Cars in Sandbox: Construction is a rather interesting series of open-ended interactive exercises involving different construction vehicles in a sandbox, performing specific exercises involving the moving of objects such as a ball into a box with the use of a dump truck or picking up and relocating marbles with the use of a crane. Both a universal as well as iPhone versions of this app are available.
Eight vehicles are included such as dumper, loader or excavator, and each section is based on simple play-based activities and toys that one would find in a sandbox such as a toy rocket or blocks.
After a vehicle is selected, do note that one can scroll the page left or right to see simple diagrams posted on the back wall of the sandbox that one is occupying. From these drawings, one will gain insight about the task at hand, yet I do wish these picture instructions were organized more tightly next to each other instead of having to scroll left and right looking for all this information, possibly placed to show the distance one must move these cars as they can be easily missed by players not set on seeking all these diagrams. The moving of the sandbox keeping the car centered on the page will also come in handy as well during these exercises.
Players will also note the stars found at the bottom of the screen, marking the number of correct actions one is expected to make within each vehicle section.
Do get to know each of these vehicle scenes with a series of taps and drags to understand how these cars work, moving them forward and back as well as their moving parts. These movements are a mixture of both simple and intuitive motions as well as more difficult actions which one will need to master with practice and concentration. Do note that the tipping of the device will get the car to move in this direction, a fun detail we first overlooked when exploring this application.
It is really fun that the players are not only able to interact fully with these vehicles, such as the doors opening as well as lights flashing and horns blaring - favorite details of my son’s, but one has equal control over the other toy objects found among these pages, creating an application that is truly open-ended.
My son really loves the easier vehicles to work with, feeling a real sense of accomplishment when he has completed the task, but a few of these cars are hard to maneuver as they do not stop easily, which can pose a problem depending on the activity.
Having said this, I really admire this application both in terms of game play as well as a wonderful teaching exercise for cognitive skills, problem solving and fine motor control. I do think that this app is geared towards late preschool and beyond and may be of special interest both to special education teachers and occupational therapists. This is an interesting application that gets players thinking of how best to perform these tasks and to properly execute them - assuming that the player is looking for a challenge and is not easily frustrated. It is also worth mentioning that without written instructions, this app can be explored by and language speaker.
I would greatly encourage the developers to update this app with a way of easily slowing down and stopping the movement of these cars so that one can perform these tasks with ease. It is also worth mentioning that this app is best not played lying down in bed - something we figured out much to my son’s disappointment.
I can also imagine some parents possibly having mixed feelings about their children simply being able to “pick up” marbles with a drag of a finger instead of using the crane as well as completing other activities by simply moving the toys where they need to go and completely bypassing the included vehicles.
This ability is an interesting test for children to ultimately see how they choose to work on these problems, but some parents may prefer a mode where the proper use of the cars in question is essential for completing the tasks at hand.
Even with these issues, Cars in Sandbox: Construction is a very interesting application worth looking into by both parents as well as teachers. I truly hope that an update can be created which includes a method of slowing down the vehicles and stopping their movement without shutting down the car completely as these functions are essential for some of these vehicles in terms of working properly.