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Category: Phonics »

Andrew Answers Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on January 10th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Andrew Answers is a universal storybook app, both creative and fun, from Ruckus Media Group about a boy with an inventive sense of humor which is not appreciated by his teachers and most of the other adults that he encounters. Ranging in scope from the principal's office to the oval office, this app comes together and ends in a way that I really enjoy. Interactive elements are also present to explore, but this is primarily a story.

I really like this app and can relate to Andrew as he gets into trouble, being misunderstood by adult authority figures as he answers word problems directed towards him - correctly, from his point of view. Both my husband and I remember periods in our childhood of feeling not understood by teachers as well as other adults, and I think that it is a revelation to touch upon these issues in such a charming and comedic way. I admire the creative use of language here, and showing the great flexibility of words as Andrew answers the questions asked of him with great whit. The use of the alphabet here is a great teaching tool as well.

These days, many special education teachers use apps in their classrooms, and although this app is not specifically for, and certainly not limited to kids with special needs or on the autism spectrum, I think that Andrew is very relatable to kids who may think or interact with the world or their classroom in a way that may seem different or disruptive, or to students who have been labeled as “bright underachievers” when in fact many of these kids are just simply bored. I admire how Andrew becomes redeemed in the end, a great moment that any kid thought of as “different” can cheer for and may gain a sense of personal satisfaction from, as did I.

Some interactions are included with this app. There are two mazes to navigate, and I like that one can choose “easy” or “hard” as well as skipping them. However, I wish these options were offered on the maze page itself - not before, so if a player feels stuck and wants to just continue with the story, they can do so. The other interactions are simple and nice, although minimal, and I do think parents who expect a highly interactive app may be disappointed by their expectations. Having said this, I think this is a very worthwhile and educational app, with an ending that I especially appreciated.

Montessori Crossword Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on October 12th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Montessori Crossword is an app that brings the Montessori methods of learning reading and spelling to both the iPad and iPhone / iPod Touch. This app includes three crossword sections that get progressively more difficult, as well as a “Movable Alphabet,” giving children a less-structured section in which they are free to move letters around the screen.

Be it a single word at first, or three words interconnecting to create a traditional crossword, each word in this section is illustrated by a picture and empty letter boxes. Drag the correct letters from the alphabet below into these boxes to spell the words. I appreciate that if help is needed, a hint to the right of the screen can be tapped, showing the word in question, and the spelling can be copied.

When these puzzles are finished, you are rewarded with the chance to interact with beautifully done animations that will follow your fingers as you draw - a very relaxing experience.

I had fun with this app, and I think it is a good teaching tool to aid children in spelling and reading. This app does not, however, include letter or word sounds, being designed for children already familiar with at least some of the phonic sounds. This being said, still would like to be able to hear a letter’s phonic or word name if either the letter or picture were tapped. I know my son would enjoy being able to hear these sounds, and I think it would add both entertainment and educational value, at least for him. For now, this app is something we enjoy doing together, but he has not yet played with this on his own. With added sounds, this may be different.

All in all, a nice, educational app that would be a hit especially with families familiar with  Montessori methods of learning.

Rain Go Away ABCs Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on October 8th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Rain Go Away ABCs is an app that teaches letter recognition, words, and basic phonics. Indoor activities to keep children occupied on rainy days are also included which reinforce the words they have learned through this app. Weather themed, watch as the animated background transitions from rain to sun through out the sequence of the alphabet.

Easy to use, tap on the letter of the object being illustrated once to hear the letter's name, tap again to hear the sound that letter makes. The object can also be tapped for its name to be spoken as well. Shake or tilt the device for an interaction to play.  A "Tip" button can also be tapped to further demonstrate this word with various indoor play ideas that can keep kids occupied on rainy days or other times when staying in the house is needed. You can also return to the main alphabet page from here to choose a specific letter.

Being painted by hand, this app is a good choice for parents who prefer simple and handmade educational toys for their children, while still wanting to embrace the use of applications. For these parents, the more traditional play ideas being included in this app will go a long way. I think this would make a lovely first app for babies, toddlers or young preschoolers, but older kids and more seasoned app users may spend less time using this application than younger children. Both educational and fun, this is a nice, simple family application.

Mr. Hat and the Magic Cube Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 6th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

"Mr. Hat and the Magic Cube" is a new interactive game for children involving kids being transported to a magical world after playing with a mysterious cube. They can’t go home until they help Mr. Hat find the cube’s stolen pieces.

This app combines both animation and games that help teach spelling and vocabulary, counting, matching, dexterity, and puzzles, getting more difficult each time you play. Being plot-heavy for a kids app, "Mr. Hat and the Magic Cube" contains 3D animated video clips rivaling those of serious adult games.

I do think, however, that it takes too long to be able to go home for a children’s game, and I found it to be tiring and a bit frustrating, even for an adult. I like that the app saves your progress, but when you solve the game, I really wish it would start over from the beginning.

Putting these issues aside, I really enjoy the magical world the developers have created. Part Willy Wonka, part Dr. Seuss, this world is trippy and maybe even a little creepy for some parents. I find this refreshing compared to the other soft and fuzzy learning apps we play. I am curious to see what happens in the next "Mr. Hat" application.

