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Color Clues

Color Clues

Color Clues

Color Clues

Jesse Foote

Reviewed on 12/15/17
Free on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

A treasure hunt using color clues that gets your family up and moving! In this free app, users can use pre-designed hunts like “a hunt towards bedtime” or they can create their own hunts.  To design your own hunt, simply record your voice giving as many clues as you want to give.  Then, once the clues are recorded, the app will assign each clue a sequence of four colors.  You can print out the color sequences on strips of paper with your printer (or simply use crayon and paper to make your own color sequence strips) and hide the color strips in the locations your clues direct the kids to.  When you hand the kids your phone and the first strip of colors to start the hunt, the app will be open to a page that shows only six different color blocks.  Players tap the colors on the screen in the same order they’re in on the slip of paper and that will unlock your recording of the clue.  When they follow the clue to the next spot, they’ll find another strip of colorful squares and the hunt continues.  This app is so open-ended and versatile and does a great job of encouraging family members to play together!  What creative ways can you think of to use it?  Note: the app maker plans to add a shape for each color in a future version of the app to assist colorblind players.

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Amazon, Concepts, Early Literacy, Family Play, Google Play, NBC15, Technology

Sago Mini Snow Day

Sago Mini Snow Day

Sago Mini Snow Day

Sago Mini Snow Day

Sago Mini

Reviewed on 12/14/17

Canadian developer, Sago Mini, really knows how to have fun in the snow!  This app, similar to their previous apps, Road Trip, Planes and Boats, begins by users choosing a vehicle -- in this case a sled, but of course there are lots of silly options in addition to the usual sled designs.  Perhaps you’d like to ride on a unicorn sled or a donut sled? Once you’ve selected your ride, choose which of your favorite Sago Mini characters to take on a ride down the snowy hill.  Once you’ve picked your drivers, it’s whoosh and down the hill you go!  You’ll encounter lots of snowy day fun along the way-- perhaps you’ll stop to decorate a snowman or a tree, or maybe you’ll run into the ice cave or run into some ice sculptures?  When your (surprisingly long) ride is done, you’ll see a photo snapshot of something fun that happened along the way, then it’s back to the starting line to go again (and you don’t even have to drag your sled all the way to the top)!  As always, Sago Mini delivers a delightful, exploratory app that will bring a smile to the face of kids of all ages.

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Amazon, Animals, Celebrations, Characters, Google Play, Growing Up, Nature, NBC15, Things that Go

Toca Life: Hospital

Toca Life: Hospital

Toca Life: Hospital

Toca Life: Hospital

Toca Boca

Reviewed on 12/14/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

The Toca Life series tackles the sometimes difficult topic of hospitals in this very well-made app.  As in all Toca Life apps, it’s all about open-ended play.  There’s a location (the hospital, with 5 levels), people (everyone from newborns to elderly in various medical states of health) and stuff to play with (bandages, extra body organs, radios, glasses of water, pretty much everything you’d expect to find in a hospital) and users decide what’s going to happen by moving the characters around within the space and handing them various objects or putting them on beds (or toilets or whatever) and creating their own stories. Unlike most “doctor” apps for kids, Toca Life is brave enough to even allow space for talking about death and dying by including two different quiet spaces with candles (one indoors, one outdoors) as sort of reflection/meditation rooms. If you are anticipating a hospital visit (new baby? Ailing grandparent? Sick kiddo?) or if you find yourself at the hospital or even if you just want to give your child the opportunity to play within that environment before life requires that you spend time in an actual hospital, this app is a really great way to do that. This would be an excellent app to play side-by-side with a grown-up who can talk to the child about the different (and sometimes mysterious) items they’ll encounter in the app (like the MRI machine).  Be sure to also discover the ability to make your own mini-movies within this app!

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Amazon, Creativity, Family Play, Google Play, Growing Up, Things that Go

Sago Mini Farm

Sago Mini Farm

Sago Mini Farm

Sago Mini Farm

Sago Mini

Reviewed on 11/14/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

Spend a day at the farm with your favorite Sago Mini characters.  In addition to the things you might expect to find on a farm (horses, cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, a garden, tractors, a barn, etc.) there are a few other additions that add to the fun -- a giant mud puddle, fruit trees, a llama, a unicorn, a seesaw, a farmer’s market stand, an outhouse and (my favorite) a large juicing machine and a BBQ grill with often hilarious outputs!  Even more than most Sago Mini explorer apps, this one encourages kids to play in this space however they want to.  See how many animals you can stack on top of one another!  What sort of wacky things can you grow in the garden? Can the llama play on the tire swing? If you love Sago Mini apps or if you love the farm, this app will not disappoint.

