Reading Eggs the App is Released!

I am seriously excited about this new release. Perhaps the most valuable educational resource for preschool / early primary kids I have come across so far, is now accessible through an app! I had previously wrestled with the question of whether or not to review Reading Eggs on this blog, and had vowed not to do it because strictly, it wasn’t an app. So you can imagine how pleased I was to discover this week, the release of a Reading Eggs iPad app.

Reading Eggs, the web-based educational program (accessed via a web browser) has been around for a while. My kids have been using it for close to 3 years and our local school started using it this year. Most times my kids ask to use the iPad, the session begins with 15 – 20 minutes of Reading Eggs or Mathseeds (see below for more information). Success has been amazing, and such a fun journey. This will be our most used educational app.

Reading Eggs can be described as an online ‘world’ for kids aged 4 -7. Divided into 12 maps, each containing 10 lessons of around 10 individual activities, this is not something your child will outgrow quickly. One thing I like is the early progression to reading full words and sentences. Letters aren’t introduced alphabetically; sounds, letters and words are introduced in order of frequency of use. This means, as early as lesson 9, your child can read their very first storybook, even though they haven’t yet covered the whole alphabet.

Examples of activities include catching fish, tracing letters, loading trains, jumping astronauts, stamping letters, shooting hoops, crunching words, lighting candles, flying owls, spinning wheels and shooting rockets – it is enormous, you get the idea! At the end of each lesson there is an ebook to read (or listen to, there is a choice) and a new character is “hatched”. At the end of each map there is a short quiz to ensure the child is ready to move on.

Kids are so tech savvy these days, they expect constant entertainment. Even at ages 3 and 4, if it doesn’t sing, dance, stand on it’s head and play a musical instrument all at once, it isn’t worth playing. At the same time however, young kids love repetition and are encouraged by mastering new skills. Reading Eggs manages to successfully walk the fine line between entertainment value and just enough repetition.

I have thoroughly enjoyed witnessing my kids’ discovery of the literary world and Reading Eggs has been a big part of this. A couple of words of caution before leaping into the investment however – It does require regular use (at least 15 – 20min 2-3 times a week) to get the best value and whilst entertaining, it is still an educational game. Kids who have been exposed to sophisticated games and apps with pure entertainment in mind might be less charmed by this one and unwilling to stick it out.

The extension program, Reading Eggspress for 7-13 year olds and the Maths version known as Mathseeds are not yet available through an app but Mathseeds and the Reading Eggspress books are compatible with the iPad via a web browser. I am hoping there will be a Mathseeds app announcement soon so I can follow up with another exciting review!

The app is free to download from the Appstore however content can only be accessed if you have a valid account. The cost is $79.95 AUD for a one year subscription, but you can access a free trial first.

What does the Sock Monster really look like?

Anyone who wears socks ought to know about the Sock Monster. For me there is simply no other explanation for the disappearance of countless single socks in my household. But what does the Sock Monster actually look like, and when does he get the opportunity to steal our socks? UK based author / illustrator Lorna Fretag has created a delightful insight into the world of the Sock Monster through her interactive iPad storybook app aimed at 2-5 yr olds, titled My Sock Monster.

10 interactive pages comprise this eBook, which is a great length for a pre-bedtime read. The story begins by introducing the Sock Monster and the various sites around the house he accesses clean socks to gobble. Every time the monster eats a sock, his fur changes to the colour and pattern of the sock, a feature much loved by my colour-obsessed 4 year old. The story then poses the question, what would happen to the Sock Monster if the socks ran out? Does he simply fade away, or does someone come to his rescue?

My absolute favourite part of this review was watching my 2 yr old imitate the monster. Every gobble, giggle and raspberry noise was copied, in-between bouncing about and squealing with delight. It was truly magical to watch. My son also displayed great empathy when the socks ran out and the monster became sad and hungry. Imitating the monster helped my kids become more immersed in the story than I believe they would have reading a printed book. Cute noises are definitely a big hit with my children, something that an eBook or storybook app can achieve over and above a regular picture book. (Unless you have an expert storyteller in your family.)

