Category: Music »
Jazzy World Tour is a delightful exploration of music around the world, including the same characters and watercolor stylings as seen in the earlier companion app, A Jazzy Day.
This app opens up with different countries marked with a flag on a world map. Tap to select a flag to explore the related country.
Three sections are included, specifically Learn, Play, and Create.
In Learn, readers will be taken to the country in question, allowing them to read a nicely written section which includes an overview of each area, such as a specific city of note, language spoken and other basic information about geography and culture.
A wonderful variety of instruments as well as animals native to each country are also included. Tap to hear each name, be it of animal or instrument, spoken by a narrator, as well as hear the related sounds, be it creature or musical. Other important items of each country are also represented.
The Play section of this app allows one to tap the animals one has learned about in order to trigger their playing of the instruments - a cute section children will enjoy, complete with slight animations.
Create works much like a sticker book, allowing children to drag animals, instruments and other objects onto the page complete with a country-specific landscape, but this app also adds mild animated elements as well as musical sound effects among these stickers, allowing the animals to play their instruments so that there is a video including these stickers being dragged around the screen during the recording. Save videos as well as photos in the section My Travel Book to view later.
Adults will appreciate the sophisticated instruments included, such as the Oud from Egypt, Agogo from Brazil, Cajon from Spain or Sarangi from India, allowing children to hear instruments they may not typically have the chance to hear played.
I also enjoy the bright and colorful illustrations with marbled watercolor details - a nice touch. It would be nice, however, for the full paragraphs of text to be narrated as well - not just the title word - allowing children to get full use out of the app when spending alone time with the iPad.
Even with this note, parents will be happy to read the many thoughtful facts included within Jazzy World Tour.
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.
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.
Cat Doorman’s Little Red Wagon is a lovely application for small children - part songbook, part open-ended adventure. This app will delight all ages including parents with the use of truly beautiful illustrations and cute, fun interactive moments.
This app brings the classic folk song “Little Red Wagon” to life as children help a girl dragging a little red wagon behind her to gather up foods for a picnic.
Pantomimed verses include visiting a bakery, dairy, garden and orchard, concluding with a delightfully offbeat picnic with the girl and her lovingly anthropomorphized animal guests devouring the food in a way that made me smile a great deal.
I am quite smitten with the look of this app, hand-painted by singer songwriter Cat Doorman, also known as Portland-based artist Julianna Bright.
Rich with colors and a nod to a vintage look, there is a lot to discover among these scenes that babies, toddlers and even their older siblings will delight in. There are many open-ended details one can explore as well as the more story-driven interactions such as dragging and dropping foods such as bread from the bakery, pulling apples from trees or beets from the ground and filling up the wagon to share with animal friends.
The musical element in this app is nice as well, as this traditional song is also sung by Doorman, complete with the sheet music seen at the bottom of the page that scrolls through as the song is played and sung, creating a songbook that those familiar with the music will enjoy for themselves as well as sharing with their children, allowing readers to also sing along karaoke-style.
It is nice that one can choose to have the band use only the piano to play this song as well as a full band and a guitar choice. I do wish that there were more options here, such as other instruments like a fiddle, heard faintly during the guitar selection, percussion or banjo, possibly mixing multiple instruments to hear the differences one can create.
If this app were to be judged as an early music app, there would be more that this app could offer children. I do think that the storybook aspect will be best appreciated by families with musical backgrounds as there is not a lot to explain regarding what is being seen in terms of how the sheet music corresponds to the song being sung. I prefer to look at this app as a sweetly sung folk song with wonderful art and interactions as these elements are top-notch.
As for the song itself, all well as the art included within, this app contains a certain timelessness that will appeal many different parents including those interesting in home schooling and others still on the fence about sharing technology with their children, and for these reasons, I can recommend Cat Doorman’s Little Red Wagon.
Scholastic First Discovery: The Forest for iPhone is an impressive adaptation of the printed non-fiction title “In the Forest” A First Discovery Look and Learn Book from Scholastic. A version of this app is also available for iPad.
The Forest is an impressive application about nature, with wonderfully bright colors and robust details on each page bringing the sights of forests to devices. Instead of text that one would read, this app consists of very good narration that leads children through interactive exercises that will teach them a lot about the forests of North America.
