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Cricket Kids: Christmas Presents

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Amy Solomon on December 23rd, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar ::
Cricket Kids: Christmas Presents allows children to play with digital toys opened for the Christmas holiday.
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Fun Town for Kids Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Amy Solomon on January 8th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar ::
Fun Town for Kids includes fourteen town-themed interactive mini-games young children will be fond of.
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Zachy the Robot: Quest for the Museum Treasures Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 2nd, 2013
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Zachy the Robot: Quest for the Museum Treasures is a terrific interactive app that delves into different topics of natural history in a way that is sure to captivate children and their adults.

This is the second Zachy the Robot app. This one takes place again in Robocity, focusing on a group of robot friends, the Robocity Repairbots, who help their town with their problems, as their wheelhouse is fixing structural issues in buildings, as seen in the first app which focused on engineering.

Here, the gang is brought back to add exhibits to the newly built and empty Robocity Natural History Museum, explained in the bright, colorful and fun animated intro. I love how excited these characters are by the topic of natural history - an enthusiasm that parents will hope rubs off on their children.

Three sections are included, as the gang collect fossils, minerals and dinosaur bones to be later displayed in this museum.

The Fossils section begins with a map showing ten dig sites to choose from to search for relics. After choosing a site to work in, one will then use a chisel to dig under the ground to find buried fossils.

Once the treasures are dug up, a matching section is to be completed as index fossils are explored and the newly dug treasures are matched to boxes of previously dated fossils - though not yet unpacked.

Next is a maze area through which one needs to help a robot move in the museum with the exhibit - a space crowded with clutter and other objects not yet unpacked which creates the maze and the obstacles that one needs to navigate with the tilting of the iPad.

Once users are past the maze, the fossil is placed in the exhibit, and more is learned about what has been found. As other fossils are collected, do look back at this area of the app of Invertebrate Fossils ranging from both the Paleozoic and Mesozoic Eras.

In the mineral area, a list of minerals one can choose from is offered to the user, and once a choice is made, a map will show the different areas of the world where this mineral is sourced, sometimes including more than one location that one needs to explore in this content-rich educational app.

To source these materials, one must complete a simple logic puzzle that uses different minerals to complete the correct pattern. After the minerals are sourced, the mayor of Robocity appears to tell the workers that he needs various supplies for the city that are manufactured with the mineral in question, teaching children the practical uses for what was found, such as drill bits from diamonds, or zinc for sunblock.

Because of this, children will then need to sort mineral pieces for the museum worthy for showing as well as the more industrial samples and waste rocks that need to be discarded.

A nice animated section explains how the raw material is sent to a factory to ultimately be transformed into a useful product.

It is worth noting that both minerals and elements are included, sectioned accordingly in an area that saves the found materials to be read about later - a great resource to read to oneself.

The dinosaur exhibit section is just as interesting, allowing children to choose a dig site from a world map, dig for fossils as well as put these bones back together in a puzzle activity. Also included is a dinosaur-viewing screen allowing children to see with animation what the dino in question may have looked like when alive many years ago.

I really appreciate how the background seen at all the various dig sites from each of these three sections includes a specific scenic backdrop as well as related music that teaches a little about each area of the world visited - a nice touch, to be sure.

There is a vast amount of information for children to explore in this app developed in association with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, giving children many hours of science fun that parents will feel great about.

This is the second Zachy the Robot developed, and I can say we have enjoyed both apps very much. I can count the first app, Episode 1: the learning tower of robocity, on the short list of applications that my son often re-visits long after having been released. For a while now, he has been asking me when a second app would be available, and I can say that it has definitely been worth the wait.

I hope more apps from this series will be developed in the future as well because they are uniformly bright and colorful, both quite fun as well as highly educational, worthy for use in both home and in educational settings.

Gro Memo Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on April 1st, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Most adults remember playing “memory" - also known as “concentration” - as children, where cards or tiles are laid out in pairs face down and players have to take turns turning over two cards looking for mates, remembering where the other cards are in order to create matches.

This style of game is also a very popular one in an application form, be it the app’s main focus or an additional section found in a storybook so it is very nice to see a “memory” style game that really stands out from the pack in terms of game play and overall quality.

Here, Gro Memo is such an app - a dedicated “memory” game app, typical in its intuitiveness as children are asked to turn over tiles to look for pairs. Yet this app is special in how quickly the game can be played if one chooses, as these tiles turn back over with great speed - an issue I have with many other apps of this nature as the card-turning can seem tedious, which can often make these “memory” style apps a chore to share with a child.

