Archive for the ‘apps’ Category

LEGO Apps for All Ages

February 6, 2016

These apps are all about LEGO!  If you or your child love to build, check out some of these virtual options.  Take your LEGOs on the go – or anywhere you don’t have space to build.

LEGO DUPLO Train by LEGO Systems, Inc.

Ages:  5 and under

Price:  FREE!

Requires:  iOS 6.0 or later or Android 4.0 and up

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android

Engineer your own train!  Choose and load cars, build bridges, navigate railroad crossings, and lay track.  Once you’ve built a train, drive your train to the next station, where you can load cargo or passengers.  Once you’re underway, face periodic challenges to help the train continue.  As an added bonus, most objects in the landscape are animated, so slow down along the way and enjoy the landscape.  Once you’ve successfully reached the end of the line, the game returns automatically to the start menu.  Navigation is mostly drag-and-drop or tapping the screen, and if you take too long, you’ll see visual prompts.  For build challenges, the app automatically rejects pieces in the wrong place.  Some parents have reported audio glitches while playing, and occasional problems when used with smartphones.  Some content may be challenging for younger children, but parents report that toddlers and preschoolers alike enjoy this app.

LEGO Juniors Create & Cruise by LEGO Systems, Inc.

Ages:  4 to 7

Price:  FREE!

Requires:  iOS 6.0 or later or Android 4.0 and up

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android

Build vehicles and other figures from earned LEGO bricks.  Once you’ve created a vehicle, navigate a challenge course to collect coins, which unlock additional LEGO pieces.  At the end of each level, you can build a new LEGO structure that appears in future courses.  The sequence is simple:  Choose your player, build your vehicle, and drive the course.  At the end, build your structure and return to the main menu.  Use drag-and-drop building and single-button navigation for your car.  There are a limited number of sculptures to unlock, so expect some repetition.  You won’t actually be steering your car, so if you want a driving challenge, you might want a different app.  Reviews from Common Sense Media, iTunes, and GooglePlay are mostly favorable, although many parents do recommend this game as better suited for a younger audience (3 to 5) than advertised.

LEGO MINDSTORMS Fix the Factory by LEGO Systems, Inc.

Ages:  8 and up

Price:  FREE!

Requires:  iOS 5.0 or later or Android 4.0 and up.

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android

Program an EV3RSTORM robot to walk, rotate, grab, and move objects.  You’ll need logic, spatial intelligence, and robot commanding skills to navigate the factory maze and put dislocated batteries back into their proper place.  For each course, build a programming sequence using drag-and-drop commands, then watch your robot follow those rules to move the batteries.  For unsuccessful attempts, a red X shows where your code failed.  Scores are based on the number of attempts, number of moves, and number of errors you make in each level.  Levels are progressively harder, so you’ll want to experiment with your strategy and discuss your logic.  The puzzles may be too hard for younger users, even if they love LEGOs.  If you hope to learn more about programming, Common Sense Media advises that you won’t learn much beyond the basics.  Also, there is no help menu – if you get stuck on a challenge, you’ll have to keep repeating it until you find the solution.  There are only 24 levels, so repetition is inevitable for frequent players; use this as an opportunity to improve your time and strategy in each round.

If you can’t get enough LEGOs, you can search for more LEGO apps on your device – there are several other free variations available.  When you’re ready to build in real life, be sure to check out some of these great LEGO-inspired upcoming programs:

  • LEGO WeDo Robot Challenge – Monday, February 15 at 3 PM – Davis Library:  Build a LEGO WeDo robot, then challenge yourself to beat an EV3 programming game.
  • Sailboat Storm – Saturday, February 27 at 2 PM – Schimelpfenig Library:  Learn about gears, levers, and sensors as you build a rocking sailboat toughing it out in the middle of a furious storm!
  • Big Build – Saturday, February 27 at 3 PM – Haggard Library:  Build with a giant size construction set and lots of LEGOs!
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Limiting Screen Time for Kids

January 2, 2016

Do you ever feel like your child is spending too much time with technology?  Tablets and smartphones are great, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw the line.  If you feel like your child is spending too much time glued to a device, check out some of these great tips from Tabitha Steffes over at Best Apps for Kids.

