Tag Archives: iPhone

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)

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Where are my Apps? – Backing up alternative to iCloud

4 Sep

I know many of my readers use iCloud to backup their devices.  This is great and convenient for lots of reasons, but there are limitations when it comes to your iTunes purchases.  Recently a friend of mine accidentally deleted Snappycam from her children’s device but then found she could not reinstall it as it was no longer in the App Store.  Since then I’ve received a few enquiries about this kind of thing, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

Why isn’t my app in the App Store?

Apple can remove apps from the App Store at any time.  In Snappycam’s case, Apple bought the company (and hopefully will incorporate this in a future iOS) but there are other reasons apps disappear, including (but not limited to):

  • Copyright disputes with other developers
  • To comply with legal rulings
  • Lack of compatibility to the latest iOS
  • Violation of Apple’s contracts
  • The developer company has ceased trading
  • The app is really, really offensive (and no, I won’t give examples, but I’m pretty sure Google can show you some)
  • The developer company no longer wishes to support that app (for various reasons)

But I OWN that app!

When it comes to iTunes, once you purchase an app it is yours for life…. in theory.  In reality, you can only download it/reinstall it while it is still available in the store.  iCloud will back up your app data (e.g. documents you make with the apps) and your purchase history, but when it comes to apps, you can only download your apps AS LONG AS THEY ARE IN THE APP STORE.  Once removed, this form of backup is no longer available.

So what to do?

The best insurance is to download the apps to a computer or hard drive.  Once you have downloaded your apps, even if they disappear from the store, you can connect your device to the computer and reinstall them.  There are two things you can do.

  • Back up your device to your computer

I always back up my device and iTunes purchases to my computer, which in turn backs up on an external drive.  You can also back up to iCloud, but I’d still recommend connecting to your computer regularly.  If you have bandwidth and data issues, it is worth mentioning that backing up this way is possible without WiFi/internet access, so could be more economical for some.

  • Automatically back up your app purchases on your computer. (Your device doesn’t need to be connected for this.)
    1. Open iTunes on your computer and select iTunes> Preferences> Store>
    2. Check Always check for available downloads
    3. Then, under Automatic Downloads, check Apps (and Music, if you’d also like to back up your music purchases.)
    4. With these options set, open iTunes on your computer (while connected to the internet) regularly, and it will automatically download any purchases.

Limitations

Using these strategies has meant I’ve been able to hold on to some great apps that are no longer available.  But there are limitations.  Once an app has been pulled from the App Store, there will be no more support and no more updates.  When Apple releases a new iOS, for example, your old apps may no longer be compatible.  This won’t be a problem if you have an older device, such as the original iPad, but it is something to keep in mind if your device is newer.

Extra insurance

An external hard drive dedicated to backing up your computer is a great investment.  If you back up regularly, your data will be safe even you have a major computer disaster.  Documents and apps aside, just think of all the media (particularly personal photos and videos) we have stored on our computers these days, and imagine what would happen if your computer drive had a break down.  Backing up is a safety measure that we should all get in the habit of doing.  (As extra insurance, about once a year I copy our family photos and videos on to DVDs or flash drives and give them to the grandparents, so they can enjoy them and we’ll always have an offsite backup if a really big disaster strikes).   There are lots of different drives on the market with lots of different sizes  price points, so talk to your local suppliers and find one (or several) that work for you.

 

 

My First App – Vol. 1 Vehicles – Updated and better than ever

13 Jun

My First App Vol 1 VehiclesThe My First App series from appp media is a great favourite with the younger children in our home.  I reviewed the first app in the series, My First app Vehicles, early last year.  As of yesterday, the app has been updated with a new Spot the Difference activity, a new animation, and new sounds and animations.  I’m reposting the original review today with the updates marked.

 

Puzzles 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.
  • Four activities:  Puzzle, Matching Halves and Tilt Game and the new Spot the Difference game
  • Background music (Here we go ’round the mulberry bush) can be turned off.
  • Settings for children of different ability levels.

