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To iPad, or not to iPad…That was the question

Posted by Kristen Young on October 15th, 2010

[img id="Picture-14-286x300.jpg"]“To iPad or Not” was the question tossed about for a while in our household until my husband gave me one for my birthday. Since the arrival of our new baby in July, I haven’t had much time to tinker with it, but I have a few initial impressions I’d like to share.

First, one of the reasons I hesitated to buy an iPad (besides the prohibitive price) was that it seemed like a redundant device. Considering I already have a laptop, and a iPhone, I just didn’t see where the iPad fit into my life.

Sure, the iPad can hold and organize a ton of applications, and it’s great for reading and publications/ebooks. I’ve really enjoyed using it to surf the net to shop for new sconces for our house, yelp for last second food delivery/menu hunting, and my husband uses it weekly for his fantasy football team management and score watching.

It has a phenomenal battery life and can keep kids and adults occupied for hours. If I traveled a lot, or had the time to sip a latte and read at the coffee shop, I could see the iPad holding a solid position in my life; unfortunately that’s not my reality right now.

As a busy mother of two very young kids (ages 24 months, and 3 months) my life has become complex, complicated, and I can be a scattered mess at times. My iPhone offers a sense of solace and simplicity by bundling my telephone, camera, GPS, internet/email, and applications into a portable device that can easily fit into my pocket or purse.

I don’t regret owning both an iPhone and iPad. I know I’m fortunate to experience both; and perhaps, as my needs – and those of my family - change, the role of each will be more distinctly defined. Today I know this….my life would go on if I didn’t have an iPad, but I can’t say the same about my iPhone. I just don’t know if I could live without it.

Faces iMake Review

Posted by Kristen Young on July 1st, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Most “educational” apps I come across build skills for predominately left-brained thinkers. In my experience, most of the lessons culture systematic, analytical, and logical thinking, and there isn’t much available for those looking to exercise their imaginative and creative, right-brained thinking skills. “Faces iMake…” is a unique application that offers an opportunity for both children and adults to explore their artistic side by making a face collage art using a variety of different materials. To play, you can choose from 20 different face shapes, 150 objects, and you can layer and rotate objects. I found the collage object choices to be quite satisfying and they were easy to navigate on the iPhone screen. My initial pieces of artwork weren’t so great, but as I played, I gained confidence and started to create faces I was proud to save in my photo gallery. The app also offers the option to assign faces to contacts, or to share via Facebook or email. The only negative about his application is that it appears (based on iTunes feedback) to be plagued by a bug that crashes the users idevice during use. Fortunately, I didn’t experience this problem, but it’s something to be aware of and is the reason for many poor user feedback scores.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish Review

Posted by Kristen Young on June 29th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

The storybook application “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” is based on the original book by Theodor Geisel – most commonly known as Dr. Seuss. As with many of Seuss’ early books, there isn’t much “story” to this story, yet the clever, poetic lyrics and fantastical creatures aptly capture the imagination and wonderment of readers of all ages. For early readers, “One Fish…” keeps their attention through clever rhyme and offers lessons through word association and word comprehension. Further, the design of this colorful ebook application reinforces these lessons by highlighting words as they are narrated. Also, when objects are touched, they are identified by both spoken and written word. I appreciate how this application has a lot of movement with panning across each page for a more detailed look at different illustrations. The original artwork and text by Seuss work well in the iPhone/Touch format, and even better on the iPad. I was thrilled to learn it’s a two-in-one deal, since the one application works for both the iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad.

Animal Hide & Seek Adventure HD Review

Posted by Kristen Young on June 27th, 2010
iPad App - Designed for iPad

“Animal Hide & Seek Adventure HD” is an application that bridges the gap between simple peekaboo and more advanced seek-and-find games. If your little one enjoys playing hide and seek games, this app might be a fun one to try. The premise is straightforward – find the animals that are hiding within each scene. When each creature is found, you’re rewarded by each animal’s playful tricks. The app offers a lot of variety with three adventures/themes that include the jungle, ocean, and circus. Within each adventure, there are four scenes, and there are a total of 15 animals represented. I found the music both intriguing and enjoyable; the intro music has an upbeat, honky-tonk rhythm and beat, and each scene has music that offers a jazzy, suspenseful mood. The graphics are crisp and vivid – just what you’d expect from an iPad application - and the illustrations are colorful and artfully-executed. My son loves to shout out the name or sound of each animal as he finds them. This app is a winner for toddlers and young kids.

