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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!
Bla Bla Box
Reviewed on 06/18/16
Paid on | iOS
Hear the words you spell! Does your child like to string letters together and then ask you what they spell? Or are they old enough to write sentences on their own? Either way, they’ll probably enjoy this deceptively simple app. To play, drag letters up from the alphabet at the bottom of the screen onto the “desktop” and the app will read the words you’ve created. The app reads every letter and letter combination that’s placed on the desktop, so if you’re spelling “ROBOT” you’ll also hear pronunciations of “RO,” “ROB,” etc. on the way to the finished word. This is an excellent way for kids to figure out how language works. What letter changes the vowel sound from long to short? What happens when I spell something wrong? (the app will attempt to speak anything remotely pronounceable, and will just say the string of letters if it’s not possible, but if the word is misspelled but still works phonetically, the app will still pronounce it. It’s not a spell-check app and should probably not be used to practice your weekly spelling list.) If users type in a “naughty” word there’s sort of a snide giggle that happens instead of the app reading the word aloud (although I did not test ALL the naughty words!). The app is available in 5 languages. One language (of your choice) is included with the initial app download and if you’d like to access other languages, they’re available as in-app purchases. This app can also work with the wooden letters by Marbotic -- instead of dragging letters up from the bottom of the screen, you can turn those letters off and just tap the screen with the wooden letters instead. Simple, elegant, and a fun way to explore language and spelling!
A workout app designed for kids! Choose whether you want to focus on strength, agility or flexibility and balance, then decide how long you want to workout (between 5 and 60 minutes) and the app will design a series of exercises for your workout. Each exercise is first modeled by a short video clip of a kid doing the exercise (with a very nice variety of age, gender and race represented) and then users repeat the exercise along with the model for the amount of time designated. It’s like working out with a group of virtual friends! When you’re done with your workout, the app tracks your progress and shows you how many calories you burned. Sworkit also has an adult version if you want to do a whole family workout challenge. Parents should be aware that the app does allow you to “share this workout” on social media with no parent permissions required.
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.
This is my food
Reviewed on 07/29/15
Paid on | iOS
This app is packed with information about the foods we eat! From details about how our food is grown to lessons about nutrition to interactive components that allow users to build their favorite sandwich recipe or complete a checklist of the foods they’ve tried (being sure to note on a sliding scale how much the food was enjoyed), this app is beautifully designed throughout. There’s even a free printable PDF on the developer’s website with even more, hands-on activities for kids to extend their learning even further. The app includes a diverse cast of characters and you can choose the “vegetarian” track if you prefer not to include meats and animals in your food exploration. Most of the app includes read-to-me options, but a few sections don’t, making this a good candidate for exploring together with your child--at least the first few times. One note: because the app was developed outside the U.S., there were a few terms I was unfamiliar with (e.g. “pulses” for peas, beans and lentils?), but it only served to further my own knowledge once I did a little research!
Colorful, geometric animal-esque figures build with virtual building blocks to reach the goal and move to the next level of the game. The beautifully simple, clean graphics will catch your eye, but the gameplay will keep you and your child playing this one together for a long time. Each level introduces new challenges--a bouncing spot on the floor, blocks that float, a thunderstorm with gusting winds. If you are connected online while playing, you might see a new animal character arrive on your screen to help--another player who could be from anywhere in the world. You each have only a limited vocabulary (about 9 words) to speak to each other (Hello, Help, Yay…) as you collaborate together to solve the puzzles (if you want to play alone, simply turn off the wireless on your device. Be forewarned that a few of the puzzles cannot be solved by one player alone!). This game is equally challenging and engaging for adults and kids and is safe for all audiences. If you and your child enjoyed Monument Valley, this one may also be popular in your home (though it does sometimes require physical dexterity as you balance one block on top of another.) Truly a gem! Note: As of early 2016, this app is now available to play on PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Wii U, PC, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android.
Reviewed on 05/31/15
Freemium on | iTunes
Learn Spanish vocabulary words, hear both the (Spanish) name of each letter in each word and the sound it makes as you spell it, the hear the word used in a Spanish sentence. Originator has created a Spanish-language version of their popular app, Endless Reader. The new app offers the option to choose between two modes: Spanish Immersion or Spanish with an English translation. Fans of Endless Reader might recognize some of the humorous animations (e.g. they’ve used the same sentence for the word “casa” in this app as the word “house” in Endless Reader), but the opening credits and the little animations between segments are all new for this app and have fun cultural references (a pinata! a bull chasing the little monsters!). There’s even a new mascot monster! Whether you are a Spanish language learner or a native speaker, you will surely love and learn a lot from this fantastic app! (includes more words as an in-app purchase.)
Pedro & Marg
Reviewed on 04/17/15
Freemium on | iTunes
Pedro & Marg is a truly bilingual story app, displaying both the complete English and Spanish text on each page. Users can choose to read it themselves, hear it being read in either English or Spanish at either normal conversational speed, or slowed down for increased clarity of individual words. The most unique feature is an option that allows users to “zip-up” the sentences and line them up side-by-side, the English phrase right next to the Spanish phrase and listen to recordings of each phrase in either language. Nicely designed for both Spanish learners and English learners!
Reviewed on 03/25/15
Paid on | iOS
Get out a pad of paper and a pencil, it’s time to play Drawnimal! A great app for combining real-world play with your digital device. Lay your device on a piece of paper (or other surface you can draw on), then choose a letter of the alphabet and draw a few squiggles around the edges of the screen to make it look like the example they’ve given you. Then, press play to find out what animal you’ve created and tap the screen for an animated surprise. This app is available in 6 languages, so once you’ve explored all of the options in your own language, learn the names of animals in another language!
Reviewed on 03/25/15
Paid on | iOS
Miximal is a simple game app inspired by flip books where you can mix and match the top, middle and bottom third of a picture. The clean, modern, whimsical illustrations invite children (and their parents) to play. The app takes advantage of the digital format to reward players with a short, humorous animation when all three parts of the same animal are matched together. In addition to the illustrations, users can press the “play” button to see the name of the animal also split into three parts. This can be especially amusing when the animals are all mixed up (what is a croc-ga-phant?). The app also comes with five different language options, extending the learning opportunities (or just the humor of crazy mixed up words in other languages) even further. There are other flip-book style apps on the market, but this one is a clear winner!