148 Apps on Facebook 148 Apps on Twitter

Category: Health »

Whack A Bone Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 8th, 2013
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Whack A Bone is a wonderful app for iPad that is truly an educational delight, teaching about the anatomy of bones found in the human body.

Nicely sectioned into groups, users will learn about the bones that make up one’s core, such as cranium, sternum or vertebrae which is grouped here into three different categories - cervical, thoracic and lumbar, as well as the arm and leg bones, each consisting of its own section as well.

To play this pirate-themed anatomy game, place the bones from the different sections back to their rightful places inside a skeleton with the direction of a talking parrot whose attitude kids will find witty and fun.

It is also great that the entire skeleton is included, having players remember all of what they have been taught, including such differences as metacarpals vs. metatarsals as well as the correct placement of the different vertebrae included.

I appreciate that this is a great teaching aid for both those who need to study the bones in the human body including those new to this subject as the puzzle one fills in a labeled skeleton in the first half of these sections so that players will learn as they go.

Next, the parrot will quiz users on these bones by naming bones that need to be tapped as quickly as possible, and if successful, a bronze, silver or gold star is given based on speed.

I have had some issues with accuracy as I may tap the ribs when I was aiming for clavicle, and these mistakes are compounded by being timed.

Because of this, it would be great if the timer aspect of this app could be removed as an option, although I did like that if the player seems stuck during the quiz, the bone in question was highlighted to help. These answers, however, are not credited towards getting these bones as correct answers, and players are asked at the end to place the incorrect bones back where they belong and then need to re-build the bone puzzles again before being re-quizzed.

Although the adult human body consists of 206 bones, this app condenses the number being taught down to 24, with eight bones to learn per section - a very nice amount of information for children as well as adults to study.

This app is undeniably an excellent way to help students of all ages learn this information. The pirate theme is well-done and nicely stylized without getting in the way of what is being taught, and the salty attitude of the parrot keeps this game light and fun with just the right amount of competition that will be appealing to grade school children who otherwise may not been keen on studying the same topic over and over again.

I also appreciate that the music - ambient sound effects and parrot voice volume - can be adjusted independently.

I have certainly learned what has been taught within Whack a Bone, and I do wish this app were available when I was learning about anatomy as well, and I would love to see more educational apps like this developed in the future.

Doctor Cat Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 1st, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Doctor Cat is a cute children’s app allowing users to use different medicines to treat animals.

This app is bright and colorful, with a simple and sweet narrative about a cat finding a lost doctor's bag and using its contents to treat creatures in need.

Do note the cloud at the top of each animal page which is pulled down to find the tools one uses to treat the sick. Although I don’t think the contents of the medical bag would necessarily be found by children who stumbled across this app themselves, the placement of these objects is explained in the parents' section, and once shown, children will have no problem accessing and using these tools to help the animals feel better.

Right hand taps to page turning arrows allow this story to progress, but children are able to choose the animals directly from a menu page styled like a map or maze, showing the cat making his rounds to each patient. Feel free to follow the path or choose any animal favorites one may desire. Other Simple hotspots along the way that add some other interactive details without too much distraction.

Narration is included which is clear and well-spoken, and I appreciate how children use both their empathy as well as rudimentary first aid knowledge to choose the appropriate remedy for each animal.

I can seen this app being used as a gentle reminder to be easy and helpful when taking medicine, yet I can’t help but notice that many of the drugs given, even on an OTC level, are not typically approved for children at the young age this app is geared for, and I would not want my young child asking me for drugs as treatments for simple colds or other viruses.

Having said this, I do think this app is charming, allowing children to take steps to make hurt or sick animals feel better - which children will really enjoy. My son loves to play animal doctor with his stuffed animals, and although I would never expect this app to take the place of this creative play, I like how he can still do this kind of pretending when we are out and about without all the plastic medical tools he has collected over the years.

There is an undeniable level of quality in Dr. Cat, a role-playing app that children are sure to enjoy a great deal, making this app great for toddlers' social intelligence and simple cognitive skills.

Dr. Panda’s Hospital - Doctor Game for Kids Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 17th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Dr. Panda’s Hospital - Doctor Game for Kids is a cute and fun universal interactive for children which nicely simulates the experience of taking care of sick anthropomorphic animal patients in a hospital setting.

This app starts out by seeing a medicopter land on the roof of a hospital. Scroll down to see the inside of the animal hospital which includes two floors of patient rooms as well as a waiting area where one meets new animals who need medical attention. After helping a few animals, children will also be able to earn a sticker for their hard work.

Eight creatures are included as are two other mini-games of picking up trash from the waiting and patient rooms as well as organizing Dr. Panda’s medical bag by placing his tools in their rightful areas within this puzzle section.

Children will enjoy playing doctor during these simple but fun exercises which will get children somewhat familiar with basic medical procedures such as looking into one’s ears, adding drops to one’s eyes or ointment to chicken pox.

Children will also enjoy some cute details included within this application, such as being able to change the bed that these animal patients use into fun theme beds children would approve of, such as a princess or car bed, as well as turning on music, starting ceiling fan or opening windows - each detail either making these patients noticeably happy or sad and adding a social element to this app that young children as well as children with special needs will find helpful.

My son really enjoys pretending to be a doctor and has enjoyed this application as well. It is an easy app to recommend to children who like creative play and roll-playing applications.

