Skip to content

APP Review: Toddler Tapping Zoo

June 25, 2009

logo

My 2.5 year old is not a big iPhone kid – he would much rather play with toys or dismantle random things around the house. My 13 month old, however, is definitely quick to grab at my phone and has an intuitive sense of how to slide panels and push buttons.

So yesterday we tried out the “Toddler Tapping Zoo” app, thinking it would be simple and fun, and because the icon graphic pulled me in.

Tapping Zoo Loading Screen

My 3Gs iPhone seems to have pushed this app beyond its original capacity.  After the third animal the app froze and had to be rebooted. Upon returning to it, I noticed the sliding panels weren’t responsive to dragging but occasionally worked when we pushed the arrows.

Tapping Zoo Loading Screen

I went back and re-read the description of the app, as well as some reviews, and was surpised to learn that the app has sounds. It says as much on the loading screen but I guess I was preoccupied with my son’s reaction to the app…

Overall this app is a great concept for really young ones, but not recommended unless the OS bugs are sorted out.

APP REVIEW: Jumbo Book – Bo’s Rainbow (episode 1)

June 23, 2009

The first thing that strikes you about Jumbo Book is the great design. Bo the elephant definitely lives in a world that is easy on the eyes.

Bo The Elephant

Bo The Elephant

As you might expect from the title of this app, it’s a children’s book built for the iPhone. It features a cute little elephant, Bo, and follows his adventures as he meets up with all of his friends. Bo’s friends are really quite something — they all have amazing talents. His friend the monkey can climb, his friend the dolphin can swim, his friend the bird can fly and his friend the mole can dig – none of which Bo knows how to do. Understandably, he finds this a bit disappointing.

Bo Despairs Over His Lack of Talent

Bo Despairs Over His Lack of Talent

Thankfully, Bo’s mom enters the picture at this point and explains to him that he too has a special talent — he can make rainbows.

Bo the Elephant

Bo the Elephant

That’s the gist of the story, which works for me as a kids narrative. I like the idea of helping kids understand that they are all special in their own way and that they all have something unique to offer the world.

The only challenge for me with this app is that it doesn’t really hold my two year-old’s attention. She likes the music, and the voiceovers that narrate story helped engage her, but she has become accustomed to interacting in a more immersive way than this app allowed. She was looking for Wheels on the Bus touch interactivity — which is a critical part of the iPhone experience, even for its littlest users. Jumbo Book essentially allows you to flip from page to page — and does so in a slick page turning fashion, but there’s not much else you can do to interact with it. That’s not the biggest problem in the world – there is after all, a lot to be said for good old fashioned books – but it does seem a shame not to take advantage of some of the magic that the iPhone allows for. My hope is that Episode 2 builds on the solid design foundation established here and expands the concept to allow for a bit more interactivity.

That said, if you are on the lookout for a great kids book with excellent music that you can carry around in your pocket, this app is a keeper — you can get it here.

NEW!! NEW!! NEW!!

June 18, 2009

The tale of a kid asking their parent for a trinket is an age-old story, but lately I’ve found myself living the digital version of it — my daughter Emma is two, and she has recently taken to grabbing my iPhone, navigating to the app store and handing it to me with an expectant declaration of “NEW!”

I cringe less when she asks for a new app than when she wants a glass of Coke, a bit of chocolate or some other indulgence. Many of the apps help her learn, challenge her, and occupy her. A new one is much cheaper than a trip to Toys R Us or Target. And as a parent desperate for a moment of sanity, the apps are a godsend for me. They are always around, whether you’re at the doctor’s office, in the car, or at home.

Some of them she loves, some of them bore her quickly, and some are just too demanding for a two year-old. But by and large they are an entertaining and educational part of her rhythm.

As for me, it’s fascinating to watch her shape her concepts about how to interface with a machine and what you can do with one. It’s a computer – wait – it’s a phone – wait – it’s a camera, it’s a stereo, it’s a map – and on it goes… When I was a kid, music came on vinyl, stories happened in books, and code lived inside of my Commodore-64. She has more flexible ideas about where content comes from and how you can play with it.

I do believe that acquiring this digital fluency early will prepare her for the world she will live in, and yet still will admit to the occasional concern regarding the amount of screen time she gets at such a young age.

But my bottom line is that as long as she’s learning, having fun and it’s part of a balanced life, then it’s a good thing.

Check it….





And if you happen to be looking for a new app, you can get the one Emma is playing with here..

App Review: Five Little Monkeys

June 18, 2009

Anyone with toddlers knows that daily life is a lot like having monkeys crawling all over you. Five Little Monkeys is an entertaining kids app that captures this essential truth and turns it into sing-a-long fun for the kids.

Jumping On The Bed

Jumping On The Bed

The app opens by allowing you to select your preferred music type — country, rock or pop. Having selected your theme song style, the app transitions to a scene like the above — monkeys jumping all over the bed. You can then touch the monkeys and get treated to an animation of them falling off the bed and bumping their head. Following the lead of the song that is the app’s inspiration, Mama then calls the Doctor only to be informed that the monkeys should no longer be allowed to jump on the bed. While the song plays, the words animate across the screen in a familiar see-and-say fashion.

