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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

Space

Space

Space

Space

Tinybop

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.

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Nature, Science, STEM, Technology, Things that Go

Mulle Meck's Boats

Mulle Meck's Boats

Mulle Meck's Boats

Mulle Meck's Boats

PiuPiu

Reviewed on 01/29/17
Paid on | iOS

Build a boat with Swedish book character, Mulle Meck! Players may choose which style of boat they’d like to use, add a cabin (various designs available) and then decide how their boat will move.  Will they choose large and colorful sails? An outboard motor? A steam engine? There are many options and all of them work differently within the app. Finally, paint your boat and you’re ready to head out on the open water.  Load up a package to deliver across the lake, then start your engines (or set your sails!) and see how your boat fares on the water. Dragging your finger across the screen can create a strong wind and rough waters, but Mulle Meck never looks worried! Once your parcel is delivered safely, the game rewards you with a new boat component to add to your menu of options. Beautifully designed game, simple enough for even very young children to succeed, but the constant addition of new components makes it fresh each time even for older players. What’s the wackiest boat you can build? How fast can you get across the lake? How choppy can you make the water and still make progress? A well-made app with lots of details to experiment with and no right or wrong answers makes this a great option for open-ended play that will spark interesting conversations.

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Characters, Concepts, Engineering, Games, Nature, STEM, Things that Go

Toontastic 3D

Toontastic 3D

Toontastic 3D

Toontastic 3D

Google

Reviewed on 01/23/17
Free on | iOS | Google Play

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!

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Tags: Animals, Art, Creativity, Family Play, Favorites, Google Play, Music, Science, Stories, Technology, Things that Go

Foldify

Foldify - Create, Print, Fold!

Foldify

Foldify - Create, Print, Fold!

Pixle

Reviewed on 11/17/16
Paid on | iOS

Design your own printable paper toys! Choose a shape, draw on it, add photos and digital "stickers," then print it, cut it out, glue it togther and you've got your very own designed toy. This great, open-ended creativity app has so many possibilities for all ability levels.  Young children will need help with the cutting and construction, but they'll be able to swipe colors across the shape to design it.  Some shapes are more complicated to put together than others, so choose carefully.  For beginners, there are a few shapes already designed (just print, cut and glue) and a few "coloring book" options with designs drawn on with line drawings ready for you to color in the images as you please. You can also take photos right in the app or use any photos from your camera roll (or save images from the web). Users can also upload their original designs to the app's community and share them with the world!  Once your design is complete, you can choose to print it in a small, medium or large size and you can e-mail it to anyone.  What a fun treat to send to far-away family!  If you love this one, be sure to also check out Foldify Zoo and Foldify Dinosaurs for more paper creatures that you can print, cut, fold & glue together.

This app is also available for iPhone.

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Animals, Art, Creativity, Family Play, NBC15, Things that Go

Sago Mini Planes

Sago Mini Planes

Sago Mini Planes

Sago Mini Planes

Sago Mini

Reviewed on 11/08/16
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

It’s time to take a trip and you’re the pilot!  Choose your plane (standard or silly like a corn-on-the-cob plane?), choose your travel companions, then take off and explore the skies!  You’ll encounter all sorts of giggle-inducing surprises and you can fly for as long as you like.  Do you want to fly really high among the stars or closer to earth under friendly blue skies?  When you’re done (or want to try out another plane), simply fly down close to the earth and a runway will magically appear wherever you are.  After your flight, be sure to check out the souvenir photos of your trip which will include the surprises that you actually encountered on this particular flight and the traveling companions that were with you--a subtle but really nice touch by the app makers. As with all Sago Mini apps, this one is easy and fun for young toddlers but older kids will also gravitate towards it to discover all of the fun details. Try this one the next time you travel or for kiddos who love vehicles!

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Amazon, Animals, Google Play, Things that Go

Artie's Magic Pencil

Artie's Magic Pencil

Artie's Magic Pencil

Artie's Magic Pencil

MiniLab Studios

Reviewed on 08/20/16
Paid on | iOS

Help Artie use his Magic Pencil to repair all of the destruction caused by a wayward dinosaur! Artie discovers a magic pencil wedged into a rock (like the Sword in the Stone) on a walk through the woods.  He is delighted to discover that the objects he draws with the pencil come to life! The drawings in this app are pre-determined and made by combining simple shapes.  Players use their finger (or a stylus if you have one) to trace along the lines, connecting the dots to create the images that come to life.  Players can also change the color or the patterns decorating the objects.  Although the pre-determined drawings don’t allow for open-ended or creative play, tracing the lines and discussing the different shapes used to create the drawings are both excellent pre-writing practice.

Age group: Preschool
Tags: Animals, Art, Concepts, Early Literacy, Things that Go, Writing

Fiete Sports

Fiete Sports

Fiete Sports

Fiete Sports

Ahoiii

Reviewed on 08/01/16
Free on | iOS | Google Play

Celebrate the Olympics with this free app for kids! Our favorite little sailor, Fiete, is back with a new app just in time for the summer Olympics.  Guide Fiete through multiple events (running, biking, swimming, hurdles, shotput and more!) as he competes against his two best friends.  With only three competitors, everyone always gets onto the medal stand! Which event do you think Fiete is best at? For an extra challenge, can you identify which country each of the flags and landmark silhouettes are from?

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Preschool
Tags: Characters, Games, Google Play, NBC15, Things that Go

Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts

Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts

Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts

Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts

Monkey Bar Collective

Reviewed on 08/01/16
Freemium on | iTunes | Google Play

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!

See this app reviewed on the news

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

Moonbeeps: Gizmo

Moonbeeps: Gizmo

Moonbeeps: Gizmo

Moonbeeps: Gizmo

Moonbot Studios

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!

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Creativity, Engineering, Technology, Things that Go