but all are eager to join in the parade back to Bato’s house to make some music together. This app is perfect for very young players as the gameplay is exactly the same each time. The more they practice, the better they get at guessing who lives in each house. If you guess wrong, the resident gives you a little visual clue (like sticking their tail out the window or waving a hoof) and you can guess again as often as you need to. The watercolor illustrations, cheerful catchy music (which increases in complexity as more friends are added to the parade) and Bato’s friendly encouraging personality give this app a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Be sure to check out the parent’s section for some ideas on how to play this game off-screen too!
Reviewed on 06/15/16
Challenge your listening ears in this unique matching game! In Sound Salad, players listen to a sound and must match it to the correct picture. Some of the matches are simple (a dog barking goes with the picture of a dog), others are more subtle (a rhythmic pattern is represented by strategically placed stones), and yet others are a bit imaginative (what sound DOES a zebra make?) but players can choose their preferred level of difficulty, all the way up to an advanced, timed level. The found-object collage style art is fantastic and lends a welcome sense of texture to this already sensory-rich app.The game itself is great practice in phonological awareness--the ability to distinguish different sounds-- which is a very important element of early literacy as well as musical proficiency.
Red in Bed
One of my favorite book apps! This simple story about colors has the perfect amount of interactivity. There is no spoken narration, but the printed words are available in English, French, Spanish, Magyar and Japanese. The pictures support the text and reinforce the storyline and the interactions lead kids through from beginning to end without distracting from the flow of this simple tale. The sound effects also support the storyline (e.g. while the rest of the colors make a chiming sound when you tap on them, Red (who feels ill) makes more of a honking noise, as though he has a stuffy nose) and emphasize the emotional response to the action. One fun little detail is that the colors, arranged in rainbow order, sound a full octave if you tap on them in order (don't miss out on the little invisible dot at the end of the line!) and if you're musically inclined, you can play a song on them like a xylophone. Great choice for sharing together on your next sick day.
Reviewed on 01/30/16
Paid on | iOS
You play a starring role in these silly, short animations! There are other apps that incorporate a photo of your face into an animated scene, but this app incorporates your face with a live video feed, allowing you to interact with the action. If it’s a scene of a baby whose pacifier is stolen, you can pretend to cry (while the animation adds tears). If it’s a scene of someone tossing pieces of food into their mouth, you can open your mouth to pretend to catch the food and then chomp it up. The app contains over 50 different scenario options (including a few which flip your video upside down and add eyeballs to your chin!), and some of them have extra hidden surprises. You also have the option to record the animations (even add your own audio) and save them to the camera roll where they can be shared with friends and family. Sure to bring on lots of giggles!
Music is all around us! This app encourages kids to look at some everyday objects around their home (from pots and pans to a sheet of paper) and even their own body parts as musical instruments. Try out the different “instruments” within the app, one at a time or mixing them together as you build your orchestra. No matter which combination you choose, there are no wrong notes. Once you’ve played with the app for awhile, look around your home to see if you can re-create the instruments you see on the screen or create new ones of your own!
Reviewed on 06/15/15
Paid on | iOS
In the computer programming world, looping is an important tool that allows a command to be run over and over, indefinitely. In the music world, looping is used to repeat a short segment of music again and again (think dance mix DJ’s). The popular video app, Vine, loops short movie clips into one continuous, never ending film. Loopimal has taken the looping concept and made it easy, silly exploratory fun for even very young children. First, choose from 6 of Yatatoy’s signature animated animals (sloth! octopus!), each swaying calmly to their own unique baseline music waiting for your command. Give them their “instructions” by adding in blocks with a color and shape to the 8 spaces below each animal (each color/shape has its own melodic variant and funky dance move). Users can create patterns with the color/shape blocks or mix it all up and get crazy. There are no right or wrong answers here! If making one dancing animal loop isn’t enough for you, there’s also an option to have two or four animals dance at a time -- each has their own independent set of color/shape blocks so you can have them doing the same series, or totally different ones and see how the music and movement and colors work together.