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Gorogoa

Gorogoa

Gorogoa

Gorogoa

Annapurna Interactive

Reviewed on 01/12/18
Paid on | iOS | Windows

A unique puzzler game for older kids through adults. Enter the world of Gorogoa and explore.  You’ll find lots of recurring images, a slowly unfolding story full of mystery and intrigue, challenging puzzles that are just right for older kids or for doing together as a family.  There will be moments when you struggle, but when you figure out the solution, you’ll experience a delicious “a-ha!” moment of wonder. The content does include some images of buildings that have been damaged (though the cause of destruction is unclear) and injured people (one person falls from a height, someone is on crutches, someone is in a wheelchair) and some of the music lends a slightly spooky atmosphere, so it might be disturbing for very young children or kids who are sensitive to intense movie moments, but there is no explicitly adult-level content in the storyline.  The beauty of this app lies in the unique gameplay.  Move anywhere from 1-4 tiles around a four-square grid and watch as the image changes.  You can zoom in or zoom out to adjust your point of view and watch for moment when multiple tiles might match up and interact with each other.  A few of the solutions involve timing movements just right and younger children may need adult help with that. The gorgeous artwork, the groundbreaking gameplay and the clean, smooth game design and programming were all done by one single person (amazing!).  Definitely a favorite game of 2017!  *note: this game is also available for Nintendo

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Tags: Art, Family Play, Favorites, Games, Growing Up, Nature, NBC15, Puzzles

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

Hupsi

Hupsi

Hupsi

Hupsi

5 PM Kids

Reviewed on 12/14/17
Paid on | iOS

A very simple, but extremely charming app for younger players. This app follows young Hupsi (a young woodland creature -- not sure exactly what kind of animal he is) as he takes a little jog through the woods around his home. The music (featuring singing in a made-up language) is excellent and will likely not annoy parents or get stuck in their heads, but is calming and pleasant to listen to. The entire progress of the game will run by itself with no interaction from kids if they choose not to touch the screen, but if they DO tap the screen, each item will add to either the development of the story (e.g. feeding snacks to Hupsi’s friend) or the music (e.g. Tapping woodpeckers adds a little staccato beat that fits in well with the rhythm of the song). The game ends when Hupsi returns to his home where he tells his parents about the things he saw on his run. There’s no stressful time limits, points or ads in this app. There’s not even really a particular goal and older players will lose interest after only one or two plays, but very young players will enjoy the music and the super cute illustrations and parents can feel safe playing this app even with babies. At the end of the app, when Hupsi is telling his parents about the things he saw (through drawings in speech bubbles), take the opportunity to talk with your child about each of Hupsi’s memories (“do you remember that dinosaur with the headphones on? What do you think was Hupsi’s friend’s favorite food that we fed him?”). Talking together about what’s happening in apps is a great way to build vocabulary and relationships! This app can also be played for free online, but not on mobile devices. See www.playhupsi.com for details!

 

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool
Tags: Animals, Growing Up, Music, Nature, Stories

Tell Time with Mulle Meck

Tell Time with Mulle Meck

Tell Time with Mulle Meck

Tell Time with Mulle Meck

Piu Piu

Reviewed on 11/03/17
Paid on | iOS

Telling time on analog clocks was a skill that was difficult for me to learn as a child, so I am always on the lookout for new great ways to teach it to my own kids.  This app does a nice job of first explaining the concept of measuring time, then building a clock face (numbers and hands), then explaining how to read the clock with lots of different clock designs.  If a child guesses the wrong time, a gentle (but clear) hint is given.  There are no time limits, no scores, only a gentle music soundtrack and a congratulatory word or short animation when correct answers are given. A child can practice telling time for as long as they’d like. The clock faces change in degree of difficulty from faces that include both the hour and minute numbers to clocks with no numbers, only the tick marks to designate hours and minutes.  If you’re looking for a simple way for your child to learn how to read a clock face, this is a great option!

Age group: Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Characters, Concepts, Growing Up, Math, Puzzles, Science, STEM, Technology

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

Old Man's Journey

Old Man's Journey

Old Man's Journey

Old Man's Journey

Broken Rules

Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid on | iOS | Google Play | Windows

Invite kids to take a journey with an old man in this beautiful, calming app. Follow along with this wordless story and help the old man move through his journey by raising and lowering hills. As the old man reaches resting spots, he reflects back on his life in memory scenes. Parents should be aware that death via illness (not the old man) is an element of the game, but the ultimate ending is uplifting. The game was not created for children, but the self-determined pace, the simple game mechanics, the calming soundtrack and the gorgeous artwork add up to a great game for parents and children to play together. In fact, playing from the perspective of the old man might just give your kids a little more empathy or might spark some interesting conversations between the two of you!