The ability to choose the option of “read to me” or “read myself” is a great feature, extending the use of this app to slightly older children who can read for themselves. I personally love the charming Scottish accent of the child narrator however and would be highly unlikely to switch her off.

There are no advertisements or in-app purchases. This is a great app to use as an introduction for young children to the iPad. Simple tap once gestures control the interactive features and are easily understood by little tappers. Although not yet available, I think it would be great if this were a universal app for iPhones an iPods as well. I would love to be able to pull the Sock Monster out of my pocket in a doctor’s waiting room or other such distraction emergency.

For me, the story ending was a little underwhelming. But for the 2 yr old master of our household, the stinky socks page could not be surpassed. Finishing the story was not high on his agenda, he would have been happy to play with the smelly socks all day!

Price: $6.49 NZD… Yes, I too have been wrestling with the price of apps in the children’s ebook category. When you consider the costs associated with professional editing however, and the fact that the printed version (soon to be released) is unlikely to be less than $15, iPad adaptations of quality picture books like this one can be worth the investment.

Disclosure: I was provided with a free promo code to download this app for review. All comments and opinions are (as always) my own.

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TinyTap – Enormous Potential.

Creativity and simplicity are core elements of this very successful app… that also happens to be free! For all the thousands of simple educational apps focusing on one or two core skills, this app has the potential to blow them all away, with apps created by your own child! I see huge potential for TinyTap, applications for it are unlimited. Kids can create their own games with ease and access hundreds more in the marketplace if they choose to play only.

Essentially the app works by uploading a picture or series of pictures from either your own photo library, the internet or a selection of pictures available within the app. Drawing, text and full creative control of the game pages are allowed. Once each page is complete, a series of audio questions can be recorded and areas of the page corresponding to the correct answer, traced. This afternoon my children created a collage of their school holiday outings and recorded questions for their little brother to use in his search for familiar items. Great sound effects and the personalised nature of the game ensured it was a hit, squeals of delight were heard not only while game playing but also in the creation phase

I am very excited about the future of this app, for classrooms and in homes, across a wide variety of users. I can’t wait to see where our tiny tappers will take us next.

TinyTap
Free

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Early Primary (ages 5-8) App Recommendations

A round up of some top educational Apps for this age group. Prices do fluctuate so check the App Store price before you buy.

Maths

Bugs and Numbers – $4.19 Eighteen multi-level games covering early maths concepts including patterns, addition & subtraction, time, currency and fractions. Adaptive progression avoids frustration.
Squeebles Addition and Subtraction – $1.59. For a full review of Squeebles apps, tap here
Squeebles Fractions – $2.59
Squeebles Maths Bingo – $1.59
Times Tables: Squeebles for iPad– $1.59
Division: Squeebles Times Tables Reversed – $1.59
123 Sheep! – Free
iCAN count money New Zealand – $2.59 An introduction to NZ currency.
Marble Math Junior – $4.19 Use the marble maze to solve Maths questions.
Quick Maths – $2.59 Handwrite answers.
Targeting Maths 1 – $12.99 by Blake Publishing, the same people responsible for Reading Eggs. Aligned to the Australian curriculum for year 1.
Targeting Maths 2 – $12.99
Targeting Maths 3 – $12.99
Maths Monkey Quest – $2.59
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox – $1.29
Playful Minds – Math (5-8 years old) – Free (for 12 months). The best free maths app available in my opinion!
Monkey Math School Sunshine – $2.59
Splash Math Apps – $13.99 full version. Graded levels.
Maths with Springbird HD Free. (plus in-app purchases)
Park Math (by Duck Duck Moose) – $5.29
Magic Matrix – $2.59 Introduces matrices and tables.
DragonBox – $8.29 Algebra by stealth. One of the best examples of learning embedded in game play. Also available in a 12yrs+ version.
Math Heroes 1 – $4.19
Math Vs Zombies – $1.29
Math Ahoy! – $1.29
Mystery Math Town – $4.19
Mystery Math Museum – $4.19

