Martha Speaks Word Spinner Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on January 9th, 2013
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Martha Speaks Word Spinner is a delightful interactive digital board game for iPad based on the hit PBS show and previously published storybook, Martha Speaks, about a talking dog - an educational show which teaches synonyms and new vocabulary to children.

We really enjoy the show Martha Speaks in our house. It is bright, colorful and engaging as it thoughtfully and conversationally including new words in a way that sticks with my son without feeling heavy or chore-like.

Because of this, I was excited to review Martha Speaks as well, and I can say that this game is really delightful for players - children as well as adults.

I appreciate that one to four players can use this app, making it a family game or an app my son can enjoy on his own.

This game opens up to a game board complete with a path consisting of spaces one must travel to move the chosen dog to the dog house. Spin the spinner and complete the mini-game, also moving a given number of spaces.

The included activities are fun and intuitive, teaching about synonyms in a way that is cute and conversational.

Some words are included that are also narrated, but oftentimes one is sorting or matching illustrations of given words to allow new and non-readers to grow their vocabulary without needing to be literate.

It is also great that the questions and themes are random so although the games may stay the same in terms of play, these experiences are never the same, allowing children to collect different “word bones” that represent each word studied during this game.

I think this app will be enjoyed in homes as well as with speech therapists as one of these mini-games, Name Five Things, asks players to name five words in a given category after popping numbered balloons - an exercise that would also benefit children learning English as a second language.

Other mini-games include Story Sounds which asks children to tap on buttons that will give sound effects to a given story theme, giving children a chance to add creative details based on these sound effects.

These sections may be hit or miss with some children playing with this app alone, as they are on their honor to say these five words themselves or add details to a story. I do think, however, that children such as my very talkative, social son would happily fulfill these activities even by themselves.

There are other sections of this app that single children, as well as groups of players will also enjoy.

Word Connector asks children to match different halves of simple puzzles matching related words shown in picture form, such as science equipment consisting of a microscope with test tubes or a hat and shoes to represent "clothes".

Stuff Sort asks children to sort illustrated cards into a box that includes a specific theme as well such as “cooking tools.”

Bucket Ball has a slight arcade element as one uses a slingshot to fling balls into buckets of a given theme, such as “groceries.” Although a bit of skill is helpful in this game, the flinging is forgiving and simple to use.

Who am I is another area that is a very good mini-game for multiple players as a drawing of a specific occupation is shown that a player must act out like charades, making this a difficult task to complete with one player.

This may be why I never landed on this question when playing alone, but I would love to see it removed from the spinner altogether for single players as I thought I was missing something by not having access to this activity when using this app as an individual.

It would also like to see an an option to allow adults to turn the timer included within these mini-games so as not to rush children during these activities, especially when they have to list five of a kind - be it species or birds or types of precipitation - topics children may need help with or just a little extra time to think about their answers.

I really do enjoy how Martha explains each new word theme for children to grasp various concepts, but it would be nice to have a button to skip over the game rules if one would like, as these explanations, especially when playing with four people, can take up a fair amount of time.

Even with the notes given, there is a lot to have fun with while playing Martha Speaks Word Spinner. I have had problems with this app closing abruptly on my iPad 1 after finishing the game, an issue that I hope can be smoothed out in the future because after the game is over, the "word bones" the player has collected during this app are listed and can be tapped to be heard - a valuable inclusion that worked well on my iPad 2.

iPad Screenshots

(click to enlarge)

Martha Speaks Word Spinner screenshot 1 Martha Speaks Word Spinner screenshot 2 Martha Speaks Word Spinner screenshot 3 Martha Speaks Word Spinner screenshot 4 Martha Speaks Word Spinner screenshot 5
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