Madera & Figaro Save The Day HD Review

Posted by Kristen Young on June 18th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

The wait is FINALLY over and our friends Madera the Monkey and Figaro the Frog have returned… this time to Save The Day! (Duh-da-da daaaa!) “Madera & Figaro Save The Day” is the story of two silly friends who join forces to help their community after a large storm has hit their fair city. Their mission is to help restore the city in time for the big party. An impressive follow-up to publisher Lyn & Line’s first application entitled “The Rescue of Ginger”, this app is supersized with more story, more interactive features, and many more learning opportunities. It’s the most interactive storybook app I’ve experienced yet and provides a perfect symmetry of educational game play and story. It’s a rich source of learning opportunities for young kids including elements that teach sizes, shapes, letters, numbers, colors, and matching. It’s packed full of original interactive features and games, too. Designers have crafted the app so that the sequence of questions are randomized, thereby capturing and keeping the attention of young ones who play this application over and over again. It has vivid HD illustrations that are designed to work on both the iPad and iPhone. What a treat!

Toddler Teasers Bugs

Posted by Kristen Young on June 2nd, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Ever since we started playing our first "Toddler Teaser" app (Transportation), my son’s vocabulary for things-that-go has burgeoned significantly. He can now recognize most modes of transportation and he’s even invented a few new words like “cuck” which identifies ambiguous car models like SUVs and Jeeps (I know… genius). Well, I thought it was high time we brought a few more nouns into the mix, and since we loved our first Toddler Teaser experience, we purchased the “Bugs” themed version. The formula of this application is like the Transportation version but it’s designed to help children to identify the names of various insects. Each page shows several different bugs and the player is asked to touch the correct option. The narrator encourages the player to keep selecting until the correct insect is identified. Instructions and narration are clear and easy to understand, the pictures are easy to identify, and there are 17 different critters for toddlers to learn. “Toddler Teasers Bugs” doesn’t have many bells and whistles, and it’s a very simple in design and concept, yet it fully embraces my son’s curiosity and helps him to learn about a topic of interest. I can't wait to hear what new insect names he'll coin!

Face Time with Mage Nuttimugs - Your child is the hero of this story!

Posted by Kristen Young on May 28th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

My son and I eagerly await each new Kidztory animated storybook application by Stepworks and we have them all. We’ve been hooked ever since we discovered their first ebook release which is an adaptation of the story of the “Little Red Hen”. Most of the Stepworks stories have followed a similar formula – the same style of illustration, narration, animated features, and soundtrack. We’ve been happy with all releases but we were delighted to discover that their latest publication “Face Time with Mage Nuttimugs” offers something new. It has a fresh story full of rhythm and rhyme, new animated features, funky music and sound effects, and you can personalize the story with a photo of your choice. Once you select a photo and scale it, it’s inserted throughout the story and appears warped differently each time. It’s a jolly-good time, and the goofy photos are complemented by the offbeat sounds and music. My son likes to imitate the sounds when he touches the animated characters and he’s intrigued by many of the new words he hears; I can see the wheels turning in his head as he engages the book. He also thinks it’s the silliest book of all and he can’t stop giggling as we scroll through the pages. Many thanks, Stepworks. I’m happy to say… you’ve nailed it…. again.

