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.

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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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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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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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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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