Age 5, Age 6, Age 7, App and Activity, App Reviews, Co-playing Apps, Creative Thinking, Preschoolers, Science Apps

An App and Activity for Mini Inventors! Play like Amazing Alex

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So I’m guessing you’ve heard of Angry Birds, but did you know they have a far more interesting cousin called Amazing Alex? The makers of AB have come up with this wonderfully inventive physics based app that challenges players to come up with creative solutions to various puzzles. Always a fan of apps that promote experimentation and lateral thinking, this app is on high rotation on our iPad.

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Amazing Alex encourages your little inventor to put on their thinking cap to try and work out solutions to a variety of puzzles, collecting up to three gold stars along the way. The stars motivate, but aren’t integral to the game, thus giving experimenting top priority over score. There’s no particular ‘right’ answer so kids can just enjoy creating various contraptions to solve the puzzle.

I had an idea to translate some of our favourite apps into real world activities and after being inspired by a water wall I saw created from old bottles, the Amazing Alex inspired Bean Run was born! As you can see from these pictures it’s basically some peg board with bits from the recycling bin screwed to it.

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L Star and I experimented with different materials, cardboard, plastic cups, old milk bottles to see which would work best. I bought some washing machine hose at the hardware store and that has been by far the most popular aspect of the contraption. We used the ever popular dried pulses (beans, chick peas etc) to pour through it and they make a very satisfying tinkling sound as they go through the pipes. It’s had a couple of reinventions now and little Cool A has gotten in on the action, liberally chucking stuff down the tubes and demanding more beans! We learnt lots of things along the way, like not to fasten the items to the board too tightly because they will invariably need moving five minutes later. Having containers at the bottom of each chute to catch the beans worked for us too rather than having one big container for the whole thing to sit in. It meant the boys could easily scoop up the beans to re use and managed the mess slightly!

As a side activity the other half of the peg board has become a fun threading activity that has occupied both boys, at the same time! Occasionally. For short periods…


This was a terribly exhausting activity to set up in that it required me to plonk down one piece of peg board and one cup of pipe cleaners. Phew! L Star got right into threading the pipe cleaners back and forth creating a control unit which would move the peg board around on his command, apparently. Cool A thought he deserved a round of applause every time he threaded something on, to which I happily obliged! If  you don’t have peg board (which I bought at the hardware store) you could start with pipe cleaners and a sieve or a cereal box with holes poked through it for similar effect. Happy inventing!

Age 5, Co-playing Apps, Music Apps, Preschoolers, Toddler Apps

Bubl Draw: your art makes music!

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I. LOVE. THIS. APP. Which is fairly self evident since I’m posting it on my blog. But I just love it when you come across that happy symbiosis of super fun apps that also promote creativity and curiosity. Plus it’s a fun one for kids and adults to use together and apps that promote co-playing are always a good thing. This app seems pretty simple and well, actually, it is! It is simple to use straight away but rewards deeper investigation. That’s one hallmark of a well designed app in my book.

Bubl Draw is an enhanced drawing app, every mark you make creates music. Experiment with colours, with different areas of the page and with different shapes. All will contribute to a fun composition based on three musical styles: Classic, Disco or Rumba. The instruments naturally complement each other and are always in tune (thankfully).

Both my kids (age 2 and 4) love this one and have even been known to play it together. For a short time… let’s not set expectations too high here! I enjoy playing it with them too but they definitely love to take charge with their own compositions!

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Age 5, Age 6, App Reviews, Book Apps, Preschoolers, Toddler Apps

Brilliant Book Apps to Enthrall All

We love books and book apps are a whole new fantastic way of enthusing young readers. The ones featured here are our pick of the bunch, those that have been heavily used and hugely popular in our house. Some have wow factor, some are sweet, all are brilliant! The list is in order of suitable age range: youngest to oldest.

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Interactive Alphabet (age 1+)

It’s chilled, it’s sweet and has just enough interactivity to keep their interest. Take a leisurely stroll through the alphabet and touch any of the pictures to interact. A for apple is one of Cool A’s favourites, touch it and the apple slowly gets eaten, cracks him up!

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Red in Bed (age 1+)

Very sweet introduction to colours for our youngest readers. Poor red is sick in bed and can’t go out to colour, so the other colours fill in for him, but get a few things wrong. Simple, bold drawings and basic interaction with quick responses make this a winner for little hands. Cool A totally adores this app, he thinks red’s ‘sick’ voice is hysterical. He also enjoys waking the little colour bubbles up when in bed and sending them to sleep at the end. Plus look out for the bonus secret colour bubble who likes to hang out with Indigo and Violet.

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The Monster at the End of this Book (age 2+)

This was one of our early favourites, based on a classic Sesame Street book of the same name. The story is funny, no annoying music and Grover is adorable. He’s scared there’s a monster at the end of the book and will do anything to stop you turning those pages! Which of course makes nothing more enticing… Wonderfully done and such a success that it spawned a second book app, Another Monster at the End of this Book, starring Elmo. Also worth getting. I just love Sesame Street apps.

