Brains My Body is a very nice interactive app for children which teaches about basic anatomy and diversity and includes fun facts about the body.
The look of this app is crisp and clean, with colorful, textured woven fabric used as the background for these activities.
Also of note are the layered ambient sounds heard throughout, consisting of a beating heart, blowing wind and wind chimes – interesting choices I have enjoyed listening to.
Eight sections are included, four of which are puzzles that ask children to re-build the body. I do appreciate how this puzzle includes multiple levels of difficulty, seen in each of these sections as these puzzles become more in-depth.
The basic body structure is covered as one adds the head, chest arms and legs into an outline of a body, while a second level breaks down these parts into smaller ones while chunky parts like head, chest, thigh or foot still remain.
There is also a puzzle focusing on facial features, as at first the face is divided into strips such as hair, eyebrow, eyes, nose and mouth – pieces that must be placed back into a face template. In the second level, these features such as both eyes and ears need to be placed back where they belong independently as well as other areas of the face.
It is especially nice how in this face puzzle section, one can choose between a variety of faces, including diverse choices such as an Asian character and darker skin-toned non-Caucasian to re-build, adding to the re-play of this section as well as the diverse nature of this application.
The skeletal system has its own dedicated section, optionally narrating these bones as one places them back where they belong inside a body outline.
At first these skeletal pieces are large, consisting of a single piece for the trunk, arms, and legs, while later, in the second and third levels, breaking the spine, pelvis and ribcage into individual pieces, ultimately including each side of the rib cage as a separate piece, as are the hands and feet, upper and forearms, shin, and shin bone.
The internal organs are also touched upon here, as one needs to place the organs back into the body where they belong.
Again, during the first level of this game, these body parts are grouped together, such as brain and spinal column, lung and trachea, large and small intestines, bladder and kidneys, each of these pieces then separated into individual parts ultimately adding the nose and mouth cavity, as well as also including the pancreas, spleen and gallbladder.
Three other activities are included, such as an activity to tap various parts of the body to peel back a level, such as from the chest to the internal organs to then see an x-ray view of the bones. A variety of skin tones and different heads are included. One can also scroll through with a tap, creating an anatomical model of the player’s choosing.
There is also a chance to interact with a beating heart, as tapping in time to the beats will fill the body with blood, allowing children to see the coronary arteries fill, delivering blood throughout the body. A mistimed tap will remove blood. There are three levels to this exercise, increasing the speed of the heart being pumped, thus increasing the difficulty of this interaction.
One also has a chance to see a cross section of a body in order to view digestion at work. Do tap the hose included within the stomach as this adds necessary digestive juices needed to move the food through the body and out the other end, complete with flatulence noises – appropriate for this app.
A memory game is also included where one needs to turn over tiles in order to make pairs, with three levels ranging from twelve to sixteen tiles in play.
Each of these sections includes a magnifying glass that one can tap to read an interesting fact. A camera icon is also included to take and save a screen shot to the camera roll of one’s device.
The main note I have is that the organization of these sections could be arranged together – including the most basic sections as well as the more in depth anatomy puzzles.
This is a very nice, very stylized app introducing the human body to young children. I do see this app as a good choice for toddlers and early preschoolers and beyond as well as their adults who will enjoy this app a great deal, as these puzzles are reminiscent of multiple-layered wood puzzles I have always been interested in.
Readers and fans of Spinlight Studio may be familiar with an app of theirs from last year, the memorable YodelOh – a wonderful take on the classic shooting gallery-style game taking place in the Swiss Alps.
This is a game that my son, although far from mastering, really enjoys playing and although it is not specifically an app with a high educational value, I am happy for my son to use his screen time playing this game as the look of this app is lovely and fun as well as being great for his reflexes and hand/eye coordination.
Because of this, I am very happy to let readers know about Spinlight Studio’s new app, YodelOh Math Mountain, with much of the same game play as their original app, yet now with a terrific math element that teaches addition, subtraction, multiplication and division as players tap correct answers seen bottom of the screen, slowing down the shepherd’s ascent up a mountain, as there is no place to go once at the top but falling over the side, ending the game. Correct answers will gain points; wrong answers will take a step in the wrong direction.