  1. Clean up and organize your apps.  If you don’t want your child to keep using an app, delete it from your device.  If you’re not using it anymore, take it off.  Group your remaining apps in categories so they’re easier to find.  You can even keep apps that focus more on learning separate from “just for fun” apps.  This makes it easier to explain to your child what type of app he or she may use and when.
  2. Set time limits and boundaries on your device.  There are several apps that you can use, like the Clock app on iDevices, to limit time right from the device, which can block your child from continuing without knowing the passcode.  If you don’t want to do that, use a traditional timer or stopwatch.  If timers aren’t your style, consider adding fun rules to let your child “earn” screen time each day.  You can also set rules about where it is and isn’t okay to use devices, like saying that technology isn’t allowed at the dinner table.
  3. Be a good example to your child.  Your child is watching everything that you do and incorporating that model into his or her own behavior.  Set limits for your own use of technology.  Show that your child is more important than technology by playing together, reading together, or any other activity that you both enjoy.

For more tips and ideas, check out the full article here.

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App Time: Blue Hat, Green Hat and Peekaboo Barn

August 1, 2015

unnamedThis week in App Time, we started off with Loud Crow Interactive’s book app, Blue Hat, Green Hat, by Sandra Boynton, available from iTunes for $3.99.

Three earnest animals and one misguided turkey learn colors and clothes in this Sandra Boynton classic. You can choose to have the book read to you, or read the book yourself, and even if you choose to read it yourself, you have the option of clicking on the text to highlight and have it narrated to you. Each page has some interactive elements, and towards the end of the book there’s a page where you can change all the turkey’s clothes, and the text on the page will change to match what the turkey is actually wearing! Plus, the story is silly and kids will have a great chance to practice colors and articles of clothing in a fun way.

unnamed
unnamedFor our activity app this week, we used Night & Day Studio’s Peekaboo Barn, available from iTunes for $1.99. There is also a free lite version! We reviewed Peekaboo Barn before here.

App Time will be on hiatus for a few weeks while we prepare for fall, but we’ll be back the week of August 24th! App Time will now be offered at both Haggard and Davis Libraries—look for our new brochure soon for more details!

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App Time: It Was a Cold, Dark Night and Wiggle and Stomp

July 11, 2015

cold This week we started with Collins Big Cat’s book app It Was a Cold, Dark Night which is available in iTunes for free.

This is a very cute story about Ned the hedgehog trying to find a home for the winter. He looks in several places where there are other animals making their homes before finding the right one for him. The highlighted narration is great for beginning readers to follow along, and there are some interactive elements to tap on as well as a few sound effects. The app also has a quiz to review the story after reading it as well as a great “story creator” feature, which allows kids to use the different backgrounds, items and characters to create and record their own story. Collins Big Cat has several other book apps as well.cold 2

 

We also talked about the Shutterbugs: Wiggle and Stomp activity app which is by the Smithsonian Institution. This one is available for free from iTunes or Google Play.

wiggle

Wiggle and Stomp is a very simple activity app which teaches some vocabulary, focusing mostly on animals and verbs. Children get to follow the zoo keeper around the zoo and take pictures of animals doing various actions. Once they get a verb correct three times, it is added to their zoo photo book. They can then go back and look at the pictures any time as well as print out coloring sheets of those animals. This app is perfect for verb recognition and some quick animal facts!

 

wiggle 2

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App Time

June 27, 2015

will and kateWe explored a free book and activity app this week.