Where’s my Dress? Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 13th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Where’s my Dress? is an interactive application focused on teaching children about different outfits to wear corresponding with the seasons.

The first time viewed, one will notice right away within this app how bright and colorful the graphics are, rich with style, as one chooses from a girl or boy character to dress, complete with quirky hair and facial expressions.

After this choice is made, choose with a tap the season one would like to explore, denoted with the use of icons demonstrative of each season as here, no text is offered to read nor do these characters speak, making this a lovely language-neutral app that children of all backgrounds can enjoy no matter what language they are fluent in.

Once a season is selected, players are brought to their character’s room, nicely decorated for this time of year, such as Christmas lights and faint festive singing for the winter or a pretty collection of leaves for fall.

Do make note of the weather going on outside the window in this room as these will be valuable clues as to what clothing to choose for these characters.

Children will enjoy opening and closing the closet door, drawers and cabinets looking for clothing choices such as hat, shoes or boots, as well as a main outfit, complete with outerwear if needed. It would be a nice inclusion in the future if one could choose from a selection of individual clothing choices such as tops, pants, dresses or skirts to mix and match with as to be creative as well as weather appropriate when choosing an outfit for these characters to wear.

I really enjoy the social aspect of this app, as the characters will show happiness or displeasure with their outfit while being dressed, but the main test here is when the characters are allowed outside, and whether or not they are comfortable in their clothing or unhappy with the way they are dressed. If the players are successful in choosing the clothing correctly, they will be rewarded with a colorful conclusion - a nice touch.

Much of the information provided is nice to share with children, specifically about not wanting to be too cold or too hot, but sometimes the answers are subjective. I as a parent at first answered these answers wrong because it is unclear why one should choose a specific boot, shoe or hat, especially when one is not allowed to feel the weight of the material in question.

I also think it is interesting that here, Spring is though of as still quite cool as the ice and snow from winter is still cracking and melting, although I think of Spring as quite warm, yet not as hot as Summer, not a mistake per say, but a different way of looking at things.

This concern would be more of an issue without the use of the emotions of these characters, wonderfully portrayed with both expressive facial features - vocalizations both of glee and disappointment - making this a lovely app for children with special needs.

It is also worth noting that one can also tap a button asking the characters what they would like to wear, allowing the user to match these selections.

Children will find the look of this app very engaging thanks to the bright colors and fun, interesting characters one gets to dress. I admire the added benefit of deciphering the emotions that these characters express as well as the ability to match their clothing selections.

This is my body - Anatomy for kids Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 7th, 2012
+ Universal & Apple Watch App - Designed for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch

This is my body - Anatomy for kids is a delightful interactive educational app full of terrific content as well as a charming sense of style.

I have really enjoyed perusing this application, consisting of many sections that cover such topics as how fast one grows, the skin, one's senses, as well as the different systems of the body, such as digestive, respiratory, muscular, nervous and skeletal, going into a very nice amount of depth for children to appreciate.

As this app opens up, children are given a choice of characters to follow, nicely including boy and girl choices some of which are children of color and an Asian character - lovely inclusions still not seen often enough in the US iTunes store.

From here, do note the blue arrow one pulls down at the top right of the page, allowing children enjoy themselves while peeling back the layers of their character, including down to their underpants while learning about their skin and later their body’s senses as well. The digestive system allows one to see inside these figures as food and water as they are swallowed, traveling to the stomach. The lungs and throat can be seen while investigating the respiratory system, and I appreciate the use of standard red and blue colors to detail the circulatory system, which is explained in further details.

The muscular system is also interesting to look at, complete with the red striated muscles, as are the detailed images of the nervous system and later the body’s skeleton.

I really enjoy how each of these sections goes into great detail which can be found as one triggers arrows right of the screen going into these sections in more depth, as the level of scope this material provides is wonderful for children preschool-aged as well as younger and older alike.

I greatly appreciate how this app includes narration allowing non-readers to enjoy this app while also including the “smarty pants” section for older children - not narrated and which can be accessed by pulling down many of these included pages to go into even more depth regarding what is being introduced.

Children of all ages will appreciate the interactive elements found throughout, such as x-raying a broken arm and applying a cast or putting back the bones of a skeleton which includes a nice level of challenge that will engage children as well as teaching them basic anatomy.

Star achievements are also included. Do look for them among these pages and perform the cute, specific interactions to gain these stars and to be rewarded at the end. I did, however, have moments of difficulty figuring out what actions were being asked of me to gain these stars. Because of this, I would love some sort of hints also included so that children can make the most of this wonderfully educational application.

There is just so much to love about this application, packed full of information that children and adults of all ages will learn from. While this may not be the most interactive application available, I think the developers have done a wonderful balancing act of adding just enough interactive elements to enrich without distraction.

I do not feel, however, that the navigation going from the peeling back the layers of these characters into the more in-depth sections is fully intuitive the first time one explores this application. This is not a huge flaw, but parents may want to familiarize themselves with this app in order to demonstrate its inner workings of scrolling side to side as well as up and down, as it would be a shame for children to miss any of the elements offered in this terrific app.

I also admire how this app includes a default setting keeping these child characters in undergarments from the waist down, but it also includes a setting to allow these characters to be seen fully undressed and including anatomical details that I personally feel quite comfortable with my son seeing. Having said this, I could also see some families being more comfortable with the girl characters keeping their chest area covered at all times - not an option at this time.

