On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects is a thoughtful adaptation of the book of the same name, part of The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library developed by Oceanhouse Media.
Here, children will learn about many bug-related topics as they enjoy the Seuss-like illustrations and rhyming text to which this book is fashioned as The Cat in the Hat, along with Thing One and Thing Two, introducing readers to many fun bug facts such as basic anatomy, natural defenses or the strength of insects such as ants.
As is the case with other adaptations by Oceanhouse media, one has a chance to both read this non-fiction book to oneself or enjoy expert narrator John Bell’s stellar narration as he reads not only the original text from the published book, but also the added word definitions triggered by the tap of an insect-associated word seen in bold text, defining many bugs that are included in the book but never fully explored in the picture book, as this app includes many more words than the short glossary at the end of the printed version.
Also new to this experience are ambient sound effects and mild animated moments, as well as the ability to tap on objects or characters to see their corresponding labels both spoken as well as seen on the page. There are a few moments where one can also drag insects around the page as well as other such interactions.
Seussian books can be wordy but make up for this in the use of shortened, more frequent paragraphs, and I like how these adaptations down even further as a single paragraph is seen per page as one progresses through this story, which includes the original images panned and zoomed to draw the reader’s attention.
I am impressed with the amount of insect information included, such as the bad smell lady bugs give off when feeling threatened as well as the differences between butterflies and moths.
The addition of extra glossary words not included in the book, new additional information about creatures such as the diving beetle, dog flea or pipevine caterpillar make this app rich with content – a very nice choice of apps for all ages of children, including older grade-school age children who will learn interesting insect information as well.
Animal Planet Hide & Seek Pets is a lovely application young children can explore, as this app includes a variety of pet-centric activities.
This app opens up to a unique menu page, that of a hamster on a wheel which when tapped will spin and ultimately land on one of six mystery animals who are introduced by both simple word questions and related icons, such as a bone for a dog, bubble for a fish or yarn for a cat. Later children play a game of hide and seek to find the animal in question, be it with a flashlight to discover a turtle, tap to remove flower petals to uncover a rabbit or cut tall grass away to find a hidden dog.
Once the animal is discovered, children will be able to interact with photo realistic animals, moving them around the page, dedicated to each of these creatures such as a fish in a fishbowl, complete with classic underwater toys such as a castle, chest of gold and a vintage diving man.
I really appreciate how many fun facts are included, heard when triggering a hotspot and complete with highlighted narration – a very nice element that children and adults can learn a lot from.
On the bottom of the screen, children have access to some fun activities, such as a puzzle to complete, a tracing section and a hide and seek activity. Each of these sections has both “easy” and “hard” modes, and is thematically specific to the animal in question, be it about a bird, turtle or bunny.
Also included is a painting section with a large variety of pictures to choose from and brushes to use, including a paintbrush, chalk, crayon, spray paint and “paint bucket” mode where a section of the drawing is filled in with a single tap.
A music area complete with animal piano is included, as well as a section with re-sizable stickers that one can move around the screen and a learning section for parents that includes topics of conversation to share with their children.
I appreciate how this app is intuitive and thoughtfully designed, avoiding some of the pitfalls I have seen in other applications. Coloring pages are often included in other such apps such as this which can seem like an afterthought, but very nicely done within Animal Planet Hide & Seek Pets.
I love the choice of the soft, sheer coloring choices of the watercolor paintbrush and the chalk, as these colors can be layered and mixed together while coloring for a very nice effect, and I am also impressed by the simple decision to allow children to “erase all” with a “yes” or “no” instead of red or green “X” or check – signs that adults may understand but that can be confusing for children.
Also of note is that when coloring within a specific section of an image, one cannot color outside the border of this section – wonderful for children who hate the sloppy look of coloring with a finger because without this feature, staying within the lines of a picture can be frustrating and difficult.
An eraser as well as “go back” buttons are included, and it is also great that the colored-in pages are also saved within this app to be worked on further in the future, as well as giving children the option to save to the camera roll of their iPad.
