Posts Tagged ‘iPhone apps’

Bob Books iPhone App: Experience Review

You may already be familiar with Bob Books, a reading series designed for the early stages of reading, when kids figure out letters together form words. The small books are leveled based on a child’s ability and include simple, short word sentences with line drawing illustrations to illustrate what’s being said. I actually picked up a few of these books for my 4-year old.

Now your child can enjoy a more interactive experience with the Bob Books Magic of Reading iPhone and iPad app ($1.99). Like the original book series, the app is designed in with built-in levels, enabling kids to progress at their own pace :

  • Level 1 – When you tap the picture, there’s audio to tell you what word your child is working on. The word appears below the image you’ll see letter hints, gravity helps you drop letters in the right place, and you can play letters in any order.
  • Level 2 – Now you have to place letters in left-to-right order. If you try to play a letter out of order it will just bounce out.
  • Level 3 – The letter hints are gone [in the space below each image] and so is gravity. You’ll also have to spell some words from the caption.
  • Level 4 – Now there are extra letters [that appear on-screen] that aren’t actually used in the word. You’ll need to remember how to spell the word to finish the game.

When you start the app, the first story plays. Each story processes to a little harder, adding more words to the caption and more words you have to spell. Each story opens with a black and white line drawing and a caption underneath. Elements in the picture shake inviting the kids to touch. When you touch on one of the pictures you enter into one of the interactive spelling screens. Only the image of what word they are working on appears on-screen and the letter titles used to spell the word are spread over the screen. If the child touches the image, the word is said again as a reminder. Like wise, if they touch the titles, the letter sound is made. In level 1, touching the letter spaces under the picture also makes the letter sound plus it will shake the corresponding tile to help kids find the letter needed. My daughter never touched the spaces under the picture so she never discovered this trick; she went right for the letter tiles and tried working on building the word.

Once a word is spelled out, the word is sounded out, given a visual emphasis on each letter sound. The image then transitions into colour and reappears within the original story. Images not yet in colour will shake to encourage kids to click and spell those words too. Once all the words are done and the whole picture is in colour, a background scene transitions in and a small animation plays supporting the caption below. As this happens, the caption is read out loud, highlighting the words as they are said. This is a great way to reinforce them as the child follows along.

During each story subtle navigational elements appear on the screen allowing you to skip a story to move on to the next story or to go to the story menu. The story menu is like a long film strip with pictures of each story so your child can easily revisit a story they enjoy or move forward if a particular story isn’t challenging enough (the stories increase in difficulty by adding more words, longer words, new words). The story menu also shows what level your child has completed for each story. As I mentioned above, there are 4 levels with each story. You can go through all the stories in level 1 and then repeat them again for the subsequent levels or you can keep repeating a particular story, moving up a level each time. The app remembers what level your child is on and will automatically progress him or her. There is an option of resetting the app to clear any progress you have saved. This is good if you want to start from level 1 again or if you want to share the experience with another child. There are some set-up options to that enable you to determine when music plays during the app, set levels automatically or to a specific level and use letter name or phonics for spelling tiles.

You can see my 4-year old as she experiments with the Bob Books Magic Reading app:

It’s no surprise my daughter was able to figure out how the program worked, without any assistance from me; many kids today have already been exposed to various forms of technology and are quick learners. The Bob Books Magic Reading app is designed to work with your child’s natural inquisitive nature, interacting as they click on things.

Although we do enjoy the Bob Books, the Bob Books Reading Magic app is much more engaging and keeps my daughter interested longer. She still gets excited and proud when she reads a screen on her own. The fact that the app remembers my daughter’s progress and that it’s portability makes it great for the Dr.’s office waiting room, grocery shopping or any other time when my daughter is with me, these elements are things I enjoy about the app as a parent. However there are a few things I’d love to see added to any updates (another great feature of an app, the ability to make updates for those who already own a copy). I would love the option of setting profiles so I don’t have to erase one child’s history so another can use it. Another great feature would be the option to replay the caption again after the audio has played it. Right now it just plays once and it happens at the same time as the animation on the screen. I found my daughter was distracted by the animation and would end up missing the words being highlighted as the narrator read it. To be able to play the caption again and see the highlights would be great, especially if the sentence has a few words and the child is getting muddled; they could play the caption over and over, seeing each word highlighted as it was read.

The Bob Books Reading Magic app was created by Learning Touch, the makers of the best-selling First Words series of learning-to-read apps. It marries First Words’ breakthrough learning-to-read interface with the beloved characters and stores of Bob Books. The app includes twelve scenes for a total of 32 words. For game levels provide increasing challenges to children as they play.

