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Little Kitten

Little Kitten

Little Kitten

Little Kitten

Fox & Sheep

Reviewed on 04/30/17
Paid on | iOS

Is your child a fan of small, adorable furry animals? (Who isn’t?) Then they will love the photo-realistic kitten in this app.  Enjoy some authentic cat-like reactions (kitty LOVES to be petted!) and some …. not-so-realisitc, but hilarious actions (hint: tap on the toy ambulance!). Some of the activities in the app are activated by simply tapping on an object and seeing the reaction, other objects trigger mini-games (like a mix-and-match animal toy or getting the kitty to catch falling objects) that earn fishy-shaped treats that you can feed to kitty. There’s also an art easel which you can tap to “paint” with paw-prints or swipe to paint in strokes.  My favorite feature of the art easel is that the palette of paints that you’re given is only primary plus black and white but you can actually mix colors by tapping on them in succession (i.e. tap on the yellow then the blue if you want to paint with green). The settings options include turning off the music and sound as well as a timer for when the kitty will automatically go to sleep, so if you want to limit the amount of time that your child spends with this app, it’s easy to do so.  An utterly charming and giggle-inducing app!

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Animals, Art, Games, Things that Go

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.

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Animals, Characters, Creativity, Google Play, Growing Up, Things that Go

Shake the Tree

Shake the Tree

Shake the Tree

Shake the Tree

minibombo

Reviewed on 04/24/17
Paid on | iOS

Shake the tree and see what falls out! This simple app, based on their book with the same title (currently available only in the Italian language version) invites users to shake a tree (by dragging or tapping with a finger, not by shaking the device) to see what animal falls out of the tree next.  A few more taps on the animal will produce a funny little animation as the animal figures out a unique way to get back up into the tree. The gameplay changes subtly with repeat play, giving it even greater value! This app is perfect for the youngest users as there is only very simple hand-eye coordination required and the app also includes a logical “ending,” making it easier to say “all done!” and turn it off when it’s finished. If you liked their earlier app called The White Book (also based on a print book), you will enjoy Shake the Tree! 

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Animals, Book App, Early Literacy, Nature

Sago Mini Puppy Preschool

Sago Mini Puppy Preschool

Sago Mini Puppy Preschool

Sago Mini Puppy Preschool

Sago Mini

Reviewed on 04/18/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

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!

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Amazon, Animals, Concepts, Google Play, Math, Music, STEM

Billy's Coin Visits the Zoo

Billy's Coin Visits the Zoo

Spinlight

Reviewed on 03/18/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

A simple book app with charming, hand-sewn illustrations and twelve different surprises to encourage repeat play. This is the story of Billy whose coin visits the zoo (although it’s not clear whether Billy himself ever actually gets to the zoo) after being dropped down a grate. The coin bounces along, being tossed from one animal to the next until it finally makes its way back to Billy who uses the coin to buy a ball from a coin-operated dispenser.  The ball opens to reveal a wool felted animal. There are twelve different animals to discover in the balls (you get a new ball each time you read the story) and each is accompanied by an interesting fact about the animal. The rhyming story is presented using just two to three short lines of text per page. The illustrations are crafted from a variety of fiber materials with charming imperfections.  Users can choose a male or female narrator or can turn off the narration completely for a read-it-yourself experience. 

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Amazon, Animals, Book App, Early Literacy, Google Play, Rhymes and Songs, Stories

Oh! the magic drawing app

Oh! the magic drawing app

Oh! the magic drawing app

Oh! the magic drawing app

Louis Rigaud

Reviewed on 03/03/17
Free on | iOS | Google Play | Chrome | Windows

Inspired by their book, That’s My Hat!” the authors made this companion app.  Choose from a long list of colorful shapes in the side bar and drag them out onto the screen and watch them transform, with a few lines automatically added, into a dog or a cloud or a snowman or myriad other characters and objects.  Depending on where you place the shape on the screen the object will be different (e.g. a circle in the sky becomes the sun, a circle below the line becomes the top of a tree). You can also tap a shape to rotate it or press and hold to change the color. Rotate your device and your whole scene will change as up becomes down or left or right. Make up a story about the objects in your scene, then snap a photo and save it to your device where you can send it to a friend or family member along with your story. This deceptively simple interface is beautiful, easy for any age to use, and full of creative potential. It’s free to download, but the authors invite you to make a donation if you’d like to support the work they do. Winner of the 2017 Bologna Ragazzi Digital Award.

