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Busy Shapes 2
Reviewed on 02/06/17
Paid on | iOS
This sequel to Busy Shapes adds a new dimension to the play. In the first highly rated app, players match shapes to the hole that most closely matches the shape (sometimes just by shape, sometimes also by color, texture or pattern). In this sequel, the holes are often found on different, moving planes than the shapes and players must not only match the shape to the hole, but find a way to get the shape safely past the obstacles and across the moving platforms without falling off. Thankfully, there is still no stress-inducing path to “failure” at this game since a new copy of the shape will reappear in the initial position if your shape falls off the edge of one of the platforms. Part of some of the puzzles involves exploding “bombs” (classic black sphere with a wick), so if those are too violent for your child, avoid this game. There are also catapults, icy spots, rivers and barriers to add to the challenge of moving your shape towards its corresponding hole. Great practice for understanding timing and depth as well as shapes and cause and effect.
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.
Mulle Meck's Boats
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.
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!
Sago Mini Planes
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
Artie's Magic Pencil
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.