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

Toca Life: Office

Toca Life: Office

Toca Life: Office

Toca Life: Office

Toca Boca

Reviewed on 09/24/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

Have your kids ever wondered what happens all day while you’re at the office? Here’s an app that gives then an opportunity to let their imaginations run wild! Similar to the other (many!) Toca Life apps, the app makers have created a very rich environment in which kids can do whatever actions they want and make up their own storylines.  There are several buildings to explore (including, of course, an office, but also an apartment, a daycare, a restaurant, a courthouse/jail, a bank and a superhero’s secret lair) and players can choose to use the characters that are already present in the scene or choose from a panel of other characters available at the bottom of the screen.  Outfits can be changed so that a chef can become a judge can become a ketchup-themed superhero and all of the characters can be moved anywhere in the scene.  The props are all interactive and include thoughtful details like a wall clock that shows the real-world time, lights that actually affect the brightness of a room, and a copier that makes copies (yes, even if your character sits on the copier…..). Each scene also includes the option to record a video so that kids can share their storylines with a friend or relative. If they need a little jumpstart for their inspiration, there are some short scenarios to watch and an invitation to continue those stories. If you love this app, be sure to check out the rest of the Toca Life series!

Age group: Grades K-2
Tags: Amazon, Characters, Creativity, Google Play, Growing Up, Technology, Things that Go

Sago Mini Hat Maker

Sago Mini Hat Maker

Sago Mini Hat Maker

Sago Mini Hat Maker

Sago Mini

Reviewed on 08/28/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

Design a fancy hat for your Sago Mini friends -- you can even try the hat on your own head!  In this app, kids become the hat maker.  Each customer arrives (a standard collection of Sago Mini characters plus a new introduction: Larry the Log!) and users are given a few standard hat shapes to choose from (bowler? Top hat? Fedora? A swirl of soft serve ice cream?). Next, the hat maker can cut stencil shapes or cut with a scissors to change the shape of the hat and then change the print (polka dots? Stars? Sprinkles?) of the hat material and paint whatever design onto the hat that they desire.  Last, there are some accessories to add and finally, your character and the new hat are ready for their photo!  Choose a backdrop or choose to try the hat on yourself and snap a picture!  Before they leave the shop, don’t forget to ring up their purchase on the cash register!  As always, great opportunities for creative play by Sago Mini!

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Amazon, Animals, Art, Characters, Concepts, Creativity, Google Play

Pango Blocks

Pango Blocks

Pango Blocks

Pango Blocks

Studio Pango

Reviewed on 07/30/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon | Windows

Help Pango the Raccoon gather objects by building bridges and ramps!  Players can choose “easy” or “hard” mode, then they can choose which scenario they’d like to help Pango with.  Will it be the baking story where he gathers ingredients for a cake or the garbage story where he collects objects that have spilled from his trash can or one of the other options?  To collect each object, players must use the given set of blocks (squares, triangles, etc.) to build a way for Pango to get across some deep chasms.  Once a path has been constructed, Pango can walk across and pick up the object.  Once all of the objects for a storyline have been collected, players are rewarded with a little comic animation using all of the gathered objects.  The game can be challenging for both kids and adults (a great one to play together!) and it’s great that kids can choose whether they want to start with the first story (with the simplest puzzles) or skip straight to the last story (with more difficult puzzles). Many of the puzzles also have multiple correct solutions! Occasionally the physics is a little inaccurate, but if you don’t mind a little wiggle room in that area, this is an entertaining and nicely designed app.

Age group: Grades K-2
Tags: Amazon, Animals, Characters, Concepts, Engineering, Games, Google Play, Puzzles, STEM

Toca Lab: Plants

Toca Lab: Plants

Toca Lab: Plants

Toca Lab: Plants

Toca Boca

Reviewed on 07/05/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Amazon

We’re back in the lab again, but this time we’re experimenting with plants instead of chemicals!  If you’re a fan of the original Toca Lab, you’ll probably like this one too. There’s the signature mix of authenticity (plants are identified with correct genus/species names as well as the common names) and whimsy (the plants have faces and say silly nonsense syllables) so don’t expect too much realism (no, when you shine light on a larch it doesn’t usually poop out a dandelion seed), but players will have lots of fun figuring out which of the 5 main actions to use on each plant to get a good reaction. The actions include the classic water, plant food and light, but they’ve also added a centrifuge (which appears to grown tiny baby versions of the plant being experimented on) and a hybridizer that produces comical results. A lighthearted introduction to botany and the concepts of the scientific process.

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Amazon, Concepts, Engineering, Google Play, Nature, Science, STEM

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