Shape the Village is a delightful world created by WiseKids where children can explore shapes in amusing and entertaining ways. The village is a little “unpopulated” when you first enter the app, but as each activity is completed more items are added until the village is complete. The completed village with 16 activities fills two screens of your iPad, and children can swipe up or down to move between these areas.
Activities – There are 16 activities, each with several different variations so that your child can return to the same activity multiple times with difference in shapes and/or characters each time. I don’t have the time (or patience) to mention all the activities, but here are just a few:
- Rocket ship – the rocket’s window (a different shape each time) is dirty. Clean it to find an astronaut made of the same shape.
- Caterpillar – tap and hold dots on a leaf to guide a caterpillar as he eats a shape path through a leaf.
- Bakery – colour in each shape with a different spread, e.g. spread jam on the square toast, frosting on the triangle cake, or chocolate icing on the biscuits (or cookie for my friends in the USA and Canada.)
- Orchard – pick the fruit on the trees and load it on to the truck. There are outlines indicating the shape of the fruit required, for example a row of squares for the square apples. A couple of red herrings (in the form of a square bird and a piece of fruit with a bite) out of it will bounce off the truck if you try to load them.
- Farm – drag the tractor along the shaped path to till the soil, plant the seeds and then water. Once the shape has been traced three times, flowers grow.
You can see some of these activities, plus the introduction to the app, in this YouTube trailer from WiseKids.
Graphics – The graphics are bold and bright. Most activity screens are not very “busy” so children can focus on the task at hand. The main screen fills up as activities are completed and more activities are activated, but there is enough space around each area that children have little trouble finding their favourites.
Pace – There are no time limits so no time pressures, but it only took my toddler a minute or two for each activity. During our review period, I whipped out my iPad while we were waiting for service in cafes, and found that one or two activities kept us both entertained until our drinks and his treat arrived.
Variety – The variety of activities, most focusing on a different randomized shape each time you play, means that Mr 2 has not grown tired of this app yet and enjoys it immensely. I used Guided Access with him, but he hasn’t tried to exit the app yet, which is a big sign that he is engaging well with the app.
Reinforcement – The name of the shape is repeated as children complete the activities. Mr 2 often repeated. The end of each activity results in a very brief reward screen where the character might do a “happy dance” or blast off or something.
Simple Navigation – Mr 2 found it easy to swipe between the two parts of the scene. Although there are a lot of characters and activities on the screen (particularly after the 16 activities have been completed), he had no problem finding his favourites and tapping them.
Workbook – Hold down this button for 3 seconds and you’ll find a range of activities you can do with your child away from the iPad. Not only can you print out the activities, but you can also create individual profiles for each of your children and track their progress. As the activities are done away from the iPad, the reporting relies on parents, teachers or caregivers entering information after each activity. Some of the activities are worksheet style, but others involve playing games involving items around the home. It is a great way for children to make connections between the shapes they are exploring and learning about on the iPad and the shapes in their own environment.
Entertainment Value – The target audience is clearly preschool aged children or younger, or those with special needs, but while using this app with my youngest child, Mr 2, my sons, Mr 9, Mr 8 and Mr 6 couldn’t help but join in as it was so much fun for all of them. They loved seeing which activities would load next, and the different changes in the activities. They found the characters amusing and were quite happy to play the app with their younger brother. To me, this is a big strength. A child on their own might learn something from an iPad app or a computer program, but two or more children using the same iPad will start talking, problem solving and sharing. When my older children use this app with their little brother, they are modelling the language and reinforcing the concepts he is learning.
Safety – there are no in-app purchases and children will not be able to find the few subtle external links to the WiseKids website that are hidden behind parental controls. There are no links to social media, although WiseKids has a FaceBook page if you would like to contact them that way. If you are using Guided Access, these links will not work at all.
I really don’t have much I could ask of this app, but, just to be picky, here are a few:
- A few more shapes – I’d like to see some activities with stars, rectangles and ovals. Maybe that is another app?
- Mr 2 really wants to be able to do something with that train. (He is obsessed with trains!) Perhaps he could put shapes on carriages or something like that. (If WiseKids makes a whole app just about trains, we will buy it.)
- I’d like to adjust the volume of the background music and maybe turn it off, while leaving the other sounds operating.
Shape the Village is a fantastic app for children learning about shapes. It is fun and engaging, so I’m betting your child won’t initially guess they are actually learning something. Shape the Village is worth the price even without the workbook activities, but the inclusion of the activities says a lot about this company, i.e. they truly want to make something that will genuinely help children learn. I can see this app being very popular in early childhood education settings and with families who have young children or those with special needs. If you would like to try this app before you buy, there is a Lite version for free download in the iTunes store.
My thanks to WiseKids for the opportunity to review this app.