I want to thank the folks at Bob Books and Hopscotch Consulting for providing me with the app so we could experience it and share it with you.

My Living Stories Interactive E-Books for Kids

I’m no slouch when it comes to exposing my kids to technology. I think it can be a great tool in entertaining and educating kids. I’m also a big fan of children’s books which is one reason why I review great printed books each Wednesday as part of Write a Review Wednesday.

So I was excited when Mom Central Canada gave me the chance to try My Living Stories, an interactive e-book for kids that works on your iPhone and iPod Touch (and iPad as we discovered when we experimented with the app).

My Living Stories are interactive stories based on childhood classic tales like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, Tortoise and the Hare, King Midas and Princess and the Pea.

Now e-books on the iPhone aren’t new, we have a few and my kids, especially my 3-year-old, love them. They are great when we’re on a road trip, waiting in the Doctor’s office or out doing grocery shopping. My Living Stories are easy to navigate and offer subtle animation and sound throughout the story to entertain kids. They are a simple page forward, page back format so there’s no worries about kids, especially young kids, getting confused or needing mom’s assistance to use the app. But the best feature about My Living Stories, what makes it stand out from other e-books, is that you can record your own narration, right on your iPhone!

Each story, which you can buy at the iTunes store for $1.99 Cdn, comes already narrated with a young child’s voice. Readers can choose to listen to the narration, listen with just the music so they can read the story themselves or read recorded narration, recorded by you or grandma or the babysitter or anyone your child would enjoy hearing the story being read from.

My 3-year-old loves hearing stories from her older 8-year-old sister so I had my oldest daughter record a story (she loved doing it). The steps are easy and can be done right on your iPhone (no need to download separate software and copy things from your computer). Just choose record and you’re set. You record each page separately and you can hear your recording after you’re done in case you want to record it again. My 8-year-old loved this. She was able to do this on her own and even added in her own sound-effects as she went along. You can record up to 4 different narrations of the same story so your child can choose from a story being read to them by mom or dad or grandma or big sister. And even though it’s the same story, each narration offers a unique feel adding extra life to the story itself.

My 3-year-old enjoyed hearing her sister reading the book and loved the little animations. We have an iPad so the story fills the screen, almost like a book in her lap, but using My Living Stories on the iPhone would be just as enjoyable and easy to use too. My 3-year-old picked up the navigation quickly and loved listening to the different audio voices. She now wants to record her own voice.

There are a lot of iPhone apps out there for kids but ones I really enjoy are the ones that make use of the iPhones technology. Having the ability to record and edit a stories narration is an amazing idea. The only issue I found with My Living Stories was the placement of the text to read when recording the story. The text appears plain, along the bottom of the page, like a script, which is fine since it’s just there for you to read. But the some words were covered by the page forward, page back arrows. At times we were guessing what the words were since we couldn’t read them. This could be a little frustrating for the person making the recording.

ITUNE GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY

The folks at Mom Central Canada and My Living Stories are so excited about their new interactive e-books for kids that they’re offering up a gift card giveaway to my blog readers. That’s you! Simply tell me which 1 of the 5 My Living Stories e-books you think your child would enjoy and who would they like to hear narrate it for them. By telling me that you’ll be entered for a chance to win one (1) $25 iTunes Gift Card (which can now be used to buy apps). Leave your comment before August 6 because after that I will be choosing one name randomly. Participants are more then welcome to enter this giveaway on other blogs (there will be a few running this same contest), however, you can only win 1 iTunes gift card. And sorry, this contest is only open to Canadian residents.

I am participating in the My Living Stories program by Mom Central on behalf of Decode Entertainment. I received 3 free apps an da gift card as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

There ARE people behind the games

Checking out the cool iPhone apps from zinc Roe design

I’ve probably mentioned before that we’re a bit of a gaming family. We play with Leapster and the Wii and the DS and Playstation 3. Now we can add my iPhone to the list. Even my three-year old is hooked on the gaming action; her favourites are those Tickle Tap Apps, iPhone Apps developed by zinc Roe design. We tried out their first three apps when they were introduced to the market. More have been released since our review and still more are in the works.

It turns out zinc Roe design is a Canadian company, in my very city. When they found out we were nearby, they invited us (as in myself and my kids) to visit their studio. My seven-year old was disappointed she had to go to school. She did feign an illness but I’m too smart for that. I mean, I was her age once; I know those tricks.