Reading / Writing / Spelling

Monkey Word School Adventure – $2.59
Squeebles Spelling Test, – $2.59 Customise your own spelling lists for multiple users, record your own voice. Fun reward game.
Eggy apps – various prices. By the Reading Eggs people.
Little Reader – Free. (plus in-app purchases)
Little Speller – Free. Learn to spell sight words.
Little Writer – Free. Customisable – e.g. you can enter in child’s name or favourite toy with a picture and learn to write it)
Simplex Spelling – lite version free. Phonics.
Rocket Speller – 5 Levels, 140 words.
School Writing – Learn to write and more – $6.49 Developed for Aust & NZ schools.
Writing Wizard – $1.25 Fully customisable, add your own words. Fun colours and animations. We use this one to practise spelling words.
Sky Fish Phonics – $4.19
Monster’s Socks – $4.19 An adorable eBook. For a full review, tap here.
Kids Crossword – $2.59

Combined Reading / Writing / Spelling / Maths

Teach Me: 1st Grade – $2.59 also available in Toddler, Kindergarten, Grade 2 & Grade 3. Answers can be written, these apps have quite good handwriting recognition.

Science and Social Sciences

iLearn Solar system HD – $4.19 Learn about the Solar system and interact with the Planets. Explore and quiz modes.
NZ Fauna – Free
Museum Victoria’s Field Guide to Fauna – Free
Barefoot World Atlas – Free. An interactive globe.
The Human Body – Currently free. An interactive guide to the skeletal, muscular, circulatory, nervous and digestive systems.

Early Programming

Daisy the Dinosaur – Free. The most basic of intro to programming apps.
Kodable – Free. Similar to Daisy.
Move the Turtle – $4.19. ,uuProgressive challenges introduce programming concepts.
Hopscotch – Free. Enables free creation of animations, games whatever you can imagine. Drag and drop, easy to get started.
TinyTap – Free. Amazingly easy to use and a clever idea. Kids can create games by uploading pictures or drawings, record audio questions and tracing areas of the pictures that correspond to the correct response.

Creative

Snowflake Station – $1.29
Princess Fairy Tale Maker – $5.29 (by Duck Duck Moose)
Toontastic – Free
ArtRage – $6.49
Hello Crayons and Hello Color Pencil – Free
Scribble Press – $5.29
Toca Builders – $4.19
LiquidSketch – $2.59 Puzzles and free drawing.
ColAR Mix – Free (one page only) $4.19 (full version). Print off colouring in pages then use your iPad / iPhone to make them 3d and animated.
TypeDrawing – $2.59 Draw pictures with lines of text.
Pic Collage – Free! Very easy to use photo collage creator. Clip, trace, resize, colour, borders, stickers and more.

Music

Jellybean Tunes – $4.19. Learn to read music
Piano Infinity – Free
Piano Free with Songs
Guitar Free with Songs

A bit more fun (but still found in the education section)

Toca Boca – $4.19 each. Currently about 18 apps. Some free versions available. Probably more pre-school but some like “Paint my Wings” and Toca Tailor” are still popular.
Dr. Panda apps – $2.59 each. Currently around 11 apps, some free versions available. Learn about various occupations and workplaces with fun games, including a mechanic’s workshop, a handyman, a restaurant, beautician and and an airport.
Little Fox Music Box – $4.49 Beautifully illustrated
Leo’s Pad – Free. 4 ‘Appisodes’ in one.
Dinorama – Currently Free. Create your own dinosaur theme park. Buy, name and feed your dinosaurs. Maintain and develop your park to attract visitors and maximise your income. Great for learning about finances and time management.

Keeping your child in one app – guided access

The iOS feature Guided access is my new friend. The thing that most annoys me about the occasional iPad access my toddler has, is the constant switching between apps and deletion of my favourites! Guided access is the answer… If you haven’t heard of it before and you have a toddler, you’ll be wondering why there isn’t a large fluorescent sticker explaining the feature on the front of every iPad and iPhone box!

