Dictionary.com by Dictionary.com, LLC

Available from the Apple App Store (version reviewed), Play, and Amazon. This $2.99 version of this dictionary is all the dictionary you might need. Like any good dictionary, it provides  a detail definition of the word, idioms, origin and even sample sentences.

Although I have not reviewed any other dictionary app, two features really stand out. The first one is the ability to do searches when offline. When I place the iPhone in Airplane mode, I am still able to search for words. Although I was no able to test it, it should work great for devices that don’t have permanent internet connections or where it is not permitted.

The second feature that I really liked (and probably not the intended purpose) is the ability to make a list of favorite words. My daughter receives a list of words weekly for a test at the end of the week, and it would be useful to have those definitions handy and quickly accessible throughout the week.

 

It also has many other features of various value. It has a built-in thesaurus, able to hear the word spoken out loud, search by voice (worked great for me), share the word via e-mail, twitter or Facebook (limited value), and word of the day in Spanish and English (not bad to increase your vocabulary).

My only complaints are that on the iPhone 4S it is slow sometimes especially clicking between the button navigational buttons, and that although I like the extra features the interface seems cluttered.

The $2.99 version has no ads except a more page where it promotes other apps.

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.

Feel Electric! by Sesame Street

As a child, I grew up loving the The Electric Company. I was very excited to find this app for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

The app has many funny video shorts to guide you through the various activities. When it first launches it ask you what your mood is, there is also a place to watch education music videos, and other activities to learn vocabulary words (all the words appear to be mood words).

Overall the game is very entertainment, although the repetitive sequences might get old quickly.

If you liked The Electric Company as a child or your kids like it now, and you feel that your child can use some help understanding mood, you can’t go wrong with this app especially at the price of free.

The app worked perfectly on my iPhone, but appeared not to work on one of my Android devices. According to some of the review on Google Play this seems to be an issue. Not a big deal since it is free (just uninstall it).

Everyday Mathematics Monster Squeeze

Published by McGraw-Hill, the game consists of trying to guess a mystery number by selecting a number from 1 to 10. The monster will cover the guessed number and any numbers above and below the guessed number with its tentacles. The game voice will then tell you if the mystery number is below or above the guessed number.

Although I was excited initially with the concept, my youngest child didn’t grasp the idea and my older children were bored by the game quickly. Well drawn, but very few pieces are animated and the game play is very repetitive. It also requires 2 players, and turns are not marked clearly. On the plus side, it appears to work fine without internet connection.

At $1.99 for the iOS version it seems overpriced. (No Android version found).

AJG

Pet Shop Story

Build a pet store, vist other people’s pet stores, and create your own breeds.

From the amount of time that the kids spend on the app, I suspect it is fairly addictive. Better than average graphics and cute sounds.

Requires internet access, sends notification of things that are happening in your store, and tries to push your kids to purchase in-game items (with real cash). None of this seems to hinder the fun factor.

Available on Apple App Store for iOS devices and on Google Play for Android devices. (Reviewed on Android).

Although the game is fun it has limited educational value, and the constant push to pay with real world money might be frustrating for some kids.

AJG