When I first read about the app Little Dead Riding Hood, I assumed that it was a novelty platformer with zombie elements, as these types of apps can easily be found in iTunes, typically devoid of any educational value.
I am so very happy that I gave this app a closer look because my assumptions were totally wrong, as Little Dead Riding Hood is an interactive storybook app with both English and Spanish translations included as well as the highest of production values – a refreshing tale on this classic story of Little Red Riding Hood. Although I highly recommend this app, this recommendation is a qualified one, and here is why.
There is a lot of the macabre in Little Dead Riding Hood, and as I was enjoying this app, I did say to myself a few times with a smile, “Well, they went for it” in ways that will please or displease families depending on their sensibilities.
This is the re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood, who has died many years ago, along with her parents, who from the grave want to kill Grandma and steal her inheritance. To do so, they come up with a plan to poison Grandma by sending the corpse of Little Red to Grandma complete with utterly poisoned food and drink. Grandma does get poisoned, dying a gruesome death, after first having defended herself from Little Red, living up to her old nick-name “Ramba” using any and all fire weapons in a scene that is glorious with presumed cartoon violence that also made me smile.
Styled with equal parts Tim Burton, Eddie the Mummy and Seth McFarlane, this app, with wonderful, top-notch black and white illustrations and bold pops of color, is an acquired taste that will offend some families a great deal. Others will really appreciate the humor and biting wit that this irreverent app offers.
The included narration is perfection, as is the included music and I appreciate how the book of this app is lengthy, with a page of text found on pages complete with beautifully hand-crafted and sepia-toned drawings, lovingly distressed in keeping with the style of this app. Do also tap these characters to read speech bubbles that add to the richness and fun of this rather odd application.
This is a highly cinematic app, so it is a real treat that this app also includes the original sketches and productions while still showing the making of this app – quite interesting indeed. Also appreciated is the menu of pages, always helpful to readers.
Make no mistake, this app included a rather dead and decaying Little Red, the graphically poisoning of a family member, guns and other military-inspired weapons which get pointed and shot at Little Red, a vividly farting wolf who later gets attacked by snakes, maimed in a metal animal trap and stepping on a bomb which explodes and launches the animal into the air, plus other details I am sure I have overlooked – all at the height of storytelling.
This is an app that I have chosen not to show to my five year old son, as he is a sensitive soul who would not enjoy this adaptation at this time, and I can understand parents of toddlers and the preschool set not having much interest in downloading this app as well, but for grade school and older children through adulthood who have acquired a taste for gruesome humor and parody, this is a perfectly realized application in every way possible.
Even though this app is one that many families will disregard as maybe they should, I would like to recommend this app for older grade school if not middle and high school students, especially those in media study, as great thought was put into the developing of this app as is seen in the included sketches, and adults can talk a lot about the choices made in this app, from modernizing a classic story to the satire as well as the dramatic structure – well-crafted in every way.
This app demonstrates to older children that the envelope can be pushed while maintaining a level of quality that cannot be denied, even if certain subject matter may not be for everyone.
Families will need to make up their own minds about whether or not this app is for their family, but I can say that I personally enjoyed Little Dead Riding Hood immensely, and I welcome other tales like this from an incredibly talented group of developers.
DragonBox+ Algebra is an interesting puzzle game that focuses on teaching children the basic principles of basic algebra along the way.
This is a an app which I have completed, and my feelings towards it varied depending on how far I had gotten during this game.
This app consists of five chapters, each with twenty levels that each include a fantasy creature who slowly evolves as these questions are completed. Four personalized accounts can be created, complete with an avatar to keep track of different players’ progress – ideal for school settings as well as home with multiple players as well. An important bonus section, also including five chapters, is also included, as is a variety of different languishes.
The first impression is how high quality a game this is, with soothing yet suspenseful music and a mildly distressed, textured and pleasing-to-the-eye background screen which is the backdrop for these puzzle questions that users will be gazing at for some time.
This app is scripted, and one follows along the text explaining first how there are two sides of the screen and one box, plus other tiles that have a variety of images such as monster faces, birds, dragons or dice. The object is to isolate the box, removing the other tiles from the box side, until this box stands alone. To do so, add the opposite tile, removing this from the puzzle.
