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.
Have a look at the YouTube trailer below to see just a little of the fun. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSEkQDq42lw
But these are just a tiny taste of what is on offer when there are over 30 different activities in the app. There is a little “bodily function” humour that had my boys in stitches (naturally!) in the form of a farting planet (yes, that is what I said!) and a monster with a bad cold who really needs a tissue. While there is no cure for the cold, the farting planet can be turned off in the app preferences via Settings>General Controls. It didn’t annoy me too much, but at times my boys want to keep going back to the planet over and over again, so I may be turning it off every now and again just for my own sanity.
Sago Mini Space Explorer has no spoken or written, and so is suitable for any language and is completely accessible to those with a hearing impairment. The lack of written and spoken language is a strength when it comes to oral language development for very young children and those with special needs, no matter which language you speak. I have an example in my own home. While playing this game with his older brothers and sisters, Mr 2 has increased his vocabulary, learning new words such as alien, rocket, blast off, asteroid, and more. He picks these up not for the app (which has no spoken words) but through the interaction with his siblings. Mr 2 is also practicing stringing these words together to make sentences, and is trying to guess what might happen at different places in the environment. One great aspect of the app is that the puppy might interact with some items a different way each time, for example he may try any of three different types of food at an alien food wagon, and will react to each food a different way.
You can use the settings (Settings>General)to turn off the external links in the app, Sago News and For Parents. The For Parents section is not immediately accessible to children, requiring a swipe in a random direction at a prompt. It is worth a look as it has some good information about the app and how to use it with your child, plus information about the app settings, information about the team, and links to social media if you would like to follow. Sago Sago clearly takes children’s privacy and safety seriously, and you can also read about this here. It is great to see the links to social media are both protected and removable (when you remove For Parents via the settings.) I wish more developers would do the same.
Normally I have a wish list of features I’d love to see added to the app, but this time I really don’t have any. Instead, I wish that children who use this app have someone nearby to talk to and share with as they explore this amazing virtual environment, so that they can share the joy and wonder and at the same time, communicate that joy.
Sago Sago have again demonstrated that they really know what appeals to a young child by creating a fun virtual environment that children will enjoy exploring. If Mr 2 is anything to go by, this app will be a big favourite with the small fry and they will not tire of it too quickly. If I was a gambler, I would put money on this app rocketing straight to the top of the iTunes AppStore charts.