Fish School

Posted by Kristen Young on May 25th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

If you’re a fan of apps by Duck Duck Moose (like the acclaimed “Wheels on the Bus” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider’), then you’ll absolutely flip for the publisher’s newest app. “Fish School” is a toddler/preschooler-based application that’s packed full of age-appropriate lessons and games. Lesson topics include letters, numbers, shapes, and colors; there’s also a matching and “differences” game. Each activity features groups of brilliantly-colorful fish that school together in various patterns for their instruction. The musical accompaniment is delightful classical string instrumentation that offers a high-brow soundtrack to this magical app. I find there’s a plucky playfulness about “Fish School” that makes it equally enjoyable for kids and parents alike. My son enjoys watching the active and ever-changing “fishies”, participating in the “ABC” song, and counting. I’m impressed with how this app has struck a perfect balance of game play and learning opportunities. “Fish School” engages my son’s adventurous, spirited-side, all the while, keeping his attention and interest in learning fundamentals like counting and letters. Admittedly, I have selfish reasons for liking this app. Watching the vibrant fish in the cool, crystalline blue water is like a mini-vacation for this tired Mama. All I need is the sensation of powdery sand beneath my feet and a cold beverage in my hand, and I’ll have the perfect virtual beach escape. Ahhhhh….

At The Zoo!

Posted by Kristen Young on May 18th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

“At The Zoo!” is an educational animal identification game that can be played in three different modes. There is the automatic mode (a slideshow where different animals are identified by name and occasionally accompanied by a sound), manual mode (similar to automatic mode, but with manual advancement and written names), and quiz mode (where the narrator asks the player to identify the correct creature from four different choices). “At The Zoo” is designed for very young children who are just learning to recognize, speak, and spell the names of various living creatures. The quiz mode allows the app to feel like a game, but otherwise it’s essentially an extensive deck of virtual flashcards. I especially appreciate the brilliant and vivid photographs that were wisely chosen to represent a generous selection of mammals, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and sea critters – 75 in total. This is a smartly-designed application created to fulfill the curiosity and capabilities of toddlers and preschoolers, and it’s a definite hit with my little guy.

Where's Gumbo?

Posted by Kristen Young on May 15th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

If you’re searching for a seek-and-find game for the toddler set, look no further. The application “Where’s Gumbo?” takes players on an adventure to find a lost dog named Gumbo and along the way offers learning opportunities and chances for discovery. To illustrate, the narrator asks the player “Is he (Gumbo) behind the tractor? Nooooo! That’s a horse! Neigh!” This application – designed for toddlers – combines the suspense of the peekaboo game with the satisfaction of object and animal identification, to create a fun and educational game. The app is easy to understand and navigate, the pictures are clean and colorful with animated features that catch the eye and add interest, and the child narrators speak to the player in adorable and delightful voices. The newest version of “Where’s Gumbo?” offers the option to personalize the experience by adding a picture of your own pet… so now, instead of Gumbo, my little guy can search for our beloved dog Scraps. Now that’s a rockin’ good toddler time!

Toddler Teasers Transportation

Posted by Kristen Young on May 13th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

“Toddler Teasers Transportation” is the perfect application for young ones who are fixated on things-that-GO. My son is enamored with this app since he’s in a phase where he enthusiastically squeals and points to every truck, car, plane, scooter, and motorcycle he sees. If it has wheels and makes a lot of noise, he’s a happy boy. This app is designed to help children to identify the names of these different vehicles; each page shows several modes of transportation, then the narrator prompts the player to touch the correct option. The correct answer is rewarded with cheering, while an incorrect choice is properly identified and the player is encouraged to try again. The narrator speaks clearly and slowly, the pictures are colorful and easy to identify, and there’s a wide variety of objects to identify. The player doesn’t need to pick the correct object to learn – incorrect selections are identified and the player is given endless turns to get the answer right. The only missing feature to this app is sound effects (i.e. an ambulance siren or a car revving its engine) which are oh-so satisfying sounds for kids. “Toddler Teasers Transportation” is very simple in concept, and is limited in its playing options, however, it fulfills a distinct niche. This app is ideal for kids just learning to speak and read, interested in things-that-go, and just learning to navigate the iPhone/Touch interface.