I would love to see this app also include the reproductive system as well, as I have yet to see an app tackle this subject - an app that I can see some parents really appreciating as their children begin to ask questions about where babies come from as my son has.

I am sure, however, that not all families would welcome this segment. An area that could be excluded in the default yet made available as an option would be wonderful.

All in all, This is My Body - Anatomy for Kids is a most impressive educational application that a wide range of ages - both child and adult - can learn from and enjoy. This is certainly an application worth checking out in both the home as well as school setting at a very reasonable price.

Rounds: Franklin Frog Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on August 27th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Rounds: Franklin Frog is a charming universal app bringing wonderful non-fiction content focused on teaching the life cycle of frogs in a way that will be especially appealing to children of all ages and their adults. Both Read and Play, allowing one to listen to narration while reading along with highlighted text, as well as explore interactions is included, as is a Read to Myself option.

I simply adore Rounds: Franklin Frog, illustrated in a bold style consisting of circles as a whole as well as pieces thereof, as the look of this app is unique and sophisticated yet utterly appealing to children of all ages, as are the soft greens and blues found within, a personal favorite palette of mine.

Rounds: Franklin Frog does a wonderful job of balancing the cute anthropomorphic details and witty narrated lines of dialogue heard when tapping on the frog characters found throughout with some thoughtful facts about these interesting creatures both included as spoken lines of text triggers with a tap, as well as within the narrative itself.

This is the story of Franklin, a young frog who, along with the readers, explores his surroundings as well as hibernates for the winter, finding a mate and beyond - wonderfully narrated, engaging, and relaxing.

The interactions are simply delightful within this app, helping Franklin jump and swim, feeding him bugs with his sticky tongue and later helping Franklin find a mate by tapping and allowing other frogs to hear their mating call - all wonderful details that readers of all ages will appreciate a great deal.

I was taken a back at how moving this children’s story is, as the use of pitch-perfect music and stylized details demonstrates the change of seasons with use of moons floating past the sky, the plants dying away, and the use of snow falling as Franklin is safety tucked away.

Equally poignant was watching Franklin’s mate lay her eggs, watching them develop from frogspawn into tadpoles and later after sprouting legs and arms, developing into a frog after quite a metamorphosis.

Readers should take note that although the text within the pages of this story may have concluded, this app is intensely filled with important animations and interactions, wonderfully polished and beautiful to look at, yet charmingly sleepy in their nature and never over-stimulating.

Do wait for the arrow found at the bottom to become bold and bounce as this signifies that the major animations and interactions have been played out, although one can still enjoy oneself by tapping frogs to hear their added dialogue spoken as well as move them around the page.

I confess that the first time reading this book, I turned the page prematurely, missing out on some important transitions and interactions such as protecting frog eggs from hungry fish, or the full transformation from tadpole to young frog. The pacing of this app can be on the leisurely side - not a flaw at all, as this app does expect a level of concentration waiting out some animations much like one would in nature. Parents may want to familiarize themselves with all that this app has to offer to insure that their children do not turn the pages prematurely.

I also appreciate a great deal how this story plays itself out over three generations of frogs, teaching readers about life cycles as well as being quite interesting in terms of storytelling, but with no concrete ending, parents may find it hard to break their children away from this experience. Possibly an option could be included in the future that lets the three unique generations play out before this app comes to an end, just a thought for a future update.

I have been a huge fan of Nosy Crows and other storybook apps based on classic tales, but I think I enjoy Rounds: Franklin Frog even more. The experience is educational as well simply wonderful in terms of the narration, animated illustrations, interactions and a perfect use of music.

Rounds: Franklin Frog is an app that I highly recommend to both parents as well as teachers. Children will learn a lot about frogs from this application, I know I did. They will also be exposed to a beautiful story that I found at moments quite touching. Parents will be delighted to spend time with their children reading Rounds: Franklin Frog as well as for their children to spend time with this app alone.

I sincerely hope that Nosy Crow develops more non-fiction titles in this style. I could not be more fond of Rounds: Franklin Frog.

Mog the Forgetful Cat Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on August 15th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Mog the Forgetful Cat, part of the beloved Mog series of books about the adventures of a forgetful, sometimes misunderstood cat has now been lovingly adapted to the iPad and includes stellar narration, interactions and music, each wonderfully crafted to bring a great deal of richness to this family classic.

Children will feel for Mog who is having a bad day, getting into trouble and taken for granted by her family in a way relatable to children who also have trying times getting into things they should not. The ending is especially charming and a little silly as readers will understand what is happening more than Mog does, as she saves the day very much by accident to the delight of children.

I truly enjoy everything about this application. The narration provided by an older woman is simply terrific, making my short list of favorite voiceovers within an application.

I also admire that the original art from the book is used, now including new interactive moments that match the same style of illustrations that people have been enjoying for decades.

Fans of this book will notice the decision to break down the pages that contain a montage of drawings and paragraphs of text into their own pages - the right decision aiding young readers - as well as highlighting the charming new interactive moments and hidden sounds found throughout these pages.

It is impressive how the added animations work so seamlessly within this application as the original drawings images from the book are incorporated, also including the fun bits of comedic action now charmingly demonstrated, such a Mog's dream of flying with birds as well as the jumping and running around cats are known for.