Continue reading

Sago Mini Space Explorer

15 May

Sago Mini Space Explorer App iconSago 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. Continue reading

Little Lost Note

11 Apr

lostnoteLittle Lost Note is the story of, well, a little lost note. The note wanders through the story looking for the instrument it belongs to, encountering a piano, guitar, trumpet and drums throughout the story. We get to explore the sounds made by these instruments until the Little Lost Note finally finds the way home to her right instrument.

 

Features

  • Interactive elements – The major interactive elements occur when the Little Lost Note meets the different instruments and you get to play them. The piano is similar to those piano simulation apps you may have seen, and you can tap a couple of notes at a time to play chords. We had fun strumming the guitar and even more fun when we found we could tap the fret markings and change the notes. The trumpet was a little trickier, until we found that you had to hold down the keys and tap the mouthpiece at the same time. It was interesting to find that each combination of keys on the trumpet can produce both a high and low sound. You can skip straight to the instruments via buttons on the front page of the app.
  • Other Interactive Elements – Each page features some fun interactive elements, some of which repeat on other pages. Tap on a pile of dirt and Mole may appear (or disappear), birds might sing etc.
  • Narration – The narration is clear and well – for a quiet, calm story.  We love the British accent.  You can turn narration off on the main page.  We couldn’t find any way of making the story repeat, except by flipping the page back and forth.
  • Highlighted Text – The text highlights as it is read, which is very supportive of emergent readers.
  • Nighttime Mode – If you tap on the ZZzzz (in the top left of each page) to activate a special mode for calm, quiet, bedtime reading.  The app dims to a level that makes a comfortable read in a darkened bedroom.
  • Background Music – The background music is delightful, and you can listen for the different instruments that appear in the story.
  • Illustrations – I love the original, colourful illustrations that are not too bright for a calm, bedtime story.  There is a lot of clear space left for the text to display without it being obscured by different elements on the page.

Continue reading

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.  

Activities

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

JukeStyle Stylus Review and Giveaway

17 Sep jukestyle stylus extended to pen on a newspaper crossword.

Although tablets and smart phones work well with fingers, I still like to use a stylus. I now have several of them, including a couple I reviewed last year.  

There are a number of reasons you should use a stylus, and here are just a few of mine:

  • The screen doesn’t need cleaning so much (particularly if children are using the device.)
  • A stylus is more accurate for things like drawing, writing, and doing those fiddly little picture-logic puzzles I love. My kids find it helps with accuracy in some of their games.
  • Less of the screen is obscured by your hand as you use the stylus.

Once you use a stylus, I’m sure you’ll see even more reasons.

Today I am reviewing the JukeStyle Stylus. Continue reading

Are we there yet? Holiday car travel with iPads

23 Jun
Are we there yet? I want out of this car.

Are we there yet? I want out of this car. (Photo credit: Beverly & Pack)

Our mid-year school holidays are upon us here in Queensland, with other states due for holidays also.  My family hasn’t planned any big trips away, but last holidays we took our 6 children interstate on a 2-day journey each way.  One thing I love about long car trips is that it is a chance for my family to be together (albeit by force!) for chats, stories and songs, marvelling at the scenery we pass. I actually love the time, and my worst nightmare would be for my children to spend the entire journey with their noses in electronic devices.  That being said, I’m no Luddite and when we went on our trip, we took the iPod and our 2 iPads with us for the journey.  I thought I’d share some of the things that made life easier on the trip. Continue reading

Guest Blog – King of Math: Junior, reviewed by Josh

4 Jan

Hi all, it’s me, Josh again! I’m that guy that works on a maths blog that occasionally hijacks On Sarah’s iPad with maths app reviews. In the past, I’ve done reviews on apps such as DragonBox and Math Formulas. I’m hoping you’ve all had a great holiday, and I’m thinking 2013 will have some wonderful things in store for us all!
Well, today, I’ve borrowed the floor again to review Oddrobo‘s newest collection to the ‘King of Math’ series – King of Math: Junior.

Click the image to go to the iTunes store!

Click the image to go to the iTunes store!

Now, firstly, I would like to make a disclaimer:

The author of this post received a promo code from Oddrobo for this app (probably because of his continual blathering on about random facts about their previous release).

