Carissa's App Picks for Kids

Carissa's App Picks for Kids

Sago Mini Puppy Preschool
Reviewed on 04/18/17
Paid

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!

See all apps for age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
For platform: Android, iOS
Reviewed on 03/18/17
Paid

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. 

See all apps for age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
For platform: Android, iOS
Fiete Cars
Reviewed on 03/13/17
Freemium (free w/ paid upgrade)

There are many apps for kids about cars, but most of them concentrate on building the car or on painting the car or adding extra wacky accessories to the cars.  You might be able to drive the cars around a pre-determined track or you might drive on an imaginary road trip, but to the best of my knowledge, this is the first car-related app for kids that encourages kids to spend time building the road and that's really interesting!  How will the vehicle respond to driving on bumpy roads?  Or roads with steep hills?  Or lots of twisty curves?  What if we throw in some imaginary stuff like teleporters or superfast conveyor belts or super bouncy whoopee cushions? What if we do change up the car?  What if it was a monster truck instead?  Or a tractor?  Or a bulldozer? Or even a horse? There are so many different options to explore that they didn't want to overwhelm first time players, so they've designed the app so that when you first encounter it, you have only a small number of options, but as you play, you earn stars and those stars add up to earn you new parts for your road and new vehicles to try out as well. The app is free to download, but if you want to be able to use all of the unlocked items, you'll have to pay a one-time in-app purchase to access the full set of game elements.  Sort of like "Minecraft" but with cars, your 6-8 year old child will likey love this one.

See all apps for age group: Grades K-2
For platform: iOS
Oh! the magic drawing app
Reviewed on 03/03/17
Free

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 all apps for age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool, Grades K-2
For platform: Android, Chrome, iOS, Windows
Fuzzy House
Reviewed on 02/28/17
Paid
Free
Freemium (free w/ paid upgrade)

If you loved to make tiny crafty things with your hands and household materials and you had the time to make a really elaborate doll house, it might look something like this.  Luckily, even if you don’t have the time, skills or inclination to make your own dollhouse, you can play in this virtual doll house for as long as you’d like to!  There is a free “lite” version that includes all four dolls and the first floor of the dollhouse, or you can purchase the full version and explore the entire house.  Each room is filled with objects for the dolls to interact with, furniture for them to sit on, even logs and a lighter to start a fire in the chiminea (thankfully, you can’t start anything else on fire!). Some of the objects (like the storybook in the bedroom or the fruity drink in the kitchen) allow a closer look and a deeper interaction (you can read through the pages in the book or customize the drink’s flavors, colors and garnishes). There are so many different things to do and explore and it’s quite natural for kids to start talking for the dolls, just like they would with physical dolls.  If you ARE crafty and would like to bring parts of this dollhouse to life, be sure to check out their website where you can get knitting instructions to make each of the dolls as well as their nightclothes, plus you can get DIY instructions for many of the handmade toys and artwork featured within the house.  There are no right or wrong answers or ways to play with this app, no timers, no cheering or buzzers or other distractions.  Just a great, almost tactile open play experience.

See all apps for age group: Preschool
For platform: Android, iOS