Adults will be smitten by these illustrations, now containing a vintage charm reminiscent of the time period of 1970, modernized here for the digital age yet staying true to the original look of this story.

Terrific musical elements are also included into these interactions as well as the story itself, creating cinematic moments all ages will enjoy a great deal.

I also really appreciate the choices offered in terms of how to enjoy this story, be it just listening to the narration or pulling open a tab containing the text to read along, as well as reading this book to oneself or make one's own recording.

A few nice extras are also included, such as playing a game where readers select the correct emotion shown on Mog’s face to match a correlating word. Those whose iPads include a forward-facing camera can also take photos with Mog that they can then share. All iPad users can incorporate their own photos from their iPad as well.

A short bio of author Judith Kerr is also included, introducing readers to early sketches which became the drawings for this storybook - a treat for fans, to be sure.

I have truly enjoyed Mog the Forgetful Cat. It is a perfect transformation from printed medium into an application. I hope the other Mog titles can be developed for iPad as well, possibly even as universal applications, letting iPhone users to also have a chance to meet Mog. I also look forward to the release of The Tiger Who Came to Tea - one of the most popular children's’ books of all times, also being developed by HarperCollins Publishers.

Chalk Walk Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on June 7th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

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.

Smash Your Food HD Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 20th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Smash Your Food HD is a highly entertaining app for iPad dedicated to the better understanding of the amounts of sugar, salt and oil found within foods that are commonly eaten.

With five levels included, players are asked to determine the amounts of these substances by reviewing the nutritional facts of each food in question and then watching as these foods get pulverized - much to the delight of children.

I really like that although a nutrition app, this app shows children how math can have a very practical application in their lives as the grams of sugar and oil, along with the milligrams of salt, must be converted to the units of measure found within the app, specifically sugar cubes (4 grams per cube) 1/8 teaspoon pours of salt equaling 288 mg each as well as teaspoons of oil (4 grams per spoonful) After these calculations are made and the answers are entered, one gets to smash the food, and boy does the food get smashed!

Do keep a calculator handy to make these calculations easier, especially the 288 that one must divide into the sodium mg of foods to come up with the number of 1/8 teaspoons of salt that one is looking for in an answer. It is also good to know that 1/2 measurements are not possible so players must round up or down to a whole number - another math element taught with a real world application.

Impressive HG videos are shown of each food being pulverized by a vice that closes down, smushing and smashing these foods in the messiest ways possible, complete with fun, squishy sound effects. My son at four does not fully get the heath aspect of this app but loves to smash the foods within this app. Few apps have brought the smiles and squeals that this app delivers, creating a truly addicting experience for both him and for me.

Complete meals are included by the 5th level, as are “crazy” levels that include a “super-sized” load of food - just for fun really - as the splat here is, as one can imagine, all the more epic.

I enjoy the visual of not only the food being flattened but the look of the food elements being filled into beakers below the smashing machine, as sugar cubes, salt shakes and teaspoons can be seen doing measurements, sometimes overfilling these beakers with sugar cubes being heard dropping off screen as the beaker has been filled and the sugar presumably backs up into the machine, as well as the oil that may spill out over the beaker when too much continues to be poured.

It would be nice to be able to enter in one’s best guesses on sugar, salt and oil after seeing the food mashed, as the level of oil that get squeezed out of some foods is quite telling, allowing people to use their understanding of these ingredient amounts based on info previously learned from this app instead of doing the math, especially since one can gain stars for answers not only spot-on, but for showing an understanding that a food stuff is higher or lower than the amount allowed per meal players are allowed. Be aware that stars are not given for previously correct answers, confusing for us in the beginning of playing this game.

It is a nice touch that the info of six players can be stored within this app, and that each player has a different limit of sugar, salt, and oil that is the maximum allowed per meal. I do find it unfortunate, however, that this app features only the most junky and the most obviously bad-to-consume foods, with no choices that are fully actually allowed under the guidelines that one learns about in the beginning of this app based on the player's age and level of activity, even making certain junk foods look like a lesser-evil food because healthy food options are not offered.

I also find that the nutrition elements are overly simplified as here, all fats are bad fats, which in the real world is not the case - yet among these foods, it is very much so. Topics such as fiber, protein and glycemic index are also not covered, being beyond the scope of this delightfully disgusting app.

In a future update, I would love to smash a bowl of guacamole, yogurt, watermelon or a pomegranate, as well as choices such as rotisserie chicken, sushi, grilled salmon or a simple plate of beans and rice to show food choices that one can eat without regret. I would also love to see foods that are worse for people than one may imagine, such as muffins, which are notorious for high levels of sugar and oil as well as more Chinese food choices, a cuisine that if cooked without concern can be full of crazy amounts of oil - something that even many adults don’t realize or choose to ignore, or a salad loaded with creamy dressing - another common downfall.

Even with the notes given, this is a highly entertaining, addictive application that will certainly entertain children. I a happy to announce that Smash Your Food HD has won the Michelle Obama's Apps For Healthy Kids contest, and it is nice that emails including tips and advice are available to be received each time one completes a level.

I hope that more levels and foods can be added in the future, ideally with healthy food substitutions to encourage good nutritional choices, helping players choose foods other than those included within this application.

Cool to be Clever: Edson Hendricks Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 17th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Cool to be Clever: Edson Hendricks is a wonderful biography for iPad that tells the life story of Edson C. Hendricks, the brilliant mind behind the design of the Internet.