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
Tags: Engineering, Family Play, Games, Google Play, Growing Up, NBC15, Stories, Things that Go

Love you to Bits

Love you to Bits

Love you to Bits

Love you to Bits

Alike Studio

Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid on | iOS

Although the game begins with Kosmo’s robot girlfriend, Nova, getting blasted into pieces that are scattered throughout the galaxy, this game is actually charmingly cute and relaxing to play. The goal of the game is to travel throughout the universe helping Kosmo to collect pieces of Nova as well as mementos of their relationship that will help to restore her memories of them together when she’s been rebuilt. Each planet that Kosmo travels to has a different scenario, but most of them are fairly familiar (like a children’s park or a library) with a few extraterrestrial elements (robot dogs, aliens of all sorts, etc.). Parents should be aware that one of the searches takes place in a bar, but it’s fairly tame (there is mellow banjo music on this level) and a few of the side characters shoot laser guns. Also, the front page of the app allows access to social media, so keep an eye on this unless you want your twitter feed to suddenly be all about this game. This is a fun one for kids and parents to play together!

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8
Tags: Engineering, Family Play, Games, Growing Up, Puzzles, STEM, Things that Go

Monument Valley 2

Monument Valley 2

Monument Valley 2

Monument Valley 2

Ustwo

Reviewed on 09/11/17
Paid on | iOS

One of the best games in app-land now has a sequel! This app was not specifically created for children, but it’s kid-safe and a wonderful app for kids and adults to use together.  Since the first Monument Valley game came out years ago, other companies have been trying to copy it, using similar design elements and color schemes and dreamy music, but nothing has ever been quite as good as the original until now.  This sequel has all of the beloved elements of Monument Valley (mind-twisting 3D labyrinths, sherbet colors, self-pacing and a thread of a storyline), and it builds on those in ways that brought gasps of delight from both me and my son when we played through it together. You’ll see new friends, old friends, and encounter new game twists that keep the whole concept fresh and new.  If you liked Monument Valley, you will not be disappointed in Monument Valley 2.

Age group: Grades K-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8
Tags: Art, Concepts, Engineering, Family Play, Favorites, Games, Growing Up, Math, Puzzles, STEM, Things that Go

Stop, Breathe & Think Kids

Stop, Breathe & Think Kids

Stop, Breathe & Think Kids

Stop, Breathe & Think Kids

Stop, Breathe & Think

Reviewed on 08/28/17
Freemium on | iTunes

Introduce your child to mindfulness and meditation through this playful, contemplative app.  When you open your account, you can create profiles for multiple children.  Each time you use it, choose which profile you want to enter, then you can choose from a list of all the possible meditations (“missions”) or you can “find a mission” by selecting up to 3 emotions from a provided emoji-style list which the app then will use to choose a meditation for you. Mission categories include predictable topics like Quiet, Focus and Sleep, but there are also Energizing meditations and ones you can use in case of a Meltdown.  The meditations range from about 2-6 minutes long and a simple animation is shown during the meditation to give kids something to look at and focus on while they’re trying out this technique.  The animations feature different animal characters (plus a cloud, a raisin, and a yeti -- all appropriate images for the particular meditation).  When the meditation is done playing, kids are asked once again to choose three emojis to describe how they’re feeling now and then they are given a virtual “sticker” (which just goes onto a sticker page, more like a badge -- it can’t be moved around). This emoji exercise is a great way to get kids talking about different nuances of emotion beyond just “happy” and “sad.” The app is based on the mindfulness games developed by Susan Kaiser Greenland and if you like what you see in the app, she’s written a whole book of mindfulness “games” for children.  The app is free to download and use over 15 meditation options, but if you want to unlock and access ALL of the meditations in their library, there is a subscription fee.  There is also a web-based version of the app.

See this app reviewed on the news

Age group: Baby/toddler, Preschool, Grades K-2
Tags: Animals, Family Play, Growing Up, Nature, Vocabulary