May 3, 2011

iPad apps for kids

I recently got an iPad, and I can't stop playing with it! It's definitely a fun toy. I eagerly downloaded a handful of children-friendly apps that were recommended on various sites such as Best Ebook Apps, Children's Technology Review, and Kirkus Reviews. Some of them were good, some of them weren't so good, and a few were annoying. The following are the ones I didn't like. The good ones will be mentioned in my next post.

PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit

I loved the print version of Beatrix Potter's classic, and this app has received lots of positive reviews, so I was especially interested in buying it. The illustrations are layered, and have a depth to them, which gives them a three-dimensional look. If you run your fingers over them, you can hear various sound effects like chirping birds and rustling leaves. But I found the giggling rabbits to be a little annoying. Peter also giggles, which isn't something I expected of him. He's not like his siblings, so he shouldn't sound like them. 

There are also pull tabs, animation, background music, and narration. Both the music and narration can be turned off, which is a relief, because they get a little distracting. And that's the problem. It's easy to forget about the words while playing with the pictures, and the story's pacing doesn't flow as well as it does in print. 

Cozmo's Day Off

This app will probably drive parents crazy. Lots of different things happen, depending on what you tap on first. With sound effects from slow or fast robot voices, neon sign fizzles, explosions, squirts, rings, music, and games, some kids may replay it over and over again. Others will quickly tire of it as I did. There's also a dog, heralded by an annoying fanfare, that keeps popping up for no reason. The help section says future updates may alter or add interactions, but maybe they forgot about this one. As for the rhyming story, it's actually pretty stupid. Cozmo hurries to work, only to find that it's the weekend. The end. Even with all the activity, it's a little short on substance.

The Three Little Pigs and the Secrets of a Popup Book

This app is very interesting at first. You can tap on a pair of eyeglasses to get an x-ray view of the hidden springs, levers and pulleys that cause the movements on the screen. By tilting the iPad, you can even get things to sway and "bump" against the edge, which makes a satisfying thump. I liked L. Leslie Brooke's illustrations, which provide an old-fashioned feel, as well as the page covered with buttons, which make doorbell and knocking sounds. His story is also good, but the layout is faulty. Some pages don't have any words, and by the time you've finished playing, you've forgotten the story's thread. Most likely, the story will be ignored altogether. And there's only so many times you can look at the pictures before the novelty wears off. You'd get a bigger "wow" with an actual pop-up book.

Roxie's a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure

I still haven't mastered this maze yet. I keep getting trapped on the same roads, ending up at dead-ends. It's very frustrating! Basically, you put your finger on a car and send it down the highway collecting star points as you go. You're supposed to be able to travel by raft and hot-air balloon as well, but I don't know how. This is one app that should really have a help page. I wish that the music could be turned off as well. 

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