There are one or two companies who make iPad/iPhone apps for kids who can pretty much do no wrong in my book. They consistently put out high quality, educational, entertaining apps with a wide appeal and what I call a great “shelf life” – something that the kids will go back to time and time again. It must be said that I’ve been wanting to feature one such company as my “app of the week” for a while, simply because they’re so great, but I’ve been hesitant because it’s been hard to select just one of their amazing apps. I really can rave about everything in this developer’s stable – read on to find out who I’m talking about…
Toca Boca are a Swedish development company who are, in my opinion, producing some of the best kids apps in the app store. I have previously written about all their apps when they were having a half price sale, simply because I didn’t want you to miss out on a bargain. This week they’ve released their latest development – Toca House – which is looking like it will maintain their high standard – I’ll tell you more about it in a week or so when we’ve had a chance to play with it more. For now I wanted to highlight two of their apps which the geekson has really taken a shine to – Toca Robot Lab (Universal – 69p) and Toca Tea Party (iPad only – £1.99). I must confess I thought that at 20 months he would be too young for these games, but he’s picked them up quickly, and has been going back to them time and time again over the last few weeks. In Robot Lab you first assemble your robot, selecting a body, head, legs and arms, and then you can fly it around a maze, collecting stars and eventually finding the way out. In Tea Party you host a tea party – there are three place settings around the edge of your iPad which facilitates roleplaying for older children who could sit teddies or dolls around the iPad to join in. You can serve tea and cakes, and at the end you even wash up! See for yourself:
Please note – if you can’t see the video above, you can watch it directly on the web here.
I must admit there was one other app that came very very close to being my app of the week, very unexpectedly. I downloaded Where’s My Water? – Disney (Universal – 69p) simply because it was made by Disney, and they’re another one of those app creators that consistently crank out quality apps. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I got was a lovely little puzzle game where you have to overcome obstacles to deliver water to a crocodile who wants to have a bath. It’s simple enough for the geekdaughter to play at least the early levels, and I’ve ended up addicted to it myself, as well as addicting the geekdaddy, the geekdaughter, and the friend who was staying with us last weekend! Very much in the vein of World of Goo or Cut the Rope, I’d highly recommend this for school aged kids and older!
Here is my roundup of the other apps we’ve been playing with this week:
Peppa Me Books – Penguin Books (Universal – £1.99) – Ladybird are another publisher who are producing some great quality eBooks on the iOS platform, indeed I have already highlighted their “Me books” app as a previous app of the week. This app uses the same platform and controls to bring you a selection of Peppa Pig books, narrated by the same person who narrates the TV episodes. You get the book “Fun at the Fair” to start you off – additional books cost £1.99 each, which is still higher than I’d like – Ladybird, if you made them 69p each I’d buy all of them, as it is I’ve told the geekdaughter she has to wait until I buy her another one, and then it’ll be only one at a time.
The Moogies – Chillingo Ltd (Universal – 69p). I grabbed this app when it was free on the app store last week thinking it might be suitable for the geekson, and it’s actually the geekdaughter who’s been playing with it most. It’s a simple app which I would expect to appeal most to toddlers – nine crazy characters live in a house, and from the home screen where you see all nine of them at their windows you can press on one to see them in their room, with various interactive elements. nice animation, and I like the way the characters all speak in nonsensical babbling. I’m not sure this one has a particularly long shelf life, but it’s inexpensive and fun.
* Off to bed! – DADA Company (iPhone only – will run on iPad in compatibility mode – £1.99). A rather delightful animated interactive eBook telling a bedtime story by the same developer who produced “I learn with transportation” – a previous app of the week. Gentle lullaby-type music and soft narration add to the bedtime feel of this app, although I wouldn’t use it at bedtime as I’m sure the geekson would get carried away with all the different things to do in each scene! The narrator has an American accent, but it’s not amazingly strong. I really like this app.
Lil Painter – Creative coloring book – Tapptil (iPad only – £1.49). Another app that I grabbed when it was free for a short period – sadly it’s back up to full price again. A nice kids colouring app with a selection of 20 line drawings to colour in or 25 backgrounds for freestyle drawing. When colouring in the line drawings you can choose to either colour in normal mode, or autofill the shapes, which is nice for younger artists. One thing I would like changed about this app is that it currently only works with the iPad in portrait mode – my kids generally use the iPad in landscape mode so it would be nice to have that as an option.
* Little Red Riding Hood – Artdinamica Comunicación (Universal – 69p). I love the idea of this app – it’s an interactive story book where you can either read the story in the usual way, or you can tell the story yourself by dragging the characters into the scenes and moving them around. However it’s not yet perfect in execution. The main problem I had was that the app would only run on an iPad2 – with both of the iPad 1s I tested on it crashed straight back to desktop on loading. And as my kids aren’t allowed anywhere near my iPad2, they’re not going to get much chance to play with this until it’s fixed to run on their iPad! I’m also hoping the developer might consider adding a “read to me” option as well which would appeal to the geekdaughter as she can’t read yet. I love the cartoon art style used in this app though, and I think it has potential, but I’d wait for a bug fix release before buying.
Word Book and Puzzle Box HD – Anlock (iPad only – 69p). I grabbed this app as I found out it was on sale for a limited time (usual price £1.49) and it sounded like it would be something the geekdaughter would enjoy. It’s almost three games in one – you can complete a series of simple (the early ones at least are 4 pieces) jigsaws, or word games where you spell simple words by dragging the letters into the correct order to earn stars which allow you to buy things with which to decorate your virtual bedroom. Each puzzle has varying levels of difficulty to make it appeal to a wider age range, and the word puzzles introduce both phonics and letter names. The narration is done with a quite strong American accent, and there are in-app purchases available to buy more puzzles, so if either of those are a turn-off for you I’d avoid this app. Personally I think it’s got bags of content for 69p and I’m happy with the purchase.
Dr. Seuss Band – Oceanhouse Media (Universal – Free for a limited time). Get it whilst it’s free. Seriously! Probably a little too complex for either of my kids but I’m having loads of fun. Create your own Dr Seuss-ian horn, and then play music by following coloured dots on the screen (very “Rock Band” in style). Great fun!
Disclosure: An asterisk (*) denotes an app I for which I received a promo code and thus did not purchase myself. The links above incorporate my iTunes affiliate ID. If you make a purchase after clicking on a link it doesn’t cost you any more money, but you contribute a few pennies towards the upkeep of this site. All prices were correct at the time of writing.