Saturday, December 13, 2014

New and Notables: Educational Apps Vol. 2 (Young Learners)

New and Notables: Educational Apps Vol. 2  (Young Learners)

My Very Hungry Caterpillar by StoryToys Entertainment Limited (iPhone / iPad; $3.99 at time of review) NEW

excerpt from iTunes:
Eric Carle’s much-loved character, The Very Hungry Caterpillar™, has won the hearts of millions of children around the world for more than 45 years. Now, for the first time, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is brought to life in a stunning 3D interactive app. 

You'll soon fall in love with your own Very Hungry Caterpillar as you enjoy a range of fun activities together. Hatch him from an egg, drag tasty fruits from a nearby tree, then watch as he eats them! And when My Very Hungry Caterpillar gets sleepy, just tuck him into his bed.

Each time you wake him up, it’s time for an exciting new adventure: push him on a swing, sail on a pond with bobbing Rubber Ducks, and grow flowers and fruit in a magical 3D garden.

The more you play, the more surprises you'll find including new activities, new fruit, and new toys unlocked over time. Chase a bouncing ball, pop floating bubbles and watch out for the wind-up Grouchy Ladybug! 

Day by day, My Very Hungry Caterpillar grows bigger and bigger, until he changes into a beautiful butterfly. Then a new egg is laid and the adventure begins again. 
It's a world of beauty and color you'll return to again and again.

 It's tough to work with preschoolers without being an Eric Carle fan, especially when it comes to that adorable caterpillar!  My Very Hungry Caterpillar app celebrates the charm of that famous little caterpillar, bringing him to life along through interactive play. The illustrations are relevant to the story, colors are vibrant and the activities are easy for a young child to follow- to begin the game touch the egg  on the screen to "hatch" the caterpillar- he will follow where you tap.   Tap on objects in the scenes to discover interactive elements and sound effects. (Visual cues will help guide the child).  You can even plant seeds in a garden and watch them grow as you water them.  There are also fun toys for the little caterpillar to play with.   (I love how the ball bounces to the child's touch but would love to see more engagement with the caterpillar here- like a giggle or a different facial expression on the caterpillar)  After the caterpillar has eaten and played enough, lead him to a tree stump and tuck him in to bed under a leaf- the screen will actually blacken to mimic the passing of a day- wake him up and find new items to explore. Eventually the caterpillar will turn in to a butterfly if nurtured properly through play!

For sticklers to the story, the egg looks different,  and the app doesn't follow the story in terms of presenting the correct number of  foods (none of the yummy treats or leaf to munch through are included either), but to connect play to the story, you could sit down with the child and have him recall how many strawberries or plums were eaten, and have the child set out the correct number of items for the caterpillar to munch through (super satisfying by the way).  For kids who are distracted by background music (it's lovely by the way) the music can be shut off via the Settings tab. This is a satisfying cause and effect app for little ones familiar with the Very Hungry Caterpillar.  

Click on one of the links below to download a free copy of My Very Hungry Caterpillar to your iTunes account: 

Quick Math Jr. by Shiny Things  (Universal, $2.99 at time of review) NEW

excerpt from iTunes:
Quick Math Jr. helps children aged 3-7 learn the important foundations of mathematics: counting, addition, subtraction, handwriting numbers and much more. As your child plays through the 5 fun games it will dynamically adjust the difficulty so they are always receiving questions that are specifically designed for them. Made by the creators of the award-winning Quick Math series, Quick Math Jr. will help your child to become confident in mathematics.

• Five games aligned with international maths curriculums, including US Common Core and the Australian National Curriculum
• Adaptive difficulty to quickly place players at the appropriate level, with challenges to keep them in their zone of proximal development.
• Write answers directly on-screen! Players progress from multiple-choice to handwritten answers.
• Create your own monster characters by winning new features, then see your creations appear in the game!
• Unlimited player profiles for easy device sharing

Shiny Things already endeared us with their Shiny Bakery app, so I was eager to try this out with my younger son. Aside from the fun animations and adorable characters designed to keep a young learner's attention, one  of my favorite features is the writing recognition- it even does a really good job understanding my son's handwritten numbers, despite handwriting not being his strong suit.  My son loves creating faces for the Shiny people/creatures and watching them actually come to life as characters in the math activities.  I really like how this incorporates visual memory strategies too- for example one of the tasks shows a certain number of creatures that appear for a brief second before the light flickers out; the user has to pick the dice that corresponds with the number of creatures to play the game. The game play is not punitive either- if a mistake is made, the creatures simply mumble and the incorrect answer is removed from the choices, as many times as necessary until the child chooses the correct answer.  Both educational and fun, it's a keeper!


Draw with Curious George  by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  (iPad, 99 cents at time of review) 

 excerpt from iTunes:
Does your playful little monkey love drawing on the walls? Have him draw with Curious George instead in this fun and entertaining coloring app! In Draw with Curious George children can color and draw for hours, with a selection of vivid colors, tools, stamps, and stickers. 

Draw with Curious George provides your child with everything he or she needs to create a masterpiece and then share with loved ones through a kid-friendly email system. 

Features & Benefits 
Activities such as:
•Tracing animal drawing – everything from birds to bunnies
•Coloring in drawings using different sizes of pencils, paintbrushes, and markers for varying effects
•Painting in opposites with a mirror painting button
•Playing with stamps and stickers
•Having fun cleaning up Curious George’s silly splatters and monkey jumbles
•Sharing art with friends and family through Curious George’s kid-friendly email system

 A very parent and child-friendly app with no in-app purchases or third-party advertising (yay!), Draw with Curious George also thought of a much appreciated feature-an art gallery within the app, so the iPad's photo albums stay uncluttered with tons of artwork while the kids save their masterpieces. (Thank you from the bottom of my heart!)  However my favorite feature is the friendly narration (it's The Man With The Yellow Hat!) so non-readers can easily navigate the app and enjoy all its features. There are many different Curious George themed activities to keep preschoolers and younger elementary aged kiddos entertained-  tracing, connect the dots, coloring with a variety of tools, including stamps, stickers and silly "paint"' options like bananas.  There are fun sound effects for the silly paint tools, and for those of us who grew up on Curious George, he also makes the cutest noises when you tap him. Awwww.  Even better is the easy sharing by email feature- it allows you to add up to three pictures and emails-after you've set it up, the child simply clicks on the picture of the person they want to send their artwork to.  


Fun Timer by all4mychild (iPhone/iPad, 99 cents at time of review)  

Fun Timer is a simple visual timer to help children be successful while doing a task or activity. You can set it for either ''earning" or "losing" an activity, for a period of anywhere from 1 to 30 minutes. To customize the app, you can add your own pictures from your photo album, draw a picture, or type in a message.

For earning a privilege, select an image, drawing or type in words showing what you want to do next if behaviors are positive.  Select the earning button when the child is doing the expected behavior, and slowly more and more of the picture will be revealed until the timer ends, and the reward is earned.

For losing a privilege (a child gets off task, or is fighting, or engaging in an unexpected behavior) select the "Losing"' button, then "start'' and over time the image, drawing, or words you added to the timer will disappear, showing that you won't be able to earn or do the fun activity depicted if the behavior continues.  Press ''pause'' to stop the timer for good behavior.  If the behavior continues, the image will eventually go blank after the time you specified and the timer's face will show tears.


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