I also really like that within the tracing section, when children trace either the first letter of the pet, both in upper and lower case letters or the entire word in the harder section, this app includes the direction children should trace as well as being quite sensitive to the movements of the finger creating the tracing. It will not accept random scribbling over the template – an issue I have with most over-tracing apps.
There is definitely a lot of content to keep children occupied, with a fun mix of realistic animals as well as bright and colorful illustrated spaces for them to occupy and explore.
Because of this, Animal Planet Hide & Seek Pets is an easy app to recommend for toddlers and young preschool children who love animals, coloring, and other activities.
Scholastic First Discovery: Ladybug, with versions available for both iPad as well as iPhone, is a delightful interactive app based on the published book of the same name, exploring all about ladybugs to the delight of children as well as their adults.
This is a clear and concise app that delivers an abundance of information about these colorful creatures which transforms the original book that includes transparent pages nicely into interactions where one slides different layers of illustrations away, remaining true to these special pages while adapting the text of the book to suit this story as an application mainly narrated with little text.
This non-fiction app is broken down into four chapters that one can explore on one’s own, or as an entire book from start to finish, including close-up ladybug images that will be of interest to bug fans of all ages.
It is quite enjoyable how the details of these ladybugs’ bodies are explored, being able to look closely with a 360 degree view as the ladybug spins slowly, also allowing children to manually rotate the ladybug as well as opening or closing the wings to view the hidden transparent wings used for flying.
I really enjoy how these ladybugs are also seen wandering around the screen, allowing one to drag a finger across the screen to have it followed as well as these insects around the page, bouncing them into each other, or tapping them for an open-wings effect as well.
Children have the chance to count ladybug spots, interactively explore ladybugs of different colors and patterns, and even feed a ladybug aphids – their preferred source of nutrition.
The birth of new ladybugs is also discussed, allowing one to watch the transformation from laying eggs from larvae to pupa and ultimately ladybugs, allowing readers to experience a variety of lovely interactions, such as morphing these bugs into different stages of metamorphosis with the drag of a finger or pulling back leaves to see these interesting changes take place.
Children and adults will appreciate the close-up views they gain as they watch these ladybugs fly and walk around the pages as well as the various thoughtful interactions included within.
The published book does have some nice details about defense and reproduction not touched upon in this app as well as leaving out information about other related beetles – moments I did miss, but I do enjoy the tight focus and flow of this narrative.
This app is the third in a series of Scholastic First Discovery apps. I do hope the others from this series are also brought to iPad and iPhone as these apps are educational but also great for listening comprehension as one listens to very nice included narration predominantly instead of reading and also listening to mild yet effective musical elements.
Dr. Panda’s Beauty Salon is a charming new app in a series of delightful role-playing applications for children that let them explore different characters such as a doctor, chef in a restaurant, farmer and now a worker at a beauty salon for animals.
Fans of these Dr. Panda apps as well as those new to this genre will delight in all that this salon has to offer their animal clients, many of whom have starred in previous applications, as well as a few new faces.
To start, greet a customer at the door who will then take a seat and wait for their turn. When one is ready for them, tap the animal and they will tell the player via image in a speech bubble the service one is looking for and then will choose a seat in one of two client rooms. There is a first floor area where one can adjust lights and drapes to create a relaxing mood as well as vibrating chairs to give the animal relaxing massages or an upper level with an Asian theme which includes a decorative screen and a plant that can sprout cherry blossoms as well as candles to create ambience as well as the ability to change the chairs into personal hot tubs.
There are more than eleven mini-games and other details that one can explore. It will always be a surprise what each animal is looking for in terms of being pampered, and I appreciate how the same animal may come back for various treatments such as a hippo in need of a facial, a polar bear needing his nose hairs plucked, a pig looking for lipstick, a sheep looking for a little powder blush application, perfume and accessories such as hat, glasses, hairpiece or earrings for a night out, or an animal asking one to design a special necklace to take home.
There is an interesting mix of charmingly realistic tasks to accomplish such as giving an animal a shave or having his fur washed, as well as more creative, open-ended activities such as face painting and nail art that can be accessed at any time without the need to wait for a specific request for these treatments. Likewise, feel free to arrange the shoes of the clients being treated any time – a cute matching puzzle game that kids will enjoy.
