Find the perfect app for you and your child!
Radio Jones and his Robot Dad
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?
Reviewed on 01/31/17
Paid on | iOS
Explore our solar system with this app by Tinybop. Visit each planet and drop objects (like a snowman or a tin can or a rock) onto the planet’s surface and check the results. Does the object melt? Sink? Burn up in the atmosphere? Crash and create a crater? Each of those results teaches users something about the individual characteristics of each planet, but without giant paragraphs of text (a welcome change from most space education apps). Check out a cross-section of each planet to see what’s below the surface. Is it molten rock or a diamond sea? Fly over the surface of each planet or past all of the moons in your space craft and look at them up close. You can also compare the size of any two planets (or the sun) side by side or weigh two on a balance scale to see which is heavier. There is also a measuring page where you can gauge how many “Astronomical Units” each planet is away from the sun. If your child enjoys reading the discrete facts about each planet don’t miss the Dashboard where they have created an excellent handbook full of facts and discussion questions to delve deeper into an exploration of this topic. Once again, an incredible app by the Tinybop team! This one encourages exploration and learning through actions. Highly recommended.
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!
Reviewed on 08/19/16
Paid on | iOS
Build your own skyline full of towering buildings and explore how the insides work. Players begin with one building. They can add floors to make it as tall as they want (topping out at 50 stories), choose the design for the top of the building and a color scheme and facade for the outside. Once they’re happy with the design of their building, it’s time to explore the inner workings. How do the elevators divide up all the work? What happens if too many people are using high-energy electrical appliances at once? What happens if a toilet gets clogged on one of the floors below yours? There’s also an opportunity to experiment with different kinds of bedrock support systems and earthquakes and extreme weather. How will your tower manage the stress? The people characters inhabiting and working in these skyscrapers are refreshingly diverse in race, gender and body shape. Filled with open-ended content to discover and experiment with and yet, I’m guessing that many kids will get the most enjoyment out of clogging the toilets--hilarious!
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 06/24/16
Paid on | iOS
An authentic dashboard for your pretend rocketship! This app invites users to create a play rocketship (they give instructions for making one from cardboard, but of course, you’re welcome to build it however you’d like!) and then use this app as the control panel. It’s got lots of buttons and levers and switches, it makes a whole bunch of different sound effects from calm beeps all the way to a more emergency-sounding alarm buzz. Some of the buttons you press (or levers you pull down or switches that you flip) make a light come on or change something on the control panel. Sometimes those lights change your ability to interact with another part of the control panel. One of the windows opens to reveal a field of stars which are sometimes still (although if you move your tablet around it gives a very 3D effect as though you are looking all around your spaceship) and are sometimes zooming past as though you are traveling at light speed. There is no right or wrong way to interact with this app, no beginning or end to the play possibilities, so users could also make this into the control panel on the front of a robot costume or equipment in a science lab or build a flying saucer or submarine. The sky is the limit!
Reviewed on 05/17/16
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!
Reviewed on 09/11/15
Free on | iOS
An astounding amount of interesting information and inspiring invitations to create and share your own ideas are packed into this fantastic app. With content curated by educators and well-organized into subject areas, there’s something for everyone here! Want to learn about robots? Or see how to create silly faces in public places using only two wiggle eyes? Or learn how to design a tree house? The videos and creativity prompts are engaging for kids and adults alike! Because there is a coin-earning element (you earn coins for doing any of the activities and you spend coins to “buy” parts for the creations you make), a safe social “sharing” element and occasional text (that isn’t read aloud) this app is more appropriate for older kids or for a parent to use alongside younger kids. A great way to spark ideas for rainy-day activities! (note: this app was originally called Wonderbox. The name changed in August of 2016 when the developer partnered with Khan Academy.)
Design your own fireworks by feeding each blank firework a combination of shapes and patterns. Then, light the fuse with a tap of your finger and watch your creation spout endless fountains of beautiful explosions! This app allows kids to be in control of their own show and might help reduce some of the trepidation that some children feel around loud and unpredictable live fireworks displays. Although you tap on a flame symbol to move from the firework creation scene to the fireworks launching scene, users don’t actually touch a flame to the firework (eliminating the potentially confusing message that it’s fun or okay to play with fire). A nicely-designed, festive app full of open-play possibilities.
Reviewed on 06/22/15
Paid on | iOS
With funky modern illustrations, TinyBop invites kids to play with the six classic simple machines (lever, screws, wheels and axles, inclined planes, wedges, and pulley) and make adjustments (like moving the fulcrum on the lever) to see how the action changes. Each machine has its own unique scenario (knocking down a castle, breaking up icebergs, lifting heavy objects) and the option to "peel back" the top layer of the animation to get a closer look at what's going on with each adjustment made (lines trace trajectories, arrows illustrate the amount of force needed, etc.). No time limits, no right or wrong answers, just a chance to experiment and play in this well-designed app.