Archive | March, 2013

Sassy Cassie – PicPocket Books

27 Mar

SassyCassieSassy Cassie, written and illustrated by Nancy PLA Schneider, is two stories for the price of one.  Cassie is an imaginative and creative little girl who loves to colour her world.  Despite having all the toys a child could wish, Cassie favourite toy is her mother’s makeup.  Cassie loves to use her and her friends’ faces as a canvas.  (I’m sure I’m not the only mother who can relate to this scenario!) Her increasingly exasperated mother manages to extract a series of promises from Cassie about not using her makeup, although it seems Cassie is an expert in finding loopholes in promises and rules, not unlike a child dear to my own heart. Katie eventually manages to find another interesting way to express herself creatively.

sassycassie1

At the end of the story, Sassy Cassie receives her very own art equipment in Color Mixing with Cassie.  She experiments with blending primary colours to make secondary colours, and plays with black and white to make shades and tints in her search for the perfect pink.  While I’ve seen apps that explore primary and secondary colours, I’ve never seen one that looks at shades and tints.  It would be useful to read this part of the story before art activities, and then have children see which colours they can make.
But wait:  there’s more!  In addition to a great story and an art lesson, the Color Fun Quiz section rounds off the app with a series of comprehension questions.  The question is written and narrated.  Tapping the Answer button will reveal the answer.

Features

  • Easy navigation – swipe pages to move through the story.  You can also swipe backwards to hear a page’s narration again.
  • Audio can be turned off
  • Text is highlighted as spoken.  This feature is supportive of emergent readers who are reading along with the narration.  This feature is only available in the main part of the story, but not available in the Color Mixing or Quiz sections.
  • Beautiful illustrations by PLA Schneider
  • Clear and expressive narration by Sylvie Ashford
  • Art lesson about mixing colours.  Cassie narrates as she experiments with colours, mixing primary colours, white and black to make secondary colours, tints and shades.
  • Quiz section

sassycassie2

Wish list

It would be useful for children to hear words spoken aloud as they are tapped.  I’d also love to see the highlighting of words as they are spoken extended to the second part of the story. Children with a hearing impairment, or those reading the story in noisy environments, may have difficulty hearing the answers in the Fun Color Quiz, so it would be great to see the answers also available in text and/or illustration.

Verdict

Sassy Cassie is a delightful app that gives you a funny story as well as a lesson in art.  Children will be amused by Cassie’s antics and inspired by her creativity.  Parents will be amazed by how Cassie’s mother manages to keep her composure when facing “trying” times with her precocious daughter.   An enjoyable and educational reading experience for all.

This review was originally published on The Appy Ladies blog.  The Appy Ladies are running  a giveaway of the iPad version of this app until April 04, 2013.  You can enter tbe Appy Ladies Rafflecopter Giveaway here.

Sassy Cassie HD - PicPocket Books

iPad version, requires iOS 4.3 or later.
Price:  $2.99

Sassy Cassie - PicPocket Books
iPhone version.  Requires iOS 4.3 or later.
Price $1.99

 

Baby Learns Simple Shapes

21 Mar

baby learns shapes app iconThe latest offering from Bebebe Co.  is a fun app for learning shapes, and I’d like to thank Tanya Kolosova from Baby Learns for allowing me to be part of the Beta Testing process. Like the other apps in the series (Baby Learns Colors and Baby Learns Simple Objects and ) there are three different activities, both with two modes: Play and Learn. Each activity also has a child character, or avatar, that guides the child through the activity. A reward system for correct answers is motivating and fun.

Activities

Find the Shape

iPadShapesChooseGame

Ten shape characters are on the screen: square, circle, triangle, rectangle, moon, star, oval, rhombus, pentagon, trapezoid. As you tap each shape, the avatar says its name. Shapes animate at random: they might dance, grow flowers, clean up, play or do other surprising things. In Play Mode, the avatar says the name of each shape as the shape is tapped. In Learn mode, the avatar asks the user to find a specific shape. Correct answers receive praise, while the avatar prompts the child to try again after an incorrect answer. Sometimes my children were distracted by the animations and went to tap the animating shape rather than the correct shape. I’d like to see animations used as a prompt. My 5 y.o. Was not familiar with some of the shape names, such as trapezoid and rhombus, but he quickly picked them up. My youngest child is not yet two, but when he is a bit older I’ll be trying the activities with him and I’d love to be able to reduce the number of shapes on the screen so that we can just start with two or three and build up to the full ten.