Interactive Alphabet for iPad - ABC Flash Cards Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 4th, 2010
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

“Interactive Alphabet for iPad - ABC Flash Cards” is a new app that teaches letters, words and cause and effect for even the youngest players. It is highly interactive and in a word: Awesome.

This app opens up with a page of letters, bright and bold. After choosing a letter, you move to the interactive page. You hear the name of letter and the corresponding word being illustrated, and you can tap on these words to repeat. Each page has lots of discoveries to make, both with sounds and moving images. The navigation of this app is also very intuitive, and you can either move back and forth among the letters or go back to the main alphabet to choose your favorites. Having three music choices to choose from is also a nice touch, each of them being upbeat and fun, buy you can also turn off the music if you desire.

With so much to tap on, my 2 1/2 year old son just loves exploring this app, and it holds his attention like no other that he plays with. From finding and opening letters left in a mailbox for “mail” to playing a xylophone for “x,” the developers really have an understanding for what interests my son. I love this app myself; even the youngest kids will appreciate the cause and effects from all that tapping.

Dolch Flash Cards Review

Posted by Nina Ignaczak on July 15th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

If you're looking for a no-frills, straightforward app to help your child learn to recognize "sight words", look no further than Dolch Flash Cards. The interface is stripped down and devoid of any distracting graphics; words are presented in large black lower-case type on a white background, reminiscent of the tactile flashcards of days of yore. A small console at the bottom of the screen allows the user to trigger the word recording, enunciated in a female voice, and to advance to the next word.

Words presented in Dolch Flash Cards are drawn from a list of frequently used words compiled by Edward William Dolch in 1936, which contains many words that cannot be sounded out phonetically (e.g., because, would). The Dolch list is segregated into words for the pre-primer, primer, first, second and thirds levels, and contains an additional list of 95 nouns. The Dolch Flash Cards app allows the user to restrict the word list based on these categories and to include or ban the nouns. Users can also tag words for later review.

My impression is the app is a bit too much like old-fashioned flashcards, which of course can get tedious, and could benefit from a little leveraging of technology; a few well-chosen bells & whistles would certainly make it more engaging. For example, scorekeeping for self-tracking or multiple users might add an element of excitement that would keep kids at it longer. My son got bored quickly.

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.

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!

123 Color Talking Coloring Book Review

Posted by Melinda Landon on June 12th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

"123 Color" follows the “color-by-numbers” concept used in early childhood education and introduces letters, numbers, and colors to Preschoolers . The main menu has four categories from which to choose. When you touch the book at the top of the page, coloring pages will appear, then you choose the page and begin coloring. At the bottom of the coloring page are the color choices to match up with a number or letter. Touch a color, then match the number or letter in the picture and the color will appear. When the picture is colored correctly, musical notes will float across the screen and play a little jingle. If musical notes are not heard or seen, the colors or matches are incorrect. "123 Color" allows children to keep trying until all numbers or letters match correctly. It's offered in a number of languages, including English, Spanish, French, and German, and a combo of English-Spanish. The app is well-done, bright, and colorful. The coloring pages are fantastic, and there are many choices within the app. I do hope the publisher decides to add new pages with every update. "123 Color" is also available for the HD iPad

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.

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.

Buubuu Zoo Jumble

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

“Buubuu Jumble Zoo” is a puzzle-flashcard application geared toward toddlers and preschoolers just learning to speak and read. The application displays seven zoo animals and two human characters, and can be played in several different ways. You can play as a jumble puzzle by sliding through the selections to match the three correct anatomical parts; when the puzzle is solved, the animal is displayed in his native environment. The other option allows you to view the animals in flashcard mode with the identifying name. You can customize the app by recording your own voice or sound to identify the animals/characters, or you can change the settings for the creature’s name to be displayed in up to eight different languages. The artwork and graphics are delightful and aesthetically pleasing, and the sound recording feature is intuitive and easy-to-use. However, there are a couple of things I found challenging: the settings are difficult to navigate and there aren’t many different animals offered, but the option to customize the experience (such as puzzle vs. flashcards, record your own voice, and learn animals in different languages) helps to compensate for what’s lacking in zoo resident variety. My son and I hope V 1.1 will include some of our best-liked zoo animals… an elephant, zebra, rhino, and gorilla.

Learn to Talk

Posted by Kristen Young on March 4th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

This unique application targets young kids who are acquiring basic vocabulary and early language skills. “Learn to Talk” facilitates lessons with 160 interactive audio flashcards developed by a speech pathologist and is thoughtfully designed to progress based on how toddlers typically learn patterns of speech and language. My son and I are currently working on the first lesson which is “high impact words”; these are comfort words and the first building blocks toward further language progression. Next, the application moves through label/object words, one word actions, and finally, to two word actions. The user should carefully read the directions to fully utilize the multitude of features offered as it extends the use of these cards and challenges children to master new skills. My son is developing language skills at a typical rate, but I can see how this would be an invaluable tool for caregivers working with kids who are developmentally-delayed or impaired, or with children in multilingual households. Overall, I’m a fan of this app but I must admit that I found it a bit challenging to navigate the interface settings and features. A young child might get confused and frustrated without the assistance of an adult helping them.