Archive for the ‘apps’ Category

May the Force Be With You: Star Wars Apps

May 7, 2016

In honor of Star Wars Day earlier this week (May 4) and George Lucas’s birthday later this month (May 14), here are a few free Star Wars apps that your entire family can enjoy.  While we encourage you to review any app prior to play, here are a few to explore.

Angry Birds Star Wars II by Rovio Entertainment Ltd

Ages:  4+

Require:  iOS 7.0 or later or Android 4.1 and up

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android

If you enjoy the classic game Angry Birds, you’re sure to like this Star Wars version.  Content is based on the Star Wars prequels, and as in the original game, you must strategize to defeat the evil Pork Federation by collapsing structures around the pigs.  If you unlock enough levels for good, you can also join the Pork Side and play as the pigs.  Levels include 5 chapters, rebels, a reward chapter, and the chance to master your own destiny.

This game uses the ideas of physics, magnetism, and gravity to develop strategy.  Each level challenges you to earn stars by completing it most efficiently.  If you’re not familiar with how to play, instructions are shown in picture format; if you’ve played before, it’s easy to pick up.  However, this app does have many in-app purchase opportunities to improve play.  While not required, they are a constant presence.  If you enjoy this game, you can also download the original Angry Birds Star Wars, with content from the original movie trilogy.

Star Wars Journeys:  Beginnings by Disney

Ages:  6-8

Requires:  iOS 7.0 or later

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

Explore the three Star Wars prequels.  In each module, you’ll find a story experience, profiles of the characters and ships, and an activity.  In the free version, you’ll get 15 scenes with original movie art; an additional 40 scenes are available for in-app purchase.  Listen to the story while also scrolling through a panorama of the scene.  As you do, you’ll unlock character profiles, which later appear in their own section of the app as facts presented in trading card format.

Each module also has its own activity, including pod racing and battles.  While there are some instructions for how to play, there is little help available, to you’ll need to learn by trial and error.  However, game play can be set at easy, medium, or difficult levels, so you can customize each experience.  Most game controls are based on tapping, holding, sliding, pinching, and swiping motions.

Star Wars:  Galaxy of Heroes by Electronic Arts

Ages:  9+ (infrequent/mild cartoon or fantasy violence)

Requires:  iOS 8.0 or later or Android 4.1 and up

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android

Instead of focusing on the Star Wars stories, this game is all about strategy and combat.  Collect and equip both dark side and light side heroes – it’s totally up to you!  Create your team by choosing its members based on their abilities, and then equip each member with appropriate gear and tactical moves.

While there is fighting, this app stays away from blood or graphic violence; instead, beaten characters disappear from the screen.  As with many of the other Star Wars apps available, this one offers in-app purchases tied to the game and the Star Wars franchise.  This app also requires an internet connection to work.

Want more Star Wars fun?  Check out Common Sense Media’s Star Wars Age-by-Age Guide.  Covering ages 6-13, it includes games, apps, websites, movies, books, and even discussion questions to share with your family.  Need more book suggestions?  Check out this list by Tom Burns for Star Wars books for all ages, from preschool up to teens.

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Apps to Celebrate Earth Day

April 2, 2016

Earth Day is coming up on Friday, April 22.  It was first celebrated in 1970, and today, at least 192 countries participate in the movement to celebrate our planet.  It’s a wonderful chance for you to teach your child about the environment.  To help you get ready for Earth Day this year, here are a few free apps all about our planet.

WWF Together by World Wildlife Fund

Ages:  4 and up

Requires:  iOS 7.0 or later or Android 4.0 and up

Compatibility:  iPad and Android

Learn more about the world’s most endangered animals in this beautiful app.  Explore in-depth, interactive stories of 16 different species.

  • Animals:  Select the animal icon and choose your animal.  Navigate through the grid (instructions are provided on-screen) to learn more about the animal you’ve selected.  Information varies by animal, but may include things like photographs, fun facts, threats, and conservation efforts.  Once you’ve completed a story, fold it up into an origami version of the animal.  Plus, you can download a copy of the origami instructions and make your own.  You can share your video on Facebook and Twitter, or via email.
  • Globe:  Select the globe icon to learn more about WWF’s current focus animals.  You can spin the globe to see where different animals live and learn more facts about them.  If spinning the globe is too difficult, there is also a text menu available with all the animals listed.
  • Emails:  Subscribe to WWF emails to learn more about their ongoing conservation efforts.
  • News:  Read news directly from WWF regarding their work.

