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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

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

Mussila Musical Monster Adventure

Mussila Musical Monster Adventure

Mussila Musical Monster Adventure

Mussila Musical Monster Adventure

Mussila

Reviewed on 12/07/16
Paid on | iOS

Learn musical concepts through this monster adventure app! Travel along a game board and hone your skills through different challenges.  Some challenges ask you to identify which instrument is making the sound you’re hearing.  Others have rhythm challenges, melodic challenges or ask you to repeat short measures of music played on a keyboard (the keys that you’re supposed to play light up). Most of the challenges are listening and identifying rather than creating music yourself, but there’s also a fun play area where you can choose the players, the instruments, then they play a basic tune while you can play your own made-up addition to the band on a keyboard or on rhythm instruments. There are many apps that claim to teach your child how to play music, but this is one of my favorites!

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Games, Music, Rhymes and Songs

Rhino Hero

Rhino Hero

Rhino Hero

Rhino Hero

Fox & Sheep

Reviewed on 12/07/16
Paid on | iOS

Stack the building up as tall as you can before it topples! Based on a card game by German game and toy company, HABA, Rhino Hero challenges players to make the tallest building they can, using blocks of different sizes to represent the different floors of the building.  Along the way, you can receive assistance from Rhino Baby who has a pink ray gun that freezes your building to keep it from getting shaky. Villains occasionally fly into the scene and you can call in Rhino Hero to battle with them so that they can’t knock down your building (the battles are short and are mostly a purple cloud of dust and flying fists that leave the villains looking shabby and dejected more than actually hurt). The different blocks that make up the building often have silly scenarios in them and a few have special powers (like a super sticky honey bear one that can even hold blocks stuck to the side of it). Players can choose to stack carefully to build the most stable tower possible or just stack blocks one on top of the other to build up high as fast as they can.  There are subtle lessons of physics involved as you work with balance, stability, wind and other forces (from villains) as well as immediate rewards of earning “new” silly blocks to build your tower with. As a parent who has played both the physical and digital version of this game, I’d venture to say that I actually prefer the app!

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Animals, Engineering, Games, STEM

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

The Complete Fairytale Play Theatre

The Complete Fairytale Play Theatre

The Complete Fairytale Play Theatre

The Complete Fairytale Play Theatre

Nosy Crow

Reviewed on 11/02/16
Paid on | iOS

Retell your favorite fairytale or mix them all together to make completely new stories. Nosy Crow, creator of the best fairytale apps, has now combined all of them into one incredible, creativity-sparking app.  You are provided with a blank, empty stage, then you have the option of adding any background, character, object or soundtrack from any of their popular fairytale apps.  Once you've chosen all of the elements of your story, record your voice while you move the virtual "puppets" around on the stage.  Create multiple recorded scenes and then combine them together to make one long story.  This would be a great app for families to use together.  Pass it around the table while waiting for your meal at a restaurant and challenge each person to come up with a new scene to add to the story, then watch the whole thing together when it's done! Add an extra layer of silliness by not allowing anyone to watch the previous scenes before adding their own scene!  A fun way to practice the early literacy skills of sequencing and storytelling.  This app is packed with content and the creative possibilties are endless. You can also download a free version here that allows you to choose and play with only one fairytale and then buy the rest as in-app purchases (or just download the full version if you think you'll want all of the content).  Nice for a try-before-you-buy option!

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Book App, Creativity, Early Literacy, Family Play, Folk/Fairytales, NBC15, Stories

Bedtime Math

Bedtime Math

Bedtime Math

Bedtime Math

Bedtime Math Foundation

Reviewed on 08/25/16
Free on | iOS | Google Play

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!

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Concepts, Family Play, Google Play, Math, NBC15, Spanish, STEM

Busy Water

Busy Water

Busy Water

Busy Water

Edoki Academy

Reviewed on 08/20/16
Paid on | iOS

Play with the physics of water in a series of increasingly challenging puzzles while saving the life of a cute little goldfish. Starting with simple pipes that are straight or at right angles, then working your way through freefall mazes (gravity plays a role and players must turn their devices accordingly to make the water fall where they want it to go), gates that need to be opened, water cannons, freezers and heaters and sensors that turn on using either water, ice or steam, some of the puzzles can be truly challenging even for an adult, making this an excellent app for a child and parent to work through together, collaboratively. Most puzzles have multiple solutions making this app fun to play over and over again.  The best part is that once you’ve completed levels 1-4, you unlock Build Mode when you can create your own maze puzzles for Archie the fish to swim through (and share your levels with your friends)! Fantastic value with tons of play value and learning opportunities!

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Animals, Concepts, Creativity, Engineering, Family Play, Favorites, Games, Nature, Puzzles, Science, STEM

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

Attributes by Math Doodles

Attributes by Math Doodles

Attributes by Math Doodles

Attributes by Math Doodles

Carstens Studios

Reviewed on 07/22/16
Paid on | iOS

A hand-drawn app about math skills with surprisingly few numerals. Daren Carstens of Carstens Studios wanted to show kids how genuinely fun and engaging math could be and so he designed this app.  Users choose one of seven different puzzles, whether to play in a timed mode or not, they can choose the types of images or let the selection be random AND (and this is surprisingly rare in kids’ logic-related puzzle apps) they get to choose the level of difficulty they’d like to start at. Almost every other puzzle-type app on the market slowly builds the user’s skills by introducing new elements as the user progresses through the levels. This is excellent in theory, but in practice it can mean that if you’re feeling confident about your abilities and you want to jump ahead to the more challenging levels, there’s no way to do that without putting in the hours to play through the easier levels to “unlock” the more difficult ones. This self-determination of leveling is a feature that really sets this app above the rest because even if users try a level that’s too challenging, that just motivates them to back a little bit and see what they’ll need to learn to be able to solve the “too difficult” puzzle! The seven different puzzles themselves range in difficulty from relatively simple (pattern circles) to tricky to get the hang of (Category Stack was a bit challenging for me!). Some of the drawings are easier to differentiate than others (buttons of different shapes, colors and patterns are easy, complicated robots are a little harder), but since you can always opt to choose which drawings are used, you can always opt out of any that are frustrating to you. All-in-all, this is a beautiful app with very thoughtful design features and if you’re looking for an attractive way to get kids some math skills practice, this is an excellent choice.

Age group: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Tags: Art, Concepts, Games, Math, Puzzles, STEM