Tag Archives: early childhood

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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My First App – Vol. 3 Airport

18 Feb

my-first-app-vol-3Today I’m reviewing the third in appp media’s My first App series looks.  While Volume 1 looked at Vehicles and Volume 2 took us to the circus, with this latest volume we get to visit the airport.  If you hare familiar with the other apps in this series, you’ll already know you are in for a treat.  


There are four activities in the app and they are identical to the activities in the other 2 My First App apps.  (That sounds funny.)

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  • Puzzle– 8 pictures of airport vehicles. You can alter the difficulty level for the child so they may solve the puzzle with 2, 4, 6 or 9 puzzle pieces. An extra element of difficulty can be added with the rotation option where children may need to rotate a piece to the correct orientation. This is off by default. You can have children of different ages and abilities solving the same puzzles at their own level.

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Shape the Village by Wisekids

5 Feb

Shape the Village by WiseKids CorporationShape 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. 

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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.

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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.



  • 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.


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


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.


  • 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.


My First App Vol 1 Vehicles - puzzle activity


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.


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.


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.


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

My First App - Vol. 1 Vehicles - appp media

Playroom – Lessons with Max

7 Feb

Playroom - Lessons with Max app iconPlayroom – Lessons with Max is an App designed to help children of preschool and kindergarten age to learn early concepts.  There are five games in the app, each using the same characters, Max the Cat and a mouse (my children have named him Cheeky Mouse), and familiar toys.   I had a lot of help with this review from Master 5, as you will read.  Thanks to Svetlana from Igromatic for allowing me to be part of the Beta testing and for giving me the opportunity to review this great app.


Playroom – Lessons with Max Peekaboo activity screen


Toys are hidden in the bedroom and you must help Max to find them.  Children are offered a glimpse of the four toys they will need to find before the mouse pulls down the blind and they are hidden behind or inside common bedroom/playroom items.  My children loved this activity, particularly as different toys were used in each game, and the toys were not always in the same place.  Children can take their time to look and find items without the pressure of time limits.  If they are having trouble, a prompt will appear on the screen to help them find the item.  Incorrect answers are acknowledged with a shake of Max’s head, but there are no penalties and they get to try again.

Colors and Numbers

In this activity, children are asked to drag toys of a certain colour to a wagon.  Toys are counted to a maximum of 5 as they are added to the wagon, which zooms away after the required toys have been added.  This activity is wonderful for developing one-to-one correspondence, a basic Mathematics skill.  My only issue is that “violet” is used to describe the colour my children and their friends would refer to as “purple.” I have used this as an opportunity to discuss how some colours have several names (e.g. Red, scarlet, ruby, rose etc).  It isn’t a big deal because it is very easy to record your own custom voiceovers with the vocabulary you choose. See below for more information.



Master 5 describes this as: “A picture of a toy comes on the iPad screen but a cheeky mouse messes it up so you have to help the cat put the puzzle back together.”   That basically sums it up, although I’ll add that there are some supportive features, including a light picture underneath the puzzle to guide children, and pieces placed incorrectly will pop out of the puzzle area.  My son likes the picture guide, but I’d like to be able to turn it off after he has played it a few times, just to increase the challenge.


This is a standard 8 card memory game where the child turns over pairs of cards to find matching pictures. Master 5 recommends children look carefully at the start of the game because “the cheeky mouse runs over the cards and they flip for a second so you might see where the matching pictures are.”



This is my favourite game in the app, possibly because I haven’t seen another activity quite like it in an app before.  Children are presented with a pair of shelves, each with identical toys placed in them.  Master 5 describes the activity well: “The mouse knocks the toys down and you have to put them back on the shelves in order.  You have to look at the other shelf to see where the toys go. The toys move when you tap on them. I like this game because it is fun.”  There are some good thinking and observation skills practiced in this app which will offer a fun challenge to the children.

The YouTube video below shows the app in action:

Other Features

You can access the App’s settings by tapping the discreet button in the top left of the home screen and then solving a simple addition problem.  This ensures no preschooler (unless they are extremely gifted with mathematics) can change the settings.

Custom Voiceover:  This is a star feature for me.  You can easily record your own voiceovers to replace those in the  app.  All of the phrases used in the app are listed, so you can choose all or some.  I have changed Hare  to Rabbit,  The violet toys to The purple toys,  and bear  to teddy.  I intend to record voiceovers for all of them using my childrens’ voices.  This feature will be great if you want to use voices with your own accent, or even if you wish to record instructions in a different language.

Things I love

  • Positive reinforcement:  Max responds to correct answers with an animation such as clapping, a nod or thumbs up and some happy purrs.
  • Help:  Several activities feature prompts that appear if the child is stuck, and help them to arrive at the correct answer.
  • No penalties:  There are no penalties for incorrect answers, although Max might shake his head to reinforce that this wasn’t the correct answer,  and there are no time limits.
  • Characters:  Both the mouse and cat characters are very appealing.   Here is a hint:  tap Max on the main screen to see him dance.
  • External links are hidden: There are links to social networking, YouTube, the website, the appstore and an email address, but these are all hidden in the settings section and are inaccessible to children.
  • Endless play:  the game is not over until the child decides to stop playing.
  • Custom Voiceover:  I know I mentioned it above, but I love this feature as it will make the app even more friendlier for your children by allowing them to hear voices they recognise and love with the vocabulary that they use.  It might even help children who are learning a second language.


There are a lot of early concepts apps on the appstore, but not many have been thought through as well as this one. Each of the five activities has been well planned, with supportive features to help guide children to the correct answer while still offering them challenges. The feedback is supportive and encouraging, and you can customise the activity in terms of voice/vocabulary. The characters are entertaining and engaging, and the activities are fun and really educational.  If you are looking for a great app for toddlers and preschoolers, then this is the one.

