Zoola Deluxe is a charming interactive animal app for babies and toddlers – a companion app to the popular Zoola, also reviewed at GiggleApps.
Zoola Deluxe contains a nice variety of animals one can interact with. To start, tap on one of nine animals from either Farm, Safari or Forest animals. Babies will enjoy how chunky the areas for each animal to tap are, making this app intuitive for the youngest app users.
Once a selection is made, listen to the animal’s name narrated as well as see the word on the screen. Also note the mild yet effective animated elements included as well as the sounds for each creature. This app also contains a nice variety of languages, always a nice touch.
On the bottom of the screen, one will see a row of other buttons to explore – specifically a food section, a baby soothing area and a dress-up button that will allow children to interact with each animal.
By tapping the food button, children are brought to a new screen where it’s now feeding time, giving children the chance to feed each animal their three favorite foods. Listen to these animals ask for food as well as offer up appreciative noises when they have been fed. Simple but sweet animation allows each animal to move its mouth to eat – all elements babies and toddlers will adore.
The next area allows users to sooth each animal – be it with a bottle, pacifier, blanket or their own stuffed animal. Gentle, classical music is played throughout this section that children as well as adults will find peaceful and relaxing.
The dress-up section is also cute and fun with costumes each animal can wear, ranging from period attire such as top hat and bow tie, construction hat, boots and tool belt, or a variety of mini skirt choices. More music can be heard ranging from classical to more upbeat selections that children will have fun listening to.
There is an overflowing of charm in this app that will appeal to babies, toddler, and I am sure, my son at the age of five, although this app may get a little young for most kids this age and older.
The inner “Lisa Simpson” in me feels a little weird dressing majestic creatures like a lemur in western garb, a hippo in a chief’s hat and bib or a monkey in a clown outfit, anthropomorphizing them for the amusement of children but does not see any real harm, and this is certainly a concern I would keep to myself while sharing this app with young children.
I know my son will greatly enjoy dressing zebras up in Batman masks, giving animals baby bottles and feeding them favorite snacks.
Zoola Deluxe is an app for children to love. It may make some adults a little uncomfortable, especially those who take themselves too seriously at times, but they will be won over by how much their children truly enjoy spending time with this application.
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.
I have not come across many apps for Mother’s Day, but I did want to let readers know about Just Me and My Mom – Little Critter, based on the title of the same, now a lovely adaptation by Oceanhouse Media based on the book of the same name.
This is a delightful story of Little Critter, a small anthropomorphized boy-like creature who goes on a trip to the city with his mom.
Both parents as well as children can relate to this charming story, as Mom and Little Critter take a train and visit a museum in a big city.
Adults will appreciate how this story, as well as the other Little Critter titles, each written from Little Critter’s point of view and now include excellent optional child-read narration.
Here, it is obvious that there is more to the story being told by this lovable character who causes lots of trouble along the way on his big city adventure, such as Little Critter loses the train tickets, touches a dinosaur egg much to the displeasure of the guard at the museum, and is not thrilled with clothing shopping – all moments in the life of Little Critter that all moms can relate to.
Do note the expressive facial expressions seen on the various adults in this wonderfully illustrated story as Little Critter causes a commotion in many different scenarios, each of which I would not put past my own son, especially when he was a younger boy.
I also appreciate being able to see the drawings by author Mercer Mayer up close as these illustrations are panned and zoomed in on to draw the eye – a nice touch as there is a lot to see in these fun and busy city scenes.
Little Critter apps are great for new readers, and the stories tend to be short, with a few words on a page that go far in terms of storytelling.
Even when reading this book to oneself, one can tap on a word or even paragraph to hear it read out loud – a nice aid for children who may still need help with certain words.
This book can be listened to with or without Auto Play and also read by oneself. One can also choose to record one’s own narration as well as share this recording with others who also have this same app.
Very nice sound effects can be heard such as train sounds and ambient city sounds. Also note the ability to tap objects and characters around the page to see and hear these items labeled with text as well as spoken narration – elements that can now be turned off if one wishes.
It is also nice that Oceanhouse Media has now included a menu of pages to use as a reference as well – always a nice touch.
Mothers will certainly relate to the antics that ensue in this Little Critter title. This is a story that is easy to love on many levels, making it a nice choice to share for Mother’s Day.
This app is currently free, thanks to Oceanhouse Media – a gift to mothers and children alike. Do check it out.
Zoe’s Green Planet is an interesting universal application about diversity. This is the story of Zoe, an inhabitant of a green planet with a demographic of entirely green people, seen vividly with the use of illustrations with heavy paper mache elements creating a subtle 3D effect, as well as a tactile, slightly distressed feel that I find appealing, as I do the numerous shades of green that make up the palette of this app.
One day, a red space ship lands on the green planet. Inside is a red family who would like to visit other planets and makes a home on the green planet. They have a daughter who is Zoe’s age, and they go to school together and become friends.
The girls have fun together but also face a difficult time dealing with another child who teases the new girl for being different. The parents from the red family become homesick and they fly their spaceship home.
The concept of diversity is nicely introduced here for children, and the red colors seen in this new family really pop off the screen, adding an engaging visual style.
This app is narrated with a choice of both English as well as French languages. A few mini-games are also included, such as sorting by type as well as color, two arcade-styled games and a memory game with musical elements, each which can be found within the story as well as found within the menu page of this app. Do search these pages as well for hidden hotspots.