Navigation of the app is fairly easy, although the menus can sometimes be hard to see on the background.  Music can be turned on or off by tapping an icon.  Some features in the app require an internet connection to work properly.  Overall, this app is full of great features for you and your child to explore independently or together.

Nature Maestro Challenge by Earth in Concert

Ages:  9 to 11

Requires:  iOS 8.4 or later

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch

Test your memory skills while learning more about nature!  The images used in the app are quite colorful, and the sounds were recorded live in Costa Rica and Alaska.  Choose from one of four different games.  To play, simply tap each tile to flip it over and see if you can find the match.

  • Match Images:  Match pictures of different animals to each other.
  • Match Images to Sounds:  Match pictures of animals with the noises they make.
  • Match Sounds:  Match different animal sounds to each other.
  • Match Images and Hear Names:  Match pictures of animals and hear the animal names pronounced.

This app explores several different animals, including the howler monkey, ibis, ocelot, humpback whale, and more.  Use the animals as a starting place for even more research.  Change games easily by tapping the bird icon.  The game you are playing displays clearly at the top.  If you get lost or have questions, the question mark icon provides an audio help menu.  If you enjoy this game, Earth in Concert offers several other apps available for download as well.

The Four Seasons – An Earth Day Interactive Children’s Story Book HD by TabTale LTD

Ages:  4 and up

Requires:  iOS 6.0 or later or Android 4.0.3 and up

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android

Enjoy an interactive story book experience all about taking care of the planet.  As an added bonus, learn more about the four seasons while you read, too.  Once you open the story, you can choose to read independently or have the story read to you.  Each page in the story has interactive elements.  The text tells you what to do for each task.  Plus, each page includes an additional game element, accessed from the block icon in the top right corner.  Challenges here include puzzle games and matching challenges.

Navigation of the story is simple – just use the forward and back arrows to change pages.  If you run into trouble, the For Parents menu on the home screen provides information and troubleshooting tips.  One downside to this app is the persistent adds, which constantly appear at the bottom of the screen.  Returning to the home menu is a little bit challenging, as you have to go back through the “bonus” menu for the page and then find the house icon in the bottom left corner.

Note:  If you’re looking for this app on Google Play, try searching for “Earth Day:  Kids Seasons Story.”

If you’re ready to start celebrating the planet today, be sure to check out some of our upcoming nature programs:

  • Critterman – Saturday, April 9 at 3 PM – Parr Library:  Meet amazing animals from around the world in an Extra Furry adventure.  No snakes!  Meet the toughest animal in all of Africa, a cousin of the kangaroo, an animal famous in American history, and more!
  • Preschool in the Park – Wednesday, April 13 at 11 AM – Parr Library:  Let’s take storytime outside!  Join us at Coyote Creek Park for a special preschool storytime.  Ages 3-5.
  • Earth Day Crafternoon – Friday, April 22 at 3:30 PM – Davis Library:  Join us for some Earth Day crafts using recycled materials.  How creative can you get?
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Art Apps for All Ages

March 5, 2016

Love drawing and creating?  Ever wish you had a way to bring art on the go – without all the art supplies?  If you can’t get enough drawing, coloring, and creating, check out these free art apps.

PicsArt for Kids by PicsArt, Inc.

Ages:  5 and under

Requires:  iOS 5.0 or later or Android (varies with device)

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android

Select one of 4 content areas to get started.  On the right, you’ll see different brush types (6 different styles in 3 different sizes), an eraser, a dice icon to randomly change your brush color, an undo feature (trash can), music options, and a disc icon to save work.  On the left, a scrolling palette displays 8 colors at time, with a paint splash at the top indicating your currently selected color.