Players will also enjoy the shooting-game elements found in this app as sheep and later larger rams try to push the shepherd up the mountain. Tap these creatures to earn points as well before a good shove will send the herder closer and closer to the mountain’s peak.
I have enjoyed both versions of this app, but it is a special treat how here, math drills can be practiced as well. This game becomes pretty fast-paced with a lot to shoot at as well as answering the questions at hand, and I appreciate that hints are given if needed, reducing the number of choices to choose from, especially helpful for children who may need help with these problems.
I am eager to show this app to my son as he can now work on math while playing a game that he already enjoys, especially as he gets older his math speed increases. The vintage look of a shooting-gallery game, with distressed wood details and the utterly satisfying sound of a metallic “ping” when hitting one’s target are elements that adults will enjoy as much as their children.
I am happy to recommend YodelOh Math Mountain as a fun, speedy math game that will surely keep children’s attention from kindergarten and up, including those in grade school who can focus on multiplication and division as well as a variety of math functions within the same game. It would be nice, however, if an option for a slower speed were also included as I can see some young students not being able to keep up with all that is going on, making this not the app for them – an issue that could be addressed by including a beginner level of some sort.
For those readers who have not done so, do check out other apps developed by Spinlight Studio as they are uniformly of a very high quality and include interesting educational apps for a wide range of age groups.
On another note, I am thrilled to announce that all Spinlight Studio apps will be on sale for $0.99 until Mother’s Day, May 12th. Now is the time to try these apps if readers have not already, you will be happy you did.
When I first read about the app Little Dead Riding Hood, I assumed that it was a novelty platformer with zombie elements, as these types of apps can easily be found in iTunes, typically devoid of any educational value.
I am so very happy that I gave this app a closer look because my assumptions were totally wrong, as Little Dead Riding Hood is an interactive storybook app with both English and Spanish translations included as well as the highest of production values – a refreshing tale on this classic story of Little Red Riding Hood. Although I highly recommend this app, this recommendation is a qualified one, and here is why.
There is a lot of the macabre in Little Dead Riding Hood, and as I was enjoying this app, I did say to myself a few times with a smile, “Well, they went for it” in ways that will please or displease families depending on their sensibilities.
This is the re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood, who has died many years ago, along with her parents, who from the grave want to kill Grandma and steal her inheritance. To do so, they come up with a plan to poison Grandma by sending the corpse of Little Red to Grandma complete with utterly poisoned food and drink. Grandma does get poisoned, dying a gruesome death, after first having defended herself from Little Red, living up to her old nick-name “Ramba” using any and all fire weapons in a scene that is glorious with presumed cartoon violence that also made me smile.
Styled with equal parts Tim Burton, Eddie the Mummy and Seth McFarlane, this app, with wonderful, top-notch black and white illustrations and bold pops of color, is an acquired taste that will offend some families a great deal. Others will really appreciate the humor and biting wit that this irreverent app offers.
The included narration is perfection, as is the included music and I appreciate how the book of this app is lengthy, with a page of text found on pages complete with beautifully hand-crafted and sepia-toned drawings, lovingly distressed in keeping with the style of this app. Do also tap these characters to read speech bubbles that add to the richness and fun of this rather odd application.
This is a highly cinematic app, so it is a real treat that this app also includes the original sketches and productions while still showing the making of this app – quite interesting indeed. Also appreciated is the menu of pages, always helpful to readers.
Make no mistake, this app included a rather dead and decaying Little Red, the graphically poisoning of a family member, guns and other military-inspired weapons which get pointed and shot at Little Red, a vividly farting wolf who later gets attacked by snakes, maimed in a metal animal trap and stepping on a bomb which explodes and launches the animal into the air, plus other details I am sure I have overlooked – all at the height of storytelling.
This is an app that I have chosen not to show to my five year old son, as he is a sensitive soul who would not enjoy this adaptation at this time, and I can understand parents of toddlers and the preschool set not having much interest in downloading this app as well, but for grade school and older children through adulthood who have acquired a taste for gruesome humor and parody, this is a perfectly realized application in every way possible.
Even though this app is one that many families will disregard as maybe they should, I would like to recommend this app for older grade school if not middle and high school students, especially those in media study, as great thought was put into the developing of this app as is seen in the included sketches, and adults can talk a lot about the choices made in this app, from modernizing a classic story to the satire as well as the dramatic structure – well-crafted in every way.
