Round The Block is a very unique app that teaches children how to draw in three dimensions, creating shapes that will save the life of Igor, the main character of this app, who is being chased by robots.
This is a rather oddball, quirky app that I appreciate a great deal. Other drawing apps ask users to trace over templates to a varied degree of success, which can be said of this app as well, but here, the drawing of these shapes has a fun context with a lot of action – great for children who may not typically gravitate towards art applicationss.
There are a few elements I really enjoy within this app, set in a distressed urban environment. Not a lot of information is given as to why Igor is being sought after by robots, other than that he is, thereby creating a rather bizarre chase scenario that reminds me of old school Warner Brothers cartoons where the wishing for a parachute while falling off a cliff could produce the parachute from mid-air, save one’s life.
Here, Igor may draw a bridge to cross over, avoiding electrocution by these robots, stairs to climb, evading contact or ramps with large rock spheres to roll over and take out these killer robots.
I enjoy how this setup creates a sense of urgency as well as requires accuracy when tracing, as every line must be drawn to create these structures, and being chased will get children to learn really fast how to identify the areas of these large objects not properly drawn to create the 3D perspective.
I have been drawn into the fantasy of Round the Block, as complete cars may be created to get away in, or ornate, multi-story buildings drawn to hide out in, really capturing one’s imagination as one learns to draw these shapes – interesting choices, as I can to some degree draw in 3D this way although I consider myself without drawing talent or ability.
This app may indeed appeal to those who have felt other drawing apps involving animals to be too precious, with no middle ground between them which is condescending or too professional for non-drawers.
Round The Block has a styled look to it, with bold pops of color and a character more odd than quite human-looking – an inquired taste with an indie feel that will be of interest to some readers, I am sure.
I do wish one could pause the action to take in the 3D drawings as they are created and come to life, as the need to keep moving prevents users from taking the time to really study what is being drawn, but even with this note, this is an original app that I found quite appealing. I also like being able to go back and choose favorite scenes to replay, eleven in total, a nice touch.
Round the Block reminds me of a modern, charmingly grim Harold and the Purple Crayon, if Harold were giving chase to avoid death from killer robots – an intriguing concept to say they least, definitely worth checking out.
Bugs and Numbers is a delightful universal application – a collection of bug-themed mini-games that re-enforces beginner math concepts as well as other subjects such as understanding one’s left and right, shape matching, sorting, sequencing and tracing of numbers and shapes.
Each one of these 18 mini-games includes a bright and engaging look, oftentimes including bug elements as well as an interesting dichotomy as some of these sections are quite beautiful to look at, while others include distressed qualities that show bugs in less than pristine conditions that children may also find interesting.
Start playing through these games randomly, or enter the menu to choose the game to explore with a tap.
I admire how each of these mini-games increases in difficulty from start to finish, yet many of these games do not include specific goals or end points, such as the matching shapes section where one matches magnets – first with numbers and shapes, leading into an advanced exercise of matching halves of magnets such as bugs or robots – which can be tricky. Presumably, one pairs as many matches as possible in a given amount of time, yet without parameters flushed out, it can be hard to understand why the game ends without warning.
It is also worth noting that these games do not include instructions while a few do give hints on game play, so parents may want to use this app with their children before young ones explore this app on their one, and it would be nice if different children could have their own accounts to keep track of their progress throughout these games, collecting bugs along the way as one masters these mini-games.
I also wish one could silence the cheering heard as one finishes these sections – a sound that to me is grating, to say the least. Preferably these cheers could be muted separately from the music and other sound effects as the included music heard in these sections is nicely done with a few areas that are quite beautiful – if not a little suspenseful and dark, like music one may hear in a carnival.
Even with the notes made, there is such a wide range of mini-games to choose from that this is an easy app to recommend. I have enjoyed some of these areas more than others, with my favorites being the science section with lab measurements as well as the “Garden Patters,” which is part maze and part pattern recognition.
Bugs and Numbers is an app in a series of bug-themed apps such as this which are equally content-rich and wonderful to look at and explore. I can recommend each of these apps. If interested, look for my review for the Bugs and Buttons app as well. Bugs and Bubbles will reviewed by GiggleApps in the future as well.