The look of this app is colorful and unique and quite well-meaning indeed, but I am on the fence about the stylings of the red Takino family. Styled with Asian – presumably Japanese – details such as kimono-esque garb and a planet with Japanese temple-type buildings, I must admit I was uncomfortable with what could also be seen as Asian stereotypes including a slitted Asian eye, and even worse, the buck teeth seen on Mr. Takino, reminiscent of an ugly stereotype from many years ago that took me by stunned surprise that this detail is included.
It is also worth noting that the current price of $2.99 seems expensive in comparison to other apps at this price point.
This is the first in a series of apps based on colors, presumably including the very nice paper mache illustrations seen in Zoe’s Green Planet. I have appreciated the look of this app enough to be curious to see the others in the series as well.
I am happy to let readers know about the Monster series of educational apps by Wombi, as each of these apps stars a delightfully stylized monster who would like help in eating letters, numbers, shapes or colorful fruits to aid children in early recognition skills.
The first of this series is an app, Color Monster, previously released, in which a friendly monster asks to be fed fruits of different colors, also seen as this monster takes on the hue in question.
It is quite fun and charming to drag and drop the correct fruit into this creature’s mouth, but be aware that this monster is not a fan of being fed the wrong food and can get surly with comments that I genuinely enjoy as I have always appreciated flawed characters from my childhood such as Oscar the Grouch.
Other titles have recently been released with this same concept. From an octopus sea-captain monster who is fond of letters, a demanding if not high-strung pink monster in need of a lab assistant looking for the correct numbers, to a monster who is a messy chef in need of being fed foods crafted in different geometric shapes, each of these monsters lets it be known in his own special way both with positive re-enforcement as when being fed incorrectly, bringing a tremendous amount of wit and whimsy to these apps.
I appreciate this approach as many parents will turn to the iTunes store to find apps that will teach the basics of color, numbers, letter and shape recognition, and for their sake, it is important for adults to have fun with these apps as well as their children.
It is also worth noting that these apps are great for older children as well who are learning English and the many other languages in which these apps are offered, as one can remove visual hints seen within each app, making players rely on the spoken words – great for learning these concepts in other languages and making these apps easy or more difficult as seen in the settings of these apps.
Although the negative comments by these monsters are what I have touched upon here as they make these apps utterly unique, rest assured that positive feedback is also included when correct answers are given. My husband and I have had a lot of fun angering these monsters with incorrect foods for some good laughs, and I really enjoy the English-speaking voice actor chosen to deliver these lines, as these monsters are quirky as they are easily frustrated but never mean-spirited or over-the-top.
I am open to the possibility that the youngest, most sensitive children may not enjoy being corrected in this manner by these monster creatures, and that these apps may not be a proper match for all families, but for those looking for yearly education apps that are irreverent, witty and cool, do check out the Monster series of apps by Wombi. Please also note that Shape Monsters is a free app, allowing families to check out what these apps have to offer.
Sid the Science Kid – Sid’s Slide to the Side is a fun and educational application which delivers an episode of the terrific PBS kids’ show of the same name, developing into an interactive, animated storybook appisode that reads much like a traditional storybook which includes optional narration as well as illustrations often animated, allowing readers to propel the story with the tap of a finger, bridging the gap between an illustrated storybook and an interactive application, also including two mini-games as well.
Parents who do not know of Sid the Science Kid are missing out on a great educational science-based show, bright and colorful, about Sid and his friends from school who learn about science in ways children will find most engaging.
Here, friction is the topic at hand, as Sid, the main character in this story, joins with his friends to figure out why one can slide across the floor in socks, but not rubber-soled sneakers, making observations and writing in their journals.
I also appreciate how Sid the Science kid teaches not only about science in ways children can understand and relate to, but also lovingly shows healthy family dynamics and socialization at school between friends and teachers alike.
There is a lot that I enjoy about this app. I enjoy tapping on the included illustrated images, making them come alive with animation that pantomimes the story at hand, sometimes using music and other interactions that pertain nicely to the science being taught, such as sliding Sid or another character across carpet as well as including two mini-games that go further into exploring friction.
Push-a-Puck is an interesting game allowing children to slide a puck made from a variety of materials like ice or wood to test their varied frictions. I appreciate how the object is not simply to find the fastest puck, but to choose a puck that will slide into the chalk outline Sid or his friends make on many creative floor choices such as ice from a rink or even a floor made of cheese.
There is also an arcade-styled game allowing the gang to race cars on a variety of surfaces such as grass or concrete, also avoiding obstacles like glue that will slow them down as well as give them more slip – such as an oil slick.
This app would be a nice choice for fans of the show or not who enjoy their children exploring science – especially about topics that they can experiment with at home.
My only issue with this storybook is that I miss the first-person narration and commentary by Sid himself instead of the included narration which speaks in third person about Sid and his friends, including the narrator voicing the dialogue of these characters as they speak instead of the actors that fans of the show have come to know and love.
Likewise, the look of this app is also different from the show. It is a more illustrated style, missing the dynamic computer-generated images that give Sid the Science Kid its sense of style.
I do, however, like the included friction-themed video sung by teacher Suzie – a fun and upbeat section that children will really enjoy, as will their parents.
Although I was honestly disappointed that my favorite elements from TV were not included, this is a well-produced storybook with an effective use of animation and interactions that are thoughtful and engaging.
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.
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.