Load the Shapes

In this second activity, children drag the shapes into the back of a truck. My children loved dragging the shapes with their legs and arms kicking (happily) and dropping them into the truck. In Learn mode, users can load the shapes at random and hear their names spoken. In Play mode, users are asked to load a specific shape. Incorrect answers are identified, and correct answers receive praise. Again, I’d like to be able to adjust the number of shapes, at least in Play mode, so that it would be suitable for a variety of needs.

Make a Picture

This is the favourite activity in my house. Shapes are matched to the shapes outlined on a picture. Once the picture is complete, the scene animates. In Learn mode, simply drag the shapes to their place and hear their name spoken. Incorrect shapes will just snap back to place. The Play mode is same, except that correct answers are counted towards rewards. The only thing I’d like to see here is more pictures, as my children just love it. They have put in requests for space ships and tractors.

Other Features

Rewards

iPadTreesLiftBaby Learns Shapes uses the same reward system as the other Baby Learns apps, and it never gets tired. Bebekas are the cute characters that your child can earn for every 5 correct answers in Play mode. Bebekas are added to an interactive environment where your child can play with them. Scroll left and right to see the full environment, which fills several screens. You can move the creatures around the scene, interact with objects in the environment (you must try the trampoline) and feed them from a selection of foods. We found some extra surprises in some of the buildings, but I’m not giving any spoilers, so you’ll have to look for yourself.

Avatars and Voices

iPadVoiceoversEnglishThe avatars are little boys and girls with assigned voices. The app comes with Morgan (Female, US English), Jules (male, French) and Ivan (male, Russian). You can download others (several other languages are already available) or you can record your own voice. Recording is very easy to do, and I’d encourage you to try this with your children so they can hear their own voices. When you record a voice, you are also able to choose a different avatar. There are three boys and three girls to choose from, each with different racial characteristics. Baby Learns encourages people to submit their voice overs so that others can download them.

Parent Section

The Parent Section is accessed by double-tapping a subtle link at the top of the main screen. Children will be unlikely to get access to it by random tapping. It has links to a YouTube video of how to record voiceovers, more information on playing the game, information about other Baby Learns apps and competitions and links to the AppStore and social media.

Verdict

While there are a couple of features I’d love to add, I think this is a great app for helping children learn and recall the names of common shapes.  I’d recommend that children just starting to learn the shapes spend some  in the Learn modes before they tackle the Play modes. Different language options make it suitable for children of any nationality, and useful for those learning a second language.  The Bebekas are motivating and fun rewards, which guarantee children will not tire of the game.  My five y.o. loves it, and I’m looking forward to introducing this to my youngest child when he is a little older.

Giveaway

If you would like to win a copy of this great app, please leave a comment below.  The first three comments will receive a code for the app, courtesy of Bebebe Co.

Baby Learns Colors - Bebebe Co.Publisher:  Bebebe Co.
Universal
Price:  $2.99

Katie Loves Everyone Together

6 Mar

Katie Loves Everyone Together - Page 1

Developer: PicPocket Books

Reviewed by Sarah DeBellis and originally published by The Appy Ladies

katieLETSome stories can be a great help for preparing children for life’s ups and downs, for example new babies, visits to the hospital, even a topic as sensitive as death.   This kind of life story can help to provide vocabulary for children to express their feelings, and are a great starting point for discussion.  They can also let children know that they are not alone.  Katie Loves Everybody Together by Annie Monique Chalifoux is one of those stories.  It is the story of how a family copes with separation as seen through the eyes of Katie, their little girl.

The story starts with the family together, but as the story progresses, Katie sees her parents are unhappy.  Katie is worried and blames herself, but her parents realise and talk things through.  Finally Katie’s father moves into a new home and the story looks at how Katie adjusts to living in two homes.  The message throughout the story is one of love and respect, as both parents guide their children through this major change in their lives.  The child’s fears and concerns are dealt with, and we see her happily living her life in two homes.