I am happy to say that both male and female animal characters are included as well as both beauty and personal grooming needs that boys and girls alike will have a lot of fun exploring.
My family loves it when a new Dr. Panda role-playing app is released. I enjoy watching my manly husband paint animal toe tails with my son as well as other cute, colorful activities in this application.
PICME Moviebook – You are the Star is a very nicely conceived storybook that includes a personal photograph used to create a main character in this children’s app.
I have enjoyed this storybook, which includes a photo of my son, a fun detail I have really enjoyed.
I have seen books such as this in the past. Here, however, the child who is created with the included image becomes more alive and is really more a part of the story than in other apps such as this.
In PICME, my son’s likeness is used to create a boy character who delivers a piano to a friendly lion named Juno, who claims to be able to play, yet in reality needs to practice a great deal to be able to make true music with this instrument.
There is much that I really appreciate in this interactive storybook. First, two distinct versions of this tale are included – a movie as well as a storybook, and although the plot of this story remains the same, I especially appreciate how the video is not just a straight animated version of the book. It is also a different yet related experience which adds more characters and nuances that work perfectly in this movie. The book, however, is a little more simplistic, making a nice, tight narrative that I equally appreciate.
I am smitten by how my son’s character moves around the page, moving the piano, clapping politely as well as other pantomimes. I am not sure if it is the super-cute expression in the photo that I have used, but this character almost seems to wink at me, truly coming to life as his body moves with grace. Although this boy does not speak in the story, I feel as though he makes a great mime, including hand gestures and other ways he shows communication – wonderful details often not found in apps where a photo is used to create a character.
Other interactive hotspots are also included, sometimes propelling the story, as well as other areas to tap that include brief movements that tend not to take away from this charming application that includes a piano section as the new created character knows how to play, helping Juno learn. There is also a brief primer on other musical instruments as well as an interactive counting section.
Narration is included, which I really enjoy, as I do the voices for Juno and the other animal friends, creating an app that is more sophisticated and appealing to adults than I expected.
The same can be said for the video section of this application. I enjoy how this area starts out with a scene taking place moments before the included storybook. The video is also a little witty and biting while being utterly child-appropriate, with a message about practicing and perseverance as this lion, at first not being able to play the piano well, works hard to achieve his goals.
To add a children’s photo, this app includes a camera and allows users access to the camera roll from the iPad to choose a picture from. Once an image is selected, adults are able to rotate and re-size the photo to fit an included template that can then be further adjusted to give users a better way of customizing the chosen mage, such as allowing my son’s crazy hair in the frame, originally cut off by the template yet restored by me as I make additional tweaks.
A choice of a pink as well as darker tan skin tone is included to match closer the skin tone of the photo with the body the photo becomes a part of, but I would love to see a few more skin tone choices such as a paler, more realistic yellow-tone as well as other colors to represent other ethnicities such as Spanish or Asian.
Even with this minor note, I am glad that the cropped photo is included in this app as a future choice, allowing one to bypass the photo trimming. Four separate photos can be saved at once, including these characters’ names and personalizing this app as well as including the character’s gender in a way charming and seamless.
I had no expectations when first checking out this title, and I can say that I am pleasantly surprised with the quality of this delightful app.
I would love to see more of these interactive stories developed in the future. The use of an included photo is highly effective and sure to please the children who will feel as if they are truly starring in this movie and storybook app.
I would like to introduce readers to a trilogy of dinosaur apps from the Ansel and Clair series of educational applications.
I am a huge fan of these apps, as Africa and Paul Revere’s Ride, and now the dinosaur time periods have each been visited by Ansel, a travel photographer from the planet Virtoos and Clair, a Virtoosian robot companion in order to gather photos to teach about these moments in history back on their home planet.
There are three sections broken up into different times, specifically the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous, that each goes back to explore the world, learning about the unique dinosaurs what differenceates each of these periods seen in the landscapes of each of these apps, such as the Triassic period which was less green and more barren than the other periods of time
Narration, extensive facts, interactive animations, photos and more are also used to create wonderful multimedia experiences that take advantage of all the iPad has to offer.