The book app was  Kate & William: A Royal Fairytale by Ink Robin (free for iPad and iPhone)

A fairytale romance app about Prince William and Kate Middleton that has background music, high quality illustrations, amusing and well-placed sound effects, along with a well-told story. There is no highlighted narration for this one. There is the option to “read to me” or “read it myself.” The bookmark icon in the top right allows you to quickly navigate through the pages.  There is also the option to shop for other book apps by the producer, Ink Robin, but it does require a specific swipe so that young ones won’t easily get to the App Store.  A very minimalist (book) app but highly recommended…and at the right price!

everyday grooves appThe activity app, Everyday Grooves by The Fred Rogers Center, pairs music with common routines such as Clean Up time, Get Dressed time, etc. You can set the alarms to go off once or multiple times a day. You can silence all alarms or just some of the alarms. I can see this being a fun way to remind children (and parents), and set routines. There’s even a Love You! and Let’s Read! alarm.

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App Time Session 16

May 2, 2015

rocketThe book app we explored in App Time this week was How Rocket Learned to Read written by Tad Hills and produced by Random House ($4.99 on App Store for iPad), and based on the book of the same name.
Rocket the dog isn’t interested in reading, but a little yellow bird changes his mind and becomes his reading teacher. This app is well organized and easy to use. The app begins with a Word of the Day before the story begins. You can read it yourself or have it read aloud. Navigation is clear with arrows at the bottom of the page, a clear Home button and a Question button that gives page hints to prompt the reader where to tap or at times to shake the iPad (to make leaves fall). There is highlighted narration (the reader is a female with great verbal inflection) and verbal pronunciation of a word when tapped. Another nice feature is the “resume progress” option if reading is paused. rocket 2
The app also includes two games that build on the theme of learning to read: Bird’s Words and Alphabet Drop. Bird’s Words helps children learn sight words and there’s the option to hear the word again if children are unsure. If a wrong word is chosen the app moves on. In Alphabet Drop, there is clear instructions for how to play. A scene appears with Rocket looking up at the sky. As letters fall, the child tilts the iPad so that Rocket’s nose touches the letters in order. The letters then appear on a small chalkboard on the tree and a timer keeps track. Children can do the game over and over to improve their time.

 

abc appWe also looked at the activity app ABC Alphabet Phonics produced by Innovative Investments (free on App Store for iPad and iPhone)

This activity app provides a number of ways to for children to identify alphabet letters, from simple prompts to press a letter to additional phonics options. There are lots of options to expand upon letter recognition including uppercase and lowercase; animals next to letters to prompt identification of letter and animal name starting with the letter; professions to prompt identification of letter and profession. Game sounds include reinforcement when a correct answer is chosen.  With so much customization, this free app has many uses!

 

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App Time Session 15: Moon Man Dan and Astronaut Trainer

April 25, 2015

moon man dan

This week, we looked at Moon Man Dan by Pickled Pepper Productions, Ltd., which is available in iTunes for free.

Moon Man Dan lives on the moon and is in charge of lighting up the moon at night. When something lands on the moon, he has to figure out with it is and how to get it back where it belongs. The Nooms are Moon Man Dan’s adorable moon friends who live on the moon along with the MoonMoos (moon cows). This app story is perfect for preschools because it’s very interactive. Every page has things to tap on, some have little puzzles to solve, and there it includes information on the Hubble Telescope along with some pictures of galaxies. There is also a video to watch and a nightlight feature.

MoonMoos

 

 

Our activity app this week was Jetpack Journeys: Astronaut Trainer, available in iTunes for $.99.astro

This is a great educational app to get kids interested in space. There are five game aspects, including building rocket ships, putting the planets in order, and flying rocket ships. As they go through the games, there are coins that children can collect. They then unlock different space facts (a lot of which were new to me!) that are kept in a fact book that they can go back to and look at any time. There is not much in the way of instructions, but it is intuitive enough for kids to figure out on their own. The background music is soothing and unobtrusive, and there are no in-app purchases.

astro2

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App Time Session 14: Otter on His Own and MarcoPolo Ocean

April 18, 2015

otterThe first app we used this week in App Time was Otter on His Own from Oceanhouse Media’s Smithsonian Collection. It is available through iTunes and Google Play for $2.99.