In short, this feature will keep your child in the one app, requiring a pass code to exit – thereby eliminating the chance of inappropriate purchase, viewing or deletion of apps. It also works well with web pages, blocking specific areas of a screen so external links cannot be accidentally followed.

Here is how to set it up:

Tap on – settings > accessibility > guided access

In this screen you can switch the feature on and set a pass code.

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Once you have completed this setup, you are ready to use guided access:

Whilst in any app, click the home button 3 times.

You can then choose to disable touch and / or tilt functions. The home button will automatically be disabled. You may also select an area of the screen to disable. As mentioned earlier, this can be used to disable the navigation bar or areas with external links on a web-based program.

Once you have made your selections, click “start”, and guided access will commence.

To exit guided access, triple click the home button again and if you have set a pass code you’ll be asked to enter it.

Simple! … you’re welcome 😉

Toca Builders

It’s here! The brilliant people at Toca Boca have released their most complex creative app yet, and it is a winner.

I have to admit, I was a little nervous about my creative abilities when I started out on this app, it is after all recommended for age 5+ 😉 I should have had more faith in the crew at Toca Boca though, the simple controls are easy to get a handle of, whilst it still allows for your most creative geniuses to take flight.

Essentially the Toca Builders is a blank 3d canvas of blocks, similar in vein to Minecraft. The aim here however is building and creativity, no survival or gameplay. Creating your own Toca Builders world is facilitated by the use of six characters or builders, each with their own special talents. Meet them here (developers description):

Cooper the Ball – Cooper has the ability to paint the ground simply by rolling over it. You can switch this ability on and off by using a switch.

Blox the Hammer – Blox both has a backpack which automatically lays out blocks AND hammer hands that can be used to crush these blocks simply by walking in to them. You can switch off the block laying ability by using a switch.

Connie the Crane – Connie is a crane that can pick up blocks and place them with high precision.

Vex the Jumper – Vex is a great jumper and can also put down some blocks while hopping along. Perfect for building high walls or staircases.

Jum-Jum the Painter – Jum-Jum can paint any surface by shooting paint at it. By continuously shooting paint at the top of a pile you can paint the all the underlying blocks as well.

Stretch the Tall – Stretch can grow tall and place blocks in mid-air. If you want to build roofs, look no further.

Although I called it a “blank canvas”, opening a new world may reveal some surprise fixtures. Things we have discovered so far include a forest, some ships, and the loveable character Stikk Figga from the Toca Band app.

With the ever increasing use of 3d software in industries such as design, architecture and engineering; Toca Builders may ignite a passion your little tapper that could lead to bigger things!

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Special introduction price $1.29 NZD on the App Store, not yet available on other platforms.

I Can Count Money NZ

Last week my very excited daughter came home from school declaring there was an upcoming fair to raise money for the senior school camp. Her excitement was accompanied by a note asking us to send a small amount of coins to school so they could pay for the items and activities on offer. I had been meaning to talk money with her more often but as we haven’t yet introduced pocket money, I was concerned she may get over excited and hand over all her money in the first purchase!

I then remembered an app I had downloaded some time ago – I can count money NZ (also available in AUD, USD, CAD, EURO and a generic currency). My favourite feature of this app is the localised currency.

There are five different modes, to build an understanding of using currency to pay for things like treats, food, toys, stationary, sporting equipment etc. Coins and notes are shifted from an available pool of money to an answer plate before tapping the cash register icon to check the answer:

Mode 1. I know how to pay
Mode 2. I can play in different ways
Mode 3. I know how much to get back
Mode 4. I can go shopping
Mode 5. I know how much is in it

There is also a calculator function where you can drop money onto the calculator for automatic addition. There are options to restrict the types of coins and notes you use. We found this useful as we were able to simplify the play to introduce coins and notes gradually.

Overall I would rate this as a very useful app for the specific purpose of gaining proficiency in using currency. More engaging than a worksheet and it provides an instructional element that keeps the play learning going!

$2.59 NZD from the App Store

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