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.

Tap Kids by 2be!creative

Tap Kids is an iPad/iPhone app with four different mini-games. All the mini-games are variations on the same theme: click on the number, color, object or animal when told. You score points for each successful click and lose points when you don’t click the correct one. You are also rewarded for doing it as fast as you can. So for example for the numbers mini-game: it will show you 2+1 and you would have to click on 3 as fast as you can.

As far as educational value for children, they would be able to learn math facts, and also the colors, and some animals and objects. Even though I am not young, I played the game more times that I would like to admit. Two things made it addictive to me: One I wanted to beat my previous record and two the fact that I felt I was re-learning Portuguese (You can also change the language from English to Portuguese). When I was younger I had a few Brazilian friends that tried in vain to teach me the language. With this game I was able to master a few objects, a few animals, and a few colors. Not bad for a 99c app.

As for things I wish were different:
I wish the app had sound. For a while I thought my iPad was broken. It would have been really great if all the Portuguese words were sounded out. I also would have liked if the top score was based on the individual mini-games and not the entire game as a whole. My record was on colors, but I couldn’t get anywhere near that score with any of the other mini-games. Clicking on the start button and then having to jump right into the game doesn’t feel right. Maybe in the next version, they’ll add a typical 3 second countdown before you start the game. And finally I would have love more objects and more animals.

I reviewed the app (provided for free by the publisher) on my iPad. The app works with no internet connection. And I couldn’t find an Android version of any kind.

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.