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.

Happy Little Farmer By GiggleUp Kids Apps And Educational Games Pty Ltd

There is so much to say about this app. The general theme is that you are helping with the farm: growing, feeding, picking and planting.

The game play is very varied. This app has it all from picking and dropping and tilting. The music is adequate (not annoying or jarring) and the illustration are very nicely done.

There are also some very nice extras. You can plant seeds for monster fruit (my name for it) and then feed them to a monster. Easter eggs (at least that is what they look like to me) are also found throughout the scenes, and when you click on them interesting things happen.

It also provides plenty of opportunities for learning. There is sorting, the concept of day/night and many other concepts.

My daughter loved the app, and spent a good time playing with it. Since my iPad is heavy (protective case), she had a hard time in the tilting scenes. Not so much an app flaw, but should be noted for small kids and big cases.

I really can’t find any flaws with the app. Perfectly executed, tons of content and enough variety of gameplay to keep my kids coming for more.

No Android version that I can find, the game for $1.99 is available for the IPad on the Apple App Store. I received a free copy from 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.

Where is Boots? by MTV Networks

My oldest daughter is 11, and my youngest is 4. My oldest daughter loved Dora, and I can honestly say that I liked her also at first. But after almost 9 years of Dora, her voice isn’t as sweet as it use to be.

My dislike of Dora aside, I had a hard time finding anything particular to hate about this game. The app consists of three parts. One is a story/game where you help Dora find boots (she needs to deliver some bananas). The story is read/acted by Dora (the words are highlighted as she speaks). Also all of the scenes/pages have interactive elements.

The second is a game where you have to catch bananas as they either drop down, float up or fly by. And finally you get the opportunity to create scenes by dragging characters and items to backgrounds from the story. Once the custom scene is finished, it can be saved.

All the mini games/stories are illustrated in typical Dora style. Dora as usual sprinkles in some words in spanish (especially during the story portion), and she also provides words of encouragement throughout the experience. The app never crashed or behave in any way that was not expected, and the interface is intuitive and responsive.

If your child loves Dora and you don’t mind her voice, your child will not be disappointed with this app. I reviewed the iPhone version (provided free by the publisher). I didn’t find an Android version.

Franklin Frog by nosy crow

When my first daughter was young she use to love this show called Oswald. I use to spend hours watching it with her. What I liked so much about the show was its simplicity, the clarity of the message and how calm and gentle the show was (while still being captivating). I can say all those same things about Franklin Frog by nosy crow.

The app is nothing more than a circular story about the life cycle of a frog and frogs in general. But although the concept is simple the app execution is perfect. The music is beautiful. The character voice is clear. The illustrations are magnificent. Overall the production value is extremely high (higher than most app).

The navigation is intuitive. My daughter had no problem knowing when to press the frog and when she was able to move to the next scene. The pace of the story is dictated by the reader. My daughter spent many minutes making the tadpole eat his food. And as a tool to help kids learn about the life cycle of frogs, you would be hard pressed to find a book or another app that does this better.

Most of the pictures in this post and most of the videos I have seen pale in comparison to the actual experience of playing/reading the app. Highly recommended and only available on the Apple App Store, I reviewed the iPad version (provided to me by the publisher).

Wheels on the Bus by Duck Duck Moose

Almost everybody has heard of the song Wheels on the Bus. I suspect there are at least a few dozen variations of the song. With this app your son can sing along with some of the traditional verses. For each verse this application presents a beautiful illustrated scene. Each of these scenes has items that your child can interact with. My daughter particularly liked the monkey stealing the cupcakes.

One of the best feature of the app is that you can change how the song is played. There is an option to switch the signing to Spanish, French, German (and others) and even making it just instrumental. There is also an option to record your own rendition of the song.

The Duck Duck Moose screenshot is very fun and creative, and we had to replay that scene over and over again.

As for the bad: I wish there were more interactive items on each page, and that it included some extra scenes even if they were not part of the original song. My daughter played with it for over an hour (with me), but I think in the end she was tired of the same scenes. For smaller kids this might not be a problem.

Wheels on the Bus by Duck Duck Mouse is available for $1.99 on Play and Apple Apps Store.

Elmo Loves ABCs for iPad By Sesame Street

Many children I know from the age of 1 up love Elmo. This app by Sesame Street uses Elmo and other characters from Sesame Street to help children learn the ABCs.

The app is packed with activities and games including tracing the letters (both lower and upper case), videos where other Sesame Street characters or Elmo show objects that start with that letter, and coloring books where you drag your finger to color the objects (again that start with the letter).

It also has an activity where the objects are hidden behind either bubbles, leaves, or balloons. And you use your finger either to pop or rake them to find the hidden objects. Smaller children lose hours doing this.

My complaints are minor, but enough not to give it 5 stars. No android version exists. The application is very large and not only does it take a long time to download, but also takes up a lot of space on your iPad. Although kids love Elmo’s voice, it will get irritating to the parents quickly (especially since on some activities Elmo repeats the same phrases over and over). Some of the buttons are not clear and might confuse the younger children (the slider is hard to master, and the function of the star on the left bottom is not clear).

Overall a great app. I would highly recommend getting the free version (limited to the first three letters).

It is available only on the Apple App Store for $4.99 for the full version and there is also a free trial version.

Counting Bear by GrasshopperApps.com

The game consists of different number of objects on the screen that get counted as the chid clicks on them. At the end of counting the app provides words of encouragement. The interface is clean. The pictures that are used for counting are beautiful. The voice that counts is clear. It should provide hours of fun for a toddler, although the constant counting is fairly annoying to adults.

What makes this app stand out are the options. Not only are you able to change the minimal and max number to use, but you can change the objects used by providing your own photos and voice, change the words of encouragement, and even change how numbers are pronounced.

With all these options you can customize the app to be a very special app for you your child. For example, you can change the objects to count be people or things that your child loves: favorite pet, the neighbor’s dog, or even dad or mom. The voice counting could be the voice of mom or dad, and the words of encouragement could be from the grandparents.

Fairly simple concept with many options make this app a great educational app for your toddler. Sadly only available on the Apple App Store

Out-A-Bout by Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College

Almost every year somebody tries to sell me one those customs books where they make your child part of the story. Imagine an app that does the same thing. Available only on the Apple App Store this apps tries to do just that. By using the phone camera and prompting you to tell your child to perform certain activities, it weaves those pictures in a story.

The app is free. It starts by asking the child’s name and choosing a color; and it uses the color for the border. From the start there are slight usability issues: the keyboard blocks the ability to select the color. But unfortunately things get much worse. I tried it on the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2 and on both devices it would crash after customizing the third or fourth page of the book. You can restart it and it will read the entire book including the pages that were not customize.

Great concept, but sadly it will leave you and your child frustrated. I would pass on this app until an update addresses the crashing issue.