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Duckie Deck Homemade Orchestra

19 May

duckie deck homemade orchestra app iconMy children all loved banging on pots and pans and making noise with all sorts of common household things. Duckie Deck Homemade Orchestra brings this experience to mobile devices in a way that is fun for children and easy on the ears of those around them.  Helping me test the app was Mr 3, a proficient pots and pans player who has recently taken up playing the spoons.

Playing the Game

The two game modes let children play with a virtual orchestra, or with individual instruments.

Orchestra Mode

Eight “instruments” appear on the screen. As the child taps each one, the object animates and begins to play. The lovely thing is that all the objects will play with rhythms and melodies that complement each other, so any combination will be harmonious. A button in the corner will see a different combination of instruments selected. Mr 3 found it very easy to distinguish between instruments that were playing and those that were not, and he had a lot of fun experimenting with different combinations.

Individual instrument

In this mode you can choose an instrument then play with it, making your own rhythms and melodies. There are twenty different items to play with. These include toys, kitchen items, stationery and other items found around the house. It is great to see a few body parts included: lips whistle, fingers click, a foot taps, and hands clap.  Each instrument is played by either tapping on the instrument or screen, or dragging the instrument around to shake or vibrate.  You can see some of the instruments in action in Duckie Deck’s YouTube trailer below.

Things We Love:

  • The app is easy to use with intuitive controls. Mr 3 was able to play without needing any help from me and was quickly able to turn the instruments on and off as he wished.
  • The game spills over into real life and can encourage children to be creative away from the iPad.
  • There is a great variety of instruments, and we can find all of them in our house. Some of these you can grab and use straight away, such as pots and pans or keys.  Others require a bit of assembly, such as the glass xylophone with different water levels.  I’d never thought of making a xylophone from an egg carton and spanners, but we are going to give it a shot.  Some instruments are your own body parts.
  • The graphics are colourful and fun, with a clear layout that makes it easy to use for little fingers.  Mr 3 found the animations amusing too.
  • Unlike our real life homemade orchestras, this virtual one sounds great!  All the rhythms and melodies compliment each other. Also, unlike our real life homemade orchestra, you can control the volume on this one.

Verdict

Duckie Deck Homemade Orchestra is a great creativity app that will amuse children for ages as they experiment with with endless combinations of instruments.  The instruments selected are easily found in real life and children will be inspired to create their own real life instruments that will possibly not be as melodic, but will be great fun.

Developer: Duckie Deck
Universal – Requires iOS 6.0 and above
Price: $3.79 (Aus)

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Duckie Deck Creativity Apps – Bird Houses, Trash Toys and Sandwich Chef

24 Nov Duckie Deck Bird Houses

Duckie Deck has a range of entertaining educational  apps for children aged 2-5. I’ve owned most of them for a while and have put them through their paces with my children, and I’ve been meaning to write about them for at least a year.  Initially I was going to review the lot in one hit, but I’m going to break it into several posts over a few days. Today I’m starting with some of their creativity apps, including their latest app, Duckie Deck Bird Houses.  Look for reviews of other of their apps in coming days.

 

Duckie Deck Bird Houses App IconDuckie Deck Bird Houses

Features:  Create the bird house of your dreams.  Select a tree to build on, choose from a variety of house styles and materials, then decorate with paint and accessories before your little birdie moves in.

What we Love: The variety of design options means that children can create a different house every time. The graphics are delightful, with lots of different colours and textures and a real textured “collage” feel.  There are some quirky accessories to add to the house that add opportunities for discussion and story making.

Verdict: The app is really easy to use, with lots of variety and fun little quirks that will make Duckie Deck Bird Houses very popular with young children.

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Duckie Deck Bird Houses - Duckie Deck Development

Universal – Requires iOS 5.0 or higher
Price: $2.49

 

Duckie Deck Trash Toys app iconDuckie Deck Trash Toys

Features: Children make toys out of virtual recyclables, such as containers, bags, CDs and more. Choose an item, paint it, then add more recyclables to create facial features and body parts.
What we Love: Unlike similar apps where two fingers are used to change orientation of an object or to resize, Duckie Deck Trash Toys uses one finger only. Tap and hold in the middle of an item to move it, then tap on an edge and drag to rotate. This is so much easier for Mr 3 to handle than similar apps. There are no resizing options, but this didn’t seem to worry Mr 3.Duckie Deck trash toys creation
Verdict: This is a great creativity app for young children who haven’t mastered the art of multi-touch commands. I can think of at least one similar app with a few more bells and whistles, but that one is a little more sophisticated and is better suited to slightly older children. Duckie Deck Trash Toys certainly nails the needs of the very young user and might also be fun for older children with special needs. Images of your creations can be saved and used in other apps (such as story making apps) or printed. Sometimes playing with this app might lead to some real-life creativity with the contents of your household recycle bin.

