Chalk Walk is a very interesting app for iPad that re-enforces the pincher grip used to hold a pencil correctly, something that is rarely the focus of within an application.
Although applications with a lot of dragging and other interactive elements are often touted as being good for fine motor skills, the hallmark of fine motor skills support is the exercise of the pincher grip where the thumb and forefinger pinch together to correctly hold a pencil.
We do love to use the iPad and iPhone for all sorts of applications including art apps which allow children the chance to finger-paint or color with the swipe of a single finger, I have always been aware of the need to reinforce these skills with real art supplies, especially crayons as their resistance when dragged across paper which strengthen important muscles.
I do wonder sometimes if the use of the iPad and iPhone still may impede my son’s fine motor skills development more than if he only had crayons or paints to create with, although the use of these supplies would never be welcomed in his bed before sleep on long drives or on the sofa in our family room - places he loves to curl up with the iPad.
Because of these concerns, I am intrigued by this application, Chalk Walk, developed by a teacher, Frances Judd, which was thoughtfully created to give iPad users a chance to practice their pincher grip as they trace a character on the screen who draws a chalk line across the page styled to be the sidewalk of a urban area (think Sesame Street) but with the P.O.V. of the sidewalk.
Children are instructed to drag two bulls-eyes together with their thumb and forefinger and while in this position, trace the trail created by a character presumably drawing a line on the sidewalk with chalk. Although one has the option of following this character closely, keeping their bulls-eyes within the same bubble surrounding the characters found among these pages, it may be easiest for young players to wait until the line has been created to trace directly over it as best they can.
As one travels through these sections, players will notice that each word demonstrated, such as “Kitty” will include individual lines to trace, one per letter of the word in question, adding some basic literacy education to this game as well.
Ten of these sections are offered, as well as a final area dedicated to free play that I enjoy.
I appreciate the concept of this game a great deal, but the more I play this application the more aware I am of this app’s limitations.
Do note that this app needs direct skin contact from the player, making it necessary for me to trim my nails before use. Not an issue for me really, but other users my feel differently. I also have a hard time being able to trace these lines accurately even as an adult as my hand oftentimes covers the line I am tracing.
Although I applaud Ms. Judd for creating an application that mimics the proper way of holding the pencil, I still found the grip needed at times cumbersome to use as I found myself pressing rather hard to make good contact with the screen in order to draw a line without skipping, especially as I try to trace a line on the page.
I like that this app includes fun shapes and movements offered as one moves from the left to the right side of the page, more engaging than if only straight lines were incorporated, but even as an adult, I had a hard time getting the perfect score of three out of three stars, and I worry that this app may be too hard for children who are in need of this type of exercise. I do, however, appreciate the swirly nature of many of these shapes which gives children a sense of what writing cursive may feel like - something I have not seen much of within applications.
I would love to see a choice of chalk point size an an option in a future update as a larger point would make accuracy less of an issue for those just starting out using this application.
It is a great inclusion, however, that this app supports both left- as well as right-handers - a very important inclusion. The included music is also exceptional, with a wonderful use of drums and other instruments that to me are reminiscent of a drum-line as well as other influences as this music changes for every section, bringing something new to these areas that correlate to the word in question, like robotic elements incorporated into the word “Robot.”
Even with the difficulty I have had in this application, I do think this is a very nice app for children who may be more focused on playing iPad games than doing art in real life, especially boys who may unfortunately associate art supplies with “girly” activity. A sections of hints is included that is helpful to read before using this app, please look for it.
Those interested in other apps by Ms. Judd be sure to also check out Snow Flake Station, also reviewed here at GiggleApps. I find these apps to be very nicely conceived - creative and very educational. I look forward to seeing what new apps Ms. Judd may develop next.