I am always particularly keen to support new and small app development companies, and so when a very polite approach from Prontis Kids dropped in to my mailbox a couple of weeks ago inviting me to check our their two new apps for pre-schoolers I took the promo codes and had a look.
Sort and Stack Toys 3D (Universal – £1.49) replicates on your iPhone or iPad several traditional sorting and stacking toys, both the cube-type with holes that you fit shapes through, and the vertical-peg type where you place objects with holes in over the pegs. The game has two modes – an “easy” mode which forces the child to stack the shapes correctly, and wiggles the shapes to show which ones should be placed next, and an “advanced” mode which allows completely free play.
In Build and Play 3D (Universal – £1.49) you get a selection of mostly transport-related toys which you can assemble and then watch in action. Again this app is designed to mimic real world construction toys, so for example the chassis unit has pegs which you have to fit the wheels over, and if you don’t quite align them straight they slide off again.
I must confess that my initial reaction to both these apps was not very positive. I don’t like the idea of trying to replicate real world toys on electronic devices, because the interfaces are not the same. An action which might be very intuitive for a kid in “real life” – for example sliding a ring over a peg – becomes a lot less intuitive on a digital device. I think that a phone or tablet can’t replace these traditional kinds of toys, and I don’t think we should try to get them to. I generally like to see apps which push the boundaries of the new technologies, rather than attempt to replicate perfectly functional real world toys.
Still, despite my misgivings I put these apps in front of the geekson anyway. The developer’s web site says they are suitable for ages 3 and up, so being only 2 he is a little on the young side. This did lead to some initial frustrations as he tried to figure out what each app did and it wasn’t quite what he expected it to do. There were tears sometimes, especially when he was selecting the correct shape but not quite aligning it accurately enough, in which case it slid back to the side. We found Build & Play slightly worse for this than Sort & Stack – sometimes even I found it tricky to work out how to get the pieces together. As the geekson is a BIG fan of most kinds of vehicles, this was the app that caught his attention first, and he found that frustrating when he couldn’t build the vehicles.
But do you know what? He has stuck with it, and he has figured it out. And he’s got the hang of these apps, and is returning to them again and again. He has completely mastered Sort & Stack (I must say that the thing that helped him most in this regard was when he accidentally knocked the setting from “easy” to “advanced” and could stack the pieces in any order he liked!).
The more I watch the geekson play with these apps the more I am willing to let go of my initial reaction to them, and see the positives. There is an awful lot to like in them – they are very well written, excellent quality, with a very clean and simple interface and lots of bright colours. There are a lot of different toys to interact with in both apps, and I think you get a good amount of content for your money. The geekson is thoroughly enjoying playing both apps, and that’s the real test isn’t it?
These apps have really grown on me, and I think they’re great for toddlers and pre-schoolers. For younger children I would recommend starting with Sort & Stack first, as that’s the one the geekson mastered quicker. Each app is available on the iTunes app store for £1.49, and if your child is anything like the geekson you’ll get a lot of play value out of that £1.49.
Disclosure: Prices correct at time of publication. I was provided with a copy of each app for review purposes. Links include my affiliate code.