Posted by Kristen Young on May 11th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

I’ve come down with a classic case of spring fever and lately I’ve been looking to unwind with a select few mindless apps. “FrogHop” is the newest application I’ve discovered to satisfy my penchant for passivity. The premise of the game is to help your frog hop from colored ball to colored ball by matching the colors. As you guide him along, you can gain extra points by catching insects in the air; be careful of the stork who will try to steal his crown and the bombs in the water that can spoil the gameplay. Superior performance is rewarded with a collection of crowns and you can track your scores. The application is attractively designed with colorful creatures, the interface is easy to operate, and the instructions are clear. The game isn’t educational per se, but it definitely keeps my mind nimble by requiring swift color matching, keen observation, and dexterity to advance. My toddler is too young to appreciate this game - but I’m not - and I think it would appeal to children ages 5+ and adults. I noticed that some reviewers on iTunes had trouble with the application crashing, but this was not my experience. I think “FrogHop” is a hoppin’ good time and a fantastic choice to fill time when waiting in line or traveling.

Count TV

Posted by Kristen Young on May 8th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

“Count TV” is a video-based application that features interactive counting clips hosted by Sesame Street’s Numero Uno Vampire – the Count. To play, you choose a number between 1 and 10 and watch a video that conveys a lesson about the number that’s been selected. Each video has an interactive opportunity that allows the user to participate by touching objects within the video to count to the selected number. There are a couple of observations that struck me about this application. First, I was overcome with a warm, fuzzy sense of nostalgia watching the video clips; many of them were archival, old-school Sesame Street segments that brought back sentimental thoughts and feelings from my childhood in the 70's. The monster puppets and classic characters were like old friends, much of the animation had a funky, retro-vibe, and many of the grainy archival video clips had a pure, dreamy glow about them. My second impression was that, while entertaining, the application provides more of a passive learning experience than many educational apps I’ve played. I shouldn’t hold that against it though – “Count TV” is an aptly named app that offers the chance to sit back and enjoy amusing, retro-style Sesame Street video clips, a little counting practice, and a big trip down memory lane.

Duck in the Truck

Posted by Kristen Young on May 6th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

“Duck in the Truck” is the latest go-to book from our virtual bookshelf (aka iPhone). It’s the silly story about a duck who gets his truck stuck in the muck, and how he finds his way out of the yucky mess. This estory was not created specifically for the iPhone, but rather it was adapted from the HarperCollins book written and illustrated by Jez Alborough. I love how the story has a Seussian rhythm and rhyme that commands the attention of my toddler and makes it a pleasure to listen to, or read aloud. As previously mentioned, the illustrations are from the original book publication so there are limitations in their translation to the iPhone format. I appreciate how interest was added through movement – by panning across the page or by showing character expressions (like the duck flapping his wings or the frog leaping up and down). My son loves to touch the different creatures to hear what they have to say – in fact, it’s his favorite part of the story. The “Duck in the Truck” is a great pick for kids just learning to read, and for parents who can appreciate a harmonious rhythm and rhyme that never seems to get old.

TeachMe: Toddler

Posted by Kristen Young on May 4th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

I’ve spent a lot of time playing toddler apps with my son and I haven’t come across many that have as much educational breadth as “TeachMe: Toddler”. This well-organized application is brimming with learning potential with six different lessons on topics that include shapes, numbers, letters, phonics (letter sounds), colors, and counting. It’s a fantastic tool for learners and teachers alike. For children, the game-like lessons are entertaining and there is a reward system that offers encouragement and positive reinforcement. For teachers/caregivers, the app tracks and records lesson scores so that future instruction can be directed toward areas that need improvement. While “TeachMe: Toddler” deserves high praise for potential teaching opportunities, I must honestly admit it’s greatly lacking in other areas – namely the production value. The artwork quality is sub-par with less-than-dazzling stock art quality characters and clunky sound features. Despite this application’s aesthetic shortcomings, I recommend “TeachMe: Toddler” because it’s a great educational tool, fun for toddlers, and a fabulous value.