Recently I have been given the opportunity to check out the iMarker by Griffin Technology, a stylus that is designed to work with the Crayola ColorStudio HD app, a coloring book for iPad.
I was excited to do so because my son, now five, has just gotten fully interested in coloring books, crayons and markers as his fine motor skills have become developed enough to start writing and effectively coloring while holding a pen or pencil correctly.
The iMarker resembles a large, chunky marker – ours specifically a lovely bright blue shade which my son really enjoys. Adults will need access to a very small, jeweler-sized phillips head screwdriver as the iMarker needs one AA battery to function. I was surprised by this as other styluses that we have do not need power to work, but I am impressed by the iMarker’s ability to cancel out the contact one’s hand may have with the screen as contact here will not leave marks on the page – unlike working with other tool such as this.
After battery installation, one will notice that when the top button of the iMarker is pushed, the Crayola sign on the side of the stylus will light up with an LED that fades into different colors. There is also an audible “hum” sound from the iMarker, part of the mechanics that makes this stylus compatible with the Crayola ColorStudio HD, a sound which I found distracting, but neither my son nor my husband made note of this noise.
Crayola has been a brand of art supplies I focus on buying due to their quality and safety record, so Crayola and their branding are quite familiar to my son, who was quite tickled to receive an iPad accessory which looked like his favorite Crayola markers or jumbo crayons and took to the ColorStudio HD app quite rapidly.
I must admit that I read some other reviews about the iMarker. Based on what I read, I was expecting certain issues with this hardware. I must say, however, that we have had no problems with the use of this stylus whatsoever. We are able to draw using the Crayola ColorStudio HD with ease both on the iPad 1 with no screen protector as well as the iPad 3 which does have the screen protected.
I was expecting to need to press overly hard or only to be able to draw with the iMarker pressed fully upright on the iPad – which would have been awkward, to say the least, but this was not my experience, as I can comfortably write or draw with the iMarker at any angle with ease as if it were a real marker.
It is worth noting that the iMarker only works with the Crayola ColorStudio HD – a coloring app consisting of seven differently themed coloring sections, such as “Jungle,” “Seasons,” “Farm” or “Spring.” Each of these areas includes six pages of images as well as music which correlates nicely with the theme at hand.
The navigation of these pages is quite easy as my son took over the iPad, choosing the book and drawing that he wanted to work on.
At the bottom of the page, tap the box of crayons to open up the area that contains the different colors and tools one can use to color, as the tool one colors with can be changed to emulate six different art supplies such as a crayon, felt-tipped marker, pencil or paintbrush, as well as an eraser. Also note that the point size with which one can draw also has three sizes as well and including “paint bucket” mode in which the entire section of the image one is drawing in can be filled in with a single tap.
As one changes between the drawing tools, do note the different colors one can scroll through to choose, as the number of colors vary between material. The most plentiful choices are that of the classic crayon, but it would have been nice to see a name attached to the color one selects, as reading the color on a Crayola crayon is part of the fun. This information would also be helpful in re-selecting a color one might want to use in a touchup of one’s work as this can be surprisingly hard to eyeball.
It is also worth noting the different options this app has to offer which includes a pause button – helpful in pausing areas of this app which are mildly animated and a “go back” as well as “forward” buttons – functions I always like to see in a coloring book. There is also able to “delete” and “save,” where the image will be added to this app’s gallery in present condition as well as a menu button of more extensive options.
There is area where one can send the coloring page one is working on via email, Facebook as well as saving the page to the photos on one’s iPad.
A button is available which begins a narrated walk-through of this app as well as a “Home” button.
I like these various options offered, but the “delete” button is actually a “New Page” button, showing a blank page with a “+” sign, and I can see children misunderstanding this and deleting their work by accident – even after tapping the “OK” green check mark. Because of this, I think a garbage can sign commonly used for “delete” may be less confusing.
Likewise, I can see children not understanding that the image of a “disk” may mean “to save,” or image of an open door will bring one back to the menu, whereas a house button meaning “home” may be a better choice – minor notes that parents can explain to their children, I am sure.
Other options included are the choice of being able to mute the included music or sounds effects individually as well as being able to enable (or not) the zooming in of these pages to color in with more details as well as a finger paint mode.