Gro Memo has a lovely ecology theme that allows children to help clean up either a forest or ocean scene, with a lovely illustrated opening page showing the nature scene in disarray and the sad animals who need one’s help.

This app is bright and colorful but also includes a slightly edgy style that I greatly appreciate as one taps these sad animals who all demand change in their own way shown through modest yet effective animation. Also seen is a modest 3D layered effect that adds richness to this nicely realized app.

For each scene, three levels of varying degrees of difficulty are included, and I really appreciate how the tiles include simple animated moments with sound effects instead of stagnant images, adding elements not possible when playing this game with a deck of cards. Another interesting detail is how tiles to avoid are also included, showing things like a polluting factory or a boat with an oil leak, adding another layer of interest to this delightful ecology-themed app.

As a tester of these “memory” styled apps, I am also very happy to report that although the score is kept for every correct pair as well as pollution tile turned over complete with witty animation, the upper levels are locked until a certain score is achieved, there is no timer included with this app. Also, simple wrong matches are not counted against the player, so children can turn cards over as often as they like to look for matches and what to avoid without feeling rushed - really nice touches.

I have enjoyed Gro Memo a great deal. The message about preserving nature is charming, as are the animated tiles - something I have not seen in other apps like this. Because the cards are so very responsive to turning over, I have found that this app can keep up with my adult high speed game play, making this a fun game for all ages - even for the adults in the house. This makes for an app that I can easily recommend.

I would also like to point out this this is another app from Gro Play, the developer for The Adventure of Sophie the Sweater, a unique storybook with a recycling theme that I also greatly enjoy. I look forward to more apps developed by Gro Play, who have developed two highly effective apps.

Yummiloo Rainbow Power Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on March 27th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Yummiloo Rainbow Power, from the developers at Night and Day Studio, is an absolutely delightful universal, top-notch interactive app that teaches about healthy food choices in a way most charming.

When first exploring this app, one will watch a short introductory video that I found hugely impressive, with great looking, bright and colorful animation and music to rival the opening scene of any highly regarded children’s television program.

Presumably computer-generated, this video includes animation at its height of quality, including the details of the fresh foods shown in this scene - rich with realistic details, such as showing the tender delicate flesh of raspberries and other fruits, making this animated video, as is true of this application in general, a love letter to produce.

The included cheerful music is wonderfully upbeat - memorable and fun, even for adults and reminiscent of an indie band’s album for children. Narration is included which I greatly enjoy as well, talking directly to the user - wonderfully effective to be sure.

Here you meet Rooty, a sweet little root vegetable character and friends from Yummiloo who need help as the Rainbow Machine which powers their carnival is out of energy. To get this machine going again, children will have to help Rooty gather up fruits and vegetables that will power up the Rainbow Machine.

The Rainbow Machine is a Seussian contraption, styled with different colorful sections that all have to be filled up with corresponding colorful foods that are found in the garden and need to be tapped and dragged to a basket - also nicely color-coded. I appreciate how one needs to wait to pull foods that are fully matured as well as adding other foods to the compost bin, which then gets emptied back into the garden - a very nice choice.

Children will enjoy this activity with mild arcade elements as they sort by color, also learning each fruit or vegetable by name as children’s narration notes each food's name when added to the basket - a nice contrast to the adult who narrates prompts during this game.

When all the colored sections of the Rainbow Machine have been filled, this game is complete and children are rewarded with a video of the carnival in motion - a glorious display and quite the treat for children who spent the time to complete each color of the Rainbow Machine.

It is also worth noting that although the de-fault of this app is a dragging and dropping motion from the garden to the basket or compost bin, one can change these controls to a simple tap - great for toddlers who will gain so much from the color sorting and learning the names of these fruits and vegetables such as yellow squash or jicama.

This is a terrific app to re-enforce good eating habits, allowing children to fully appreciate the term “eat a rainbow.”

There is so much to love about Yummiloo Rainbow Power. It is sure to be a hit not only with children but with their adults as well. I am thrilled that this app is the first from a series of Yummiloo apps that I am quite eager to review in the future. I don’t think toddler and preschool families can go wrong with Yummiloo Rainbow Power - a special app that families will adore.

Herd Absurd! Mix, match & collect Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on February 5th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Herd Absurd! Mix, Match and Collect is a charming toddler app that adults and older siblings will enjoy as well.

Herd Absurd! is a mix and match slider game where children can scroll through various head, torso with arms as well as bottom and leg sections of many different animals.

