Skeleton Dance by Busy Brain Media

Skeleton Dance by Busy Brain Media is a science app. The app has beautiful clay-animation, introduces children to anatomy, a puzzle game (placing the bones on the empty skeleton shape), and an activity where you can get more information about each bone.

So now lets go on a related tangent: at Smart Kids’ Apps the difference between an app 4.0, 4.5 or 5 is mostly subjective. Yes we have written rules where an app will get automatic deductions based on what use to be common annoyances, but most apps we review don’t have those problems. When we started Smart Kids’ Apps we hardly got any review requests, so we use to review most of what we got. Currently we have over 200+ apps waiting to be reviewed. We get dozens review request a day, and we only review the ones we consider the best. So if you get reviewed on these pages then you are a fairly good app, and in good company.

I didn’t find anything wrong with Skeleton Dance. It is a great app to supplement a learning unit on bones. The illustrations, animations and the activities are all great. The problem is that I compared it with one of most magical apps this reviewer has ever come across. When the e-mail to review this app came in from the same publisher, I expected magic (Lady Bug Number Count). What I got instead was a solid app.

I reviewed it on my iPad. No Android version exits. No ads, works offline and it is a great addition to an education unit about bones.

Kids Sounds by Pyjamas Apps

Kids Sounds by Pyjamas Apps reminds me of Apple’s GarageBand. But instead of using instruments to make music, you touch items in the scene to make sounds. Some of the objects continue to play the sound after you stop touching them, which allows you and your kids to layer the sounds to create interesting patterns.

The app is beautifully illustrated, and the music that it creates wasn’t annoying (at least for me). My daughter had a great time playing with the two free scenes that come with the app. The in app store requires you to hold your touch over the store items to make it harder for younger kids to buy them accidentally (a nice touch). I really love the open-ended of the app. There is really no wrong way to play this app.

As for dislikes I only have one: I wish you could record, save, and send your music creations. Overall a great music educational app.

I tested the free version (as prompted by the publisher) on my full size iPad. It costs .99 cents to get all 6 scenes. I couldn’t find an Android version, it doesn’t have in app advertisement, and it works offline.

Spell, Write and Read by Ripple Digital Publishing.

As the title suggests, Spell, Write and Read by Ripple Digital Publishing is a spelling, and writing educational app. Each word is first presented as a puzzle outline. The child has to grab the letter and drop it on the correct outline. The letters are said as they are being dropped. After forming the entire word, the word is also pronounced. After completing this activity, the word is presented as a letter outline that needs to be traced.

The app is not cluttered. The graphics are great. The music and sound effects are not grading. And the words and letters are beautifully pronounced by a human voice.

As far as dislike, I wish you could buy all the other books at one time, an Android version existed, and that it allowed for tracking of progress for multiple children.

Overall a great app for your little ones to help them learn how to spell, pronounce and read some common english words (especially if you already using this type of methodology). Available only in the Apple App Store for the iPad and iPhone, I tested the free version (as prompted by the publisher) on a full size iPad.

The app works offline, does not have advertising but does have an easy to reach in-app store for the other collection of books.

Fiete By Wolfgang Schmitz

As always I am sometimes wowed by some of the apps that we receive at smartkidsapps.org to be reviewed. Fiete by Wolfgang Schmitz is one of those apps. This educational apps consists of a large main screen that is littered with mini games to click on and explore.

As a fellow developer, this app shames everything I have every produced or will produce. An incredibly beautiful app. The illustrations are gorgeous. The scenes are not cluttered, and have just enough elements to make them interesting. The educational app has enough mini games to keep younger children entertained for many hours (if not weeks). One of the most interesting games involves a matching game where instead of matching similar cards you will have to match items that produce an event. For example upon matching a balloon and a pin both card will show the balloon popped.

As far as cons. I believe this is the first time I don’t have any.

I tested it on a full size iPad, no other version exists that I am aware of, and the app was provided for free by the publisher. It is available on the Apple App Store for $2.99.

Wildlife Jigsaw Puzzle 123 by GiggleUp

Puzzles in general are great educationally. Although screen puzzles lose the tactile education elements, Wildlife Jigsaw Puzzle 123 is one of the best puzzle app that we have reviewed. When the app starts you select your board. For any board, particular animals are missing. Clicking on the animal bring up that animal’s puzzle. Complete the puzzle and that particular animal fills the space on the board.

The app is very well done. The illustrations are beautiful. The background music is average, but doesn’t get annoying quickly. You can select the number of pieces for the animal puzzles before or during trying to solve a puzzle. Being able to adjust the difficulty as the child is playing, is a great idea never seen by me in any other puzzle game. Once the puzzle of the animal is completed the animal name is displayed, and a clear human voice pronounces the animal’s name.

The app does not have any banner ads, but does have a place where you can browse their other offerings (acceptable by my standards). Although the illustration are beautiful and quirky, sometimes it is hard to figure out exactly what the animals are. This was not a problem for my me, and was one of the reasons to try to solve the puzzles.

Overall a great app. Wildlife Jigsaw was provided for free by the publisher. It is available on the Apple App Store, the Google Play Store and Amazon App Store. I tested it on my full size iPad.

Magical Music Box By Kidoteca

Magic Music Box by Kidoteca was one of our favorite apps when we started. Notified by the publisher of an update, we will take the opportunity to note any changes to the app as well as revise the review with our current thoughts.

Consisting of nothing more than musical boxes, the apps illustrations are beautiful. As the music box spins the animations are creative, unique and sometimes funny. I also enjoyed the music choices (with this update even more songs are available). It ranges from the expected to the Brazilian national anthem. The app allows you to mix and match any song to any of the boxes, and to either turn the box yourself by spinning a crank, using your fingers to move movie box (new with the update) or let the box turn itself. The app also provides a fact sheet for the music/composer, and the ability to change the language of the fact sheet.