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The Three Little Pigs (age 3+)

This app was made by Nosy Crow and if you love a good book app, get to know that name. Really I could have chosen any of their lovely fairytale books. There are loads of interactive surprises and some cunning use of the iPad format, such as blowing in the microphone to help the wolf blow the houses down, or tilting the screen to find hidden characters. The stories are read in children’s voices which kids always love to hear. Also available are Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk.
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Bartleby’s Book of Buttons Vol 2 (age 3/4+)

Bartleby has already rated a mention on this blog as one of L Star’s favourite all time apps. Both my boys are button fanatics and wo betide anyone who tries to operate the microwave or dial a phone number by themselves! Noooo! Button armageddon will be visited upon you. Well thankfully Bartleby saves the day, a whole story with various buttons to operate (although never enough for my two), puzzles to solve and a curious enough story to get them interested. Sadly it’s a To be Continued… which is very frustrating, but that hasn’t stopped this being super popular in our house. The mystery is, where did Bartleby Vol 1 go? No word from the developers.

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Millie’s Crazy Dinosaur Adventure: Book 3 (age 4+)

We have enjoyed Milly’s third adventure just as much as it’s two predecessors. It’s a fun tale with heaps of switches, levers and buttons (yay!) to activate to progress the story. Millie forgets a birthday present for her friend so invents a time machine to go back in time to get herself out of trouble. Except the dial is set a little too far back in time. The ‘Story Switch’ feature enables you to choose the path the story takes and there are secret stickers hidden on each page which encourage investigation and experimentation. L Star loves this book and when I asked him why (hoping for some useful insight to use in this review) he gleefully told me it’s because he likes it when Millie almost gets eaten by a dinosaur and he wishes she would. OK! Maybe the developers could take that on board and Millie could get eaten in her next adventure? Yeah, he is 4. Whether he roots for the heroine or not, he still has a great time with Millie and her adventures.

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Dinoboy (age 4+)

We love this one for it’s imaginative whimsy and the lovely hand illustrated pictures. It’s also one of the few multiple choice books we’ve come across, so the kids can decide what happens next and experience a different story on each reading. There’s something to do on each page before the story can progress and L Star returns to this one again and again.

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Rom and the Whale of Dreams (age 6+)

A truly beautiful book, more in the style of a traditional picture book with exquisite illustrations and simple animation. We love a story about imagination and curiosity and this one does not disappoint: “In a land where no one dreams, Rom – a gypsy prince – dreams of a strange creature: a whale with lion’s paws and butterfly wings. Convinced that the animal exists, Rom travels to strange lands in search of it…” Aimed at older kids 6-8, but this has been a lovely reading experience for L Star (4) and I.

In one of my next posts I’m going to review some truly spectacular books incorporating Augmented Reality. What is that? Well it brings a whole amazing 3D aspect to your story time. But don’t worry if you don’t have a clue how it works,  I’ll be going through a quick run down of exactly what it is and how to make it work on your iPad. Suffice to say it’s purty fricken cool…

What are the favourite books apps at your place?

Age 5, Craft, Creative Projects, Preschoolers

Fractious siblings? Try RICE!!


It was a usual morning at our place. Kids had been wrangled into clothes for the day and convinced to at least sit at the table and look at breakfast. All was fairly harmonious and contained, until, we reached the notorious second stage… the END of breakfast. This day we had no plans, so no rushing around getting snacks and shoes. The boys slid off their seats, had precisely one nano second of ‘playing nicely’ and smoothly proceeded to the inevitable squealing, fighting, snatching and pouting.

But! I was prepared. Today we were making balloon yoyo’s. I love a simple craft activity and this was one of those ones where I already had everything in the cupboard. Inspired by this post I thought this would be a good one for engaging both boys. OMG. How did I not know that RICE would turn two Tasmanian devils into happy little lambs? I kid you not.


Two baking trays, 2 bags of rice, a variety of small cups, spoons and cardboard toilet roll tubes and we had major experimentation going on. I think in more experienced circles they call these kinds of activities Sensory Boxes. I hoped that they might play with the rice for a while before we got to the yoyo part, but they played FOR AN HOUR. With me in attendance, it wasn’t that amazing that I could sit and… well, even just sitting would be good, but they stopped trying to kill each other and were totally absorbed. I added lentils, kidney beans and any other dried pulsey type things that were dying in the back of my pantry. More the better. L Star was making ‘breakfast’, then a whole little world for sea life, whilst Cool A mainly enjoyed scattering everything on the ground and filling up small cups.


Finally L Star started to investigate the balloons I left on the table and started to fill them up with the mixture he made, completely of his own accord. We worked out how to make our own funnels from cardboard, I added the elastic bands and we went from having a fairly tranquil activity to a super active chaotic fun one. The boys went nuts with the yoyos. We took them to a play date and their friends went nuts with them. A few days later and they are still popular. In summer I’m going to make them with water instead of rice. This activity was a major winner on all counts for us, with so many creative boxes being ticked!

photoThe joy of a bouncy yoyo!

Age 5, Age 6, Age 7, App Reviews, Augmented Reality, Free Apps, Maths, Preschoolers

Fetch! Lunch Rush! A Maths App to get Kids Moving

Fetch! Lunch Rush! A Maths App to get Kids Moving

This app makes clever use of augmented reality to enhance game playing. Firstly you print off some PDF’s from the game website and cut up the numbered ‘sushi plates’ and place them around the house. When playing the app, Ruff Ruffman challenges the player to solve a maths problem. The player has to hold the phone over the ‘sushi plate’ which has the correct answer. The screen then magically displays the correct number of sushi (augmented reality bit). Has wow factor and we enjoyed playing this one with L Star and seeing him puzzle over the solutions and run around trying to find the right plate. The sums get harder quite quickly to we had to stick to the first level but looking forward to using this more as the boys maths skills improve.
Oh and did I mention it’s FREE? Yay!

Fetch! Lunch Rush!  is a free app from PBS Kids show Fetch with Ruff Ruffman.