This is a very nicely written application, narrated effortlessly by Hendricks himself, who has a wonderful speaking voice which reminding me of a less flamboyant Spaulding Gray making him a great talent in re-telling his own story.

Although written by another author, Leanne Jones, the words presented on the page and spoken in the first person ring utterly true as they guide readers through Hendricks’s early life as a child, being bullied for his intellect as well as for his red hair color, through his groundbreaking work with computers at MIT and beyond as he worked to design a method of connecting the world's computers, sometimes misunderstood by those in authority at this workplace.

I do really enjoy this story of how the technology for the Internet was born, as I do Hendricks's personal story, growing up and feeling an outcast until he found his place in college - a relatable experience for many.

Hendricks's method of delivery is modest and humble, always remaining very much of an everyman including his lovely delivery of his life story to his interviews, which are also included within this application.

I find it interesting that Hendricks is widely regarded as a genius yet never uses this word himself, and I wonder if children will fully understand how unique an experience it is to be a self-taught reader or how difficult admissions to MIT is - topics that parents or teachers may feel the need to touch upon.

I also appreciate how this application also includes moments of drama and suspense during a chapter that goes into detail about Hendricks and a friend sailing through a hurricane on their way to Bermuda, Hendricks being depressed at the time over an invention that was not well-received and how having to fight for their life helped put things into perspective.

Another interesting section of this app includes an anecdote about a peculiar cat that I also was impressed by regarding how this story is tied to the rest of the app in a most thoughtful way.

Please do not expect many interactions as this app is primarily a recorded book and a terrific learning tool that not only teaches about the history of the Internet but may also whet the appetite of children for other biographies or interesting people.

I really enjoy how this app combines the written story narrated by Hendricks as well as other sections that include much other information about the Hendrickses' family life, the Internet and other scientific topics, also including moments of Hendricks giving wonderful advice to programmers as well as to children who feel different.

This app also includes a lengthy section about bullying in schools and what can be done about this very serious topic. The music used throughout this app is also touched upon in a separate section - a nice touch.

It is easy recommend this application for children who have the attention span to listen to this lengthy, interesting audio-book of an iPad app keeping in mind that Hendricks notes a particularly dark time for him that may be not appropriate for some younger children.

Illustrations are included which are equally well done, but at times when Hendricks is describing the computer room in college where he worked, it seems like a missed opportunity that the illustrations do not represent what is being described as this could have helped children visualize these most outdated computers and other hardware being discussed. Also, an image of Woodstock is incorporated into the text - an event that Hendricks experienced firsthand, yet it is only 1965 in the timeline of this story, with a jog into the future while discussing other scientific achievements to come. This may be a little confusing for readers, especially those who think of 1969 when thinking about Woodstock - possibly less of an issue for children not familiar with these dates.

The production value of the audio recording of Hendricks’s story is a little rough - something that I found mildly distracting yet not something most children will pick up on, I am sure.

This app is not only great for children, teens and interested adults, but for teachers as well, as this app has a very nice section about dealing with bullies in school and how this could have helped Hendricks possibly fit in better in school.

This application is thoughtfully written and includes a lot of information children can feel inspired by, from the design that led to the Internet to Hendricks's personal story of overcoming bullies as well as touching on the difficult yet very real topic of depression that Hendricks also includes as part of his life story.

Equally interesting are the interviews with the author of this app, Leanne Jones, who discusses her experiences as a teacher, how she discovered Hendricks’s story, and what she learned from writing this biography - all interesting notes that add to this app’s overall experience.

Cool to be Clever: Edson Hendricks reminds of me the It Gets Better Project for Gay and LGTB Youth, yet here this app articulates that life can get better for those bullied during their childhood years, making this a story worth telling in homes and schools, especially within gifted classrooms.

happykids - Veterinarian HD Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 10th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Happykids - Veterinarian is a charming interactive game application for iPad that allows children to care for six animals with various ailments. Both iPad as well as iPhone versions of this app are available.

Intuitive to use, children simply tap an animal in the clinic waiting room where players then engage an x-ray machine that with the use of bulls-eyes, shows areas of the animal that need some attention. With four mini-games for each animal, this app is is great for toddlers and early preschoolers, as older children may find this app charming, but too easy to succeed at all the games quite quickly.

The mini-games themselves are cute and fun including activities such as dot-to-dot connecting that reveals animal thoughts, such as a dog thinking about a bone, being able to tap to kill fleas found in animal fur or mending broken bones by dragging them to their correct outlines seen on another included x ray.

Sometimes these sections may revolve around a maze or simple puzzle, other times health checks are in order, dragging a stethoscope to an animal's chest to hear its heartbeat, using a thermometer to take a creature’s temperature or using a blood pressure cuff. General grooming is also commonplace, such as trimming a bird's wings or a dog's nails as well as brushing its fur.

The look of this app is really cute, and I like being able to treat birds as well as dogs and cats.

This app does have elements rather similar to another doctor-themed application my son enjoys, but I don’t see a conflict for us as my son can work with either or both applications depending on his mood of being a baby or animal doctor.

This is the first application of its kind from developer William Paten. We have enjoyed this very nice application, and I look forward to see if Paten develops other apps that focus on imaginative play as this one is quite enjoyable.