It is here that those with a background in algebra will understand how these puzzles are slowly forming algebraic equations, adding opposite tiles together, much like one would add negative numbers in the interest of subtraction, or how one must add the same tiles to both sides of the screen as you would to both sides of an equation. Later, the box is changed to a “X” and division of fractions is also touched upon as is multiplication.
I do wonder if this app is not overly theoretical as very little to no math is included in this app. This application is not about solving these questions but whittling down these problems until the equation reads “X = …” Now students could presumably use their math skills to solve these problems, making my mind journey back to high school math with a teacher who would only take a point off if the last line of addition was incorrect but the other work shown was accurate.
To me as an adult, this app is a very nice exercise in answering these problems “algebraically” instead of with arithmetic – a concept this same teacher was at a loss to articulate, a failing of his I remember to this day.
I have enjoyed this app a great deal, feeling that it would have gone a very long way if I had been taught with this app during this math class. I do have my doubts that although children with no math basics will find this app fun and novel, they will not also find DragonBox overly theoretical in terms of being able to understand math beyond being some sort of parlor trick. I also feel the idea that a child as young as my five year old son could solve or truly understand a math question reserved for high schoolers dubious as these questions do not solve any real math, being devoid of numbers, while teaching these concepts in a way that some may take to heart, possibly with very good results.
Having gone through the first two chapters, it is too early to tell if my son will gain an understanding of algebra from this app, even with my explanations of how this app relates to later math – an important insight for this app to be anything more than an interesting exercise in problem solving. I do believe that this is a time that “not knowing the child is learning math” takes away from this experience. It would also be nice if these problems could include the solutions as without any hints or answers, users can hit a frustrating impasse.
I do highly, however, recommend this app to top math teachers who can thoughtfully explain how this app relates to algebra, alongside questions that include numbers which can follow through and solve during the teaching of algebra itself.
I also recommend this app to homes where parents or other adults can sit with their children and help them work through these levels, explaining how these parameters relate to later math, giving them a bit of a head start, but I do not think this app can live up to its potential without added instructions.
I would also like to note the importance of the bonus levels, not only as the content here is quite high (including five complete chapters, much more that I expected from a “bonus” section of an app), but it is here that much of what is being taught “clicked” for me in terms of true algebraic significance.
Even if my son is too young to fully grasp what this app ultimately has to offer, I would still be quite happy for him to complete these puzzles as an exercise in logic instead of algebra – still thought-provoking and still wonderful for pre-math and thinking skills in general.
I do hope that what my son may learn from this app he takes with him into algebra, such as performing the same functions on one side of an equation as the other, but I do think he would need to re-visit this app at a later time to gain full insight into what this app has to offer.
I do not find these points flaws in this app, but please do not expect preschoolers to truly solve high school algebra. They may possibly be able to isolate X, but this is not to equate an answer for what X represents, and I am ambivalent as to could recreate the experience with a pen and paper. I prefer for my son to look at this app as a unique logic game for now and an algebraic teaching tool later on when this app can take on more relevance.
One note I would like to make, however, is that this app can be at times un-responsive when adding tiles together, to the point that those not certain of their correct answers may try another way of solving these problems – an issue that I hope can be smoothed out in an update soon.
Cheesy Chess is a creative and fun mouse-themed logic game with heavy chess elements.
This app reminds me a lot of the slider puzzles I had as a kid where plastic tiles will ultimately make up an image but needed to be slid within this puzzle, keeping in mind that only one piece can be moved at once.
Here, imagine a mouse king who needs to progress through this slider puzzle at the top center to leave this board, but the other puzzle pieces need to be moved out of his way to do so.
The interesting chess elements included are that the pieces are each styled to look like chess pieces, with the option to view these puzzles using classic chess piece stylings or using mice which dressed as these pieces, such as king, queen, bishop or pawns.
As one may expect, these pieces move according to the rules of the classic game of chess – an interesting, effective set of parameters for this game of logic.