I am most pleased by the inclusion of a “Stay inside the lines” option – a perfect choice for those not using “Paint Bucket” as this mode allows the user to scribble within an area, using the stylus like a crayon yet without making marks wildly outside where one intends. This is huge for me as I have not had a lot of positive experiences using coloring books until now without the use of “Paint Bucket” mode as I have found it impossible not to make a mess of coloring pages while coloring in areas free-hand.
I also enjoy how as one stays inside the lines, one can color over other shapes that may be in the way of the area being colored without having to avoid them as the app will remember the area one is focusing on, be it small and detailed or a large background with different details in the foreground.
There are some additional elements within the “Paint Bucket” mode which I equally enjoy, as a single tap will fill in a space taking on the quality of the tool that was used, be it a paintbrush, colored pencil, or marker. The biggest use of texture is seen using the crayons as this effect reminds me of coloring over paper with minimal texture to create a marbled quality with the paper showing through. Further taps will deliver more opaqueness to the section.
I have enjoyed experimenting with the translucence of the crayons this way, layering different colors together to create a visual style reminiscent of fancy hand-made paper of combined colors and textures. I also have had a great experience coloring in areas of this app drawing with the iMarker to use the textured translucency of the paint bucket mode over the lines previously drawn to create batik-like effects.
My son, however, just likes to color, and color he does. This app can keep him busy for a long time as he focuses on his work, listening to the pleasant background music, sometimes coming across a hot spot that triggers other animation or sound effects.
The animated moments included are mild and without distraction, but may in fact show areas of the coloring page that were hidden until the animation begins and not colored in – holes that I am compelled to complete but my son does not bother with.
Although my son at this point has focused his attention on the provided coloring pages, be aware that blank pages are also included where children can not only color free-hand but also practice printing letters, numbers or draw freehand – an area I hope my son will venture into soon.
Another interesting feature is the chance to create one’s own coloring page, choosing among six backgrounds as well as a blank page. A nice selection of objects, animals or other characters is available that one can include with rotating and resizing as well as being able to choose which of these elements will be in the foreground if more than one of these details is to be used. Simple, animated rain or snow are options as are differently themed music or sound effects which can be chosen as well.
My first response to this app is that although my five year old son is very happy with what has been offered, is that there is not a lot of content for older children or adults, as the quality of the included drawings can sometimes remind me of free “clip art.”
This concern is dampened to some degree by being able to create one’s own coloring pages which can be found once saved in the gallery ready for coloring.
It would be nice, however, if this app could be updated with more pages as even with being able to design one’s own images to color, the choices are not endless. I can see my son becoming weary of the same coloring books over time – an issue as the iMarker only works with the ColorStudio HD app and retails for more than other styluses that work with any application including ColorStudio HD if set to Finger Paint mode. Because of this, I would love to also see some cross-over in other apps from the same developer. Although I am a fan of in-app purchases typically, I do believe than other activity books or coloring pages to purchase inexpensively would give the purchase of this moderately expensive stylus more utility.
I do hope that others who buy the iMarker will have as easy an experience using this stylus with their iPad. My son has used other styluses that we have in the house as well, but they never were as much enjoyed as this chunky iMarker. Although I prefer the hand-feel of smaller, heavy styli, this is personal preference.
The iMarker has given my son a chance to color in coloring books in bed or on the sofa – places where markers or crayons are not welcome. I would also be quick to pack the iMarker if ever traveling instead of messy, easy-to-lose art supplies.
I would never expect or encourage the iMarker and the Crayola ColorStudio HD to take the place of coloring by hand with crayons on paper, but my son is quite interested in digital toys and tools. I am happy that he can continue to work on his pencil grip now while using this app, but I would love more apps or more material to be developed that would also work with the iMarker.
Team Umizoomi Carnival HD is an application which brings the hit TV show Team Umizoomi to life in this interactive storybook application. A version of this app is also available for iPhone.
My son really enjoys this TV show which focuses on early math skills in a way that is upbeat, bright and very engaging as the audience is asked to participate, leaving silent pauses during the show while children answer. My son always responds with exuberance so I was eager to review this application allowing him to interact with this story, both by furthering the story as well as other interactive hotspots.
Much like the TV show, the gang within this tale goes on an adventure where needed – here to find a boy’s lost stuffed bunny left at a carnival. Help the Umi Team as they ask questions of other characters, gather information and finally solve the case of the missing bunny.
