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abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz Review

Posted by Nick Papageorge on June 22nd, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Yes, the name of the app I'm reviewing today is the entire alphabet. From this point on, I'll refer to it as abcdefg for the sake of my fingers.

I stumbled across this app thanks to the title, it initially seemed like a unique way to learn the alphabet and practice word sounds, but I soon found it was that plus a lot more and it turned into a favorite of mine and my daughters very quickly.

Upon opening abcdefg and hitting play, you're presented with a simple and easy to access play field. The alphabet is split into 2 halves, one on each side, running lengthwise on your device. At the top 4 different words: "Gravity", "Crickets", "Vehicles" and "Birds". At the bottom are 5 buttons, "Recycle", "Arrow", "Bomb", "Camera" and "Info". Honestly, this is all that you need to know to get started.

Simply take a letter from either side and drag it into the middle of the screen. When you let go, the letter will go off on its merry way. When my daughters first grabbed it, they dragged a few letters and nothing happened. Once the letters hit the edge of the screen, everything changed.

With gravity (the option selected by default), the letters simply move with your device. Each time the letters hit an edge, the "sound" of the letter is played.

Vehicles zip around the screen, making sounds as they move. Crickets skitter and make sounds when they group up together. Birds is the most diverse, with varied sound, tempo and pitch depending on where/how it's placed.

As each letter moves, it leaves a unique trail behind it, making a visual representation of the soundscape you, I mean your kids, are creating and it's easy to stop a single letter, group of letters, erase the whole picture or take a snapshot of the insanity using the buttons below.

People might dismiss abcdefg, but if you look closer at what the app actually provides, I think you'll find that it's an invaluable tool for kids. In the app, you're a conductor of sound, and you learn concepts like pitch and tempo. You also get a quick into to physics, seeing how the different letters move and interact with each other, things you don't often see in "kid" apps these days.

While abcdefg is no replacement for music lessons, it allows children to draw outside the lines of music and just perform these strange experimental mini-concerts with letters. Some of the things I've heard my daughters create simply blow my mind. They have to experiment in combining sounds together, finding ones that match in tone, pitch, whatever to create an appealing and melodic sound. They also end up with these crazy pictures of letters strewn everywhere. They get to interact with art in a way that I've never really seen, at least not in this medium.

I can honestly say that I think any kid would benefit from putting their hands on abcdefg, even if it's just to increase familiarity with the alphabet and word sounds. Beyond that, it's an introduction to physics and a way for kids to create experimental soundscapes, by simply placing letters on a screen, turning that into honest to goodness music.

For the price and for the features offered, abcdefg is much more than a simple novelty. It's an app that I recommend for kids and adults of any age. It's never too early (or too late!) to make crazy music and pictures. I look back in regret, wishing that I'd have had something even close to this as a kid, it might have gotten me that much more interested in creating and experimenting with music and sound.

Kids on the Farm Review

Posted by Sharon Cohen on May 31st, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Putting aside the fact that there are many apps and games about farms these days, Kids on the Farm is a cute, fun game for preschoolers to play by themselves with some initial guidance and parents to play together with their toddlers. It combines simple games with such skills as counting, colors, matching, size and sounds. The graphics are very simple, so it is easy for a young child to differentiate elements on the screen. In some cases, the children receive positive reinforcement “Great Job!” when responding correctly and a mild “Try Again” when they do not have the right answer. However, as I will explain, the app needs some revisions.

Each screen has a separate problem to solve with farm animals. In the counting screen, the child has to find the “cows” or “horses,” which are added up as they are found. Unfortunately, there are inconsistencies that need to be revised on the next go around. For example, the counting headline says, “Touch 4 Calves” and the child narrator says, “Touch the calves.” If a child only touches two of the four calves and then hits the arrow to go on to the next page, the narrator does not say, “Touch more calves,” or “You have some calves to find.” This is when it would be good for you to jump in and say, “Whoops. Can you find any more calves before we go on?”

In addition, especially with younger children, parents should also review the different names of each animal. For example, pictures of cows are also called “bulls” and “calves.” Similarly, sine screens ask the child to touch an animal of certain color. Or, a screen may ask the child to touch all the animals that make a certain sound that is made. Once again, the headline and narrator may say, “Which animal makes this sound?” and the animal shown may only be in the same family. The screen always shows baby chicks, for instance. When your child hears a rooster’s crow and is asked “What makes this sound?” it is necessary to equate the baby chick to the grown male hen.

In one of the games, the child has to find the “small” animals. Here, size does not equate to what the animal is in real life, such as a big horse next to a small chick. Rather, size is based on the graphic shown, for example, the horse may be shrunk down in size and the lamb enlarged. Sometimes, the difference in size between the animals is minor, so it may be difficult for a younger child to know which animal is larger. When making the right choice, the child hears that animal’s sound. The matching game consists of pairing up the right mother and baby and the “Which Animal Comes Next,” is a pattern game, such as dog, cow, dog, “what comes next?”

All the games get progressively more difficult, which is good way to continue learning and keeping the child’s attention. Overall, the educational concepts of Kids on the Farm are important for children of this age to learn. With improvements, some noted here, this could be a better learning tool.

Kidz World Pro Review

Posted by Sharon Cohen on May 12th, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

With thousands and thousands of apps available for adults and children, there will be some great ones, some that are so-so and some that are poor. And, of course, an app that one person loves another person will not think is that great. This happens with food, books, TV shows, and, well, just about everything. This the way that I am going to review Kidz World Pro: First, let me tell you my overall thoughts about the app. Then, I’ll take the other side and find some positive things to say.

Kidz World Pro calls itself a “creative application” that will keep your children busy. Its description of the app talks about the “the love and feelings between a parent and a child,” “bliss” “euphoria,” “alphabets are the first thing children recognize before they speak their first word” and, finally, “we hope that you’ll find another memory to cherish with this application.” Based on this description, I thought that this app would provide a “blissful” way for parents and children to interact and learn together. This is great. I believe that there should be many more apps adults and children can enjoy with one another, instead of the child just playing or learning alone. Then I tried out the app. Basically, Kidz World Pro is the same as many library books for toddlers and pre-schoolers that show different pictures of letters, numbers and objects. I remember sitting down with my sons with some of these books when they were learning to talk. I pointed to the picture and said, “This is a ball.” When they were a little older, I pointed to the picture and said, “What is this?”

Kidz World Pro includes the alphabet with a picture for each letter, pictures of fruits and their names in no special order and the same with vegetables, numbers, shapes with the number of sides, and colors that do not show how mixing colors make another color. There is also a series of children’s rhymes and the Jungle Baby story with difficult-to-read type. There is no interaction with the visuals on the pages. I would much rather go to the library and get a word book and look at the pictures. This is especially true since some of the fruit and vegetable names are not correct in American English, such as “bilberries” for blueberries.

That being said, I promised the other perspective. This app would be educational to use when you go to the grocery store and are looking at all the vegetables and fruits. Your toddler or preschooler can look at the pictures and keep busy while in the grocery cart.
When my kids were young, I used our time together in the car as a learning experience. Your child can look at the app while you’re driving along, and you can count together, talk about the colors and what things he/she sees outside with the same color, or talk about favorite fruits or vegetables. There are lots of games you can make up using the app as an added educational tool. The app would also be helpful for people who are learning the English language either in the U.S. or another country.