This is not a unique concept among applications, but Herd Absurd is a stand-out in a sea of apps such as this with its use of bright and bold colors and whimsically stylized animals.

Hot spots are included on each slider, animating the arms, legs and head of these creatures, creating a cause-and-effect that children will be delighted about as well as intriguing enough for adults and older children to enjoy exploring.

Do pull down the window at the top of the screen to show the animals that one is being asked to create, making this a goal-oriented game with memory elements as well as a free play app allowing children to mix and match different animal parts to their hearts' content.

Also included on the pull down window are the other animals included in this app that children will be asked to combine. For each right answer, a sticker is added to their corresponding spot to make each animal found as complete - also a nice touch that will allow children to feel success as they complete these animal slider puzzles.

When each animal is combined, music and colors are used to congratulate players as well as super-cute if not a little bit cheeky animated moments which are included that I find entertaining and delightful.

As an adult I have had more fun with Herd Absurd! than I expected, and I think toddlers as well as older children will adore this app as well.

Happy Little Farmer Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on November 6th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Happy Little Farmer is a delightful universal interactive app for children which teaches young players about growing their own fruits and vegetables.

I really enjoy this application, consisting of 15 mini-games within three sections which allow children to grow their own gardens on three different scales - be it a few berries grown in a pot, a larger garden consisting of three types of plants at once, or a farm large enough to need industrial equipment.

Fruit Pot allows children to grow berries at home on their window sill, with tasks including pouring in soil and planting a sapling as well as adding water to help this plant grow.

I simply adore the addition of garden pests that infest the plant’s leaves, as children will need to drag and drop these fun, colorful insects into a glass jar, presumably for catch and release later as well as the removing of spiders which are also present.

Another wonderful moment included is the need to now prune the areas of the plant eaten by the bugs, as children pick up and use a very realistic pair of scissors, an element very effective in getting children to practice their pincher grip as well - great for fine muscle control.

Veggie Patch does a lovely job in demonstrating the sweat equity one may experience while really gardening, as one first needs to clean up the natural waste found, such as stray rocks, sticks, or leaves, sorting this refuse into bins before one begins to hoe the earth, later choosing what fruits or vegetables to plant, burying these seeds into the ground, and adding markers. Do look out for more insects that come back to snack on the garden once grown, removing these pests once more with a tap.

Finally children are able to pick the fruits and vegetables they worked so hard to grow, sorting them into the appropriate baskets in a timely manner as the produce will get moldy and fall from the plants if left on too long - a wonderful detail that makes me smile.

A wheat field is also included as children help drive big equipment - first to clear the ground of mushrooms and other debris and then to fly a helicopter over the crops to water them as well as harvest the wheat with a combine tractor.

While children work the land seen on the distant horizon, the foreground is filled with cute and fun anthropomorphic farm animals having tea parties or fishing, adding many details to enjoy and explore, as hidden hotspots are included throughout all of these sections, adding to the overall richness of this marvelous garden simulator for babies, toddlers and those in preschool.

The level of realism found within this app is simply lovely as I enjoy the inclusion of the bugs eating the leaves from these plants a great deal as well as the whimsy included as monster fruits can also be grown - odd berries of sorts - with varied colors that one feeds to the waiting monster when fully grown and ready for picking.

I also really enjoy how the sun sets and rises between scenes to give the sense that gardening takes time, and that days or longer will be spent cultivating and growing food that is to later be picked.

Another added bonus is the Easter eggs hidden throughout these pages, seen hidden in each of the 15 mini-games, although they can be hard to find sometimes, as I have yet to find them all even after looking carefully for them.

As this is an app for younger players, I would love to see hints incorporated to help children find each Easter egg as these eggs contain a sticker one can use to decorate Bunny’s house - a fun reward that children will want to fully experience, and should be able to, even if help is needed.

After every section is completed, each fruit that one has successfully grown and picked is checked off. Players will have to play both the Fruit Pot and Veggie Patch sections twice to complete all the included foods, and it is helpful to remember what has been grown to make other choices in the interest of growing all the available fruits and vegetables.

I do wish there were some sort of conclusion when all the produce is checked off and am seeing this as a missed opportunity. I am not a huge fan of the cheering between scenes, however, but I value some sort of conclusion. This kind of congratulatory cheer tends to be loud and grating, especially in contrast to the gentle game play and soothing music found within.

Happy Little Farmer is a wonderfully intuitive app for children that does not include any text or narration, making this a lovely neutral language choice for children of all backgrounds, instead including nice renditions of classic nursery rhymes, each pleasant to listen to. Muting the music is also an option.