Six chapters are included that cover a lot of ground, such as learning about both deciduous and coniferous trees, tapping leaves or branches to learn about the trees they belong to, also allowing children to drag these realistic bits of foliage around the screen.
The seasons are explored by asking children to rub the forest shown with a finger, triggering the changes one would expect during the changing seasons, from dense green forests to the leaves turning brilliant fall colors and then the shedding of these leaves in winter.
Children will enjoy seeing the colored leaves fall onto the screen, needing to clear their device of them to continue - a fun interaction that lets children gaze at very realistic, colorful and pretty leaves close up to show detail - a very nice touch.
Forest animals as well as insects are also explored, as children search thick forests for animals hidden out of plain sight, nicely showing the depth and 3D effect this app consists of, as well as introducing insects to children, wonderfully enlarging these creatures to show details. Children will also enjoy the ambient sounds found throughout these chapters, but most notably here as these animals make their sounds then tapped as well as identified by narration. I enjoy this section a great deal, but I wish that an interesting sentence were offered for each of these creatures, not just including each name.
One very unique section is the chance to see a large variety of flowers bloom with the tapping of a colored dot found close to the ground as well as folding themselves back down into the earth with a second tap.
The details of each flower are quite impressive, watching over a period of a second or so what could take weeks to unfold in nature, complete with musical and other sound effects that bring richness to the experience, also found in other sections as well.
I appreciate that children here are warned that the foxglove is poisonous, but I wish more about these plants were included as well as information about other plants to avoid contact with.
Another interesting section is the ability to gather wildly grown berries, nuts and mushrooms into a basket, presumably for eating later. Watch as these foods become enlarged to show detail as well as labeled by the included narration. I value the explanation about how some items found are not edible, yet the only mushroom warned about is the fly agaric, shown here with a distinct red color that kids may now know to avoid at all costs.
Other mushrooms safe to consume and included here are the parasol, hedgehog, chanterelle and porcino mushrooms, yet it does make me nervous that children may fancy themselves knowledgeable about wild mushrooms after exploring this app - a serious concern as even adults can make mistakes identifying mushrooms, as some innocuous-looking poison mushrooms exist and deaths have occurred.
The illustrations are detailed and certainly beautiful to look at, and I as an adult have enjoyed comparing fancy mushrooms that we may see in stores, but I have always told my son never to touch or eat any mushrooms grown in the wild, and I would feel the need to repeat myself even more strongly after the use of this application.
The same is also true about the wild berries found, as the strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and black berries are good to ingest, but holly, with its red berries, could be inviting to a child and is toxic if consumed. I do wish some other poisonous berries were also touched upon, such as ivy berries that look like grapes or pokeweed and chokeberries that many kids could mistake for blueberries or cherries so that children and their parents will know they exist as well, and that not all “berries” are safe to eat - especially those with red flesh.
Trees also also cut down in the forest section of this app, yet it is also nice to see new trees planted in their place, and children will find it quite interesting how forests prevent avalanches.
A globe is also offered to allow children to rotate, choosing forests to look at closely, learning about the Northern Boreal, temperate forests of Europe and North America as well as the tropical forests.
Before diving into the global section, I was asked for access to my Locations Services, for what I assumed to be more specific information about forests in my area of the world - personalization I do not mind, but I did not see anything specific that would need my location. After I turned off permission to my location services I saw no differences in the application, leaving me to wonder why this app makes this request with a pop-up window children will not understand and should not be dabbling in.
I wish the iTunes notes had more information about this issue, and that this was a setting adults could control instead of being accessed during the app itself.
Having said this, I have been very impressed with the great amount of details and lush colors found within this app. The sounds of the forest are also nicely executed as is the level of interactivity. I do wish that a few more facts could be included, not just the names of the objects found within. This app would make a great starting point for curious children to ask questions and do more research of their own, as this app will be of interest to a wide range of children through grade school and beyond.
As my son and I go for walks, we come home during the fall months, especially, with a variety of leaves, pine cones and other treasures. I often choose a perfect leaf for my son as a gift, especially as the leaves start to change, but I was unable to identify these leaves when my son asked. Because of this, I was quite intrigued by learning the names of the trees that have until now simply been familiar to my family. For this reason and more, I do recommend this app to families, even with the concerns I have raised.
The Forest is an app based on the First Discovery Look and Learn Books from Scholastic. I hope to see more from this series in the future, as the quality of this app is quite high - engaging as well as educational.