This app demonstrates to older children that the envelope can be pushed while maintaining a level of quality that cannot be denied, even if certain subject matter may not be for everyone.
Families will need to make up their own minds about whether or not this app is for their family, but I can say that I personally enjoyed Little Dead Riding Hood immensely, and I welcome other tales like this from an incredibly talented group of developers.
I am quite pleased to let readers know about Fairytale Maze 123, the third in a series of Maze apps by GiggleUp.
My son and I are huge fans of these mazes, as they are the ones chosen by my son to work with over and over again. He was tickled pink to explore Fairytale Maze 123, as this app weaves wonderful fairytale elements within, including oftentimes iconic characters as well as other details my son simply adores.
It made me smile how my son knew instantly the majority of these themes, twenty puzzles in all, including scenes from Hansel and Gretel, The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast.
Each of these puzzles is unique and utterly charming to interact with. This app opens to a fairy who with the drag of a finger is helped down a path which has a series of tangents one can choose consisting of different storybook characters.
As one explores these areas, the quality of these mazes will become quite evident as they include wonderfully bright illustrations and novel ways of approaching mazes, such as a flowing green vine for Jack and the Beanstalk, golden hair of Rapunsel, or my personal favorite – a maze taking place within the intestines of the whale that ate Pinocchio and Geppetto, making for some very fun and delightful mazes to be sure.
Also of note is how oftentimes one must first collect specific details or visit specific areas of these mazes to be able to complete these puzzles, such as the Three Little Pigs, visiting the first two houses of hay and wood before the conclusion of this puzzle at the house of bricks, collecting mice along the way to solving the Pied Piper theme, and even gathering up each of seven dwarfs during the Snow White section – wonderful details I really appreciate.
I have equally enjoyed the included music in each maze, each charmingly relating to the puzzle at hand, as medieval and Middle Eastern elements can be heard during Robin Hood and Aladdin alike, even with the theme to “Peter and the Wolf” within the area of the same name. Do tap around these different pages to trigger simple yet effective sounds and animations that add to the richness of these mazes.
The difficulty level of these mazes, which is varied, is perfect for my five year old son, who really takes his time collecting what he needs before solving each of these fun, colorful and engaging puzzles. Although a star is given for finishing each section, I am happy to say that no score is given for solving these mazes quickly, allowing children to work at their own pace.
Parents will love the variety of titles included here, from classic fairy tales to also including moments from longer books such as Peter Pan, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or Alice in Wonderland – a fun survey of classic children’s tales.
I highly recommend Fairytale Maze 123 as I do the others in this series, Toddler Maze 123 and Preschool Maze 123 – wonderful apps for problem-solving as well as just having a lot of fun.
DragonBox+ Algebra is an interesting puzzle game that focuses on teaching children the basic principles of basic algebra along the way.
This is a an app which I have completed, and my feelings towards it varied depending on how far I had gotten during this game.
This app consists of five chapters, each with twenty levels that each include a fantasy creature who slowly evolves as these questions are completed. Four personalized accounts can be created, complete with an avatar to keep track of different players’ progress – ideal for school settings as well as home with multiple players as well. An important bonus section, also including five chapters, is also included, as is a variety of different languishes.
The first impression is how high quality a game this is, with soothing yet suspenseful music and a mildly distressed, textured and pleasing-to-the-eye background screen which is the backdrop for these puzzle questions that users will be gazing at for some time.
This app is scripted, and one follows along the text explaining first how there are two sides of the screen and one box, plus other tiles that have a variety of images such as monster faces, birds, dragons or dice. The object is to isolate the box, removing the other tiles from the box side, until this box stands alone. To do so, add the opposite tile, removing this from the puzzle.
It is here that those with a background in algebra will understand how these puzzles are slowly forming algebraic equations, adding opposite tiles together, much like one would add negative numbers in the interest of subtraction, or how one must add the same tiles to both sides of the screen as you would to both sides of an equation. Later, the box is changed to a “X” and division of fractions is also touched upon as is multiplication.
I do wonder if this app is not overly theoretical as very little to no math is included in this app. This application is not about solving these questions but whittling down these problems until the equation reads “X = …” Now students could presumably use their math skills to solve these problems, making my mind journey back to high school math with a teacher who would only take a point off if the last line of addition was incorrect but the other work shown was accurate.