Each of these apps includes a dinosaur dig site where one can meet a paleontologist who explains about the site and gives information about each time period using a time line as well as explaining all about fossils and giving children a chance to dig up dinosaur remains themselves with the use of tapping and swiping.
These bones can then be used to help the time machine that Ansel and Clair fly in to identify the correct time period to explore, bringing the duo back to a time long, long ago, wonderfully demonstrated with bright and colorful landscapes.
I do appreciate a great deal how these apps follow the same blueprints, allowing one to tap around the page to search for hidden hotspots that add slight movement to the dinosaurs around the page, but also how each creature includes a triangle to tap, bringing readers to a more detailed section about each dinosaur, as Clair explains all about the history of each creature, again using videos, photos and interactive animations, often helping Ansel interact in some way with these subjects.
These apps could have easily been overwhelming with information, but the format of Ansel asking questions that Clair answers keeps this information light and conversational as users help this team take photos of each dinosaur as Ansel needs to complete his photo album before flying home. Stickers are also collected after tapping to learn in even greater detail about some of these dinosaurs – a nice touch.
Everything these apps have to offer is perfectly realized in terms of delivering education material dealing with paleontology. This app will be adored by children of all ages as well as adults and pre-readers alike.
The illustrations are bright and colorful and also include the phonetically written dinosaur names and well-spoken narration to aid users in correct pronunciation of these names. I have noticed that the dinosaurs and other objects found in this app can be a little buzzy around the edges – a minor note in an overall wonderful set of applications.
Also included in the Triassic and Jurassic apps is the chance to build one’s own custom dinosaur with included elements such as head, body, or tail – a section to be added into the first Cretaceous app at a later date.
Four different user accounts can be created, great for school and families to allow small groups of children to work on this app at their own pace – a nice inclusion in this high-content group of apps that may need multiple sittings to explore all that has been included.
I cannot be more enthusiastic about recommending this app for children and adults of any age who are interested in dinosaurs. This app is comprehensive as well as charming and fun. I hope to see more adventures of Ansel and Clair in the future as this format is highly educational as well as engaging. Do check out each of these three apps for more details in iTunes.
Zachy the Robot: Quest for the Museum Treasures is a terrific interactive app that delves into different topics of natural history in a way that is sure to captivate children and their adults.
This is the second Zachy the Robot app. This one takes place again in Robocity, focusing on a group of robot friends, the Robocity Repairbots, who help their town with their problems, as their wheelhouse is fixing structural issues in buildings, as seen in the first app which focused on engineering.
Here, the gang is brought back to add exhibits to the newly built and empty Robocity Natural History Museum, explained in the bright, colorful and fun animated intro. I love how excited these characters are by the topic of natural history – an enthusiasm that parents will hope rubs off on their children.
Three sections are included, as the gang collect fossils, minerals and dinosaur bones to be later displayed in this museum.
The Fossils section begins with a map showing ten dig sites to choose from to search for relics. After choosing a site to work in, one will then use a chisel to dig under the ground to find buried fossils.
Once the treasures are dug up, a matching section is to be completed as index fossils are explored and the newly dug treasures are matched to boxes of previously dated fossils – though not yet unpacked.
Next is a maze area through which one needs to help a robot move in the museum with the exhibit – a space crowded with clutter and other objects not yet unpacked which creates the maze and the obstacles that one needs to navigate with the tilting of the iPad.
Once users are past the maze, the fossil is placed in the exhibit, and more is learned about what has been found. As other fossils are collected, do look back at this area of the app of Invertebrate Fossils ranging from both the Paleozoic and Mesozoic Eras.
In the mineral area, a list of minerals one can choose from is offered to the user, and once a choice is made, a map will show the different areas of the world where this mineral is sourced, sometimes including more than one location that one needs to explore in this content-rich educational app.
To source these materials, one must complete a simple logic puzzle that uses different minerals to complete the correct pattern. After the minerals are sourced, the mayor of Robocity appears to tell the workers that he needs various supplies for the city that are manufactured with the mineral in question, teaching children the practical uses for what was found, such as drill bits from diamonds, or zinc for sunblock.