Some nice visuals are included as educational tools, such as “over, under, around and through” with the use of fun foods and carnival balloons, a great explanation of these actions. There is also a puzzle one must complete to create an airplane to ultimately save bunny, which children will enjoy.
I do wish for re-play value that some of the other details could be mixed up a bit, as I enjoy needing to find and tap the white bird with two feathers to ask for her help or completing a pattern to stop the merry-go-round – great for number and color recognition as well as basic cognition, but it would be if these colors, numbers or other details could be random so the experience and answers needed would be different each time this tale is read.
I do also wish this story was a little longer, but it may suit those with short attention spans nicely. A few arcade-style balloon popping games are included that aid in number awareness as well as a sticker section.
Even with these notes, this story will be appealing to children who are fans of the show as well as other young children interested in beginner math concepts as well as colors, shapes and going on a helpful adventure.
Toca Band is the highly anticipated new app from Toca Boca that is both delightful as well as quirky and odd – a wonderful combination that Toca Boca does so very well.
As the name may suggest, Toca Band allowing users to combine different sounds together to create their own music.
This concept is nothing new within the iTunes store, and, honestly, with a few noted exceptions, I never really stuck with one of these apps because making music that one would want to listen to is commonly more difficult that expected, as these apps are often more of a soundboard for noises that lose their appeal quite quickly.
I was, however, not worried about Toca Boca making this format enjoyable and user-friendly, as I have been a fan of theirs from their first few releases, and I know the kind of app they can bring to the table.
I must say that from the moment one sees this app for the first time, one can tell that it is something special. The setting – an outdoor venue in an urban space during evening hours, complete with the sound of crickets – conjures up memories of seeing shows in the summer, and the anticipation is palpable. To my husband and me, this is Brooklyn, but possibly Stockholm for these are Swedish developers, and it is how subjective and ambiguous these elements are which is part of the magic.
One will notice the stage center screen and a row of 16 odd-ball characters below waiting for their turn to make music. Drag and drop these musicians to different areas of the stage, keeping in mind that the different sounds created by each individual vary in each of the three levels of the stage.
All of these characters appreciate their turn in the spotlight which is also included, and here one will see what special sounds each of these performers can create, ranging from more straightforward choices such as a man playing the guitar or an opera singer, as well as fantasy characters who make interesting and unique sound effects, including a wonderful chance to play a thurman that needs to be seen.
There are so many characters to choose and it is impressive how unique each one is styled, full of pop culture references which make my mind wander to Ali G, Tim Burton and Die Antwoord.
I appreciate how performers can be lifted high into the in the “Star” position as the focal point of the band. Do explore all that the solo performances have to offer, too numerous to mention really, as doing so will often raise or lower the pitch as well as generate wonderful sounds as well as charming visual experiences one will want to spend time exploring.
Toca Boca has been a favorite developer in my house so that news of a soon-to-be-released app of theirs is something to celebrate, and we have watched the teaser videos over and again until the app is made available.
My son, typically an easy-going child when it comes to our iPad and iPhone, has had less than gracious moments with Toca Boca apps, being so utterly engaged that his is unwilling to share our devices among family as he explores – a compliment, to be sure.
Well, Toca Band has now made a monster out of my husband, who in turn does not play nicely with others as he and my son try to work on this app together. He is simply having too much creative fun choosing characters to play side-by-side, with the focus he used to reserve for his work as an audio engineer he enjoys this kids app, that in reality has a single song that he personalizes to the best of his ability.
This may be an exaggeration, be it a slight one, as my son has also had a chance to play with this wonderful digital toy as well, enjoying it as much as his dad does.
My boy enjoys the unusual sound effects such as the “frog monster” as he calls a specific character, while my husband focuses his efforts on combining rhythms and vocals together, often enjoying the yodeler as well as other characters.
Do make note that this app allows players to be more of a DJ than a composer, but the experience is still delightful and very musical indeed.
There is not much that I would like to change within this app, but we do think it would be nice to be able to record the tracks created – a function I typically am not interested in with other apps like this.
It would also be nice to be able to momentarily silence a performer with a tap instead of dragging him off stage when a pause is all that one is looking for, and I would also love to be able to set different volume levels per performer so favorites can be heard above others, creating an experience closer to mixing tracks as a DJ might.