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Animals, Art, Book App, Concepts, Creativity, Early Literacy, Favorites, Google Play, Nature, NBC15, Stories, Things that Go

Fiete KinderZoo

Fiete KinderZoo

Fiete KinderZoo

Fiete KinderZoo

Ahoiii

Reviewed on 11/13/16
Free on | iOS | Google Play

An app made by kids (with a little help from Fiete!) takes users on a trip through a very creative zoo! The developers invited 30 kids to their offices to help create this app collaboratively.  Each kid designed an animal, named it and recorded the sound it would make.  Users can now wander the zoo, accompanied by the sailor Fiete, meet all of the animals, hear them make noise and feed them random “food” illustrations that fall from the sky when you press the knife/fork symbol.  I love that they’ve honored the children’s illustrations by leaving them unchanged and true to their originals with all “imperfections” carefully preserved.  The names are also obviously unedited and range from the literal (there are several fish-shaped animals named “fischi” or some variation thereof) to the pop cultural (the one named King Kong that looks like a purple cat is a favorite of mine) to the human-like names that make me curious (the monkey named Klaus Peter…. Was that the name of a sibling? Or an enemy?). The only thing that would make this app more perfect would be the option to allow users to add their own zoo animal creations along with names and sounds, but even if that’s not an in-app option at the moment, you can always extend the app play by creating and naming cut paper animals on your own!

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Animals, Art, Characters, Creativity, Nature, NBC15

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

ChatterPix Kids

ChatterPix Kids

ChatterPix Kids

ChatterPix Kids

Duck Duck Moose

Reviewed on 09/26/16
Free on | iOS

Take a photo, add a mouth, then record your voice to make your picture talk!  There are a number of apps available that have this function, but this free app by Duck Duck Moose is the most kid-friendly and appropriate version so far. After you’ve made your talking picture, you can apply one of the funky filters, add stickers (like glasses, hats, crazy hair, eyeballs and, oddly, a fairly large selection of Christmas related images), a fancy frame or write your own words onto the photo.  Once your masterpiece is complete, save it to your camera roll, then share it with friends and family.  Challenge them to craft their reply in the same app and send YOU a silly talking picture.  What will you create?  A chatty cat? A silly sandwich? A talking toilet?  The possibilities are endless!

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Alphabet, Celebrations, Creativity, Early Literacy, Family Play, Growing Up, NBC15

Peek-a-Zoo HD

Peek-a-Zoo HD

Peek-a-Zoo HD

Peek-a-Zoo HD

Duck Duck Moose

Reviewed on 09/17/16
Free on | iOS

A line-up of animals invites you to pick which animal matches the verbal clue given.  Which one is yawning?  Which one is hiding?  Whose birthday is it today?  A wide varieties of types of clues keep this game interesting for little ones and friendly responses to incorrect guesses make for low-stress play. This app would be a great one to play together with your young child to encourage conversation.  The app may ask, “who is yawning?” and you can also ask, “What does a yawn look like? Can you show me a yawn? How do you think the yawning animal feels?” – all excellent examples of the early literacy practice of talking together! The musical soundtrack can be easily turned off on the first page of the app where the animals each introduce themselves.  This app would pair perfectly with a reading of the picture book “Who’s Hiding?” by Satoru Onishi or “Who done it?” by Olivier Tallec.  Note: as of Fall 2016, the developer Duck Duck Moose has joined forces with Khan Academy and their entire catalog of apps is now free!

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Animals, Book App, Celebrations, Concepts, Early Literacy, Games