Also, I have one more thing I’d like to say:

The author of this review would like to apologise for surpassing the developer’s high score by 8,000,000 points.

Ok, bragging is over – let’s get on with it!
So, you’re a young child who is just starting to learn how to count. Or you could be learning how to add with your fingers. Maybe you’re someone who wants to practice their maths skills. Young or old, King of Math: Junior has an appeal, whether you have a fondness for maths or not.

As you can see, I did some fairly deep testing.

As you can see, I did some fairly deep testing.

So, much like the original, King of Math: Junior has a variety of books from which challengers can pick from. As this app is a paid app, you don’t have to unlock extra books from in-app purchases (a bonus for parents with kids that know their iTunes password). The topics covered include:

Counting, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division

Geometry, Comparing, Puzzles, Measuring, Fractions

Now, while these topics seem strikingly similar to those covered in King of Math, I can assure you that they aren’t. While the structure of King of Math: Junior is very similar to it’s predecessor (that being, books with multiple chapters that are relevant to the topic), the contents that are covered differ greatly.

For example, let’s do a comparison of a question from King of Math and King of Math: Junior. These are two questions, one from each app.

As you can see, KOMJ attempts to make the question as simple and applicable as possible. By using bright colours, and not including the scorecard in the corner of the screen, I feel it encourages the students to do their best and not to worry about the score they get.

I love how they’ve applied the questions for the most part, to real life concepts. Counting tomatoes or the numbers on a die is a straightforward activity that emphasises learning outside of the app environment. My particular favourite were levels where I had to respond to some sort of visual stimuli – whether it be trying to count the number of lemons in a mix of fruit, or figuring out which player got the cake.

King of Math: Junior is a lot more colourful and detailed than it’s predecessor – which is really, really great. It looks encouraging, and it doesn’t intimidate the user. In my opinion, it appeals to the casual user (who might use it once a day to practice his/her maths skills), the social user (who has a lot of family that want to use the app), and the competitor (Game Center availability).

As much as I love this app, it feels like there’s something missing. There’s plenty of questions, and the replay factor is great, but there are no tutorials showing you what to do. In a sense, I suppose that isn’t such a bad thing – a child can sit with their parents and learn from them. However, it’d be nice to have even a once off tutorial for each exercise, so a student or learner can take a look if they get stuck.

Pros:

  • Colourful, exciting and engaging design and layout.
  • Well developed for younger children, however, it can be used in many applications.
  • Ability to turn off Game Center.
  • Multiple profiles, including in game scoreboards for multiple accounts.

Cons:

  • Lack of tutorials.
  • Lack of a free version – unlike the previous version, there is only a paid version of the app. However, the full version is included (rather than receiving a selection of free books and having to buy the rest).
  • It can be too fun. (I played it for four hours at one point)

Verdict:

King of Math: Junior is an excellent addition to the King of Math series. With its bright colours, engaging design and easy to use features, kids will be sure to like it. This app is a must have for parents with school age children. 🙂

Sarah’s Notes

I have to agree with everything Josh has said about this app.  He gifted it to my family (Thanks again, Josh) and my children love it.  They are motivated to earn the 3 stars for each level and to increase their rank, and they love that they can have individual profiles.  It is our summer holidays here, and I have some “holiday only” games installed on the iPad (such as Angry Birds Star Wars) but they are still choosing to play King of Math: Junior.  I think that speaks for itself.  While the app is wonderful visually, it is a bit disappointing that we can’t manipulate items on the screen, for example squishing each tomato as we count it (just an example, but really tempting) or dragging items to each of the people in the division exercises.  This kind of interaction would make the app more supportive of early learners.  Also, there are no spoken instructions, so you really need to be able to read to use this app, or have someone sitting beside you who can.  Despite these things, King of Math: Junior is an excellent app for consolidating what children have already learned, and my children are loving it.

Title: King of Math: Junior
Developer: Oddrobo Software AB
Price: $1.99
Universal: Will work on the iPad, as well as the iPod Touch/iPhone.

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