I was a bit skeptical of this app when I first saw it — but my daughter had a different opinion. Perhaps it’s because she’s a huge Curious George fan or maybe it’s because she just loves music, but in any case this app is one of her favorites. My take remains that this app is primarily a fun diversion — but I suppose I can’t rule out that she’s learning words by singing along.

Bottom line — if you’re looking for a strong educational focus you can probably find better options. But if you’re trying to find a highly entertaining musical diversion for your toddler – then Five Little Monkeys is a great choice. You can get it here.

App Review: ShapeBuilder

June 18, 2009

ShapeBuilder teaches an important lesson – sometimes there’s nothing more important in life than putting all of the pieces together. Granted, this probably isn’t what my daughter is thinking about while dragging puzzle pieces around – but it’s occurred to me more than once as we play with the app together. Like most successful kids apps, there’s a simple concept at the core of ShapeBuilder: put together a jigsaw puzzle by dragging the shapes around and then watch as they magically transform into a nicely animated image.

An empty puzzle

An empty puzzle

Puzzle In Progress

Puzzle In Progress

One great thing about this app – there’s an almost endless series of puzzles so it stays fresh over time. My two year-old daughter does struggle at times trying to drag the pieces into place — but that may just be because she’s a little young for this one. It requires fairly developed fine motor skills to get the pieces into place, as well as more advanced concepts of geometry to identify exactly where the pieces should go. There is a nice pay-off when things do fall into place — nicely animated images appear and you get audio congratulations for your success.

It’s no different, really, than a real-world puzzle – but for younger kids it’s probably important to be actively helping them thru this one because they can get frustrated if left to their own devices. All in all, this app is a great one to have around because I know my daughter will continue to learn from it as she grows.

Interested in checking it out? You can get it here.

App Review: Suzy Dress Up

June 17, 2009

Suzy Dress Up is a tough app for me to review. Let me start with this – my daughter loves it. And that makes sense – lots of little girls like to play dress up, right? This app extends that appeal to the digital domain and allows you to customize a virtual girl’s appearance – her hat, shoes, pants, shirt, purse, dog, eyes, skin, jewelry, purse – much like creating a Mii character for the Wii.

Suzy Dress Up Screenshot

Suzy Dress Up Screenshot

Suzy Dress Up Screenshot

Suzy Dress Up Screenshot

The design of the app is fantastic, the artwork is first-rate, and there’s a wide-array of accessories for you to choose from. You can make Suzy look like anything from a cheerleader to a princess to a nurse to a witch…

Suzy Dress Up Screenshot

Suzy Dress Up Screenshot

Suzy Dress Up Screenshot

Suzy Dress Up Screenshot

So if the app engages my daughter, is easy to use, and has lasting entertainment value, what’s the problem? I guess my concern surrounds what this app (and the rest of the barrage of media coming at her) might do to my daughter’s notions of who she is, what her possibilities are and what society values in women. Perhaps I’m reading too much into the content of a kid’s app, but I can’t help but be a bit concerned because I’m keenly aware of how my little two-year old angel is absorbing everything around her and using it to build her concepts about the world. The other night at dinner I slipped up and uttered an expletive after burning my tongue – which Emma then spent the rest of the night repeating. Not the end of the world – but definitely a timely reminder of how actively she is internalizing everything that she comes into contact with. I hold out hope that my daughter might want to become a scientist, a politician, a historian – or if she so chooses – a fashion model. Yet I’m not sure that this app sets her up for all of those possibilities.

Open to input on this one — especially from Moms. As a Dad, I may be in over my head on this one — and I don’t want to shutdown to an app that is in all other respects great. But I do want to know that as I put digital media in front of my little girl that it’s helping her to grow and not just serving as a virtual pacifier – or worse – something that’s shaping her self-concept in a limiting fashion.

Thoughts?

If you think I’m being too conservative on this one, please do speak up.

And if you’re just looking for the app, you can get it here.

App Review: Animal Memory Match

June 17, 2009

Animal Memory Match transports a simple kids game – Memory – and puts it on the iPhone. The game is populated with all sorts of cute animals, beginning with the home screen icon, a lovable little duck. The game includes four levels – at the easiest level, you have to match six cards, while at the hardest level you have to match thirty cards. Game play is straightforward – you just start-up the app and start touching the cards – they flip over in a smooth animation and remain flipped if you happen to match them. If you fail to match them, they flip back over and you can try again. There’s no timer, no score, no pressure, and no multiplayer aspects to the game – but that doesn’t stop the fun.

Animal Memory Match - Hard

Animal Memory Match - Hard

Animal Memory Match - Easy Level

Animal Memory Match - Easy

This app took a little while for my two-year old to figure out – but after we spent a couple of weeks playing it together, she is now fully in control of her own experience. In fact, the only thing that slows her down is stopping to exclaim “WOW” every time she matches a pair of cards. Although she has mastered the first three levels of the game, she does still like playing it with me so that she can learn the names of all of the animals. This app is definitely worth the $0.99 price tag and is among the apps that my daughter consistently revisits. Interested in checking it out for yourself?

You can get it here.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.