Recycling Workshop, the latest app from Jump App, is full of colour and creativity. A great companion to its sibling apps, Puppet Workshop and Imagination Box, it is a simple to use, child-directed creativity app. Your children will be able to make endless characters using recycled containers as a base and a range of recycled items as facial features and limbs.
Using the app
My children and I found the app very easy to use. The steps are simple:
- Choose a base from a variety of generic containers of different colours.
- Choose features from the different menus and drag them on to your character. Scroll up and down each menu to see the many different options for each category. Some items are drawn, but many are common items you may find around the home, e.g. Buttons for eyes, plastic cutlery or straws for arms, or a twisted chenille stick for a mouth. You are not limited to making “human” characters as there are props for animal features.
- Choose a background from several colours or even from your photos.
- Use the simple controls to resize, flip, and rotate each item to your preference. You can also undo actions.
- Simple drawing tools let you draw on the character or background, although you can’t draw over the features.
- Save a photo of your character
Little Lamb in Amsterdam, by Joshua and Donna Wilson, is two stories in one: a simple story of a little lamb on her cycling adventures, and a fact book full of historical, geographical and cultural information about the Netherlands. Little Lamb has an adventurous spirit and sets off on a cycling tour of the Netherlands, finishing in Amsterdam. Along the way she sees different things including windmills, tulips and wild flowers, canals, clogs and more.
Each page is filled with a colourful, interactive illustration and a line or two of text telling the story. Tap the bottom of the screen to show extra information. Find out about the different things windmills grind when little Lamb cycles past them. If you ever wondered why the Netherlands teams wear orange, you will find that fact on the page where Little Lamb celebrates their National day. Extra information is sometimes revealed In the animations; we are treated to some works of Dutch masters such as Vermeer, Van Gogh and Rembrandt when Little Lamb visits the Museums and Galleries, and see boats passing under bridges on the canals. Sometimes Little Lamb is hidden, and finding her becomes a fun hide and seek activity. Continue reading
The My First App series from appp media is a great favourite with the younger children in our home. I reviewed the first app in the series, My First app Vehicles, early last year. As of yesterday, the app has been updated with a new Spot the Difference activity, a new animation, and new sounds and animations. I’m reposting the original review today with the updates marked.
Puzzles are an important part of early learning. They help children develop spacial awareness, problem-solving skills and more. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of puzzle apps in the AppStore, so it can be difficult to choose one. My First App – Vol. 1 Vehicles is a great puzzle app from appp media, the people behind Professor Kim – What’s Missing Here. MFA Vehicles offers some traditional puzzles but with some great twists that make it supportive and high interest for a range of ability levels. Thanks to Kristin Heitmann of appp media for providing me with this app for the review.
- Attractive collage-style graphics – 16 different illustrations are used, although there are only 8 used per activity.
- Four activities: Puzzle, Matching Halves and Tilt Game and the new Spot the Difference game
- Background music (Here we go ’round the mulberry bush) can be turned off.
- Settings for children of different ability levels.
You may have seen virtual play house apps before where children can drag characters around different scenes and have them interact with different items. Toca Town does all of this with not just a room or a house, but a whole town. Along with different buildings, rooms and environments to explore, a bit of Toca Boca Magic has been added to create some wonderful surprises.
- Settings include a grocery store, restaurant (with commercial kitchen), two different types of home with multiple rooms, a park and a police station.
- Characters – When you enter most locations, you will find one or two characters, but you can add more characters to the scene. If you have other Toca Boca apps, you will have fun recognising some of the characters you have met in previous apps.
- Explore – Open cupboards and fridges to see what is inside: you can take things out and put them away. Characters can eat and drink any of the food, and carry or wear any if the items you find. Change the lighting by switching lights on or off, or opening curtains and blinds.
Junior Storytellers puts your child in the director’s seat to create simple animated stories with narration, using a variety of settings, characters and props. It is a great way for children to learn about how to build a story while engaging in creative play. There are two versions of the app available. I am reviewing the School Edition, which includes all content with the one price. The free version has limited content, with more story theme packs available with in-app purchase.
The main screen of the app is separated into four main sections: Create Story, My Stories, Awards and Settings.
There are two main story sections: Sandbox and Challenge.
Sandbox Mode – This section has two options: a learning mode and a create mode.
- Learn to Play guides children through making a story. It explains how to choose scenes, and to add, pose and change characters and props, and uses items from the Jungle theme only. It is a great place to start, and might also be helpful for children who might otherwise get a bit overwhelmed with choice.
- Create A Story gives children full access to the range of settings, characters and props. Children create a story one page at a time and can create stories of any length they choose.
Challenge Mode – This mode challenges children to create stories using a specific number of scenes. The first level is a single scene story and is a good place to start. Subsequent levels challenge children to create stories with several scenes. The first Level 1 has a single scene story, Level 3 has stories of 5 scenes, and Level 5 has stories with 9 scenes. The challenge mode starts with a quick video modelling the creation and recording of a story. After you have seen it a few times, it gets a bit tired, but you can tap on the big red cross in the top corner to turn it off. You can also turn the tutorial off using the app settings. Continue reading
Sago Sago is a developer that creates fun, child directed virtual toys for young children in the 2-4 age group. A favourite in our house is Sago Mini Forest Flyer, a fun virtual environment where children move a little bird around the screen and interact with the objects in the environment in fun ways. Sago Mini Space Explorer, which I was lucky enough to see before its release, has quickly become another favourite, particularly with Mr 2 who, upon seeing the app for the first time, yelled excitedly….
