Thursday, January 3, 2013

REVIEW/ GIVEAWAY: Ansel and Clair's Adventures in Africa; Dreaming of Malawi...

Dreaming of Malawi...

Not only is Africa on my dream list of places to visit, my family may actually have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Malawi, this summer, if all goes as planned- our missionary friends have invited us to stay with them for a couple of weeks.  With free air miles saved up, free housing and friends to show us the magic of Malawi for (very hopefully) less than it will cost to stay at home with our modern conveniences and expensive allergy friendly foods, we may just take up our friends on their generous offer.  We could slow down life, learn about new cultures and enjoy our natural surroundings- and as a bonus eat real, unprocessed food with the locals.  Just one barrier: my oldest son, who is on the spectrum,  has been reluctant to go.  We think this is a life-changing experience not to be missed for a 9 year old.  Our friends have told us there are children with special needs in the village, and I am excited about the prospect of visiting them and sharing ideas that may of benefit. I want my son to meet them.  I wonder how he will react,  Will they find a way to communicate and interact together? The hope is that their local daycare can be updated to meet the needs of these children so typical Malawian children and those with special needs can play and learn together. My son has many needs, but he is lucky to be living in the United States, and for that I am very grateful.
Our missionary friend Leanne, her daughter with a very special little friend.
I have a lot of questions to ask. Do they have even have access to technology? What are their communication needs? Is there even a small way I can help? I recently read that the Scottish government donated Android devices to local Malawi school children, and I wonder if they could be used as assistive or AAC devices for some of the children with special needs.   I am eager to find out these answers, and in the mean time, I have been working on getting my son warmed up to the idea of joining us.  

Enter  Ansel and Clair's Adventures in Africa, an app that takes the user on a journey through Africa from the savannas of the Serengeti to the pyramids of Egypt and beyond. It is one of a series of three "Ansel and Clair" apps by Cognitive Kids, Inc. Read here for a review of Ansel and Clair: Paul Revere's Ride and here for Ansel and Clair: Cretaceous Dinosaurs.

Ansel and Clair's Adventures in Africa by Cognitive Kids, Inc. ($4.99 for iPad, 1.99 for iPhone/iPod at time of review). 
Both of my sons have really enjoyed this app. In fact, my oldest has been asking about whether we would be seeing pyramids (we wouldn't) or wildlife (we would) or dates (yum!). My two have also learned facts such as the difference between the savanna and desert . Our favorite part of the app is probably the visit to the great pyramids of Egypt, where we learned who they were made for and how they were designed in order to make it diffiicult to get the treasure out.  

There is a game - a pyramid maze- with three different levels to challenge the children-you go through it to find actual treasures from Egyptian tombs, for example the statue of Horace. I like how when Ansel and Clair explore the treasures, there is mention of how they should "return the treasure to the people of Egypt, whom it belongs to". Another favorite part of the app is the day/night feature to be discovered in the desert. You can literally switch between the two desert scapes to find animals hiding in the night.  Of course, as the app icon hints at, there is plenty of wildlife to learn about also. My oldest has been quoting interesting facts about differences between Arabian and Bactrian camels, dates, and the purpose of the Egyptian pyramids- he finds all the facts fascinating. There are also several fun activities, like returning fur to the right animal through a "fur machine". The child must drag the correct (furless) animal to the platform as blobs of fur drop on to the animal below. My 5 year old particularly enjoys this, along with the clock puzzle- there is a setting to help younger school aged children as well.

My son is still lukewarm on the idea of traveling to Malawi, but this is huge progress (after all, there are dogs there, which he dreads and no, pointing out that there are also dogs in our hometown has had no effect). Ansel and Clair's apps definitely focus on history and geography. Considering I am a history phobe, Ansel and Clair should be really proud- they have managed to get the kids and their mama learning about history and enjoying it!

What we love:

Integrates facts about history, geography and more
Fun learning activities: complete mazes, learn how to tell time and more
allows multiple user profiles
User guide is accessible under the Information button
The kids WANT to play this!
Features (from iTunes description)
✣ Original characters developed exclusively for the iPad: Ansel, a friendly inter-galactic travel photographer from the planet Virtoos, and Clair, a brilliant Virtoosian robot
✣ Spectacular interactions & animations, quests, puzzles & games bring learning to life in 3 visually stunning, interactive locales - Nile Valley, Sahara Desert & Serengeti Plains
✣ Completely supported by audio, the app offers hours of independent exploration and learning for both kids who have not yet learnt to read as well as for older kids who can read
✣ Engaging gameplay
■ Take 29 spectacular photos; Collect & arrange photos in the Travel Log
✣ Deeply enriching and immersive: Utilizes a high-impact, thematic & contextual approach to teach:
■ Primary Focus: Geography, History and Science
■ Secondary Focus: Vocabulary and reading
■ Concepts: Camouflage, migration, nocturnal, herbivore, predator, vertebrate, cold-blooded
■ Learn more through innovative “ClairVision”: 50+ screens supported by both dialog and text and 30+ contextual hyperlink illustrations
✣ Original music: Audio recording and music by a Grammy nominated team

✣ Encourages children to think and ask questions through Ansel's critical questioning
■ What is a mummy? Does it live in a Pyramid?
■ What is the difference between an alligator and a crocodile?
■ Why are there more plant-eating animals than meat-eating animals?
■ Why are the wildebeest migrating? How long will they be gone?
■ Why is there snow only on Mount Kilimanjaro and not in the rest of the Savanna?

✣ 5 games & puzzles with multiple levels to entertain and challenge kids of different ages and levels

Member of Moms with Apps, a collaborative group of family-friendly developers seeking to promote quality apps for kids & families
Recommended Ages: 4-7, 8-10

Wish List

ability to skip intro and skip to specific points in the app- I see this is a feature in other Ansel and Clair apps, so perhaps this will be addressed soon.
more stability for iPads packed full of apps!-  I needed to close a bunch of open apps as well as delete some of my big apps to use this app- I should also mention that I have the iPad packed to the max with special needs apps, so this is probably a problem unique to me.

Social Media- this is actually a thank you- there are social media links, but they are hidden under the information tab, super!

Wish List for Malawi
In terms of getting ready for our potential trip, I would love to see some current information about the Malawi people. Perhaps this will be Ansel and Clair's next adventure- focusing on current versus historical facts about people and places- I would love to see some facts about their language, customs and lifestyle today. 

My friends' village in Malawi could really use help with setting up the village daycare so that is suitable for children with special needs.  They also think that access to a few iPads would open up the world to these children. 
  To learn more about Hope Village's needs in Malawi or know of any resources to help, please click here: Hope Village Special Needs Daycare Project

Enter for a copy of this app through the link below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway   US ITUNES STORE ONLY , apologies!


  1. The apps are non-linear and open ended!

  2. They support teachers and they won the Moms Choice Award!