This app is based on a book by the same name, but the illustrations have been updated and allow for some interaction. It would make a great addition to digital libraries for kids ages 4-10, especially as it has plenty of non-fiction educational content. The book follows a young otter pup as he grows up and goes from depending entirely on his mom to being able to go off on his own. In this digital version, kids can read on their own, listen to the story with highlighted narration, and tap on different items they see on the screen to find out what they are, which is great for vocabulary development.

otter 3

 

 

 

We then looked at the activity app MarcoPolo Ocean, which is available through iTunes for $2.99ocean

MarcoPolo Ocean is a great way to continue your exploration into the sea. This app has five puzzles kids can do in addition to the free play aspect of diving deep into the depths of the ocean. They can assemble a coral reef, herring, orca, boat or submarine. As they build, the narrator will give them facts about some of the parts. They can then add animals to their ocean and interact with them during the open-ended play. You can also check out the Sago Mini Ocean Swimmer app, which has a simpler version of ocean exploration, but is free.

ocean 2

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App Time Session 13: Hello, Baby Animals and Lazoo Squiggles

April 11, 2015

 

baby animalsThis week in App Time we looked at Hello, Baby Animals developed by Shortstack. It is available through iTunes for $2.99.

I love that the interaction in this app is simple and relates directly to  the text. Kids can learn the baby animal names for different animals. I even learned how to pronounce foal (a baby horse) correctly. Hint: it rhymes with rock’n’roll! You can turn narration on or off. If you choose to turn narration on, you have the choice to hear an adult’s voice or child’s voice. I like having the child’s voice as the narrator. It might inspire your kid to read along! I thought it was so cool, how the words appear as they are read. This is a different form of highlighted narration, which boosts word recognition and raises print awareness.

Our activity app was Lazoo Squiggles by Lazoo. It is available through iTunes for free.lazoo squiggles

 Haggard Library has had this app on our App Time iPads and the iPads available near the Children’s Info desk. I’ve seen lots of kids enjoying this doodle app and decided to highlight this app for a demonstration. Doodling is so much fun, but it’s also a great way to build fine motor skills. Even kids who can’t hold a crayon yet can get ready to write simply by making some squiggles. Foster human relationships by asking your child questions as they build a scene. It can be as simple as “Where did the car go?” or you can challenge them to think “Why did the flowers grow when it rained?” These questions will help build narrative skills.

App Time is funded by the Texas State Archives and Library Commission (TSLAC) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services(IMLS). Come to Haggard Fridays at 11am and join us for App Time. See you there!

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App Time Session 12: Trucks and Peekaboo Barn

April 4, 2015

byron barton appsIn App Time this week, we used the book app Trucks from the Byron Barton Collection #1 produced by Oceanhouse Media ($4.99 on the App Store or $1.99 if purchased individually).

For young listeners who love vehicles, this app is a great companion for the books of the same name. It features bold colors and simple navigation with a bright orange triangle at the bottom right for page turns. Sentences appear in black and are highlighted as read aloud (you can turn this option off, too). Pressing on a word will pronounce and display the word again. Sound effects are minimal: Pressing on objects in the scene results in identification of the object, and sometimes prompts additional sound effects. I like the non-distracting format of this app, ideal for younger children. Pressing the orange arrow at bottom center gives the option to close, go to home, navigate to particular pages, record your voice for read-aloud option and turn on/off sound effects.

peekaboo barnWe also used the activity app, Peekaboo Barn by Night & Day Studios ($1.99 on App Store and Google Play)

A wonderfully simple and pleasing app:  a red barn is front and center, and tapping on the wiggling doors opens them to reveal a farm animal. The animal noise is heard, and the word for the animal appears. Tapping again closes the barn doors, and the child can tap to open the doors and reveal another animal.

This one is great for interaction, animal identification and sounds.  Additionally, there are many language options, making this a good one for non-native English speakers or for those wanting their children to learn animal words in another language. 

peekaboo barn 1Parent options can be accessed by swiping, and allow play modes of regular or looped; voice on or off; voice in other languages; or the option to record a voice.

 

 

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