Children's Toy & Media Reviews Since 1978

10 Apps to Give as Gifts

 

Epic!

Ages: Infant – 12 yrs.
Developer: Epic! Creations Inc.
Download Price: $4.99
Platform: iPad

Epic! is an appropriately named app that gives users access to over 10,000 children’s books on a wide variety of both fiction and non-fiction topics. There are books to be read independently, books that are narrated, and even audiobooks. Parents can create up to four profiles for their children; and, each profile is individualized to the skill level and interest of the child. Parents are asked to enter the child’s age and select several favorite subjects including but not limited to: science and nature, sports, mystery, daily life, history, plants and trees, and classics. From that information, the app makes recommendations, but there is no obligation to follow those recommendations. Children can browse by topic or search for specific titles and topics. And, when they find books that they enjoy, they can add them to their “Favorites” or even download them for reading offline. Finally, letting children choose what they want to read increases their interest and engagement level, which in turn increases reading time and skill level.

Click here for the full Parents’ Choice Awards review and click here to purchase.

 

 

 

Green Eggs and Ham – Read & Learn – Dr. Seuss

Ages: 2 – 5 yrs.
Developer: Oceanhouse Media
Download Price: $3.99
Platform: iPad

“I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam-I-am.” How many times between our childhoods and our years as parents have we uttered those words? The classic story, which teaches children to try new things (no matter how they might look) has helped children learn to read for nearly sixty years. In its new Read & Learn series, Oceanhouse Media delivers Dr. Seuss’s beloved “Green Eggs and Ham” on a digital platter.

Each screen-page features a wide variety of interactive characters and objects. By exploring its pages (tapping, dragging and tilting), children discover hidden activities that enhance the learning experience. For example, children may be asked text-based questions to evaluate and improve comprehension (e.g., “What does Sam-I-Am’s friend not like?”). They may identify and match rhyming words, select missing letters to complete words, find objects that begin with a certain sound, or match the written name to the appropriate character. All of these activities help develop and hone important early reading skills.

Click here for the full Parents’ Choice Awards review and click here to purchase.

 

Shape Gurus

Ages: 2 – 5 yrs.
Developer: Colto
Download Price: $1.99
Platform: iPad

Starting with the appropriate metaphor of a bird building a nest, the app takes users through a series of geometric puzzles that require matching of shapes, sizes and colors. Players here a satisfying “click” sound when pieces are correctly placed. Incorrectly placed pieces simply spring back. No warning sounds or audible admonitions to be heard. As each puzzle is completed – a watering can, a flower, a rocket ship – an animation gives context to the assembled pieces. Progressing through the game, we get the sense of a story unfolding.

Click here for the full Parents’ Choice Awards review and click here to purchase.

 

 

Sago Mini Road Trip

Ages: 2 – 5 yrs.
Developer: Sago Mini
Download Price: $2.99
Platform: iPad

Jinja the Cat is going to visit her friends, but she needs some help packing and getting there! In Sago Mini Road Trip, an app designed for children aged two through five, players select a destination, pack Jinja’s bags, choose a vehicle, and help her navigate her road trip. Changing destinations merits changing a wardrobe; we love this implied lesson about how where you’re going can effect what to wear. Players can select from six destinations ranging from the mountains to the big city. And, they can choose one of fifteen vehicles including a race car, school bus, ice cream truck and even a bathtub on wheels or a pickle car.

Click here for the full Parents’ Choice Awards review and click here to purchase.

 

 

 

Lucy & Pogo

Ages: 3 – 7 yrs.
Developer: Catsndogz Studio
Download Price: $2.99
Platform: iPad

Lucy and Pogo, an interactive storybook by catsndogz, is based on the popular French story, “Le chat qui aboyait,” The Cat that Barked. It tells the tale of two outwardly different neighbors, Lucy the cat and Pogo the dog. Pogo goes to school everyday and Lucy would love to join him, but she cannot, because no cats are allowed at school. Lucy decides to disguise herself as a dog, Rocky, so that she too can go. Once at school, she is horrified by a biology class that describes cats as ghastly monsters and a teacher who plans a cat-hunt for the next day. As it so happens, disaster strikes during the hunt and the only one who can save the day is Lucy/Rocky. While celebrating the rescue, everyone is shocked to see Lucy’s dog costume fall off to reveal their “worst enemy,” a cat! Of course, through this lesson, the dogs overcome their prejudice and begin to welcome all animals to their school.