I again must applaud Toca Boca for making this as well as their other apps at a price range affordable to virtually anyone who owns a iPad or iPhone – important these days as the prices, especially for universal apps, have crept higher that what many families are willing or able to pay.
Toca Boca apps have consistently been some of the easiest apps to recommend to all ages, and I certainly believe that toddlers up to and including adults will find a way to manipulate the characters to create music or sounds that they will enjoy, as this app is truly what you make of it.
For my son and me, the release of a new Toca Boca app has the same excitement that others may experience with the release of a new iPad. We all look forward to what new apps Toca Boca develops in the future.
GazziliShapes is a creative and thoughtful universal interactive application which re-enforces shape recognition as well as listening skills and cognitive abilities.
GazziliShapes consists of six sections, each bright and colorful, that focus on a theme such as Pizza, Cookie or Spaceship and are excellent scripted exercises for getting toddlers and preschoolers to strengthen their shapes knowledge as well as listening skills. For this reason, GazziliShapes would make a lovely app for special needs children as well who may need help with their cognitive abilities and simple motor skills that the interactivities lend themselves nicely to.
I really appreciate how narration is used to lead children through exercises which emulate children’s favorite activities as they are asked to tap on specific shapes, be it on a window shaped like a square or the square pizza box, tapping their way through the eating of pizza or in baking cookies, focusing on shapes as kids learn the steps to baking these treats and making this a very dynamic way to teach shapes.
The sections of this app are nicely varied as children also are asked to design necklaces by stringing specifically shaped beads as well as a circus-themed section which rotates shapes for an animal to jump through – also creating an interesting 3D effect.
Other sections including a charming scuba diving area as well as a rocket ship section with included puzzle elements.
Parents will recognize the level of difficulty advanced throughout these sections, and it is also nice to know that one can switch up some options for a different experience – especially the ability to turn off the instructions which I really enjoy, and instead have the narration thoughtfully explain the definition of these different shapes – great for beginners. One can also choose to include text at the bottom of the screen – good for hearing-impaired children as well as simply giving kids the chance to follow along with the narration. One is also able to turn on or off the music and sound effects separately – always a nice touch.
When each of these mini-games is completed, an element to the “GazziliFunPage” is included, much like adding chunky pieces to a puzzle background – here simply animated for a cute effect.
I would love to see more sections included in a future update as well as more lengthy exercises such as the cookie baking which has multiple steps to complete. I have thoughtfully enjoyed this application and would love to seem more of this style of instructions within other applications as the delivery here is dynamic and fun.
PrestoBingo Shapes is a charming universal hidden picture application that re-enforces shape recognition.
The first thing that adults will find striking about this app is how lovely it is to look at with a wonderful palette of orange, turquoise, green and, other corresponding colors. The pages themselves include a lovely quirky style that is wonderfully imaginative. I would love to purchase prints of these pages for the walls of my house, and I can imagine parents wanting to hang these images especially in their layette.
Each page includes hidden shapes within the page, be it triangle, semi-circle, trapezoid, or the like. Tap these shapes when they are found for these shapes to be highlighted and their number counted off. Light animation is displayed when the puzzles are complete.
Do tap the bottom left of the screen where the shape is represented, as doing so will trigger simple animation that thoughtfully explains the shape at hand such as a rectangle being shaped like a domino, bricks in a wall, or a skyscraper.
I love the way these shapes are used within these pages in such creative ways, such as circles hiding within tires, flowers, a lassoed end of a rope or the iris of a character on the page. I also appreciate how multiple pages are offered for each shape, really adding to the richness of this app. I think a menu of pages would be a nice inclusion for a future update allowing children to re-play their favorite pages often.
I am embarrassed to admit that I have had problems finding the last shape I am looking for on any one page, and I can imagine children having the same difficulty. I do not see this as a flaw, however, as toddlers will enjoy this app with help, while preschoolers and older children will appreciate the hidden picture aspect of this app, but I think it would be nice if hints were available if one needed help. I appreciate friendly narration encouraging players to keep looking for shapes if all missing shapes have not been found, but being told the number of shapes one is looking for would also be helpful.