To me as an adult, this app is a very nice exercise in answering these problems “algebraically” instead of with arithmetic – a concept this same teacher was at a loss to articulate, a failing of his I remember to this day.
I have enjoyed this app a great deal, feeling that it would have gone a very long way if I had been taught with this app during this math class. I do have my doubts that although children with no math basics will find this app fun and novel, they will not also find DragonBox overly theoretical in terms of being able to understand math beyond being some sort of parlor trick. I also feel the idea that a child as young as my five year old son could solve or truly understand a math question reserved for high schoolers dubious as these questions do not solve any real math, being devoid of numbers, while teaching these concepts in a way that some may take to heart, possibly with very good results.
Having gone through the first two chapters, it is too early to tell if my son will gain an understanding of algebra from this app, even with my explanations of how this app relates to later math – an important insight for this app to be anything more than an interesting exercise in problem solving. I do believe that this is a time that “not knowing the child is learning math” takes away from this experience. It would also be nice if these problems could include the solutions as without any hints or answers, users can hit a frustrating impasse.
I do highly, however, recommend this app to top math teachers who can thoughtfully explain how this app relates to algebra, alongside questions that include numbers which can follow through and solve during the teaching of algebra itself.
I also recommend this app to homes where parents or other adults can sit with their children and help them work through these levels, explaining how these parameters relate to later math, giving them a bit of a head start, but I do not think this app can live up to its potential without added instructions.
I would also like to note the importance of the bonus levels, not only as the content here is quite high (including five complete chapters, much more that I expected from a “bonus” section of an app), but it is here that much of what is being taught “clicked” for me in terms of true algebraic significance.
Even if my son is too young to fully grasp what this app ultimately has to offer, I would still be quite happy for him to complete these puzzles as an exercise in logic instead of algebra – still thought-provoking and still wonderful for pre-math and thinking skills in general.
I do hope that what my son may learn from this app he takes with him into algebra, such as performing the same functions on one side of an equation as the other, but I do think he would need to re-visit this app at a later time to gain full insight into what this app has to offer.
I do not find these points flaws in this app, but please do not expect preschoolers to truly solve high school algebra. They may possibly be able to isolate X, but this is not to equate an answer for what X represents, and I am ambivalent as to could recreate the experience with a pen and paper. I prefer for my son to look at this app as a unique logic game for now and an algebraic teaching tool later on when this app can take on more relevance.
One note I would like to make, however, is that this app can be at times un-responsive when adding tiles together, to the point that those not certain of their correct answers may try another way of solving these problems – an issue that I hope can be smoothed out in an update soon.
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.
It will come as no surprise to readers that I am often asked to recommend apps to family and friends, especially for those in grade school, as iTunes seems filled with apps for toddlers and those in preschool, but it can be harder to find apps for older children.
Parents looking for an interesting, thought-provoking app for this age set should take note of Escape From Tokeru, a puzzle game that includes an interesting back story, beautiful illustrations and moody, ambient background music.
Here, three Light Emitters have been kidnapped, and without their release, the world will be in darkness forever.
To play, one must lead the way for the light emitters to escape their captivity, opening and closing parts of a maze to create a channel for their light to flow, bypassing a dangerous sleeping dragon. When compete, tap the Light Emitters to see if the light flows only there if it is desired.
There are four sections to this application, each consisting of five boards. Each area will include new parameters of game play, such as choosing for light to flow horizontally or vertically and the use of light tunnels or directional switches one can rotate to direct the flow of light.
Each of these areas consists of a landscape seen behind the maze, beautifully illustrated in a raw, distressed fashion, including an ice and snow-covered mountains, earth tone rock formations, grey cavernous tunnels and a green forest scene with distant light seen from between trees as the Light Emitters make their way to freedom.
These images, combined with the interesting electronic background music, create a sense of fantasy and suspense bringing richness and to this experience.
I am very happy to report that this app also includes hints of these puzzles, showing players which of these locks should be opened and closed to guide the Light Emitters to safety – details I wish would be included in more puzzle apps.
I have really enjoyed the hand-made quality that is a part of this app as well as others from this developer, The Trustee for the Tokeru Trust, including Loopy Tunes and A Fine Musician, a music sampling and interactive storybook app, each crafted with a lot of love and craftsmanship.