Because of this, children will then need to sort mineral pieces for the museum worthy for showing as well as the more industrial samples and waste rocks that need to be discarded.
A nice animated section explains how the raw material is sent to a factory to ultimately be transformed into a useful product.
It is worth noting that both minerals and elements are included, sectioned accordingly in an area that saves the found materials to be read about later – a great resource to read to oneself.
The dinosaur exhibit section is just as interesting, allowing children to choose a dig site from a world map, dig for fossils as well as put these bones back together in a puzzle activity. Also included is a dinosaur-viewing screen allowing children to see with animation what the dino in question may have looked like when alive many years ago.
I really appreciate how the background seen at all the various dig sites from each of these three sections includes a specific scenic backdrop as well as related music that teaches a little about each area of the world visited – a nice touch, to be sure.
There is a vast amount of information for children to explore in this app developed in association with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, giving children many hours of science fun that parents will feel great about.
This is the second Zachy the Robot developed, and I can say we have enjoyed both apps very much. I can count the first app, Episode 1: the learning tower of robocity, on the short list of applications that my son often re-visits long after having been released. For a while now, he has been asking me when a second app would be available, and I can say that it has definitely been worth the wait.
I hope more apps from this series will be developed in the future as well because they are uniformly bright and colorful, both quite fun as well as highly educational, worthy for use in both home and in educational settings.
Most adults remember playing “memory” – also known as “concentration” – as children, where cards or tiles are laid out in pairs face down and players have to take turns turning over two cards looking for mates, remembering where the other cards are in order to create matches.
This style of game is also a very popular one in an application form, be it the app’s main focus or an additional section found in a storybook so it is very nice to see a “memory” style game that really stands out from the pack in terms of game play and overall quality.
Here, Gro Memo is such an app – a dedicated “memory” game app, typical in its intuitiveness as children are asked to turn over tiles to look for pairs. Yet this app is special in how quickly the game can be played if one chooses, as these tiles turn back over with great speed – an issue I have with many other apps of this nature as the card-turning can seem tedious, which can often make these “memory” style apps a chore to share with a child.
Gro Memo has a lovely ecology theme that allows children to help clean up either a forest or ocean scene, with a lovely illustrated opening page showing the nature scene in disarray and the sad animals who need one’s help.
This app is bright and colorful but also includes a slightly edgy style that I greatly appreciate as one taps these sad animals who all demand change in their own way shown through modest yet effective animation. Also seen is a modest 3D layered effect that adds richness to this nicely realized app.
For each scene, three levels of varying degrees of difficulty are included, and I really appreciate how the tiles include simple animated moments with sound effects instead of stagnant images, adding elements not possible when playing this game with a deck of cards. Another interesting detail is how tiles to avoid are also included, showing things like a polluting factory or a boat with an oil leak, adding another layer of interest to this delightful ecology-themed app.
As a tester of these “memory” styled apps, I am also very happy to report that although the score is kept for every correct pair as well as pollution tile turned over complete with witty animation, the upper levels are locked until a certain score is achieved, there is no timer included with this app. Also, simple wrong matches are not counted against the player, so children can turn cards over as often as they like to look for matches and what to avoid without feeling rushed – really nice touches.
I have enjoyed Gro Memo a great deal. The message about preserving nature is charming, as are the animated tiles – something I have not seen in other apps like this. Because the cards are so very responsive to turning over, I have found that this app can keep up with my adult high speed game play, making this a fun game for all ages – even for the adults in the house. This makes for an app that I can easily recommend.
I would also like to point out this this is another app from Gro Play, the developer for The Adventure of Sophie the Sweater, a unique storybook with a recycling theme that I also greatly enjoy. I look forward to more apps developed by Gro Play, who have developed two highly effective apps.
I am delighted to inform readers that a new app in the ABC series by Peapod Labs has been released – ABC Farm.