Even with this note, I really enjoy this application. The drawings included are simply gorgeous, and I can really see parents enjoy their time spent with this application. I am impressed with this attractive, intuitive application – a first app from the developers at Spur Design. I hope to see more applications from them in the future.
Snowflake Station in a wonderful craft application for iPad that allows children to cut their own paper snowflakes, teaching the concept of symmetry and other skills along the way.
I have always been a huge fan of paper-cut art since I was old enough to pick up a scissors. My love for paper cutting stems, I am sure, from my lack of ability to draw representationally. Yet here, few cuts to a correctly folded paper ever look mistaken, creating an art form that children and adults who lack certain foundation skills in drawing can fully own themselves.
For me, the process of folding and cutting has been more important than the snowflake or other decorative shapes produced, and I have never been a fan of the cleanup associated with paper-cut art. Because of this, I have really been enjoying Snowflake Station which allows children to work in two basic modes – Workshop, where one traces over lines of dots, creating cuts in the paper or Creation Station – where players work freehand to make their own designs.
Workshop includes an impressive amount of templates that one traces with a finger to create snowflakes in a variety of shapes and levels of intricateness. This would be a wonderful app for those just learning how to connect the dots or for children new to scissors and are able to understand the concept of paper cutting but whose fine motor skills are simply not adequately developed to control scissors well enough to make their own designs just yet – such as my son at four years of age.
It is also a nice touch that the dotted lines one traces fade away, leaving one to to remember the basic line one is cutting in the more sophisticated levels, adding a nice element of memorization as well as pointing out how symmetrical images have been created along the way – a wonderful way to teach this important concept.
My favorite section, however, is the Creation Workshop which allows users to choose a style of folded paper, from the simple folded square sheet folded twice, creating four symmetrical panels, to the more delicate octagonal-shaped snowflakes that, when unfolded, reveal 16 equal sides cut into innumerable possibilities.
The cutting of these snowflakes is nice and intuitive as one drags a finger over the folded paper to cut shapes.
It is worth mentioning that most children are used to using scissors during this activity, but this experience is a little different, allowing easy access to the center of these shapes – something not easy to achieve with a scissors as extra folds would be needed to reach the areas not directly touching an edge of the paper. It is as if here, a knife is being used to cut away shapes that can easily fit into any area one wants to cut – be it the center or sides of the folded paper.
Another interesting element found within this app is the fact that when working with scissors, if one cuts the corner of the paper with a single cut, one would expect the corner to fall away, but here one can fully cut through the page and the cut marks will become negative space without the use of gravity removing the effected pieces, adding to the details one can create with ease. To fully cut away pieces, be sure to lasso the piece in question to remove it completely from the page.
I love the inclusion of an undo button styled like a tape dispenser which allows children to fix mistakes they may have made – wonderful for beginner artists new to making paper art.
I also especially enjoy the use of a preview button shaped like an eye that allows children a sneak peak at their creation – intriguing as it is not really possible to unfold and refold to real paper as the lines would never line up in a way that would allow for re-cutting, making this sneak peak interesting and fun.
Watching the paper slowly unfold is always a magical time be it with real paper or within this app. I especially enjoy how this app demonstrates this as the symmetry created is really showcased – a great lesson that is important to understand as the basis of math, touched upon in more detail within the Workshop section.
Another element hard to re-create with paper is the chance to include eight folds, as the paper gets awfully thick and uneven, especially with the basic paper found around one’s home. Because of this, I am really enjoying working on the selections involving eight paper folds, creating 16 uniform surfaces that I have been excising with use of a stylus, creating details so minute that in real life, the paper one is working on would become so fragile that it would fall apart in one’s hands.
Children will also love the choice of colored paper and glitter to use before or after their creations are cut – nice touches to be sure, as is the ability to change these colors over and over again, experimenting with different shades of paper combined with glitter hues.
I like that saving one’s snowflakes to a gallery is possible as is framing these images against a selection of lovely natural landscapes such as trees during a snowfall.
I prefer, however, the setting to create little snowflakes that then fall from the sky using one’s landscape choice as the background.
Other backdrops include the default choice, which is very nice in its own right – that of a natural wood grain which keeps the focal point of the snowflake itself – or a photo of the players choosing from either the iPad’s camera roll or by taking a new photo.