So it was just myself and my five-year old son and three-year old daughter.  After their initial shyness wore off, my kids were right into playing some of zinc Roe design‘s great iPhone games. They even got to try some of the new games we don’t own yet which was kind of fun. My daughter was excited about trying Field Flier and my son really enjoyed the Colour Collector. Along with their own work, zinc Roe design also works with other clients on interactive new media projects for kids. They recently launched TVOKids first iPhone game called Melvin’s Marvellous Words.

I always enjoy meeting the minds behind great creative products and Tickle Tap Apps is a great product. You sometimes forget that there’s a whole team behind a seemingly small property. My kids also seemed to really enjoyed themselves. We stayed longer than I expected, almost missing the start of my son’s class in the afternoon. The people at zinc Roe design were amazing with the kids. I do feel a little bad though; I think my son may have eaten them out of snacks (sorry).

All in all it was a fun and exciting morning. On the drive to school my daughter fell asleep after all the excitement. My son spent the whole time in the car discussing his plans to be a game designer. He plans on making iPhone games too, scavenger hunt games. Well something with treasure and pirates and an Indiana Jones like character.

Thank You! (drawing of all the stairs we walked up and my son 'sneaking' snacks from the office)

Review: Tickle Tap Apps, preschool fun for the iPhone

I must admit, after I set-up my iPhone, one of the first things I did was tap my way over to the Apple App Store to check out all the cool (and in some cases bizarre) apps I could now get on my phone. I was like a kid in a candy store.

Of course my kids were interested too, even my youngest at just two. When I heard about Tickle Tap Apps, iPhone fun designed for kids 3 to 5 specifically, I had to check them out.

There are currently three completed apps available: Sort Slider, Count Caddy, and Sound Shaker but there are plans for seven more.

Sort Slider ($1.99) is a shape matching game. The screen consists of two fun shapes, like say a flower pot and a tree branch, and a silhouette of one of the shapes. Your child needs to match the silhouette to the correct shape by either tilting the iPhone to slide the silhouette shape or touching and dragging the silhouette shape.  As your child completes matches successfully, Harvey the dog barks enthusiastically and does tricks to encourage them.

My daughter loved playing this; she especially loved when Harvey did tricks after so many correct matches. The movement, either sliding or touching, was easy for her to master. And there’s no negative feedback which is great; if a child slides a silhouette over the incorrect shape nothing happens. The game continues until the slide the shape correctly. The number of shapes is limited but the variety of combinations and placements always makes this game feel new, never repetitive.

Count Caddy ($1.99) helps children learn and practice counting. Jinja the cat encourages kids to drag the balls of yarn into a circle. They start with one, then two and so on up to eight. After accomplishing counting by ones, Robin the bird has them count feathers by twos and Harvey the dog has the kids count bones by threes (and the number count goes higher, to almost twenty). Along with the repetitive audio, the numbers are reinforced visually with the balls of yarn (or features or bones) and the actual number. There are three levels overall and once they are all completed they can be played over again.

My daughter had a little bit of difficulty with the touch and drag, but she quickly figured it out with assistance. She loved the different animals, though she’s only made it half-way through counting by twos. As my daughter played, she became familiar with the numbers and would recite them along with the game.

Sound Shaker ($1.99) is a fun, interactive music making app. Kids can choose from six different sound categories, like chimes, drums or even barn animals. Once they have their sound chosen, they can add it to the screen. A simple tap and a sound ball appears. The longer they hold their finger on the screen a bigger sound ball appears with a different tone of the sound they choose. But that’s not the best part. Once your child has added all the sounds they want, tilt the phone to hear a new musical masterpiece as all the sound balls roll around the screen.

I think this was my daughter’s favourite app out of the three (mine too actually). I love how creative this is. My daughter especially loved the surprise of the bird when she held her finger on screen for a long time. On the streetcar ride home my daughter would play and passengers all around were craning their necks to watch her. The sound is wonderful too, not tinny and annoying to your ears (which is good because your kids will be playing this for a long time).

All three apps, Sort Slider, Count Caddy and Sound Shaker have fun colourful graphics. The layout is very clean, no cluttered background images, which makes it easy for young kids to concentrate on the task at hand, having fun.

I can’t wait to see what’s instore for the next seven Tickle Tap Apps. If they’re anything like these three, I’ll have to own them, ALL.

I have to thank Limelite PR and zinc Roe Design for giving me access to these three apps for my review.