Pepi Bath Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on March 29th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Pepi Bath is a charming new universal role-playing app for young children that teaches about hygiene.

This utterly cute application consists of two characters to choose from, a boy and a girl and includes four scenes to explore - specifically a laundry area, bathroom sink routines such as teeth brushing and hand washing, bath time and a toileting scenario.

There is a great deal that my son and I really enjoy about this app. Pepi Bath has a lovely visual style with bright colors and a lot of interactions, all of which my son has a lot of fun playing, with a nice, soothing yet upbeat music also included.

The laundry area allows children to remove dirty articles of clothing, adding them to a washing machine to be cleaned, as well as placing dirty sneakers or boots in the correct storage locker. Do close the door fully of the washing machine as this is needed to be able to pour the powdered soap into the detergent drawer. Then press the button to turn on the machine. When the cycle is complete, hang the wet wash on the laundry line completing this activity.

The bathroom sink area is a favorite of my son’s, as he has more fun washing the characters' hands in the sink motif more than he does in real life. Here, one can turn on the water in the sink, washing the characters' hands with provided soap, but also experiment with trying to lather with soap only (this does not work well and only a hint of dirt is removed this way) or water only - also not effective as is the case in real life. Instead, the correct method of wetting hands and using soap is needed for proper hand washing. A comb is also provided to groom these messy-headed children as well as tissues that can be used to wipe a drippy nose. A scissors is also visible that the boy or girl will show displeasure towards if the player picks it up - a nice touch.

I do wish, however, that the used tissue could be tossed in a garbage can instead of disappearing off screen, and although my son has a lot of fun brushing the teeth of these characters, he did ask me why they do not use toothpaste on their brushes - an element I would love to see added, not only as a fun interaction, but as a necessary detail for realism.

Bath time is focused on bathing the boy or girl, specifically the washing of dirty feet and hair. A sponge is included, and a tap here will trigger the presentation of funky feet that kids will delight in wiping down, as well as having fun adding shampoo to hair, creating a lather than needs to be rinsed with the overhead shower hose that one drags over the child to turn on, rinsing hair clean. An interactive rubber duck has also been included, as well as presumably colored bath oils in both green and blue that my son enjoys adding to the tub to change the color of the water.

I appreciate how here, one can turn on the hot or cold water, yet an extreme temperature either way will make the bathing child uncomfortable, as too hot will turn him red from being over-heated and too cold will give chills and chatter teeth.

My son’s favorite section by far is the toilet scene, as here highlights are given which show where to tap the child character's belly to help him pee or poop, full of realistic body sound effects that my son adores.

Although these interactions are not for the squeamish, I think this is a great area of this app especially for toddlers who are in the throes of toilet training when pooping transitions from an involuntary to a voluntary act, really appreciating how the included boy or girl must slightly bear down slightly to move his bowels, with the interactive belly press showing what muscles need to be engaged - something that can be difficult for children to understand at first when learning to use the toilet.

After the character has used the toilet, he will motion with the point of a finger that it is time to wipe his bottom, allowing a child to tear off some toilet paper and clean their character, giving parents of girls a chance to teach the idea of wiping from front to back as well if one so desires. Then the toilet paper is tossed into a trash can to dispose of.

I understand that this app and these toileting motions reflect the fact that not everyone flushes their paper down the toilet, but it would be nice if an option were available to flush the paper as this is how I want my son to deal with using the toilet in our house.

It would also be nice if the child did not remain seated when the toilet is flushed as families of girls especially understand that remaining seated while flushing is not recommended, and it would be a great if the child could be heard to say “I need to go wash my hands” the way a little voice can be heard saying “It smells bad in here,” a cue to use one of three air sprays offered.

It is interesting how although with open-ended moments, a sequence of events is included in many of these sections, such as the steps one takes to wash clothing, such as first filling the washing machine with dirty clothing, shutting the machine’s door before adding soap and then running the machine, to lathering hands with both soap and water, as well as wiping after using the potty, then flushing.

Completing these tasks in order ends the scene with a bounce of the home icon and the inclusion of clapping, but my son would have been happy to wash and re-wash dirty hands, feet and hair or brush teeth over and over again. To my son’s disappointment, one can only make the character pee and poo once during the toilet scene as well.

Even with the notes given, this is a really fun application that my son adores. I can imagine that some families might shy away from the realism expressed within the toilet area, but for us, this is the best part. I am also happy to report that after spending some time with this app, my son voluntarily put away the iPad to help all his babies and stuffed animals use the potty as well. It is always nice to see him act out what he has been playing with in an application with his toys.

Feel Electric! Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on January 26th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Feel Electric! is an interesting free, universal educational app aimed at helping children learn about and express emotions in a healthy way.

This app features the cast and content of The New Electric Company, teaching children the meaning of 50 emotional words and further exploring these different feelings with a variety of fun activities.

One area of this app is called My Life and consists of three sections, Mood Dude, Mood Tales and Moodosphere.

Mood Dude allows players to change the eyes, brows, mouth, arms, and color of an avatar reminiscent of an M&M character, allowing one to express how he is feeling. It is nice that both happy and sad choices are included as well as many other emotions.

Mood Tales includes ten story makers that also demonstrate emotions, here used as the tone to these short stories that get filled in with the choice of random words - Mad-Libs style - and include images from this hit PBS T.V. show.