Duckie Deck Trash Toys - Duckie Deck Development

Universal – requires iOS 5.0 or higher
Price: $3.79
This app is also available as part of the Ultimate Playtime Bundle (10 Duckie Deck apps for $16.99) and the Inspirations for Real World Play Bundle (4 apps for $7.49)

 

Duckie Deck Sandwich ChefDuckie Deck Sandwich Chef

Features: Children pick a novelty sandwich (from ten options) then recreate the sandwich step by step. These are no ordinary sandwiches: children might create a clock, whale, boat, or clown sandwich, to name a few. They spread the butter on the bread then create the sandwich using healthy foods.

Sandwich chef choices

Lots of sandwich designs to choose from

What we Love: Each ingredient is presented as it is required, and targets appear on the sandwich to guide the child to correct placement. This is great for very young children as it helps to avoid confusion. Children don’t have to be super-accurate with placement either, as the items “snap” into place when they are near the target.
Verdict. The young children I’ve shown Duckie Deck Trash Toys to all love it. Mr 3 would be a little happier if there was a train option (although there is a clock and a car, so he is happy). We think it might be fun to have a free-play option where you get to design your own sandwich, but that might be better in a separate app, perhaps in a similar format to Duckie Deck Trash Toys. It is great that kids get to see all the different healthy food options, but we’d love to hear some of the names spoken aloud. Still, I see that as my job as I supervise Mr 3 as he plays. Not having any speech means that the app is suitable for all languages.

Universal – requires iOS 5.0 or higher
Duckie Deck Sandwich Chef  - Duckie Deck DevelopmentPrice: $2.49
This app is also available as part of the Ultimate Playtime Bundle (10 Duckie Deck apps for $16.99) and the Inspirations for Real World Play Bundle (4 apps for $7.49)

Recycling Workshop by Jump App

23 Jun

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

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Toca Town

3 Jun

tocatownYou 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.

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Junior Storytellers: School Edition

28 May

Junior Storytellers app iconJunior 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.

Create Story

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

Sticker Play: Knights, Dragons and Castles by Jump App

3 Apr

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.

Features

  • 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.

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Toca Pet Doctor – Toca Boca

19 Mar

Toca Pet DoctorThe 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

Tiny Robot Maker

28 Feb

tiny robot maker app iconTiny Robot Maker  by Australian developers, Tiny Twiga Studios, is a simple app packed with a lot of creative fun. Children choose from different options to create robots, and then can use these robots to create printable colour-ins, cards and invitations.  The app is aimed at a young audience, but older children can have fun with their younger siblings, as my children did, and the app might also be suitable for older children with special needs.

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Felt Board Christmas by Software Smoothie

10 Dec

fbchristmasI’m a big fan of the original Felt Board app from Software Smoothie. Since I reviewed it, it has had new features added and just keeps on getting better. Felt Board Christmas is now available and is every bit as delightful as the original. A virtual felt board on your iPad, this app features a variety of backgrounds, characters, scenery and props, and all with the Christmas theme.

Features

  • Backgrounds – includes home interiors, plates for Christmas food, outdoors, and plain colours. Our  family doesn’t see a lot of snow  in Australia (ok, any snow, EVER) so winter landscapes are a bit lost on us (unless we are making Santa’s home) so we were happy to see a summer landscape.
  • Characters – a range of Christmas characters include Santa, Mrs Clause, elves, reindeer and some other cute Christmas animals. It is wonderful to see all characters available in different skin tones.
  • Decorations – baubles, lights and other decorations for your tree. 
  • Misc Christmas – this section includes trees, stockings, gifts, and other Christmas phrases such as “Ho Ho Ho” and “Peace on Earth.”
  • Snowman parts – finally my children can build  snowmen, albeit virtual ones. There are different options for facial features, arms and accessories, so you can build some really wacky snowmen.
  • Nativity characters – All the characters needed to recreate scenes from the original Nativity story (Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, Angels shepherds and Wise Men/Magi) are included in their own category, again in different skin tones. They are accompanied by animals including a camel, donkey, and sheep, some stars and the stable. 
  • Alphabet – two festive alphabets (a fun red or slightly more formal green, both outlined in white) with both upper and lower case letters, numbers and punctuation marks.

