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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

Pango Build Park

Pango Build Park

Pango Build Park

Pango Build Park

Studio Pango

Reviewed on 12/05/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play

Build a park, big or small, then play in it with the animal friends from the Pango world!  Users first choose either a blank canvas or a pre-built park.  There are simple parks with only swings, slides and a seesaw or really elaborate theme parks and everything in between!  Once you’ve chosen a park to start with, you can put the characters in right away and play with them, switching to each character’s point of view to watch the action through their eyes.  Feel the swooping of the roller coaster’s loops or the dizziness of the teacup ride!  Or if you’d rather design your own park (or alter one of the pre-designed parks) you can edit them however you’d like -- from the color of the ground to the different play elements to the decorations like trees, balloons or benches.  This app really puts kids in charge and allows them to dive right in to the scene for some serious imaginary play.

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Animals, Characters, Creativity, Engineering, Google Play, STEM, 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

Fox & Sheep Movie Studio

Fox & Sheep Movie Studio

Fox & Sheep Movie Studio

Fox & Sheep Movie Studio

Fox & Sheep

Reviewed on 07/30/17
Paid on | iOS

Make your own movie using characters and scenery from some of the Fox & Sheep apps! Featuring artwork from Little Fox Music Box, Nighty-Night Circus and Little Fire Station, players can mix and match the characters and scenery, add in some music, the press record while you speak the characters’ lines and move them around to film an original cinematic experience. Finished movies can be saved to your camera roll then shared with friends and family if you want to show off your masterpiece! In-app purchases feature additional special effects, props to add to your scenes and more. Similar to Nosy Crow’s Fairytale Theatre--if you liked that app, you’ll probably like this one as well.

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Animals, Characters, Creativity, Early Literacy, Folk/Fairytales

The Creature Garden

The Creature Garden

The Creature Garden

The Creature Garden

Tinybop

Reviewed on 07/10/17
Paid on | iOS

Mix and match body parts from all different kinds of animals (including humans!) to create a new creature, then take it for a test run to see how well it works!  This app is set up similar to TInybop’s Robot Factory app, but instead of building something with mechanical parts, players build a creature using a variety of biological bits.  First, a creature body is hatched from a colorful egg, then you choose what sorts of legs, arms, wings, fins, tail, head, eyes, ears, mouth, tusks or horns your creature should have.  A zebra body with 4 sets of kangaroo legs?  A caterpillar body with a flamingo head and a gecko tail?  Why not?  Once you’ve designed your creature, try it out on the treadmill.  Does it move most easily on land, sea or water?  If your creature is really struggling to move quickly, what changes can you make to improve it? Once you’re satisfied with your creature’s design, give it a name, then set it loose in the wild where you can feed it, play a game with it, create a habitat for it or race it against other creatures you’ve designed.  There are so many different levels of creation in this game -- will you spend your time trying to make the fastest animal possible?  The most elaborately fancy animal?  Or will you throw together a few quick hodge-podge creatures and then spend your time playing in their “real world” environment with them? Whatever you choose, this app is rich with potential and inspiration.

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Animals, Concepts, Creativity, Engineering, Nature, Science, STEM

Robot Factory

Robot Factory

Robot Factory

Robot Factory

Tinybop

Reviewed on 06/05/17
Paid on | iOS
Freemium on | Google Play

Design your own robot, then take it for a walk in the great outdoors and see how it handles the environment!  Will your robot, walk, stroll or roll?  Will it have laser arms or a brain floating in a glass jar? Will it be able to chop down trees or leap over them in a single bound?  Or maybe, just maybe, you can design the master of the dancefloor!  There are so many options in Tinybop's Robot Factory.  Choose accessories, appendages, a color scheme, then take it a step further and give your robot a name and a backstory!  This app is crammed with options and the possibilities are endless.  That appendage there -- is it a leg?  An arm?  A head?  You choose where to install it on the robot! Feeling overwhelmed by the options?  Check out the robot manual that tells you all about each and every robot part and the different skills and traits it will impart upon your robot. Once you've created a few robots, challenge someone else to come up with a robot that can jump higher than yours or the silliest robot or the most beautiful robot.  Learn more about the makers of this app on the library's App Fairy podcast here!

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5
Tags: Creativity, Engineering, NBC15, STEM, 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.

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Animals, Characters, Creativity, Google Play, Growing Up, NBC15, Things that Go

Fiete Cars

Fiete Cars

Fiete Cars

Fiete Cars

Ahoiii

Reviewed on 03/13/17
Freemium on | iTunes | Google Play

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 this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Grades K-2
Tags: Characters, Creativity, Engineering, Google Play, NBC15, STEM, Things that Go

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