For the younger children, they will be fascinated by the movements and the music. They will also like the ability to be able to turn it themselves. The fact sheets can be read by the adults to give some context to the music. The app can also be used as a sleeping aid, freeing the parent/s from having to hum lullabies for hours.

I couldn’t find anything that I didn’t like. And all the suggestion I came up with, might not even be for everyone. I am not a big fan of in-app purchases especially for children apps, but this app almost begs for it. It would be nice, if I could buy more musical boxes and music as they become available (added boxes have been free). I also wish there was a description of the illustrator/artist that came up with the music boxes or at the very least a small explanation of what inspired the particular box.

Highly recommended, and well worth the price. Available in Play Store (for Android), the Amazon App Store, and in Apple App Store, I reviewed the iPad version (provided by the publisher).

I Spy with Lola by BeiZ Ltd.

I have played I spy with my children on long road trips. I Spy with Lola is not exactly that game, but it is a lot of fun. Lola the panda travels from place to place around the world. By clicking on a place you enter a scene where you are prompted to find particular items. You find the items by clicking on them in the screen. The scenes are larger than the width of the device screen, so you have to scroll to find the items. Completing scenes allows you to collect stars that are used to unlock other parts of the world.

Overall the graphs and animations look great. The music is catchy (but maybe annoying in the long run). My children loved the game including the oldest (who is 11).

An easy game to love. Great graphics, catchy music, and varied scenes and object placements make this an entertaining game.

Available for the iOS devices (iPad and iPhone) and Android devices (both on Play and Amazon App Store), I reviewed the iOS version on my full size iPad. The publisher provided the app.

Animal SnApp: Farm by Nosy Crow

I am a big fan of Nosy Crow. When I got an opportunity to review their new app/book, I was excited. This app is mostly a story book app, but as usual it has some interesting twists. To unlock the stories you have to match up the bottom portion of the animal with the top portion of the animal.

There is a chicken story, a cow story, a dog story, a goat story, a pig story and a sheep story. All the stories are beautifully illustrated, and both the sound effects when click on an item and the music are magnificent. I especially love the Old MacDonald arrangement by Robin on the title screen.

As usual you have the option to read the stories yourself or have the stories read to you. The particular words being read are highlighted. Almost every scene has additional items you can click on.

Very little to complain about other than I was so blown away by Rounds: Franklin Frog (another Nosy Crow’s app) that this was a slight let down (and I don’t even know why).

Reading to your children is one of the most important things you can do to improve or to instill the love of reading. A collection of beautiful illustrated and interactive short story books for $3.99 is a bargain. I reviewed it on my iPad (app provided by the publisher), no version exists for Android devices.

Splash Math Grade 3 by Study Pad, Inc.

Splash Math Grade 3 is an impressive app (both in scope and execution). The app covers more concepts than I can possibly review here, but the Study Pad site includes the entire list of items covered.

The main portion of the app is a set of questions that you can answer by clicking at the correct answer. This same concept is used for both practicing the concepts and testing the concepts. The app also has other areas like the aquarium where the student can buy fishes and crabs with the points that he/she won by completing the lessons. The concepts are taught adequately and with visual aide where appropriate. The app tracks progress, and can send reports.

The rest of the app is also very well done. The graphics are a combination of illustrations and what appear to be pictures of Origami animals. And the sound effects are not jarring.

Although the app is designed for third grade, it could be used for student at the end of second grade. And it can be also used in 4th to learn and practice a student’s weaknesses.

Overall a great app and a great study partner for a student in 3rd grade. Highly recommended. Study Pad, Inc makes similar apps for other grades. All apps are available for the iPhone and iPad (unfortunately no Android version). I tested on the iPad (provided for free by the publisher).

Kid Mode by Zoodles

Most tablet (Barnes in Noble Nook HD/+ being the only exception I know) do not have user profiles. Although slightly annoying for adults, it is even more troublesome if you have children. There are so many apps, documents and settings you don’t want your child to change, mess-up or download. Kid Mode takes over your tablet with child friendly interface, age appropriate content and any other app or website you decide he should have access to.

The age appropriate content that it provides includes videos, games and story books. Some of the videos appear to be sourced from YouTube and other free sources. The free version of the app only has one story book available, but you can buy more or sign up for the premium services for all the books (as low as $40.00/year). The premium service also has some other good features like the ability to block websites, promote certain subjects, and block characters. Although the free version doesn’t allow you to block websites, you can set up allowed websites by creating a shortcut and then adding that shortcut as an App that your child can use.

I have two issues with the app. The first one is a matter of opinion. One of the great things about letting your child play with tablets is that your child is learning key multiple touch skills (pinching, rotating, and sliding to name a few). The UI of Kid Mode although not bad isn’t as rich as the modern Android operating system.

The second issue is how easy it is to overcome the kid lock. To unlock as a parent your options are to either draw the letter Z or to provide the birth year of an adult by typing it into the keypad. For very young kids these task are very difficult, but as early as second grade some kids would be able to figure it out.

My nephew for example has mastered drawing the Z even though he can’t read the instructions. As for the year, he has figured out that it should start with a 1 and then he guesses the other digits of the year. Not sure why Kid Mode has not implemented a pattern or pin scheme.

Although Kid Mode is not perfect, I don’t currently know of any other app that attempts to do what it does. I would recommend it for any parent that needs to restrict what his/her child has access to. I reviewed the Play version of Kid Mode but a iPad/iPhone version also exists. Although it appears it is even easier to remove the lock on iPhone/iPad.