Also included is a menu not only of the three basic sections of this app, but of the mini-games one can complete within each area, allowing children to find specific tasks to experience over and over again - a really nice touch which also includes some very cute bunny details, which is a real plus that children and their adults will enjoy.

My son is a real fan of this type of app - be it cooking, performing doctor-related tasks, fixing cars, and now gardening as well.

Happy Little Gardener is a terrific choice for any child who also enjoys these types of role-playing activity.

This style of app is a first for GiggleUp Kids Apps and Educational Games, who have also developed very nice puzzle apps to name a few. I do adore this style of young children’s role playing application a great deal, and I hope GiggleUp Kids Apps will continue to develop more apps of this nature, possibly involving a workshop - a theme yet tackled by any role-playing apps to date.

Bambi: Disney Classics Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 27th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Bambi: Disney Classics is a charming retelling of this classic story that children and their adults will greatly enjoy, complete with vintage illustrations and a lovely Disney musical score.

What I appreciate the most with this version of such a classic story is how very family-friendly it is. Until now, Bambi is not a movie that I have shown to my son as the idea of Bambi’s mother being killed by hunters, along with the forest fire, would be too stressful for my sensitive boy.

I enthusiastically accepted the chance to review this application, but I hid it on an iPad that my son does not have unsupervised access to - unlike the one fully loaded with kid-safe apps that my son has full freedom with, as I did not want him to wander into an application which might cause him needless worry or to sleep badly at night.

I am excited to announce how happy I was to read this application and to find this version of Bambi without any dark material whatsoever.

Many elements are still included from the Bambi that parents remember, such as the cast of friendly animal characters and the episodic coming-of-age moments as Bambi grows from a baby into an older deer able to venture out on his own, making this an utterly relatable tale where one gets to witness such moments as Bambi’s first spoken word and beginning use of language in a most tender way.

I admire how subtly sophisticated the included vintage illustrations are, filling up the page with drawn elements until the image is complete, sometimes also including a pan or zoom to create movement or focus the reader's attention - all elements that will not register with young readers, yet will still seem more engaging than a stagnant page within a story of equal length.

Simple, sweet, animated moments are also included which bring life to this story without ever being over the top or distracting in any way which all ages can’t help but be smitten by.

One has the choice to read this story, create their own recording or listen to professional narration, following along with highlighted text. The included narration is especially good here, nicely articulated to aid young readers at following along without any hint of condescension that I sometimes hear with other narrations which try hard to be easily understand.

It is not uncommon these days to find a few extras attached to a storybook application. This is the case with Bambi as well, here including coloring pages where one gets to fill in a nice selection of colorless drawings from the story with a good selection of colors using a fine pencil point or thicker paintbrush tip, each including four specific sizes. An eraser is also included, but I do wish this tool also included different sizes as well.

One is also given the chance to tap to zoom into these images to work on smaller details, as well as continued taps that move one to other close-up sections of the chosen image. I appreciate the ability to get close - a necessity when it comes to effectively using the paint bush method of coloring, but I do wish that in the zoomed mode, one could simple swipe a finger to navigate the page instead of tapping to be brought around the page. When complete, users are also able to save work to the camera roll on their device as well as email to others.

It does not surprise me that a “memory” style game is also included - a staple among extras. I do enjoy here how the animations used are in keeping with the period look of this application. To play, tap flower buds for them to momentarily open, displaying their petal colors inside. I enjoy the detailed animation that went into the opening of each bud, especially as different styled flowers are used - a nice touch, as is the Disney score players listen to while playing this matching game.

Another extra is dedicated to music - a great choice as the music found in Disney movies is always a draw in and of itself. Three modes are included as one gets to listen, learn and have a chance at free play involving a lovely musical score, tapping flower petals, rain drops and flying birds to add musical elements to the background music.

The Listening section allows children to see the flower buds and other details highlighted when played, while the Learning section allows children to see the highlighting as cues to tap to play along as well as to improvise as they see fit. The Play section lets children experiment making music on their own without any background music. I do think it would be a nice option to include the background music as well within the free-play section.

It is possible that a cynic or a purist could accuse this version of Bambi as sanitized, but I greatly welcome a version of this classic tale that I can share with my son without any violence or scary moments. I am sure other families feel the same. Because of this, I recommend Bambi: Disney Classics whole-heartily for all ages.

Where’s my Dress? Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 13th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Where’s my Dress? is an interactive application focused on teaching children about different outfits to wear corresponding with the seasons.