There are any number of apps and storybooks that aim to teach children about intolerance, but many come across as overly directive or heavy-handed. Oftentimes, the story feels an afterthought of the moral; that is not the case in Lucy and Pogo.

Click here for the full Parents’ Choice Awards review and click here to purchase.

 

 

 

MarcoPolo Arctic

Ages: 3 – 7 yrs.
Developer: MarcoPolo Learning
Download Price: $2.99
Platform: iPad

The aptly named, MarcoPolo Arctic app is a digital sandbox in which children explore- freely at their own pace with no rules and no limits-arctic habitats and the animals that dwell in them. The app features over twenty arctic species of tundra animals, semi-aquatic mammals, marine mammals and birds in three habitats: the tundra, the taiga, and the ocean. Children learn about various animals by completing animated and narrated puzzles; for example, while completing a puzzle of a caribou, the narrator names each body part and shares interesting facts about how the caribou uses those parts, where it lives, and what it eats. And, in addition to the puzzles, there are over one hundred interactive features on the scrolling pages. Children can tap on animals to play, lead them to water, and more.

Click here for the full Parents’ Choice Awards review and click here to purchase.

 

 

 

 

Easy Music – Give Kids An Ear For Music

Ages: 5 & Up
Developer: Edoki Academy
Download Price: $3.99
Platform: iPad

Easy Music- Give Kids an Ear for Music by Edoki Academy is designed to introduce children to basic musical skills and concepts via fun, simple-to-play, non-theory-based games. The sandbox-style app features two modes: Practice and Compose. In the Practice mode, children learn and hone basic music skills as they play fun games with four friendly characters.

The app can accommodate up to forty children’s profiles on one adult’s account and includes a detailed Parents’ Guide with instructions and helpful information about how the app works, and how to get the most from using it. There’s even a co-composer feature for those with an Apple watch. This is a beautifully designed and thoroughly playful app that will foster in children an interest in learning music.

Click here for the full Parents’ Choice Awards review and click here to purchase.

 

 

 

Toca Blocks

Ages: 6 – 8 yrs.
Developer: Toca Boca
Download Price: $2.99
Platform: iPad

Toca Blocks is an app for the imaginative child who likes to create and build worlds. The Toca Blocks world is a 2-dimensional environment with a few basic building blocks (red, yellow, green, polka-dot, and dance) and some special blocks to give a head start on more advanced building (brick and some home props, like a teakettle and doors). Players can combine the basic blocks to create many more types of blocks of an increasingly elaborate nature; after days of exploration we were still finding new kinds of blocks and props. The doors allow players to step through to another 2-D world with even more options for building. Players can explore the world as any of three characters: a cat (with high agility), a bear (who can climb walls and hang from ceilings), and a bird (who has high speed and can, of course, fly — at least a little).

Toca Blocks is an app of great fun and limitless creation.

Click here for the full Parents’ Choice Awards review and click here to purchase.

 

 

The Everything Machine By Tinybop

Ages: 7 & Up
Developer: Tinybop
Download Price: $2.99
Platform: iPad

The Everything Machine by Tinybop lives up to its name. This app uses a visual programming environment to let users build machines that can interface with every component of a mobile device and then manipulate, record, transmit, or receive the data. Users can build circuits that are as simple as pressing a switch and turning on a lightbulb. Users can also access the camera, the microphone, the speaker, the vibration and tilt functions, and the display; there are modules that can modify the camera image as much as any photo-booth app. With only a few dozen components, kids can create almost anything.

Click here for the full Parents’ Choice Awards review and click here to purchase.

 

 

 

Weirdwood Manor

Ages: 6 – 12 yrs.
Developer: All Play, No Work
Download Price: $4.99
Platform: iPad

Part storybook, part animated film, part game and part puzzle, “Weirdwood Manor” is a visually stunning interactive story about three children who learn that their imaginations hold the keys to extraordinary abilities.

The story, illustration and art direction, and narration are very strong. The pacing is ideal for pulling young readers into the rich fantasy world and setting up the story. Our most intrigued tester/player/readers, who are big fantasy readers and avid gamers, were fascinated with this app. They didn’t want to put it down until they had finished. Striking artwork, age-appropriate mystery, puzzles to solve and secrets to uncover. Not at all a bad way to spend some time.

Click here for the full Parents’ Choice Awards review and click here to purchase.