I appreciate how as each piece is moved, the other pieces now opened up are highlighted in green, and one can drag or simply tap these pieces to move them to their next spot on the board.
This is a very nice game for children new to chess, as it will re-enforce how these pieces as well as the other pieces move as well as how to look at the bigger picture of the chess board, planning future moves as well as seeing multiple options.
It is worth noting, however, that these puzzles become increasingly difficult rather quickly, so I would hope early chess players will be able to share this app with adults.
It would also be nice if each of these levels has the correct answer or hints available – an important inclusion often overlooked in puzzle apps such as this, but I do appreciate the chance to take a step back when the board is deadlocked to try more changes for a better outcome.
The mouse-player board is fun and charming with minor animation included as a reward for a completed puzzle – fun for children. The classic puzzle pieces mode will appeal to adults and older children, and with 100 levels among five stages, there is certainly a lot of content that older players will gravitate towards.
Although I can recommend Cheesy Chess to children new to the rules of chess, don’t let the name fool adults into thinking that this is simply a children’s game, as adults and teens will feel challenged in these upper levels as well, making this an interesting logic puzzle game that I can recommend to a wide age range.
Futaba Classroom Games For Kids is a unique game app for children, educational as well as fun.
This app, a digital quiz game for both multi – as well as single players, really stands out because an adult can program the questions children answer to a wide age range of abilities from preschool age through the 10th grade as well as easy, medium or hard questions for these grades.
Up to four players can gather around the iPad which shows a question center screen, slowly revolving so all players have a chance to see and then answer the question with a tap from one of three possible choices at the bottom of their place at the screen.
A practice mode is also available that allows one player to use this app by himself.
The look of this app is quite nice, clean and sophisticated with a natural wood look to the background of this application as well as very nice music included to listen to – both relaxing as well as adding a bit of suspense to these games.
Also nicely styled are the questions which are included within a circle. With each correct answer, an area of this circle is highlighted until ten questions are answered correctly and a “Futaba” is earned – a citrus fruit that is a consistent theme in this educational app.
From animal recognition to the Table of Elements, different shapes to counting money and even learning about languages different from English, this app covers a vast array of questions that can be included.
It took me some time to understand how to create my own games using the filters provided, and I personally think it is easier to choose from all the subjects available instead of trying to filter these choices by grade or difficulty, as after going down the extensive list, I can simply check off the questions I would like included – down to the specific questions, and not just what themes to focus on.
I admire how multiple games can be created to allow children of different abilities to play this app at different times, making it a great choice for school settings as well as use in the home, especially for families with children of different ages and subjects to focus on.
Be it alone or with others, I can see children of all ages as well as adults enjoying these quizzes a great deal. I also appreciate how the plethora of questions for children from preschool into high school allows this app to grow with children, as well as to be a great teaching tool for the classroom as well.
Meet the Insects – Village Edition is an excellent educational app that contains a vast amount of insect facts that will delight all ages from toddlers up through high schoolers and beyond.
Few apps have such a wide age range as Meet the Insects – Village Edition – one in series of bug-related apps. I am very impressed with the inclusion of narration for the majority of this app, making reading not a requirement to enjoy this application, although there are a few areas that will best serve older children who can read and write.
From the home page, one will see this app broken into six sections. I personally think that this app is best appreciated if one starts off with the “Insect Story,” which covers such topics as explaining what insects are vs. other creatures such as spiders – that are not, as well as insect life cycles, how insects pollinate flowers, the sounds insects make, and other interesting facts about flies in a household setting.
This section includes illustrations with light animation as well as video clips of insects and delivers a plethora of information which will make entomologists smile. I have learned a lot from listening and watching this video, with very good, clear and concise narration. I was simply blown away by how much information has been delivered this way.
Once this terrific overview is finished, venture over to “See the Insects” which will introduce users to different orders of insects such as Hemiptera insects which have needle-like mouths, or Diptera insects, with a single set of wings. Selections can be made by tapping insects directly or by choosing an order to scroll the different bugs to learn about. I love how butterflies are also represented as well as beetles and crickets and other types of insects that make noises.