The first time viewed, one will notice right away within this app how bright and colorful the graphics are, rich with style, as one chooses from a girl or boy character to dress, complete with quirky hair and facial expressions.

After this choice is made, choose with a tap the season one would like to explore, denoted with the use of icons demonstrative of each season as here, no text is offered to read nor do these characters speak, making this a lovely language-neutral app that children of all backgrounds can enjoy no matter what language they are fluent in.

Once a season is selected, players are brought to their character’s room, nicely decorated for this time of year, such as Christmas lights and faint festive singing for the winter or a pretty collection of leaves for fall.

Do make note of the weather going on outside the window in this room as these will be valuable clues as to what clothing to choose for these characters.

Children will enjoy opening and closing the closet door, drawers and cabinets looking for clothing choices such as hat, shoes or boots, as well as a main outfit, complete with outerwear if needed. It would be a nice inclusion in the future if one could choose from a selection of individual clothing choices such as tops, pants, dresses or skirts to mix and match with as to be creative as well as weather appropriate when choosing an outfit for these characters to wear.

I really enjoy the social aspect of this app, as the characters will show happiness or displeasure with their outfit while being dressed, but the main test here is when the characters are allowed outside, and whether or not they are comfortable in their clothing or unhappy with the way they are dressed. If the players are successful in choosing the clothing correctly, they will be rewarded with a colorful conclusion - a nice touch.

Much of the information provided is nice to share with children, specifically about not wanting to be too cold or too hot, but sometimes the answers are subjective. I as a parent at first answered these answers wrong because it is unclear why one should choose a specific boot, shoe or hat, especially when one is not allowed to feel the weight of the material in question.

I also think it is interesting that here, Spring is though of as still quite cool as the ice and snow from winter is still cracking and melting, although I think of Spring as quite warm, yet not as hot as Summer, not a mistake per say, but a different way of looking at things.

This concern would be more of an issue without the use of the emotions of these characters, wonderfully portrayed with both expressive facial features - vocalizations both of glee and disappointment - making this a lovely app for children with special needs.

It is also worth noting that one can also tap a button asking the characters what they would like to wear, allowing the user to match these selections.

Children will find the look of this app very engaging thanks to the bright colors and fun, interesting characters one gets to dress. I admire the added benefit of deciphering the emotions that these characters express as well as the ability to match their clothing selections.

Sneaky Sam Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 10th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Sneaky Sam is a cute and fun universal interactive storybook about a mischievous young boy.

I am quite pleased by how this application creates a vintage look using elements such as distressed paper or wood grain background, includes a red, yellow and blue palette of colors and illustrative style which create a lovely period style of years past which I appreciate a great deal. Even the font used for the text and the yellow highlighting when read create a vintage feel that makes me smile.

Fun interactions will also charm young children who get to read this book with the use of included narration or listen to this book read out loud, possibly even using this book as an early reader.

This is the story of Sam, a spirited child. Most of his antics are harmless enough, such as hiding from his mom in the cupboard or riding his scooter through pigeons to make them fly about. Sam, however, does a few jerky things as well, such as hiding a spider in a girl’s lunch, making her scream, hosing down the family cat, making him hiss, or purposefully not following directions of his art teacher, then swiping pictures with another student, taking credit for the other child's work who is now left with the wrong picture for class, Sam saying “Sucker” as this swap takes place.

Being the mom of a “sneaky” boy myself, I would not be happy if my son emulated some of Sam’s actions. This is not to say that children will copy what they see in this simple application, and parents always have a chance to make parts of this book teachable lessons as well. Yet there are moments within that give me pause.

Because of this, I would love to see some changes to the sound effects, making the more socially offensive moments less concerning. These would include allowing the girl to not scream when seeing the spider, but possibly seem surprised and then laughing at this joke, and having the family cat not hiss so violently when sprayed with water but instead choosing a less upset feline sound effect. Above all else, I would really appreciate having the word “sucker” removed from this application for fear that this single word becomes part of my son’s vocabulary - a word that I find ugly and completely unnecessary within a children’s storybook.

Having said this, I do enjoy the look of this app very much, as I enjoy the interactive elements found within. It is also very nice that this application also includes a few extras.

The sticker page contains a hearty selection of stickers one can choose from, and I enjoy how one taps a traditional stamp to gain access to these stickers, in keeping with the period style of this app, as does the chance to change the color of the background, staining the area with color and reminding me of my favorite wood toys.

