App Reviews, Book Apps, Co-playing Apps, Giveaways

What makes a good Book App? Reviews plus Giveaway

IMG_6270With the Easter holidays looming, many of us are planning a little getaway, so now’s a great time to stock up the iPad to help entertain the kids during travel and downtime. Rather than fill up your cases with heaps of the kids favorite books, try out some great book apps to help lighten the luggage load. The iPad lends itself wonderfully to the reading of an ‘eBook’ – a digital interpretation of a traditional book. Indeed book apps are an excellent way to engage less motivated readers and to develop early literacy skills. So you’d think all the enhancements that book apps can bring to a digital story would deepen the engagement of readers and generate enthusiasm for all things bookish, yes? Or do the facts agree? Continue reading “What makes a good Book App? Reviews plus Giveaway”

Age 5, Age 6, Age 7, App Reviews, Augmented Reality, Co-playing Apps, Preschoolers, Science Apps

Stellar Star Gazing apps for Curious Little Cosmonauts

The questions are coming thick and fast these days, ‘Mummy how is air made?’, ‘How do we think?’, ‘What are shadows made of?’ and most recently, ‘Mummy when can we go to Mars?’ I thought I had a few more years of being able to confidently answer all his questions, but apparently not! He’s not even five and I’ve been stumped on more than one occasion. But I know there’s always a fun way for us to discover these answers together and I love searching out the best apps to feed curious little minds. Thanks to a recent birthday present of a toy wooden rocket, moon buggy and satellite set, many of his questions are now about our night sky, stars and especially satellites. We found two apps which have (thankfully) provided us with a wealth of fascinating information about our night sky, so I can keep those answers coming! These really are beautifully made apps, a joy to use and 100% engaging for all ages. I’m loving using them as much as the kids are.

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We started off using the fantastic Sky Guide app which allows you to hold the iPad up to the sky and identify the stars above your head, or below your feet if you point it downwards. It’s a spectacular app which even shows satellites moving across the sky much to the deep delight of L Star (aka Mr 4 and three quarters). It’s aimed more at Continue reading “Stellar Star Gazing apps for Curious Little Cosmonauts”

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…

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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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