Each of these insects is represented with well-written and narrated text which further explains a great deal about these bugs including a description of their appearance which can be seen in photos or video clips. A tap of the insect in question may make it move slightly for a great effect as these bugs look as if they come alive for a brief moment, as well as sometimes having the chance to use a magnifying glass to look at the creature in question up close. Fun facts are included which add whimsy to these insect areas as this app takes its bugs quite seriously. I am glad that cute yet still factual info is also included such as “Why do grasshoppers hate spinach” to keep this app light and cute for kids to enjoy.
A multimedia area is also available to see all the included photos and videos of insects accessible from a single place – each impressive in their details as well as the colors that can be seen in each insect. The videos include a simple narrated description of what is being seen, while the text found in the photos offered from this section are not narrated so parents may need to assist children in this area.
The Quizquiz is an area that uses tests to determine what children have learned with insect photos in this fun and interactive mini-game consisting of both multiple choice as well as a true and false question mode. These written tests without narration makes these quizzes great for older children or those who might need help from a parent as well.
An observational journal allows children to take a photo or use one from the photos on their iPad to then write about a subject – presumably about insects. I enjoy this opportunity for older students which can be saved and looked at in the future.
I enjoy being able to explore this app in both daytime as well as nighttime settings found on the home page, allowing for the nighttime bug sounds to be heard as well – a nice touch – as is the other glossary of insects that one can use to search for these insects by order as well as color, also including insects not covered in this specific app but may be covered in the other apps from this series.
There is a tremendous amount of information about insects in this highly educational application. I recommend this app to all families who enjoy insect information. I look forward to more of the apps from this series as well as other apps from this developer in the future.
Whack A Bone is a wonderful app for iPad that is truly an educational delight, teaching about the anatomy of bones found in the human body.
Nicely sectioned into groups, users will learn about the bones that make up one’s core, such as cranium, sternum or vertebrae which is grouped here into three different categories – cervical, thoracic and lumbar, as well as the arm and leg bones, each consisting of its own section as well.
To play this pirate-themed anatomy game, place the bones from the different sections back to their rightful places inside a skeleton with the direction of a talking parrot whose attitude kids will find witty and fun.
It is also great that the entire skeleton is included, having players remember all of what they have been taught, including such differences as metacarpals vs. metatarsals as well as the correct placement of the different vertebrae included.
I appreciate that this is a great teaching aid for both those who need to study the bones in the human body including those new to this subject as the puzzle one fills in a labeled skeleton in the first half of these sections so that players will learn as they go.
Next, the parrot will quiz users on these bones by naming bones that need to be tapped as quickly as possible, and if successful, a bronze, silver or gold star is given based on speed.
I have had some issues with accuracy as I may tap the ribs when I was aiming for clavicle, and these mistakes are compounded by being timed.
Because of this, it would be great if the timer aspect of this app could be removed as an option, although I did like that if the player seems stuck during the quiz, the bone in question was highlighted to help. These answers, however, are not credited towards getting these bones as correct answers, and players are asked at the end to place the incorrect bones back where they belong and then need to re-build the bone puzzles again before being re-quizzed.
Although the adult human body consists of 206 bones, this app condenses the number being taught down to 24, with eight bones to learn per section – a very nice amount of information for children as well as adults to study.
This app is undeniably an excellent way to help students of all ages learn this information. The pirate theme is well-done and nicely stylized without getting in the way of what is being taught, and the salty attitude of the parrot keeps this game light and fun with just the right amount of competition that will be appealing to grade school children who otherwise may not been keen on studying the same topic over and over again.
I also appreciate that the music – ambient sound effects and parrot voice volume – can be adjusted independently.
I have certainly learned what has been taught within Whack a Bone, and I do wish this app were available when I was learning about anatomy as well, and I would love to see more educational apps like this developed in the future.
A Christmas Carol Drawn & Told is a stellar universal adaptation of the class Dickens tale of the same name.
I am very impressed with the quality of this app which includes more than 300 beautiful drawings, as highly these stylized images are used to illustrate this lengthy story, complete with fabulous narration.