I really appreciate how a shadow is included within the framing of these snowflakes, adding a very nice realistic detail that I greatly enjoy, as I do the ability to make changes to snowflakes kept in the gallery if one chooses to do so.
Music is included that is easy to listen to that can be muted if one chooses, making this app a wonderful quiet activity. I also like that the included narration offering compliments and encouragement can be turned off as well independently of the music – a nice touch.
I have really enjoyed this application, creating my own snowflakes as well as the tutorials that have taught me new shapes that can be cut into paper art. I have quite the gallery of my own work and will continue to make more snowflakes in the future.
I have noticed that sometimes the cutting is less than smooth – reminding me of cutting with dull scissors – an issue I hope can be looked at in the future, but even these rough cuts look interesting as one watches the paper unfold to see one’s work.
This is an app I highly recommend for children and their adults alike.
It is worth noting that this app has been designed by Chicago-based teacher, Frances Judd, developed to teach children about symmetry, which this app does well.
Another application from Mrs. Judd is Chalk Walk, developed to enable children to work on their pincher grip on the iPad, and it is another app that I look forward to reviewing on GiggleApps soon. I am overall very impressed by Snowflake Station, and I will be on the lookout for any new apps by Frances Judd in the future.
Felt Board is a lovely app for iPad, a charming simulated rendition of a traditional felt board.
I have fond memories of using a felt board as a child, and I was happy to share this experience with my son. Not being crafty enough to create small and intricate pieces of felt myself, I confess that I bought a set from a local craft store on sale for my boy. The felt board was a huge hit, but sadly, even after keeping all the pieces in a zippered bag, the felt board soon became a memory as somehow inexplicably all the pieces vanished even after my son promised to be careful and not lose the pieces, only to randomly find felt bits clinging to clothing and furniture where one least expected to find them.
This digital felt board does not take the place of the traditional activity and cannot replace the magic of children finding out for the first time that this soft fabric sticks to itself without glue or mess, being able to be re-arranged indefinitely. This is a wonderful application, however, for families like mine who simply can’t keep track of all the little pieces or would love to allow their children this experience when traveling or simply out and about as this app, like a classic felt board itself, is a creative and quiet way for children to spend time.
This application is intuitive to use with an abundance of elements to choose from that felt boards in real life would be hard-pressed to include. Nice selections of backgrounds are offered, both basic solid colors as well as landscapes like a beach, ocean view or mountain landscape as well as a theatre, boat, and bedroom scenes. Other backdrops included as well. Like a traditional felt board, the backgrounds are sometimes simple, abstract and effective, and I appreciate the faint soft felt texture seen throughout this app.
Body choices can be made, and as in the classic style, the character pieces are devoid of all details as these can be added later. Six colors can be chosen, including three shades that could roughly represent skin tones of found among a diverse group of people, a nice touch that I would love to see broadened in the future. Do fully explore the selection of hair, beard, mustache and face choices by scrolling through this section with the aid of a scroll bar that unfortunately becomes invisible when not in use – problematic as players may not be aware of the selection of details to choose from within each of these elements that are too numerous to see on any given page.
Parents and teachers of special education children will especially appreciate the different expressions among the face choices such as the placement or shape of the eyebrows and mouth, teaching about these emotional cues along the way.
Cute clothing for all are included, including outfit elements that one may expect for both men and women, as well as plenty of unisex clothing and a few dress-up choices representing knights, a doctor, firefighter and police as well as a Santa suit and astronaut jumpsuit, tux and traditional men’s suit.
Another section consists of all the accessories one could desire such as shoes, mittens, scarves, hats, glasses and extras such as wand, sword, baton or umbrella.
A lovely selection of animals is also included, from butterflies and other insects to traditional farm animals, fantasy creatures and ocean dwellers. Storytellers will appreciate how spider, monkey and speckled frog choices are included to aid in the re-telling of classic stories that involve these characters.
Other objects one may look for to complete their motifs are also thoughtfully included, from flowers, plants and other choices found in nature, to symbols to represent weather, such as sun, moon or rain as well as buildings and other structures which can also be found.
Lastly, letter and number sections are included, each with their own related extras such as punctuation characters, shapes and arrows, which have also been added.