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Felt Board by Software Smoothie

4 Apr

feltboardMy children love playing with their felt boards and shapes, so I was delighted to try Felt Board by Software Smoothie, which brings this activity to the iPad.  My children and I had a great deal of fun trying this out, and we have shown it to lots of friends, young and old,  who are equally enchanted with it.

Features

  • Backgrounds – We have several felt boards in our home collection, but this app has 27, including outdoor scenes, space, interiors, a ship, plain backgrounds and more.
  • People – 6 bodies are available in a choice of pale pink, brown, black, blue, purple and red.  There are many faces available, including a variety of eye colours, and choices of happy or sad.  Likewise, there are lots of different hair styles, each with several colour choices, and some beards and moustaches.
  • Clothing – You’ll find lots of choices for dresses, skirts, tops, swimwear and pants.  Several complete outfits are also included for various professions, including firefighter, doctor, knight and more.
  • Accessories – In this section you will find hats, scarves, footwear and other accessories.  In addition to “everyday” items, you’ll find times for fairies, knights, royalty and more.  Also included in this section is a wheelchair.
  • Animals – All sorts of animals can be found here, including pets, farm animals, and fairy tale characters. The unicorn has been very popular in our house.
  • Alphabet in upper and lower case
  • Numbers and shapes

The YouTube video below shows how to use the app.

Activity Ideas

Like painting and drawing apps, apps that allow you to create pictures are great for illustrating stories.  Pictures made with Felt Board could be used with writing and book-making apps such as PagesKeynote, Book Creator or Picturebook, to name but a few.

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Some of the boards consist of several backgrounds, making them ideal for sorting and classifying activities.  I used one with rectangles to create a colour sorting activity, where I placed a number of felt items in the centre white rectangle for children to drag into the rectangle with the corresponding colour.  In another activity, I created a counting activity.  One board in the set lends itself well to looking at seasonal changes, as it has an array of four backgrounds, each a different season

Things we love about this app

  • You can’t lose the pieces ( they will not be sucked up the vacuum cleaner if you leave them on the floor!)
  • You can use as many of the same piece as you want.
  • There are so many backgrounds you can create nearly any scene you want.
  • My daughters discovered that, when you resize a person, any facial features, hair, clothing, or accessories you place on that person automatically resize to fit.  They also resize with the person after you have applied them.  This feature is really clever.
  • Boys love this app just as much as the girls.  It might initially look “girly” but believe me that there are lots of pirates, knights and other “boy” themes to keep everyone happy.  I’ve shown this to my boys and their friends, aged from 5 to 10 years old, and they all happily spend ages making adventure scenes.

Wish List

  • Vehicles – More vehicles would be wonderful.  There is a ship and a couple of rockets, but my children were looking for some farm vehicles and trains.  It would be great to have a variety of air, sea and land vehicles.  We did manage to make some vehicles from the shapes with a little success, but it was hard to make diggers, trucks and trains the way we wanted them to look.
  • More Animals – My children would also like to see some jungle and bush animals added to the animals section. A few lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) would be fun for jungle or zoo scenes, and some kangaroos, koalas, wombats, emus and snakes would be a start for some of our Australian bush scenes.  Perhaps we are a bit greedy, as there are already lots of animals to choose from.
  • Fairy wings have been suggested by one young lady as a much-needed addition to the accessories section.  We did have a success shrinking a person down to their smallest size and placing them over an enlarged butterfly, but you can’t “stick” the wings on.
  • Individual Facial Features – While there are lots of faces to choose from you can’t select individual facial features and combine them. One of my children has suggested having separate eyes, noses and mouths so that she can have more control over how the faces look.  While I believe this would make adding faces a lot harder for some, I can see her point.  (I prefer the face options that are already in the app.)
  • Saving Files – I’d like to be able to save activities such as those I created above.  You can save photographs of the scenes you create, but you can’t save them in a way that you can manipulate the items on the board, such as with the sorting activity. While it doesn’t take long to make them, it would be handy for teachers to be able to prepare activities in advance and then load them as necessary, as time is at a premium in classrooms.

Verdict

This app is simply so much fun, it is hard to believe it is educational.  My children still love playing with their “real” felts, but this app is now a favourite and has been particularly handy when travelling.  We are not alone, as everyone we have shown this app to has fallen in love with it.  Even if you don’t have children, this is a very appealing app.   I have  been revisiting my childhood, having so much fun creating scenes with the felt shapes.  This app is suitable for all ages and is an app that will “grow” with your children.    I challenge anyone not to fall in love with it.

Felt Board - Software SmoothiePublisher:  Software Smoothie
Price:  $2.99
iPad only

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