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.

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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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Monster’s Socks

Monster’s Socks is delightful, whimsical, adorable and thoroughly enjoyable. This app is one of the most captivating ebooks I’ve ever seen.

The story follows a sweet little monster who lives in a cardboard box and his journey across rivers, seas and through outer space to find his missing socks. Instead of regular page turning, the story progresses by moving the little monster across the screen. As a result the child feels a part of the story, that they are helping the monster find his socks. This clever use of touch screen technology is what sets ebooks apart from regular books. Don’t get me wrong, I am huge fan of numerous regular children’s books, but I do get excited to see my children enjoying the ‘more’ or added experiences ebooks are capable of delivering. Interactive books are a hugely untapped area of app development in my opinion, I look forward to meeting our next family favourite.

Recommended for ages 4+

Available on the App Store and Google Play.
Price: $4.19 NZD

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Dr. Panda

As promised, here is the review of apps by the newly crowned king of all app developers (according to my household), TribePlay. Dr. Panda apps are targeted at the 2-6 yr old age bracket, a time when finding out about the world outside your front door is most exciting. I’m not aware of other developers using the term “educational values” but it is a fancy way the people at TribePlay have of saying that these very engaging apps won’t just teach your child to count or recognise the alphabet as you would typically expect of educational apps for this age, they will educate your child in a broader sense of the word. An example of this is the occupations explored by the various apps. Your child can discover; in a considerable amount of detail, what a doctor, shopkeeper, farmer, chef, beautician and handyman do.

To give an example of the level of detail you can expect, here are a couple of our favourite activities:

In the Handyman app you get to assemble a bunk bed. From sawing the timber, lowering in slats and mattresses to nailing the timber together.

In the supermarket app, fruit and vegetables need to be weighed, price labels printed and placed in shopping basket. After this you can go outside and collect up the trolleys in the car park.

The restaurant app was the earliest we discovered and still remains a firm favourite. Learn what it takes to make scrambled eggs, stir fry and who could resist the gingerbread men.

Each app contains several pages of activities like the ones above, including activities for sorting, shapes, creativity and puzzles. The true test of how good an app is for me is the number of times it is requested. Requests for Dr. Panda in my house are implicit, my children would notice immediately if any of the Dr. Panda apps were deleted from our iPad!

Lookout for the new Dr. Panda Garage coming soon! If wheels are your little one’s thing (we have a huge fan of anything with wheels in our house) this will be a guaranteed hit.

$2.37 – $2.50 on Google Play (except a couple of free lite versions)

$2.59 on the App Store (except a couple of free lite versions)

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Toca Boca

Toca Boca apps are in my opinion worthy of the highest praise. They are undoubtedly the most played apps in our household of all time (although there is a new contender rising the ranks – Dr. Panda, my next post I promise) . Whilst I wouldn’t consider these the most educational, they are very engaging, promote creativity and many can be used by multiple players simultaneously – a big plus if you are a one tablet, multiple kid household.

This incredible range of 18 high quality apps includes a couple of lite or free apps. The developers refer to them as virtual or digital toys. If you think of your tablet as a seriously condensed form of your bookcase, Toca Boca is a toy box more portable than your kids!

Here are some of our family favourite Toca activities:

Feeding the monsters, painting beautiful symmetrical wings, creating crazy hair dos, designing clothes, hosting a tea party, running a grocery store and mixing up some groovy tunes with the Toca band.

$4.19 NZD each, except Toca Doctor Lite, Toca Kitchen Monsters, Toca Tailor Fairy Tales and Toca Hair Salon Christmas Gift all free on iOS.

Toca Hair Salon 2 is now also available on Google Play.

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Squeebles

Squee, It’s time for Spelling and Maths!! Well to be honest, I’m pretty sure no Maths or Spelling app would ever illicit such a response from my kids (though if I do find one, you will be the first to know) but Squeebles apps can help with reluctance towards spelling, basic math facts, fractions, times tables and division.

Delightful characters “The Squeebles” from Squeeble Island (there is a blog if you want to find out more about their off-app antics) are there to help you with these key early primary skills. Stats are available and many of the apps can be accessed by unlimited users – making them ideal for the classroom. Here is a quick run down of what you can expect from each app:

Squeebles Addition and Subtraction $1.59 NZD

As the name suggests, kids are asked to solve addition and subtraction basic facts problems to help the Squeebles compete in the Squeeble cart rally.  The nasty Maths Monster has stolen all their cars and correct answers will win them back.  There are 4 levels of difficulty ranging from beginner to very hard.

Squeebles Fractions $2.59 NZD

Again the Squeebles are battling the Maths Monster, this time to enter a cake competition. There are 4 mini games each tackling a different fractions skill – A piece of cake (visual recognition of fractions as part of a whole), Tricky pairs (matching equal fractions with different denominators), Think Big (determining the largest fraction) and Super Sums (adding fractions together). The reward for this one is time to design your own weird and wonderful cake from a list of over 100 ingredients – you can imagine the appeal!

Squeebles Math Bingo $1.59 NZD

From cakes to ice creams, these developers really understand kids. In the Math Bingo app, the Squeebles are united in their quest to help Ruby re-stock her ice cream parlour after the Maths Monster stole her ingredients. There are 5 different game modes – multiplication, division, addition, subtraction and random. As you would expect from the title, each mode contains a 25 number bingo card and 5 in a row will earn a reward.

Times Tables and Division $1.59 NZD each

Help Wizz the Squeeble rescue his friends from the Maths Monster by solving times tables. One of the clever features of this app is the automatic saving of “tricky tables”, so that your child can re-visit the tables they found difficult. The Division app is the reverse of the times tables e.g. the question 5 x 4 = ? would be asked as 20 / 5 = ?.

Sqeebles Spelling Test $2.59 NZD

This was the first Squeebles app discovered in our house and it has definitely helped us get into the swing of regular spelling practice. This app is very adaptable, there is the opportunity to create your own spelling lists and record your own voice pronouncing the words for each individual child. The reward for completing spelling tests is a fun mini game called Squeeberang.

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Bugs and More

Bugs and Buttons 
Bugs and Bubbles
Bugs and Numbers

A progressive suite of apps, each with 18 multi-level games covering early math concepts including colours, sorting, shapes, patterns letters, numbers, addition & subtraction, time, currency and fractions.

My testers love the beautiful illustrations and engaging scenes. A tiny world for tiny people!

Clever adaptive progression avoids frustration. When a child answers incorrectly a few times, the current game will congratulate them for their progress, close and move on to a different topic.

The ability to register multiple users ensures each one is operating at an appropriate level.

I can’t wait to see what these developers come up with next!

$4.19 NZD each

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