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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.

Go Go Mongo! Review

Posted by Sharon Cohen on May 23rd, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

He’s a weird looking character, but Mongo is cute and loveable all the same. In the lowest levels of the game, he loves to eat vegetables and fruits, which is a big plus in my book. This is especially important given the growing number of overweight children. It’s at the top level that he’s eating donuts and cookies. Perhaps these treats could be more healthy? "Aw, mom!"

Go Go Mongo! is simple to play and a perfect way for preschoolers to learn how to tip their iPhone or iPod back and forth from side to side so that the falling fruits and veggies fall into Mongo’s mouth. The menu is easy to follow for choosing different levels. At each level, five pieces of a specific food need to be caught. The food that Mongo is supposed to eat is shown and named, so your children are learning as they are playing. At the higher levels, they need to distinguish one fruit or vegetable from another. This is a good cognitive skill for a preschooler. You probably will need to help at the beginning, and then your child will enjoy playing alone.

When your child catches everything without three mistakes, there are stars and a “Good Job.” I always like to see a game when the kids are rewarded. When three mistakes are made before getting all the food, which I did on purpose to see the fruits and vegetables get squashed, then it’s time to try again. Instead of just a “retry” box as comes up now, I’d like to see the narrator say something positive like “Let’s try again!” or “You’re getting the idea.”

Since the game is keeping track of the number of fruits or vegetables that Mongo’s eating, you could also use this as a very simple counting and addition/subtraction game. You can count together when each food starts falling. The number of stars that your child receives at the end depends on many fruits or vegetables are caught minus those missed. Colors are also another skill, since each of the foods falling from the sky is brightly colored. The music and scene changes seasons when going into the different levels, so then it’s time to talk about how these times of the year differ.

Both the game and the music are entertaining and catchy, as is Mongo’s grunt of pleasure when he gets his treat. It’s good for a laugh when he bangs into the corners when tilted too much or when the food, like a banana, gets smashed. And, while your children are laughing, they are developing their fine-motor skills, building their memory abilities and learning.