Users simply sit back and listen to this classic story, gazing at wonderful artwork which brings great dimension to this Dickens tale.
These images are often dark, moody and simply gorgeous to look at, making this not just a topical app for Christmas, but ideal for anyone who needs to study A Christmas Carol in school, especially those who enjoy graphic novels as they are often haunting as well as edgy at times as well as beautiful to look at, making this app stand out from other re-tellings of this story.
There is also a slight use of the Ken Burns effect – the panning and zooming of these illustrations to draw the eye – quite effective in the support of this storytelling.
The narration is top-notch in every way, if not spoken a little fast, but not difficult to get used to hearing. A few other voice actors are also incorporated for a great effect which I really appreciate.
I remember reading this lengthy book in high school, and I would have really appreciated this app a great deal. For me, my best comprehension came from both listening to a story at this point from a borrowed set of records from our public library, reading along word for word. This is how I read works like Shakespeare, Catch-22 or Native Son, and it really worked for me quite well.
This app does not include the text, but the illustrations are so very vivid, students of all ages will find themselves engaged, fully understanding and even enjoying this story, especially those students not looking forward to reading Dickens by themselves.
I appreciate that this app is broken down by chapter and allows readers to pick up where they left off as well as including information about Dickens that I found interesting.
I highly recommend this app for all students who are reading A Christmas Carol as well as for teachers in a classroom setting, especially at such an affordable price. I am unclear if this is an abridged version of the classic, but even if so, with almost two jours of narration, there is enough content here to be a valuable adaptation worthy of being used in class to understand the major plot points and concepts.
I would love to see more classic literature adapted this way, as this is a perfectly realized re-telling of a classic story.
iActive Christmas Carol – Unabridged, as the name may suggest, is an unabridged adaptation of the Charles Dickens Classic Tale: A Christmas Carol.
This app is without narration but includes both Victorian-inspired drawings as well as interactions that one can explore when reading this story.
The pages of this app have distressed edges, adding a vintage feel to this app that I appreciate, but the total lack of sound comes across as unfinished. I would rather listen to ambient sounds such as the crackle of a fire while on text pages or the sounds one would expect to find while performing included interactions, such as metallic or subtle ticking sounds one may expect if a watch were bouncing around the page or liquid sloshing sounds as a wine bottle is being tossed around the screen. I also find some of the interactions to be a little on the nose but can be fun to move about the screen.
I do wish page numbers could be included to keep track of one’s space in this book as there is no place-saving included.
It is worth noting that this app will open to the last page if iActive Christmas Carol is left running in the background of one’s iPad. This feature should be included intentionally as well.
A menu of pages is included that one can go through, but from a distance each of the pages without interactions looks the same. Readers can still take a few minutes to find the place where they left off.
Even with these notes, iActive Christmas Carol is worth taking a look at if one is in need of an unabridged version of this story that includes some interactive elements and illustrations.
PHLIP is an interesting and engaging puzzle app for both children as well as adults. It is a universal app, but do note that a camera is necessary to make this app compatible with one’s device.
Said to be a combination of the words Photo and Flip, PHLIP is a really creative puzzle app where one uses a photo from their device or snaps a new image to include as the background of an intriguing puzzle app.
Once a background is selected, players can choose the number of pieces their new puzzle will contain – between four and twenty tiles that will rotate independently, breaking up the original photograph.
Gameplay here is simple to grasp yet these puzzles can become quite complicated to complete, as one can tap to select tiles to either rotate or lock as players tilt their device clockwise or counter-clockwise to make these tiles rotate into their rightful places.
I appreciate how the same photo can be an easy or more difficult puzzle, depending on the number of tiles included, making this app a great choice in puzzle activity for children of all ages – preschool and up – as well as adult.
There is a very nice level of polish that has gone into this app, as fun, quirky sound effects are included each time a tile is rotated, and players are also able to see the completed puzzle with a tap, allowing players to also go back and complete their work after being given help if feeling stuck.
The number of moves needed to solve these puzzles is retained but is unintrusive enough – good to know as I don’t always find that score-keeping adds to my enjoyment of a game or activity.