I am happy that this section includes an “undo” button as well as the chance to save the image created to the camera roll or to email completed work. Unfortunately, this does not save the sticker pages in use to work on for later - something that may make for a nice update in the future.

A Matching Pairs section is also included, consisting of eight cards that are individually turned over in the interest of making pairs, complete with fun sound effects when mates are created.

Find Sam is another area of this app, a really cute hide and go seek activity where children tap about Sam’s house looking for him, often finding other colorful characters instead, complete with more fun sound effects. An abundance of cute stylings is found here, as all the creatures as well as Sam hiding in this page which are seen quickly taking their hiding spaces and, if the player is paying attention, this gives him an advantage in finding Sam.

Babies and toddlers will especially appreciate how one can re-play this mini-game with Sam hiding in the same place, or interact with this section with a new hiding spot.

There is a lot to really enjoy within this app, as the look of this app makes it stand out in a sea of storybook applications. Upbeat music and sound effects make this a nice choice for children who enjoy stimulation while the vintage style of illustrations keeps this app classic looking and in a way and prevents it from becoming overly stimulating.

I do hope that the word “Sucker” will be removed from this application in a future update as this word does not have a place in a story that would, except for this issue, make a fun app for babies and toddlers, visually pleasing their adults along the way.

Motion Math: Hungry Guppy Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on September 2nd, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Motion Math: Hungry Guppy is an interesting math application for young children, teaching basic addition in a way that is fun and engaging.

As the name may suggest, this app focuses on a hungry guppy who would like to be fed the dots or numbers that float by which correlate to the number or dot seen on his chest.

Three sections are included using either a dot system for children who are new to learning their numbers, a section which mixes dots and numbers, as well as one solely using numbers to match.

I really enjoy this app. The look of this app is lovely, taking place at the bottom of the ocean, including stylized sea life such as beautiful, vibrant anemone as well as rays of sunlight penetrating through the water to the ocean floor for a very nice effect. Some fun animation is included such as what looks like tube sponges shooting out the number or dots encapsulated in circles, making the dots appear as the nuclei within fish eggs for hungry a guppy to eat - a nice effect as this is the way this guppy gets bigger after being fed the correct dots or numbers as is the way his mouth opens to devour these numbers or dots, momentarily seen in this fish’s belly.

To play, one may need to add dots, numbers, or both together with the drag of fingers to create the sum one is looking for, listening to relaxing yet upbeat music featuring the calypso drum along the way.

I also appreciate how the use of dots is a nice primer in subitizing, as children will quickly learn how to manage these dots without counting them directly, as well as allow children who do not know their numbers a chance to match these dot formations instead of the simple counting to be learned later within this app.

Children of all ages will especially like how they can work at their own pace making combinations - working slowly or quickly, making this app fun for a wide range of abilities. As an adult, I enjoy feeding the hungry guppy as quickly as I could as a simple yet fun brain teaser.

Please note that another related app, Motion Math: Hungry Fish consists of the same basic game play but is more challenging and advanced - a nice choice for older children up through adult and contains in-app purchases of modes focusing on different math functions such as subtraction or multiplication.

I am happy to say that this app, geared towards toddlers and preschool aged children, does not contain any links or in-app purchases, but it would be nice to teach basic subtraction this same way - be it a free update, separate application, or hidden in-app purchase that children are unlikely to come across on their own.

Timmy Tickle Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on June 19th, 2012
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Timmy Tickle is a charming interactive storybook application, less of a narrative than a short collection of activities that one can participate in alongside a friendly orange octopus named Timmy. Both iPad as well as iPhone versions are available.

Children will be drawn into this app by the first page when they are asked by both narration and text to tickle Timmy to help him with a sad mood. Although animated illustrations have become commonplace within applications, there is something a little special in the way Timmy moves, showing off the underside of his suction-cupped body as he giggles and wiggles that I find endearing.

Other moments include helping Timmy stay upright on roller skates, cleaning dishes at a sink full of bubbles, or helping Timmy with number recognition by tapping numbered-shaped balloons in order. A subtle orb is used as a highlight to help children make the most of these interactions - a nice touch.

One of my favorite sections is when Timmy asks for help playing the xylophone. Four songs are included such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Three Blind Mice” with the use of prompts that show children what notes to tap. It is especially nice that children can also choose to tap these keys themselves to create their own music as well as to deviate from the song they are playing in order to add their personal touches as well.

I also really enjoy the fruit dress-up game with Timmy, as here Timmy will change his shape and color to reflect one of five fruits such as banana, strawberry, or grapes, asking children to select the fruit he is emulating.