Publisher:  Igromatic
Price: $1.99

Playroom - Lessons with Max - Igromatic

Professor Kim – What’s Missing Here?

23 Nov

There are many early concept apps available to the point where we are spoilt for choice due to the sheer number of similar apps.  Still, it can be possible to search for an app for a particular skill and not find it.  What do you do?  If you are Kristin Heitmann of Apppmedia (Apples, Peaches, Pears and Plums), you make your own.  Kristin wanted an app for her children that resembled Kim’s games.  Named after the character in Rudyard Kipling’s classic novel, Kim, the game involves studying items on a table or tray, then covering them and identifying what is on the tray.  In a different version, an item is taken away and you need to find what is missing.  The games promote observation and memory skills.  This is the type of activity Kirstin couldn’t find, so she designed Professor Kim – What’s Missing Here?.


Children are presented with a number of items and then must find the item that is NOT on the screen from the picture menu in front of them.  There are several levels of difficulty.  Each level puts an extra picture on the screen and in the list.  On level 1, children look at three items on the screen and select from a list of four items.  By the time you get to level five, children are looking at seven items on the screen and selecting from a list of 8.  The 6th level doesn’t add an item, but uses silhouettes on the screen.  Correct answers result in a green light and a fish token.  If you answer incorrectly, the red light flashes and you get the fish bones instead.  There is also a time bar for each puzzle.  If you have not identified the missing item before the bar runs out, it gives you a new screen to look at.  Levels are unlocked as you progress through the app.

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Baby Learns Simple Objects

19 Oct

Baby Learns Simple Objects app iconBaby Learns Simple Objects is the latest app from  Bebebe, who also published Baby Learns Colors. The two apps have a lot in common, including the fact that there is more to them than meets the eye.  It will be useful for students in early childhood settings and special education, and might also help children learning second languages.  [NOTE:  This app is free for Friday, October 19th, 2012.]

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Patterns and Sorting with Caboose

2 Oct

Basic concepts of pattern, order,  colour, shape, size, counting and number are essential for the development of literacy and numeracy. These concepts receive a lot of attention in the early curriculum, particularly in Prep and Year 1, but they are also skills we should be practising with even younger children, such as those in Kindergarten. Caboose is an app with two activities to help develop and consolidate these concepts.  The activities are  fun and easy to play, and can be customised to suit individual needs.


A little dinosaur (or dragon – there is some debate in my household) tows a train  across a bridge. Once on the bridge, the train stops and a pattern is highlighted.  As each item in the pattern is highlighted, the name of the shape, colour or number is played. Letters can be sounded phonetically or named.

Complete a number pattern

Drag the correct number to the caboose to complete the pattern

Children complete the pattern on the train by dragging or tapping (depending on settings) the next item in the pattern to the caboose.  If successful, the train is dragged one step closer to the other side of the bridge.  An incorrect answer will see the train go backwards, however it will never go back further than a total of 5 steps.  Children don’t get a second attempt at the same pattern, but they do get to see the correct answer.

  • Patterns include:   ABAB, ABCABC, AABAAB, and more.  Use the App settings to select particular patterns or practice them all by default.
  • Pattern elements include:  shapes, colours, numbers and letters (upper and lower case).
  • Use the App settings to select either Tap or Drag and Drop as the way to complete the pattern.
  • Letters can be named or sounded phonetically.  Use the App settings to select your preference.


Arrange five items in ascending or descending order.

Items include: Numbers 0-9, Uppercase or lowercase alphabet and size. As with the Patterns activity, you can select which items you wish the child to sort. Hints (in the form of green lights under each item) indicate when positions are correct.  If you want to increase the challenge, you can turn off the hints using the app settings.

Sort different-sized triangles in descending order

Rearrange the triangles to sort them from smallest to biggest. One is already in the right spot.

Instructions are only given once, which may be problematic for children who need instructions repeated, although a series of bars at the top of the screen can help cue to ascending or descending order, and the optional green light hints are helpful.

Wish list

It would be handy to have an option to repeat instructions.  This would be useful for children with auditory processing problems, and handy in noisy environments such as classrooms (or my house on any given afternoon!)


Caboose fits in well with our Prep and Year 1 curriculum and will also be useful for preschool and for older children with special needs.  When I first downloaded the App, it only had the patterns activity, so I’m impressed that it has improved with added features in the time since I originally bought it.  I like the way I can customise it to focus on a single element, such as numbers or alphabet (particularly in the sorting activity where children can practise ordering them in ascending or descending order.) At $1.99, it is good value and will suit children from Kindergarten to Yr 1.

Publisher:  @Reks
Price: $1.99

Caboose - Learn Patterns and Sorting with Letters, Numbers, Shapes and Colors, - @Reks

Related Links

Literacy and Numeracy Fact Sheet – education.qld.gov.au/literacyandnumeracy/pdf/factsheet-l-n.pdf

Early Literacy and Numeracy: Building Good Practice – www.fdcqld.org/files/file/Buildinggoodpractice-earlychildhoodliteracyandnumberacy.pdf

There’s a Bear in there – Play School Art Maker

19 Jun

Play School Art Maker for iPad The flagship of the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) has released an iPad App for children that is so good, I can hardly believe it is free.  Free in Australia, that is.  The App is also available in international iTunes stores as a paid app.  The name is probably not a good description, as Play School Art Maker is much more than the virtual sticker book it seems to be.  In reality, it is more like a virtual puppet theatre where children can create the scenes, control the actors and direct their stories.

Open the App and you’ll see a large scrapbook.  When you open the book, you can either watch the television show (only in Australia) or you can create pictures, movies and stories.  You can also view pictures, movies and stories that have been stored in the scrapbook. Continue reading

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