To re-size these elements, pinch or spread of one’s fingers – an element that I appreciate as the fine motor skills of picking up small pieces of felt with one’s fingertips is lost as the swiping of a finger is not as much of a workout for fine motor skills, but the pinching and zooming to re-size can in fact work these same muscles. It is also nice that one can glue down these pieces, aiding in the moving and re-sizing of these characters together as a single unit. Tap the camera icon to take a photo of one’s scene. To remove a piece of felt, simply drag to the recycling bin at the bottom right corner of the page.
I recommend this app to anyone interested in art or craft applications. The selection of felt pieces is wonderful and I enjoy being able to change backgrounds under the other pieces already laid down, something that could never be accomplished with such ease on a traditional board. I can imagine not only a great activity for children, but also in aiding the storytelling for all ages. For these reasons and more, I recommend this app.
Alien Buddies is a universal educational app that my son has been really enjoying.
Three activities are included – a very educational matching game that teaches basic colors, shapes, letters and numbers, a well-done dot-to-dot game as well as sticker pages to explore.
My son has really taken to the connect-the-dots activity – something he has been exposed to before, but until now had no interest in. Here, eight silhouettes are offered. Tap to choose the image one is looking to complete. Really nice jazzy music (which parents will be happy to listen to as well) is included as children connect these dots. The night’s sky is the backdrop, complete with floating stars seen in the distance as these images are being transformed from numbers to a complete image once sequenced, reminding me of constellations.
It is especially nice that one can either tap each number in sequence individually or drag a finger around number to number or complete with one continuous movement with a finger, depending on the fine motor skills the player possesses – something my son could use some practice in. As of now, he is only tapping each number, but I hope soon he will be able to drag his fingers to each number as well – a more challenging way to complete these puzzles. If needed, players can also have a hint mode turned on, highlighting the numbers in sequence to make this section easier for young players.
The Matching game is very nice as players drag aliens, labeled with a specific letter, number or the like to the matching pod waiting to carry them to safety. The styling of this section is super-cute as are these colorful aliens who subtly tap their foot or look around nervously waiting for their turn to be saved as they step to the right of the screen.
Part of me wishes that there were some hazard one is trying to save these aliens from, but instead of negative consequences, children are encouraged to do their best by being rewarded with a new sticker unlocked in the sticker section of this app, adding to the base number of stickers one starts out with that can be used to decorate various landscapes.
I especially like how a just-listening mode is included, where no visual clues for corresponding matches are seen, making players rely on their listening skills, also great for children learning English as a second language or for use with special needs children who may need to focus on the understanding of spoken language. It is also nice that the dot-to-dot and sticker sections require no reading, allowing non-English speaking children to enjoy these sections as well.
The first thing I noticed about this app is how bright and colorful all the images found within are. This is especially true within the landscapes of the sticker section, as each of these eight sticker pages contains very different looking fantasy locations with vivid pinks and oranges, greens and turquoise – many colors really that create backdrops which could be at home in Dr. Seuss stories. Forty stickers can ultimately be utilized, with six stickers included to begin with, allowing players to be able to unlock the others as they succeed at the matching and dot-to-dot activities.
It is endearing how each of these aliens or monsters is cuddly and not at all scary. Parents who have spent some time in the iTunes store will understand the popularity of apps that teach these basics, and because a lot of time will be spent with apps like this, it is important for these apps to be fun and engaging, not only for the child, but for the parent as well.
Recently, a puzzle section has been added to this application, adding even more value to this fun, educational app. Here, eight colorful alien choices are offered. Choose with a tap and the drag pieces where they belong, with subtle jigsaw outlines seen as hints. Fun narration explains this intuitive gameplay, as well as a witty comment that kids will enjoy, such as “Where are my legs?” Players can choose to have these images broken up into 4, 6, or 8 pieces.
I appreciate that these puzzles have a nice level of “grab” to them, as they pull themselves into the correct spaces if the piece becomes close enough, as if by magnetism, “clicking” these pieces into place, along with the use of sound effects create for a satisfying experience. A subtle amount of rotation within these pieces is included that adds to the visual effect but does not effect the placement of these parts within the puzzle, and it is nice that kids can collect stickers for completed puzzles as well.
The bright and lively style of Alien Buddies unique matching game play, well-crafted dot to dot and sticker sections, cool puzzles and nice music will keep children entertained for a long time as well.