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Mom's Garden: A Handmade Story Review

Posted by Sharon Cohen on July 7th, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

For many reasons, storytelling is important for children of all ages—and, even adults. Long before writing and way before the invention of the printing press, people would pass their history and culture from one generation to the next with storytelling. Consider the many different skills involved for the participants. The storytellers needed a rich vocabulary, excellent memory of facts and information, imagination, acting ability and body language. The viewers required many of the same skills: vocabulary, memory and imagination. They were learning the stories in order to pass them on to others.

Children hear many stories today. In fact, they are bombarded with stories from everything they watch, read and play. I truly am a fan of today’s technology and all that it offers children for education and entertainment. Yet, as with any new technology, there are always pros and cons. In many cases, the TV shows, videos, and computer games stifle creativity and imagination. It is not necessary to imagine a character’s appearance or what it is like to fly on a dragon. The players can actually see that character or get on the dragon and fly to different locations. The videos spoon feed stories, plots and endings.

This whole introduction brings me to the app Mom’s Garden: A Handmade Story. I greatly appreciate this app for several reasons. First, it encourages parents and children to spend time together. Especially for younger children, this is not an app that can be enjoyed alone. Most important, it requires making up a story. Your children can choose a character(s) and background and move the character around anywhere in that background. They can also change the expression on this character. Then you need to create a story about this character by actually typing in the words. The sentences can be placed anywhere in the background, as well.

Here’s a very simple story I made up. I chose the castle as the background. I then added a boy and girl as characters and placed them smiling side-by-side in front of the castle. I saved that page and went to page two. I showed only the boy and typed in, “Do you want to play with me?” On the third page, I showed only the girl and typed in “Ok.” Finally, on the fourth page, I showed both the boy and girl together again. Yes, a very simple story, but a story none the less. The child needs to decide where the story occurs, who will be in the story and what takes place. The parent can ask the child to relate what is happening to the characters and type in very simple words and sentences. Older children will be able to read these words and even help their parents spell or type them on the page.

I would like to see additional backgrounds in a future app version. The background buttons are difficult to see, because they are very light. The boy and girl characters need to be more ethnically diverse. The author definitely needs someone to proof the copy and correct the spelling errors. However, I love the idea of this app and would very much like to see more like it.

Giggle Bear Review

Posted by Sharon Cohen on July 6th, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Many of the newest children’s apps now have 3-D visuals, which add considerably to the game or book’s interest. Giggle Bear, a virtual adaption of the Build-a-Bear concept in the stores, is a three-dimensional rabbit, bear or moose that is created by your child. In fact, this app was developed by a tweenager, Brooklyn Cly, who wanted children to have something that takes longer than five minutes to play. Apparently, Cly’s dad challenged her to produce an app that would be more imaginative and bring in some added income. Surprisingly, to everyone, Brooklyn accepted the challenge. Sitting in the back seat of the car as the family drove from a visit in Ohio back to New York, Brooklyn sketched out her idea. She went to her friends for help with some of the features and then started looking for a developer.

In the app, children have several different options to design their own animal and then bring it to life with a birth certificate. The app teaches a step-by-step process, since the bear can only be built in one designated way. On the other hand, your child has the opportunity to customize the animal and make it his or her own. First the child chooses the animal and its facial expression from a range of different faces. It is then stuffed and adorned with a heart and named. You can even record a special giggle for the animal.
Once your animal is born, your child can give it a bath in the right water temperature, pick a song on the radio and buy some clothes to wear, which depend on whether the bear is a girl or boy. It is then on to the playroom for the more creative part of the app. It is always interesting to compare what can be done in the virtual world versus the real one. In this activity, the stuffed animal can be thrown around as high in the air as possible, swung and even thrown against walls and floors. All the while, it continues to laugh and have fun.

Next, the app includes four different games that combine education with entertainment. Each one, “Memory,” “Balloon Toss,” “Stargazer,” and “Music Match,” has different ability levels and a scoring system that hands out trophies and records the highest score. Since this is a virtual game, the points can be used to purchase accessories without actually spending real money. Because the app has a radio, any music that has been previously recorded can be played.

While she was creating the app, Brooklyn’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. After treatments, she was on the road to recovery. The Clys decided to have a portion of the proceeds from Brooklyn’s game go to breast cancer research. The Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer will receive up to $50,000. So far, Giggle Bear, similar to most of the other apps with the Apple Store, has not brought in loads of money. Yet this is a great example of a very young entrepreneur taking present-day technology and using it to benefit others.