A really cute costume dress-up game is also included where children play with Timmy, as here kids need to match up an image to the dress-up costume Timmy changes into, complete with endearing details such as Timmy putting into place or removing his fake fangs when wearing his vampire costume.

Timmy Tickle ends nicely with Timmy’s eyes getting noticeably heavy, and children are asked to turn off the lights with a tap - a lovely way to end this fun book.

The only notes I have for Timmy Tickle is that I wish the narration would not come to a halt if the reader prematurely begin interacting with the page’s hotspots. Currently, children can easily miss some of the narration if they do not wait until the voiceover is over in order to investigate the page.

I am also not a fan of the “raspberry” sound used to demonstrate when readers choose an incorrect answer during the fruit and costume games. I may be more sensitive to this sound in general - a sound my son uses that we have a zero-tolerance for based on its rudeness as a whole, so I may be overly disappointed with this sound choice, but I believe there are better sound clues for a missed answer than this.

Even with these notes, children will have a lot of fun with Timmy Tickle. It is nice to see an animal like an octopus, not thought of typically as cuddly, get this level of attention in a storybook. The act of tickling and interacting with him in general will be fun for all.

Pip and Posy: Fun and Games Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on June 14th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Pip and Posy: Fun and Games is a universal app that brings the characters Pip, Posy and friends to life as the illustrations from this series, created by the highly regarded children’s illustrator and author, Axel Scheffler, are used within a collection of delightful children’s games and activities.

A collection of spot-the-difference is included where one must locate the different objects that are either missing or different on two similar illustrations. I enjoy how children can tap either side of these drawings to mark a difference and how this section contains a nice level of difficulty that preschool children and up will appreciate. Younger children will enjoy the wonderful illustrations of expressive animal characters, possibly needing some help from an adult or older sibling to complete these puzzles.

I really enjoy this section, as I do the upbeat children’s encouragement found throughout this app in general, much like the narration of Nosy Crows storybook applications that makes this “spot the difference” and the other areas of this app charming. It would be nice, however, if a “hint” button were included for those children who could use some extra help.

A coloring book area is included, containing seven pictures to color in and one blank page to draw freehand. Here, children color in these pages with a “paintbrush” style of painting as one uses a finger to paint with the drag of a finger, as well as emulating the use of a pencil point and crayon tip, not only affecting the line size but also texture as the pencil point draws a crisp thin and sharp line, while the paint brush creates a slightly more airbrushed, feathered edge to this line which is slightly thicker than of the pencil. I also like how the crayon tip produces a thicker, less opaque shade with a light touch, blending nicely with other colors the same way or creating a denser color if one colors over the same area. Six bright color choices are included, as is an eraser.

I appreciate how the progress in painting of these images is saved as the images to be colored contain a lovely amount of details to be filled in, and I can imagine children wanting to come back to their work after visiting other sections or at a later time. It would be nice, especially within the iPhone application, if a way of zooming in to color details were possible.

Matching Pairs is nice “memory” style game where players flip over cards in order to create pairs. Three levels are offered with the number of cards in play varying from eight to eighteen. It is nice to play this game without any type of time or score being kept, and the images found when players flip these cards over are cute and fun as well.

Jigsaw Jam is a lovely collection of jigsaw puzzles children can work on. These puzzles range from six to eight pieces that need to be dragged and dropped into their correct spots within their puzzle. I like how a reference picture is offered that is separate from the background one is working on, creating a very realistic puzzle experience, as does the subtle yet satisfying “click” of these pieces when they are correctly placed within the puzzle, also including a sense of “grab” as the pieces are slightly drawn to their correct spot if brought close - a detail that may not be missed until one works with a puzzle application without this element and then understands how important this element really is.

Users with a device containing a forward-facing camera will also enjoy the Make a Face area of this application as players get to create a face within a mirror that corresponds to the expression of a character expressing emotion, be it surprise, happiness, or a fun monster face.

This is a great section as I often admire the look of the expressive characters found in Scheffler’s illustrations in such books as The Gruffalo, and it is great fun to mimic these terrific characters from within this app. Recently, after re-downloading this app I was successful at getting the included photo saving function to work for me, a nice inclusion I am glad to have access to.

Rest assured that families not familiar with Axel Scheffler will be equally fond of this application. These illustrations may encourage one to check out Scheffler's work, as his style of illustration is simply wonderful. I also have enjoyed the music found within this app, utterly Nosy Crow, making me curious as to when another one of their interactive storybooks will be released.