Fancy Nancy Ballet School is a great universal app for young children interested in learning how to dance, as this wonderfully educational application explains the five basic ballet positions to users, plus other moves such as “plie,” “passé” or “grand jete” to include a total of 15 steps one can incorporate into the ballet that children choreograph themselves, which is then danced by popular children's book character Fancy Nancy.
Children themselves may imitate these moves as well, either by dancing the ballet while being videoed by an adult as an image of Fancy Nancy is super-imposed into the video, holding the iPad while dancing, or even following along with Fancy Nancy dancing on one’s own television with the use of AirPlay mode.
Please note that this app requires a forward facing camera to function on one's device.
What I admire most about this app is how Fancy Nancy narrates very clear and concise explanations of each move as well as including animation of these steps that combined will do a great service to anyone child new to learning ballet.
I think it would also be nice if an option were also available for Fancy Nancy to call out the different positions for children to perform because dancing long while watching the animated dance moves may be difficult for some.
Although I did find a bit of a learning curve when changing specific moves in the dance that I created - as individual moves can be dropped into areas of one’s own ballet - the intuitiveness of this app is not too bad once used a few times, and I like the chance to clear the entire ballet to create a dance from the beginning - an easier task for new players to undertake. Children will also enjoy choosing music for Fancy Nancy not only to dance to, but as background music for this app in general as one explores the different features from the menu page.
It is also appealing to be able to video Fancy Nancy dancing - presumably when other children are dancing in the background, as well as allowing users to see this effect without making and saving videos, as well as including a Fancy Nancy short story is also included, setting up the situation of children practicing ballet - a nice touch.
I assume that some children will hold an iPad while dancing to keep up with Fancy Nancy, but I appreciate the chance to use AirPlay mode with the use of the Apple TV., as this mirrors anything that happens on the iPad to the big screen, allowing children to simply focus on Ballet while looking at their family's TV instead of doing so while holding an expensive digital device.
I did notice while using AirPlay mode while my husband took a video of me “dancing” along with Fancy Nancy, the combination of AirPlay mode and using this app’s video capability which allows me to see myself dancing with Fancy Nancy, this app got rather choppy - not an issue I had while simply creating a dance, using AirPlay mode to watch my ballet on TV, or when making a video on Fancy Nancy dancing in the foreground for use only on the iPad.
I was never a ballet kid, but I do remember an older neighborhood girl, eager to teach dance herself, try to teach me these five basic ballet steps. I do think this would have been an excellent teaching tool for me back then to learn these steps, as it will be for children today interested in ballet.
One note that I do have is that within the video of children dancing with Fancy Nancy - included as a demonstration for this app - it would have been nice for there to be a boy or two in this video as well.
My son has a male friend his own age interested in ballet, and the children’s gym we belonged to had ballet classes with boys attending as well. I do wish these students could also be represented, as there is no reason why this app could not be enjoyed by everyone - both girls and boys alike.
Magic Belles: Magic Music is a charming universal app for babies and toddler. This brightly colored app has a lovely fairy theme, consisting of seven mini-games designed to immerse children into the world of music with simple touches or drags of a finger.
From a menu page, children will easily select a fairy to play with, exploring each of seven activities such as a connect-the-dots section, the ability to grow flowers or adding color to mushrooms with paint from a rainbow.
Nicely stylized, this app is cute with pink and purple as well as other bright colors without overwhelming adults with frills - restraint I appreciate. I also enjoy the fact that these mini-games are spelled out with the tap of a question mark in the corner of each activity or as a whole linked from the main menu.
The look of this app and the very nice musical chimes used throughout which are very relaxing, making this peaceful app a wonderful choice before bed or anytime children would benefit from a relaxing application. Although this app is musical in its nature, it is also rather quiet and because of this, will not bother others even if this app can be overheard in public.
Children will also enjoy the other interactive details to be found within, as exposing them to music in a way adults will enjoy sharing with them.
I have enjoyed Magic Belles and recommend it to families with young children, as adults may enjoy this app as they may notice a subtle sophistication seen in some of these mini-games as one can select or de-select hearts to be heard, as well as organize musical picnic foods on a blanket to be played in the order of being laid out, much like a few of the music apps that I enjoy as an adult.
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.