Moodosphere allows children to choose three emotions that best describe their current mood do tap to hear and see proper usage of these words.

I really enjoy the vast selection of eclectic emotions included within this app, such as calm, confused, bored, regretful, jealous or proud, as well as how these words are explained as a tap of a finger opens up a glossary of terms, both written, narrated, and with a photo. I think it is great that the narration also expresses the emotion word in use, really bringing home the meaning of these important words.

The My Games section includes three fun arcade-style mini-games that also focus on children learning to express their emotions through words.

Pets Vs. Monsters is a fun game taking place on a baseball field where the player moves a batter back and forth with a finger trying to hit photo images that correspond with the emotion in question. I enjoy this mini-game, but I found this game a little hard as I tried to match up expressions that did not match 100 % with the emotion at hand but were good choices until the correct, most obvious choice was offered.

Prankster Madness is a tilt game where players tilt their devices to move a skateboarder back and forth matching expressive photos to word balls dropping from the sky, missing incorrect words and other objects in the fast-paced, timed mini-game.

Hey, Catch This is another emotion centric arcade-style game, here allowing players to shoot word balls at moving targets with matching expressions.

My Stuff is a section full of photos, music, and video clips from The New Electric Company. This section allows one to decorate the photos from the My Photos with stickers that also express different emotions. It is nice that a large selection of images, music and video clips from The New Electric Company are included, and I appreciate how this media can be accessed without an internet connection.

Fans of this show will love all of this included content, but I think children not familiar with this series may feel that there is a lot of context missing to fully understand what one is looking at or listening to.

Although this may be the case for this section of this app, it is nice that the other areas of this app are accessible to children who may not watch this show on TV, even if the concepts and characters past the basic gameplay may also be over the heads of those not fans of The New Electric Company.

My personal favorite area of this app is the What’s the Word section, a glossary of emotional words used throughout this app. Here, one can study the faces that make up each expression close up, also listening to the explanation of each word expressed in a way that demonstrates each word really well. This is a great area to compare similar yet different words as it pertains to how these expressions are demonstrated on the faces of those who possess these emotions. It would be nice to be able to see these photos blow up to even larger images, and it would be nice to choose words that are similar and be able to compare these images side by side.

Feel Electric! is also part of the website, Military Families Near and Far which aids children in expressing their emotions and keeping in contact with family. This is a wonderful application for allowing children to express their feelings especially while being faced with the challenges of deployed family members.

I would also like to recommend this app to families with special needs children who will gain a lot by the images of expressive faces and verbal cues offered about a variety of emotions. Jessica Ruiz and Danny Rebus, the teen cast members who star in this app as well as The New Electric Company do an outstanding job expressing these emotions in a way that is exaggerated enough for these feelings to register clearly, while still being grounded in reality.

Parents and teachers may also appreciate how this app keeps a log of the various emotions chosen on different days, allowing adults and children to look back and discuss the feelings that were previously felt.

It is impressive that an app of this caliber is free, as it is bright, colorful and a lot of fun, also including some fun, up-beat music used throughout.

Because of this fact, I would think many families would enjoy downloading this app and seeing what it is all about, as I can imagine young children not associated with military families, or those who have special needs, can gain a great deal of new vocabulary words, making this a good app for toddlers who can peruse the emotional faces and new words found throughout the What’s the Word section, making it a great first app where kids will grow into the other sections.

Kids Food Adventure Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on December 27th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Kids Food Adventure is a very nice universal app that is geared towards encouraging children to try new foods.

The foods included in the application can be searched by season, as one can look at a calendar where each month of the year has seven foods that are in season, and I like how one can pre-select an area of the world - be it North America or Europe - to make the food selections offered, which are accurate in terms of seasonal availability.

This is very helpful as the main goal of this app is to get kids interested in trying new foods that presumably parents will provide for their children. It is also nice that the kids get credit for each new food they try, but liking the food is not necessary as one can mark each new food as “yummy,” “yucky," or just “so-so,” as tasting these new foods ultimately leads to earning stickers. Children can go back and edit how they feel about these foods as their tastes change as they get used to new and different foods.

One can also choose to discover new foods by type, be it desserts, cheeses, seeds and nuts, or regional cuisine such as Greek or foods found in the Far East. These themed groups of foods are explored as one chooses a sticker that represents these food groupings - a nice way to get kids interested in new foods.

A well-shot photo of each of these foods is included that will enlarge to show detail with a tap, as well as thoughtfully written information which offers insight into nutritional benefits and other fun facts that kids and adults will enjoy.

Note that no narration is included - not an issue really as this app is one that is best shared between adults and children. Foods children may be familiar with, such as strawberries or cherries, are included, as well as some less common foods such as a large selection of fancy cheeses like camembert, or gruyere, or produce such as quinces or physalis.

Each food group is represented here, with a variety of fish being the only meat of any kind within this application. Some families will appreciate this choice, and it is nice that gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan choices are included, but I can imagine that other families may find this app lacking in other animal proteins, as well as possibly be concerned at the expense or availability of some of these foods that are meant to be bought and tasted.

I enjoy the look of this app, with a subtle vintage flair adults may enjoy, as here the background used is a close up of the grain of a wood travel trunk, which is intended to be decorated with the stickers one earns by trying these new foods. The look of this warm-toned stain and tactile wood grain is pleasing to the eye, but this is an item most children today may know nothing about, while parents may appreciate this element. The stickers also have a period feel to them, as they are akin to stickers one may find on a guitar case or as an iron-on patch found on a vintage pair of jeans, a fun detail that I enjoy.