Another function of this app is the ability to challenge friends and family who have downloaded this app with solving puzzles that one has personally created – a nice touch as I can see puzzle enthusiasts sharing photos among friends, sending these puzzle backgrounds back and forth via email.
Although players are encouraged to create intricate photo experiences to capture in order to make unique and creative puzzles, I have had very good success in finding images from my camera that I have enjoyed turning into photos, as my son has taken to creating architectural photographs of his Lincoln Log structures that he enjoys building which have become great fodder for some interesting puzzles.
I enjoy the interactive elements included within this app as well, as players need to select, de-select, and re-select tiles to be rotated, giving busy fingers and minds a lot to focus on, as does the tilting of the device in a way that I think could be very engaging as well as calming to my sometimes antsy son.
Although not specifically educational, I enjoy my own thought process as I work on these rotated puzzle elements, looking for pieces with recognizable landscapes and working my way out from there.
Depending on the image used, these puzzles can be simple, difficult, or simply time-consuming, often requiring focus and patience that adults can adjust for their children or themselves to be challenged at a level they will get the most from.
Although this app was designed for one to create stylized photos to thoughtfully make puzzles, I think this app could creatively take photos very much in the moment that adults and children could enjoy as they are out and about, making this a wonderful puzzle choice to pass the time for all ages.
PHLIP is truly an app that you make not only your own, but you get what you put into this app in terms of creating the perfect puzzles to spend time with.
Let’s Color! is a wonderful animated coloring book for iPad that children and adults will love to explore.
I absolutely enjoy this cute and quirky art application. This app allows children to be highly creative yet work off prompts both seen as uncompleted drawings as well as text, both spoken and written, that trigger children’s imagination instead of trying to be inspired by a blank page.
The illustration that children are adding to is also quite child-like, making non-drawers comfortable with their level of drawing skills – an issue my son has as he is aware of this lack of representational drawing ability.
As this app opens up, children are first asked, “What is coming out of the hose?” allowing children to then answer this question with any doodle they see fit with the use of many colors to choose from as well as different sized drawing points and even sticker choices.
Once children add whatever they imagine coming out of the hose, a tap will animate their drawing. Also included are fun sounds which really bring their work to life, here flushing different elements of their drawing out of the hose with great whimsy.
Other topics touched upon are “Can you make it snow?” which duplicates the snow drawn by readers, creating a confetti-like experience that then drops down to the bottom of the page; “Who is riding in these train cars?”, which is a great opportunity to use the included stickers, or even more open-ended questions such asking children what is being drunk out of large twisty straws, or an off-beat request such as “What could be coming out of this trumpet?”
Personally, I enjoy the toilet humor in this app as well, asking children to “Let’s draw poops” in a large yellow toilet center page, allowing the adding images to be flushed away, yet I can imagine some families being turned off by this section.
Although the saving of the original image created is possible, I would also like to return to these pages to re-watch the animated moment created for each section. Unfortunately, the drawing is not saved to re-watch once the page is turned – something I would love to see included in a future update.
I greatly admire how the children’s illustrations are de-constructed in creative ways to fit into this simple page story, and I find this app wonderful to encourage children like my son, who has shown vast creativity in storytelling, yet hesitate when it comes to drawing anything representational for fear of failing his personal standards.
It is worth noting that the first 18 pages of this app are free, with the ability to add another 16 sections for $1.99 as an in-app purchase. I don’t typically recommend an app with this format, but “Let’s Color” is a truly special experience with a tremendous value even without the in-app purchase – an option that can be hidden from children’s view, a nice touch.
From my perspective, Let’s Color is a must-download for any iPad owners with children. I admire the storytelling aspect of this app, triggering the imagination of children, complete with highlighted text with cute children’s narration which asks children to complete these drawings.
This is certainly an app that is hard to explain or describe with words alone, and I wonder if I have given justice to the experiences created. Luckily for readers, one can download it as a free app, and readers can see for themselves what all my fuss is about. Please note that another related app from these same developers is also available, Squiggles! If interested, please look for it in iTunes.