“Mummy! Puppy’s in Space!”
Sago Sago uses a few central characters in their apps: a bird, a cat, a fish and a dog. The hero of Sago Mini Space Explorer is the dog, (known in our home as Puppy) wearing his space suit, who gets to fly around exploring in space. As you move him around the screen, yellow spots indicate areas where the Puppy can interact with objects and characters, and there are other areas where just flying the puppy around will cause things to happen. Some examples of what you might find I this lovely little universe include:
- A robot who loves to hug (and who occasionally needs a bit of maintenance)
- A teleport machine
- Cat, Fish and Bird popping up in surprising moments.
- Assorted aliens to meet
- A spaceship to ride in
- Strange planets that do interesting things
- Asteroids to bump about
There are no boundaries in this little universe, so children can take Puppy off in any direction without hitting any frustrating walls or borders. Continue reading
Little Lost Note is the story of, well, a little lost note. The note wanders through the story looking for the instrument it belongs to, encountering a piano, guitar, trumpet and drums throughout the story. We get to explore the sounds made by these instruments until the Little Lost Note finally finds the way home to her right instrument.
- Interactive elements – The major interactive elements occur when the Little Lost Note meets the different instruments and you get to play them. The piano is similar to those piano simulation apps you may have seen, and you can tap a couple of notes at a time to play chords. We had fun strumming the guitar and even more fun when we found we could tap the fret markings and change the notes. The trumpet was a little trickier, until we found that you had to hold down the keys and tap the mouthpiece at the same time. It was interesting to find that each combination of keys on the trumpet can produce both a high and low sound. You can skip straight to the instruments via buttons on the front page of the app.
- Other Interactive Elements – Each page features some fun interactive elements, some of which repeat on other pages. Tap on a pile of dirt and Mole may appear (or disappear), birds might sing etc.
- Narration – The narration is clear and well – for a quiet, calm story. We love the British accent. You can turn narration off on the main page. We couldn’t find any way of making the story repeat, except by flipping the page back and forth.
- Highlighted Text – The text highlights as it is read, which is very supportive of emergent readers.
- Nighttime Mode – If you tap on the ZZzzz (in the top left of each page) to activate a special mode for calm, quiet, bedtime reading. The app dims to a level that makes a comfortable read in a darkened bedroom.
- Background Music – The background music is delightful, and you can listen for the different instruments that appear in the story.
- Illustrations – I love the original, colourful illustrations that are not too bright for a calm, bedtime story. There is a lot of clear space left for the text to display without it being obscured by different elements on the page.
Sticker Play: Knights, Dragons and Castles is Jump App’s most recent addition to their collection of educational apps. Like their other apps, Knights, Dragons and Castles is a creative play app where children take charge and direct the action in a simple and fun virtual environment. If you would like to win a copy of this app, please see the link at the end of this post.
- 5 different scenes – Scenes include castle interiors and exteriors, and landscapes. Scroll left or right to move about each scene.
- Characters – There are knights and soldiers in all sorts of poses and equipped with all manner of medieval armor and weaponry, a king and queen and assorted other castle folk. Each character has an identical twin in a different colourway so that you end up with two sides; The green knights and the red/yellow knights. Most have associated sound effects and small animations.
- Animals – Dragons in two poses (again in green or red colour ways), a griffin and a few dogs are available. There are a few horses with mounted knights, and one pulling a wagon.
- Props – A number of props help set the scene, including medieval war engines (battering ram and catapult), assorted tents, flags, and supplies for troops. There is even a sword ready to be pulled out of the stone by a future king.
- Sound – most of the scenes are outdoors (or partially outdoors) and feature sounds from nature. The castle interior scene features background sounds that such as footsteps, clanking and creaking, low murmurs, and other sounds that add to the atmosphere. Sound effects can be toggled on or off using the simple controls on the screen. For a quiet experience, adults can turn all sound effects and background sounds off using the parent controls (accessible from the main screen.
- Parent controls – Parents can control sound, screenshots (handy if you have limited space on your device) and the Jump App more apps banner. I love that the link to the AppStore (for ratings and reviews) is hidden from children. Jump App has a presence on all major forms of social media, but they don’t have direct links that children can access. Instead, all addresses are hidden in the parent section. Personally, I believe this should be a standard practice in educational apps and I’m sorry more developers don’t follow their lead.
The latest Toca Boca app, Toca Pet Doctor, lets your child be the veterinarian. It is aimed at ages 2-4 and the activities are well thought out for children of that age. They are entertaining and challenging without being frustratingly difficult.
Playing the Game
15 animals are in the waiting room, all with different ailments. You can swipe left and right to explore the scene and find them all. Tap an animal to start treatment. You might be putting eye drops into the spider’s eyes (he has a few!), bandaging a bump on the bird’s head, or helping an egg to hatch (can you guess what is inside?) After each animal has been treated, you get to feed them with an assortment of foods. Froggy gets butterflies, Mouse gets a cracker and there are no prizes for guessing rabbit’s treat. We can’t decide if the green reptile is a lizard, a dinosaur or a dragon, but it is a favourite with the boys. You can tell which animals have been seen as they fall into a contented sleep after they have been fed, although you can wake them up and re-treat them. Continue reading