All in all, this is an educational app that adults and children will enjoy sharing together. I have found the fun facts informative, the included photographs lovely to look at, and the month-to-month food choices helpful in coming up with new food ideas.

Discovery Kids Sharks Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on December 13th, 2011
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Every week can be Shark Week when exploring Discovery Kids Sharks. This very content-rich app for iPad packs in a plethora of information about these aquatic creatures.

Six nicely interactive sections are included that teach kids about where sharks live, the types of sharks that exist, shark features, feeding and family life, as well as a sticker section that one can explore, adding sticker packs that one collects as the discovery challenges are successfully completed.

The question of where sharks live is nicely answered with a world map that is marked with shark hotspots. A tap in the correct space delivers a shark trading card of sorts that can be flipped over to read such details as the habitat in which these sharks live, the food they eat, info about the speed in which they swim, and the size they grow to. They also include a Top Fact about every fish, making each unique. These cards can also be shared by email if one chooses.

Once these sharks are found across the globe, one can partake in a discovery challenge to win a sticker pack. This challenge tests the info absorbed during this section, with element of fun as well.

Here, one must match the shark in question to its corresponding cutout, also answering the question about each specific shark. I appreciate the included puzzle aspect being incorporated, as this allows one to match the outline of each shark, making it possible for children to succeed here even if they do not remember all the answers correctly.

The types of sharks are explored as one goes on an underwater photo expedition, lining up sharks in the sight of one’s underwater camera. These photos are transformed into info cards full of interesting shark facts, the completion of this task leading to a discover challenge where one must match the color, markings and other details that make up shark features and match these skin swatches to a corresponding shark outline.

Shark feeding is accomplished with a fun game: after scrolling though possible choices, choose a shark with a tap and and check out what it likes to eat as well as other facts found within its included info card, tilt the iPad to move the shark around looking for prey, tapping a side button to eat the smaller creature.

The family life of sharks is introduced with a fun peek-a-boo game of sorts as one scrolls through the bottom of the ocean looking for movement or air bubbles coming from behind an obstruction which hides baby sharks. Here one is challenged by matching the shark to the facts offered and to the corresponding head of each shark, allowing kids to use the outline as a further clue. Questions including whether the pup sharks are born alive or if an egg is released are also included.

After each discovery challenge is complete, children will receive five new stickers per stocker pack to add to their underwater scene that one can decorate.

I like how here, one can scroll side to side, creating a lot of space one can decorate and adults will enjoy how these stickers are offered to the players in a small Mylar bag, reminiscent of how trading cards from my childhood were packaged.

There is really a lot of information offered within this app, making it a great educational tool. We enjoy shark week as well, but I worry that sometimes content may be intense for my sensitive son.

This is not a concern here, making it a great choice for shark lovers of all ages, but be aware that this app does not contain narration, making this a good choice for later grade school or younger children provided an adult or older child is willing to read the text out loud.

The look of the sharks and various other illustrations is terrific - very realistic and with the bold colors one would expect from marine life.

Each of these sections has an included video that plays as an intro to the subject matter. These videos look wonderful as well, sometimes including interesting electronic music that really adds to the experience. Other times, the music has a decidedly different tone more reminiscent of that from a horror film or akin to the theme from Jaws.

This choice may be appropriate for the feeding section, although no graphic footage is shown, creating a theme for this section that may be appropriate from the view of the creatures these sharks eat, as to them - these sharks are indeed very scary.

I don’t, however, understand the scary music choices for the videos chosen for the shark features or family life sections, as here the dark tone created by this kind of music does not add to the topic at hand and to me seems like a judgment call of some sort, negative to sharks in general.

The tone created with this negative, slasher-movie-appropriate music, although a very short sample and video, is in great contrast especially in the family video, as here a lovely scene of pups swimming in unison under their momma's belly are introduced with the use of aggressive music that does not at all illustrate the footage of family love.

The interesting electronic music used in the first two sections makes these video clips wondrous and even a little surreal - fantastic choices to go along with the videos in this app. The other, horror-like music, actually may make these videos less child-friendly to the most sensitive of children, which is the only flaw I found within this application.

I do enjoy everything else this app has to offer. The use of the trading cards that one can refer to later is a great way of organizing the vast amount of information offered within this app, which can also be emailed to a friend if one chooses. Each interactive section is intuitive and fun, as are the challenges.

I did, however, have some problems with the feeding section as sometimes the food listed was not recognized as a correct answer, now leaving the player to use trial and error to find the correct oceanic animal to eat - an issue I hope can be looked into.

Having said this, it is nice that this section not only allows one to tilt the iPad, but one can also tap the fish one is looking to eat as well, or drag a finger for the shark to follow - helpful for those not skilled at tilt games, such as myself.

This would make a great app for families or in an educational setting as the included games go a long way in introducing shark data in a way that stays engaging. I like that these challenges are in no way timed, and one can make wrong answers without any sort of penalty.

The theme music found on the main menu page is fun, upbeat and with a rock influence older kids and adults will enjoy, but I do take some issue with some of the other music used. Even with this issue, this is a very worthwhile app, especially to families that have a young shark lover.