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Toddler Toy Factory Review

Posted by Sharon Cohen on May 4th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

What child would not want to make toys? That’s what I thought when I saw the name of this app. The app, itself, offers a number of different coordination and cognitive skills, but the title is misleading. The author says it was approved by his/her own toddler. Well, that toddler has a lot more ability than mine ever did! I would actually call this “Children’s Toy Factory” app rather than “Toddler” Toy Factory, because it has more abilities at the level of preschool and even kindergarten than toddler. In fact, the memory game in the “hard” mode could even be played by an older child or adult—admittedly, my memory is not the best, but I even had difficulty remembering where everything was in the “hard” mode. Best for a toddler’s age is the counting in the “Ship” room. I like the music that accompanies the app, it’s whimsical, and the sound effects add to the app’s entertainment value.

The Toddler Toy Factory does offer a good selection for long playing and learning time, and I like the fact that the child can advance upward from the “easy” mode as the skill is acquired in two of the rooms. In the first room, “Make,” the child reads the letter on the left hand side of the screen and chooses the correct letter from mixed up letter blocks on the right hand side. Then the letter is dragged over, so both letters match and then dropped into the toy machine. As each letter is dropped, it spells a word and out pops the toy that is spelled. The word is repeated, so the child knows what was made and how it is spelled. This is not an easy concept, either, and parents will need to explain it to the child. As the toys are made and piled on the factory floor, they can be tossed around and then back into the machine, if desired.

The “Find” room is an old-fashioned matching game, which is always fun and great for memory skills. The children will most likely be on the easy mode for some time. As the correct matches are made, the toys are dropped to the floor. Once again, they can be tossed around or put back into the machine’s spout to clean up the room. The toys are added to a number counter up top when the go back in. Adding a voice over counting the toys as they go in would add another counting skill. In the “Ship” room, the children drag and drop toys from the shelves into a barrel for shipping. The numbers are counted out loud until the last one is ready for shipping. The “easy” to “medium” to “hard” mode increases the number of items, so larger numbers are learned.

Zoo Train Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 25th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Zoo Train is a nice universal app which contains five train-themed games that toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy. This app includes a variety of activities, one of which consists of simple puzzles that when each is correctly completed by the player, a train moves one step closer to the station. A music mode is included where children can select a traditional song to be played with colorful train whistles. Watch as a freight train pulls a word, such as “cow” and match corresponding letters to the letters on the train. Other options include the creating of a personal train by connecting different cars together and choosing a background. One can also put together a train tracks puzzle and watch a train ride over the tracks, once completed.

It is nice that there are so many different games to choose from and I enjoy the fact that some educational elements are taught here as well, like letters and spelling and the solving of simple puzzles. I think this would be enjoyed by babies, toddlers and preschoolers, especially those who enjoy animals or trains as well and would also be a nice choice for kids who are just getting into app puzzles. My son enjoys making his own trains and choosing different backgrounds as well as putting together the train tracks. I really like the music played with different colored train whistle. Kids are sure to be occupied by this app for some time.

A Visit To Santa Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on December 24th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

A Visit To Santa is a simple children’s app for iPad which is designed for the new reader in mind. Christmas-themed, it consists of simple sentences whose subjects can be tapped, with a picture then taking the place of the word in question. Mini-games are also included on many of these pages consisting of letter-based activities to aid in early literacy, such as decorating a Christmas tree with the letters which spell out “tree” or catching three words that rhyme with the word "fall" in a stocking that moves across the screen. Illustrations are included with each of these pages, and there is the ability to tap to hear a child narrate these sentences.

This app is simple in concept and execution, and although the use of child narration can sometimes be hard to understand, kids may appreciate the basic sentences, animations, and games that are included in this Christmas-themed app.

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.

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.

Magnetic Alphabet for iPad Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 5th, 2010
iPad App - Designed for iPad

“Magnetic Alphabet for iPad” is an Ipad app designed like the toy every kid enjoyed playing with - the magnetic board with letters and numbers magnets. This toy has been updated for the iPad to include both lower and upper case letters, numbers, various shapes and even grammar magnetics so now you can write full sentences out correctly. There are also six different colors to choose from. You can also save your work to your iPad or share it on Facebook.