All Aboard the Dinosaur Train! Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on June 4th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

All Aboard the Dinosaur Train! is a fun game for iPad based on the hit PBS show of the same name.

The concept of this game is simple, as one fills the different passenger cars up with different sized and shaped dinosaurs that are running around in the foreground of this application.

One fun element of this app is how players need to first catch the dinosaurs as they run randomly across the page, then dragging and dropping them to the train car that they will fit best in.

Five levels are included, each with its own conductor-themed reward that one collects such as a whistle, flag or conductor’s hat. When these levels are complete, one will be further rewarded with a link to pbskids.org to download and print out a special prize as well.

My son loves dinosaurs, my son loves trains, and my son also enjoys watching the show Dinosaur Train. It is nice to see him enjoy this app as well, as he has a lot of fun trying to chase the dinosaurs, grabbing with a tap and dragging them to waiting trains.

My four year old also really enjoys matching the dinosaurs to the correct size train. On more advanced levels that include a few dinosaurs, this game has a nice level of challenge for him as it may be easy to spot a dino that is too big, but creatures too small will not work either. I also enjoy seeing him line up the dinosaurs to find that a head or tail is sticking out the train or too much space is left behind, he drops one dinosaur for another.

My boy has also taken to playing the two player game by himself as this doubles the dinosaur train cars one needs to complete the train, adding more to do in each round.

I also appreciate that while playing, the total amount of dinosaurs that ultimately fit within this train as a whole changes, creating a fun, be it chaotic scene with dinosaurs running amuck all over the page styled like a train platform.

After playing a few rounds, my son has developed a strategy for this game as he checks the board for the smallest and largest dinosaurs, leaving them for when the corresponding train cars are needed to be filled, also developing an understanding about which of the middle-sized dinosaurs are actually bigger or smaller, aiding in his ability to fill these train cars with ease.

I am also a fan of how the conductor sometimes gives hints to the correct dinosaur one is looking for, such as smaller or bigger. I wish these clues were given after each wrong answer as sometimes a less helpful “try again” or “not this time” is spoken instead.

As an adult, I do wish this app had more variety, both in game play as well as in appearance, wishing each level had a different train station setting or different-looking dinosaurs for an increased visual interest instead of simply adding more cars to the mix.

It would also be nice to hear dinosaur information such as their names or size when entering the train, and a few more levels and longer trains would make this app more content-rich as well - not a huge concern of my son’s as he is happy to start from the beginning when each level has been completed.

Even with my included notes, I can say that my son finds this application fun and engaging. Time will tell if my son continues to be as enamored with this app as he is now, seeking this specific app out when getting his hands on our iPad, but I do think toddlers or those in preschool who like dinosaurs, trains, or the PBS show of the same name will enjoy this application.

Coloring Smart - Fun and Education for Kids Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on May 22nd, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Coloring Smart is a lovely new coloring book app, bright and colorful, which includes a nice choice of pages to work on using the “paint bucket” style of tapping sections of the included images to fill these spaces in with color - my personal favorite method of coloring apps.

I really enjoy how this app reinforces the knowledge of numbers and shapes as well, using them as a guide for making correct color choices.

This app includes six subjects such as animals, vehicles or flowers. Each of these sections contains three modes to choose from in terms of filling in these coloring pages - specifically two pages each of matching shapes, numbers or simple addition questions each with their correct answers found at the top of the screen, arranged within the color choices of paints - much akin to “paint by numbers.”

I really like how shapes are included in two of the sections that also contain less intricate details and larger spaces to be filled in. Players must look closely at the picture they are coloring, as faint gray shapes can be seen in the background of the different areas that make up this page. Although this is a beginner page with fewer details, I enjoy the use of shapes as it is a little different than other apps like this which commonly sticks to letter or number recognition.

It is also nice that the levels dedicated to numbers and simple math are nicely detailed, including a few that are hard to determine what the final image will look like until completely filled in - something that I enjoy.

I appreciate that this app is universal, but before downloading to my iPhone, I was concerned that the images and individual spaces to be filled in would be too small to comfortably work on with the smaller screen of the iPhone. I am happy to say that this app looks and plays equally well on the iPhone as it does on the iPad.

Intuitive to use, I think children will have a lot of fun with Coloring Smart as do I. Pleasant background music is also included as are congratulatory sounds when pages become complete as well as a few sound effects when selecting and filling spaces with color. It would be nice to mute any of these sounds - specifically the cheering after completing a page to make this app a charming, quiet app as well.

Having said this, Coloring Smart is a very nice coloring book choice. I do hope more pages are included in the future.