KatieLETpage2

Features

  • Easy navigation – swipe pages to move through the story.
  • Audio can be turned off for those who wish to read aloud themselves or to read silently.
  • Text is highlighted as spoken.  This feature is supportive of emergent readers who are reading along with the narration.
  •  Beautiful illustrations  – The story is beautifully illustrated by Jennifer Kalis.
  • “Hidden Sounds” – Sounds from the environment, such as birds chirping or a child giggling,  are “hidden” in each illustration.
  • The expressive narration by Allison Cohen is well-paced.
  • No external links to websites, social media or advertising.  This is a safe app for children.

Verdict

Normally when I review eBooks, I look at features that are supportive of emergent readers, for example I’d love to see an option to replay narration on each page, and I’d like to be able to click on individual words to hear them spoken aloud.  While I’d still like to see these features, in this case these supportive features are not as important as the message of story.

Katie Loves Everybody Together is a story that is aimed at a wide range of ages, including toddlers, and it might be a great help for young children in Katie’s position.

Katie Loves Everybody Together HD - PicPocket BooksiPad Version
Requirements:  iPad Requires iOS 6.0 or later.
Price $1.99

Katie Loves Everybody Together - PicPocket BooksiPhone Version
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.
Price:  $0.99

Links:

Website: http://www.picpocketbooks.com
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/PicPocketBooks
Twitter:  @PicPocketBooks
You Tube:  http://www.youtube.com/user/picpocketbooks
Author’s website:  katieandmatty.com

My First App – Vol. 1 Vehicles

4 Mar

My First App Vol 1 VehiclesPuzzles 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.

Features

  • Attractive collage-style graphics – 16 different illustrations are used, although there are only 8 used per activity.
  • Three activities:  Puzzle, Matching Halves and Tilt Game.
  • Background music (Here we go ’round the mulberry bush) can be turned off.
  • Settings for children of different ability levels.

Activities

My First App Vol 1 Vehicles - puzzle activity

Puzzle

There are 8 different vehicle images to choose from, and you can use the settings to set the difficulty level from 2, 4, 6 or 9 puzzle pieces. For extra difficulty, you can select the rotation option that flicks some pieces around.  Use two fingers to rotate.  Children see the complete picture before it is broken into squares.  Drag and drop the pieces to the correct spot to complete the puzzle.

mfahalves

Match halves

This activity uses the same 8 images as the puzzle activity.  Two mis-matched vehicle halves appear on the screen.  scroll either half up or down until you find two halves that match.  Each vehicle has a different colour as a background, and this can help with the matches.

MFAtilt

Tilt ball game

This is a favourite activity in my home at the moment.  The 8 images used in this game are different to those used in the other two activities, and each has three “holes.”  Tilt your device to guide the ball into one of three holes in the picture.  When the ball enters the hole, it triggers an animation and the hole disappears.  The activity is complete once the ball has been guided to the three holes.

The latest update added the option to drag the ball to the hole, which will be helpful for those who find the tilting activity too difficult, for example very young children, or children with fine motor difficulties.

This YouTube video by appp media gives a great overview of the app.  You can see each of the games, plus the puzzle settings in action.

Things I love about this app

  • Simple operation – The layout of the app is clear, with simple controls that are easy to master.
  • No language barriers – there are no written or verbal instructions, making it suitable for children of any nationality and for children with a hearing impairment.
  • No external links, in-app purchases or advertising.  There is a web address for appp media that you can read via a subtle information button, but it is not a live link.
  • Supportive features – the different difficulty levels, the coloured backgrounds, and the drag option in the tilt game all allow this game to be used by children with a variety of physical and intellectual abilities.  It will be well suited to special ed environments as well as being great for families with children of different ages and abilities.
  • Graphics – I love the collage-style graphics. Perhaps I’m biased as I’m a keen scrapbooker, stamper and card-maker myself, but there is something entirely gorgeous about these illustrations.

Wish List

I really can’t think of anything I’d add to this app, except perhaps some more vehicles.  There are enough to keep any child happy, but you can never have too much of a good thing 🙂  The name of the app gives you a clue that there is at least one more volume in the planning.  I’d love to see the same activities done with animals. My children would have a lot of fun making up funny animal names in the matching halves games (e.g. Pig + Cow = POW).  I’d also like to see volumes with themes such as household items or rooms, healthy food, and toys.

Verdict

appp media has once again produced a great early concepts app that offers more features than most apps. My First App – vol. 1 Vehicles is bright, fun and great value.  I look forward to Volume 2.

Publisher:  Appp Media
Price:  $1.99
Universal

My First App - Vol. 1 Vehicles - appp media

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