I am pleased that you can use all the characters over and over again because to spell out my son’s full name, we need multiples of some letters, and this is difficult with the original toy. My son, 2.5 years, really enjoys spreading out the different pieces on the board as we work on phonics and has taken my lead, now choosing “m’s” for mom and “d’s”  for dad, telling me he is spelling these words.

It is nice that there are apps like this for parents who prefer their kids to play with traditional, battery-free toys while still embracing the new technology of the iPad. Plus, there are no pieces to lose or pick up off the floor!

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!

Spelling Bubble Lite

Posted by Melinda Landon on May 29th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

For "Spelling Bubble", you tap on bubbles to spell a Word. There are 3 game modes - Ruby, Emerald and Sapphire, and 12 word categories. When you spell 12 words correctly, you earn a gem stone. Collect 12 gem stones and you will be rewarded with a stamp for your colorful score card. The Ruby level has the word and the definition on the screen to help the child learn the word; when he/she is confident enough, there is an option to remove the word with the definition remaining and a question mark indicating how many letters. The Emerald and Sapphire Gem levels are a bit more challenging and fewer hints are available. The fun part is trying to spell the word while the bubbles are moving and earning a stamp for the score card. I find the picture graphics and the music pleasant and calming. This spelling app is awesome because it encourages children to sound out the words. My 3rd and 4th grade children have given me the silent seal of approval by playing it over and over again, and this makes me smile because they're learning.

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.

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.


Posted by Kristen Young on April 29th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: RECOMMENDED :: Read Review »

I grew up playing board games and one of my top picks has always been the crossword game of “Scrabble”. For months now, my husband has been raving about this app and challenging me to try it. He’s invited me to play using the “Facebook connect” feature and by Wifi, but I’ve had other apps at hand, so he usually ends up playing against himself. Well, finally, we gave it a go and I now see why he’s so enamored. Compared to most applications I’ve experienced, “Scrabble” is highly-polished, flashy, glitzy, and glamorous, with a sophisticated and involved interface, and an upbeat electronic soundtrack. My favorite features include the statistics tab (that allows you to track your best word, best turn, wins and losses) and the “teacher feature” that shows you the best words you could have chosen. The later option injects the game with an opportunity to grow and learn... I’m always striving to expand my mind. I haven’t had much experience with “Scrabble” for the iPhone, but so far it’s been positive. I noticed that many reviewers on iTunes thought the game was fraught with bugs that interfered with game play, but that hasn’t been my experience so far. Admittedly, I was taken back by the price (currently listed at $4.99) but – considering the entertainment value my husband and I can enjoy together – it’s a palatable investment.

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.

8 Planets Pro

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

8 Planets Pro has discovered a unique niche with an educational science game uniting astronomy and game play. The application includes four games with topics including: planet names, spelling, “black hole” (planet identification), and matching. The design of this application makes it an especially powerful learning tool since each “game” or level of play builds on the preceding activity, thereby reinforcing what has been taught/learned and challenging the knowledge in a new way. For example, the first game introduces each planet by name, position from the sun, and illustration. The following game shows a picture of each planet and a partial spelling, reviewing what has just been taught. The last two games playfully quiz the player with games focusing on identification and matching. Each game independently can be hours of entertainment, but collectively these games form a cohesive, instructive and illuminating science lesson. I’m amazed at how a creative approach to learning can invigorate a seemingly dry topic. Stargazers will unite and delight over 8 Planets Pro.

Build A Word

Posted by Kristen Young on January 16th, 2010
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

This spelling application is based on the PBS Kids television series “Word World”. You play by dragging the floating letters to its corresponding outline to “build a word”; the words then become animated characters. For example, D-O-G becomes a wiggly, barking dog, and D-U-C-K becomes a quacking (and talking) duck. The animation is stunning and this application adopts a delightful approach to teach spelling. There is a tremendous feeling of satisfaction when words become animated characters – undoubtedly a powerful association that can help foster early literacy. The first few times I played this app I was completely absorbed but it soon became predictable since there are only ten words/characters and they are always played in the same sequence. In its current form this application is a winner, but updated versions could benefit from additional words, characters, and a randomized sequence to keep it fresh.