I can easily recommend Escape From Tokeru for all ages from grade school and up, as these puzzles have a nice amount of challenge to them as well as the answers one may be looking for, which I am grateful for.
Gappy’s First Words is a new interactive universal app that re-enforces early spelling and reading comprehension from the developers at Spinlight Studio, a favorite developer of mine these apps are consistently rich with details and nuances at a level of quality making these application stands out from others.
Meet Gappy, an interesting bunny-like character with large ears and big teeth, and help Gappy hop her way home, filling in the gaps of word puzzles along the way – stylized as a bridge of sorts where pieces of this crossing are missing and need to be completed with correct letter tiles. Success will earn users new details that can be added to Gappy’s house such as new windows, fence or chimney.
Four sections are included for Gappy to explore on her way home, each containing a varied degree of difficulty as well as an interesting landscape that Gappy needs to work her way through, such as a forest, mountain or even space section as each landscape is lovingly stylized with music and muted colors – interesting choices for this early childhood literacy game.
I like that the difficulty of these games starts out simple as children are asked to drag and drop a specific letter from a selection of letter tiles as asked by included narration to fill the gap of a given three-letter word. Later, children are asked to identify the correct letter that begins a three-letter word, there is also a section completing words with two and ultimately three missing letters as children will spell three-letter words by choosing from each letter correctly, as friendly and clear narration prompts children.
Also included is an alphabet section where one can tap to hear either the letter or phonic names of each letter, but I do wish that the letter blocks one can choose from during these levels were also tappable, allowing children new to these sounds to try to work out these words for themselves. Without being able to tap each letter to hear the phonics sounds during these games, these sections may be difficult for children who may understand the concept of phonics, yet who have not committed each sound to memory.
Adults will appreciate being able to choose the lists of words being practiced from both beginner or advanced and even sight words – all good choices for new readers who will find the chance to add new objects to Gappy’s house engaging and fun as there is a vastness of house combinations – over 720 in all to choose from.
Children and adults alike will enjoy this simple and intuitive children’s app with a nice reward of building Gappy a fun house in which to live – a lovely metaphor in terms of building a child’s foundation for reading. I do hope in the future that the letter choices can be tapped to be heard, allowing children to work out these problems before they may have committed phonics to memory – just a thought.
Cheesy Chess is a creative and fun mouse-themed logic game with heavy chess elements.
This app reminds me a lot of the slider puzzles I had as a kid where plastic tiles will ultimately make up an image but needed to be slid within this puzzle, keeping in mind that only one piece can be moved at once.
Here, imagine a mouse king who needs to progress through this slider puzzle at the top center to leave this board, but the other puzzle pieces need to be moved out of his way to do so.
The interesting chess elements included are that the pieces are each styled to look like chess pieces, with the option to view these puzzles using classic chess piece stylings or using mice which dressed as these pieces, such as king, queen, bishop or pawns.
As one may expect, these pieces move according to the rules of the classic game of chess – an interesting, effective set of parameters for this game of logic.
I appreciate how as each piece is moved, the other pieces now opened up are highlighted in green, and one can drag or simply tap these pieces to move them to their next spot on the board.
This is a very nice game for children new to chess, as it will re-enforce how these pieces as well as the other pieces move as well as how to look at the bigger picture of the chess board, planning future moves as well as seeing multiple options.
It is worth noting, however, that these puzzles become increasingly difficult rather quickly, so I would hope early chess players will be able to share this app with adults.
It would also be nice if each of these levels has the correct answer or hints available – an important inclusion often overlooked in puzzle apps such as this, but I do appreciate the chance to take a step back when the board is deadlocked to try more changes for a better outcome.
The mouse-player board is fun and charming with minor animation included as a reward for a completed puzzle – fun for children. The classic puzzle pieces mode will appeal to adults and older children, and with 100 levels among five stages, there is certainly a lot of content that older players will gravitate towards.
Although I can recommend Cheesy Chess to children new to the rules of chess, don’t let the name fool adults into thinking that this is simply a children’s game, as adults and teens will feel challenged in these upper levels as well, making this an interesting logic puzzle game that I can recommend to a wide age range.
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.