This series has a long list of titles, from ABC Music to ABC Food, that each teach children about different themed objects with the use of photos, videos, interactions and narrated fun facts, also incorporating the use of the alphabet to organize these words into a menu for easy access to favorite words.
This new app, ABC Farm, includes a wonderful new element, as this app is now bi-lingual as Spanish can be heard with the tap of a button – not only the word of focus spoken in either Spanish or English, but the narrated information section as well, which includes the text one can also read along with.
I think this is a wonderful inclusion, as this app can now be enjoyed by both English and Spanish speaking children, but also children new to learning either of these languages.
ABC Farm like the others in this series, opens up with a menu page of each of the 26 letters and their corresponding words. To use, simply tap on a word of interest to be brought to a section that includes a terrific use of multi media and interactivity.
The top left of the screen includes a window that when tapped will bring children to the interactive section of this app, as they swipe a finger across the screen to see related changes, such as helping out at an orchard removing apples from trees, building a well or opening a beehive. Excellent before and after pictures are used as part of this interaction which have a lot of fun with.
More photos are seen as the main image of these pages. Do scroll between these page to see all the related images – always professional in terms of quality, bright, colorful and rich with details.
If one has internet access while exploring this app, also note the windows found amoung these other pages that contain educational videos as well, which themselves contain a great wealth of information. I really appreciate how each of these pages also contains thoughtfully written facts delivered as narrated text, exploring these topics in a way that is sophisticated yet accessible by children.
Users will also note the word of focus is spelled out at the bottom of the screen with letters, each helped by a “little explorer” which can also be tapped to explore other words that start with the same corresponding letter.
As parents know, there are a multitude of apps in iTunes that relate to farms, oftentimes relating the same basic information. Because of this, I am especially happy to announce the unique words included within ABC Farm, such as “udder,” “incubator,” “ irrigation,” or “silo.”
Although I expected as much from PeaPod Labs as I know the creative words used in other apps, I was greatly impressed with the use of Spanish in this app, as I thought it would be a nice idea to include a few Spanish words. I was not expecting the additional facts, narrative prompts and menu to be fully integrated with Spanish as well.
It is obvious how much work has gone into this app, and although I have always thought adults and older children would get a great deal from these apps, this Spanish addition makes this a great app for English or Spanish learners of any age.
I have been familiar with this series of apps for some time now, and I am greatly impressed by how this series has expanded its content to include narration with the included facts as well as interactions – options not available for their first apps. I also admire Peapod Labs for having great updates that add more content sometimes greatly, not just “mild bug fixes” common among other apps.
I am eager to see if there will be other apps within this series, as they are uniformly educational, thorough and fun.
I am pleased to see that a new Dr Panda role-playing app is now available, Dr. Panda’s Supermarket, a universal app that allows children to explore ten shopping mini-games from both the point-of-view of the shopper as well as store workers.
We love the various role-playing games by Dr. Panda, as they are bright and fun as well as including a cast of re-occurring animals and their families as we have tended to them in a hospital, served the adults in a restaurant app, taken care of these characters’ animal children at daycare, grown fruits and vegetables for them at a farm, and now help these characters shop in a supermarket.
Ten areas of interest are included in Dr. Panda Super Market, and I like how one can choose to spend time in a section where one does the tasks that a worker would do, from sorting recycling, and stacking boxes in a Tetris-styled puzzle activity to collecting carts and helping customers take their groceries to their waiting cars.
Other mini-games are played if one is helping an animal with his shopping. To do so, help a character with a cart and then help this character in one of a variety of ways, such as helping him shop as one drags objects into the cart that coincides with foods from the list, pouring coffee or feeding cookies to those in need, or filling up a bag of candy to be bought.
One can also help with the scanning of groceries as well as sorting the money into the cash register, the weighing and labeling of produce before being placed in the cart as well as cleaning up a spill – which I especially appreciate as these are activities we see on our grocery runs – great for role-playing.
Fans of this series as well as other children will enjoy the friendly animals and intuitive controls of these mini-games, allowing children to partake in realistic tasks that mirror adult activities.
I am eager to see what new Dr. Panda apps may be developed next as they are uniformly a huge hit with my family.