VivaKids’ ABC is a most creative and beautiful app for iPad that teaches letters to children while exposing them to wonderful modern artwork dedicated to the recognition of the alphabet. Children also have the chance to draw these letters, both upper and lower case, uncovering a plethora of textures and objects along the way.
It is easy to see how parents new to iTunes can feel overwhelmed when looking for ABC apps for their children, as the amount of apps dedicated to this subject seems endless. I have had the opportunity to review many apps of this nature, and I am always excited to see how this most basic of information can be translated into something new and inventive.
I am extremely impressed with the look of this app as each letter is wonderfully illustrated with stop-motion animation, creating wondrous video clips for each letter.
Simple to use, this app opens up with a row of letters, A- Z, found on the top of the screen, which can be scrolled through with a finger, tapping a letter to choose. A window center screen is the focus here, where one will view these impeccably done letter videos. The background used can also be transformed with a tap to a number of vivid patterns, bold textures, or colors each unique to itself. An artist’s easel can also be touched to bring the player to a section of the app which allows children to trace the letter in question, upper and lower case, over a template also filled with intriguing textures, patterns and colors waiting to be uncovered as children draw these letters.
My son enjoys all there is to experience in this app, but I may appreciate it even more as I have dabbled in stop-motion animation myself, and although never to this quality or extent, I understand all that must have gone into the creation of this project and I am blown away by the result. The objects used here are wonderful in their simplicity, be it crumpled fabrics, colored paper, beans, beads or the like, as all are combined into scenes that are perfectly realized in their own way.
Food stuff is used to create a giraffe, lion, panda, and a skunk, which are especially intriguing to me as each bean, nut, seed, or candy must be painstakingly arranged and then each piece invdividually moved to be shot - just one frame or a few at a time, a process that I am sure is lost on my son.
One personal favorite of mine is “D” for dragon, as here one watches a dragon being drawn onto a page and then colored in with pencils, sometimes a hand being caught within a frame as well, a wonderful touch - but I most love the details of confetti, beads, cheerios, colored paper and a few other oddities that the dragon must have swallowed, all of which shoot from his mouth like a flame and ending with the word “dragon” coming from his mouth as well, complete with a bit of pitch-perfect music also used. Such is the design of this app, as each word used appears within the end of each video, and narration is included be it a man or child that speaks the letter in question, a varied sound track of music and sound effects as well.
I also love the cityscape created in “T” for traffic using varied toys to create the traffic illustrative of this letter - a mixed bag of toys and paper cutouts of Victorian era hot air balloons, bicycles, and horse and buggies, as well as an interesting color choice, here using white and black details in contrast to other scenes that are rich with brilliant colors, as here a traffic accident, complete with open flames, pops against the stark white city street that is created.
One cannot help but reminisce about classic multi-media scenes found in Sesame Street when viewing this app - high praise to be sure - and the whimsy used here is wonderful and adults will love this app as much as their children will.
The drawing section used here also stands part from other apps that also offer this activity. Here, children will draw with a variety of textures and objects that correlate to the letter videos, sometimes using what would be markers or beads, as well as pasta, foil and other wares of the collage artist.
This section has a lot to offer in terms of style and creativity, but it does have the same limitations found in other letter-drawing apps, as most of these apps do not help children fill in these templates in the correct form that is taught in school or in the most practical way to create these letters, preventing them from filling in these outlines in a more creative yet not standard fashion.
I also find that in this app, the size of the line typically created with my adult finger does not fit well in the provided spaces, taking up little room within the center of many of these outlines. Because of this, the objects used to draw with, such as silken cloth rosebuds, are not uncovered fully, encouraging children to make more of a scribble motion over the templates as if one were making a rubbing of a leaf or gravestone. I also notice that many times the letters I write look sloppy, as is the case with my handwriting, but even when I take my time and print these letters correctly the outcome is less than perfect looking and I can see that kids also working hard may feel disappointed with the look of the letters they create. I would love to see the line size revamped in a future update with many of these letters so that a typical stroke fits better within the offered letter spaces.
Although possibly not ideal for correct letter writing, I think that the youngest viewers who may not have the dexterity to follow within the lines will still benefit from filling in the letters this section, even as a simple exercise in letter recognition, as the lips to the right of the screen narrate the specific letter as well. It would be nice if phonic sounds were also included here, but letter names are the focus of this app. There is also a terrific dog that pops up from time to time, created from a disposable paper cup and features tea bag ears, a paper-cut eye and a Daliesque mustache. Tap this little guy when found to hear him bark, adding to the fun of this creative and unique interactive app.
I am very happy with the educational content of this application, but I also appreciate how this app will immerse children into such wonderful multi-media art and design. I hope my son can feel influenced by this app, well past letter recognition that this app does so well.