  • Draw:  Choose a blank screen or from 5 custom backgrounds.  Use up to 10 fingers while drawing.  If you want a different background, just scroll through the choices with the arrows on either side of the canvas.
  • Color:  Choose one of 9 categories, then pick the picture you want to color.  Choose your pen color, then tap to fill an outlined section.  Use the arrows to switch between pictures in your category.
  • Learn:  Explore mazes, shape-based free drawing, or painting on backgrounds.  Drawing prompts include sample illustrations.
  • Gallery:  See pictures you’ve saved, which are also added to your camera roll.  To delete, you’ll need to go there rather than the app.

Navigation of the app is fairly easy.  The brush menu closes after the first selection, so if you want to change both style and size, you’ll have to open it more than once.  The back button is always in the bottom corner, but there may be as many as four layers to work back through.  There is no home button.  Tap-and-fill coloring is perfect for young users, and the free drawing encourages individual exploration.  Use the tracing options to help build pre-writing skills.  Banner ads do pop up, which can hinder the functionality of some of the mazes.

Let’s Learn How to Draw by Playtend Apps LLP

Ages:  Grades 1-3

Requires:  iOS 5.0 or later

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

Advertised as a Top 25 iPad app, it’s easy to see why users enjoy it.  You’ll get drawing tutorials, coloring pages, and a scratch pad.  The possibilities are endless – and the features let this app grow with your artistic ability.

  • Start a Lesson:  Choose from one of 4 modules, the pick your specific lesson.  Practice drawing the image step-by-step, then add color.  You’ll see the number of steps (and your progress) at the top of the screen.  Each step includes written instructions and a visual cue.  In the assist mode, lines are automatically corrected to match the guide.  Plus, you’ll never make more than one or two strokes per step.
  • Just Color:  Select this feature to color a pre-made image from the lessons.  Or, if you want free reign, select the scratch pad for a completely freehand mode.  You can choose from a palette of 20 colors, and brushes and erasers of different sizes.

Exporting images saves them to your device’s camera roll; there is no in-app gallery.  The menu icon is always readily found in the top right corner.  Answer common questions with the help screen, and you can even access a left-hand drawing mode.

MoMA Art Lab by MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art

Ages:  7+

Requires:  iOS 5.0 or later

Compatibility:  iPad

This fun, interactive, and educational art app is definitely worth downloading.  Choose from one of the main content areas to start your introduction to modern art:

  • Information:  Learn more about the museum, its family programs, the Labs, and help and useful information for parents.
  • Ideas:  Represented by a lightbulb, choose from 17 drawing and shape prompts.  The shape menu has a broad spectrum of choices (which can be stretched and shrunk), and the drawing tool has several variations.  The color wheel includes a scrolling color palette with virtually every color imaginable.  Use the plus sign to save your artwork to the gallery.
  • Activities:  Choose from 9 prompts, represented by a pair of scissors and a pen.   Learn more about the type of project, some art history, and see a real-life example.  The complete set of project directions are provided initially, and then repeated in prompts as you progress.  Try anything from drawing to cutting to building.
  • Gallery:  Click on the picture frames to bring up your saved art.  Photos won’t save to your iPad automatically.  By default, sharing features are turned off.  If you enable them, you can download a copy of your image, email it, share it via Twitter, or share it with MoMA.

The advanced artistic content easily makes this app appropriate for older audiences, too.  Explore the use of color, shape, and lines in creating art, or learn more about individual artists like Henri Matisse.  For younger users, an audio feature also narrates content.  For more information, check out our App Time review here.

If this month’s artistic apps have encouraged your to explore your creative side, be sure to check out some of our upcoming programs:

  • Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover! – Wednesday, March 9 at 2 PM – Parr Library:  Create your own artwork based only on the book’s description.  Grades 4 and up.
  • Bookmark Contest – Submission deadline Saturday, March 12:  Show us why you love the library.  Winners receive a gift card and have their bookmark printed and distributed in libraries and featured on our website.  Open to all ages.
  • St. Patrick’s Day Crafts – Thursday, March 17 at 10 AM – Parr Library:  Share in the luck o’ the Irish and make kid-tested, leprechaun approved St. Patrick’s Day crafts.
  • Art Start – Fridays at 11 AM – Haggard Library:  Enjoy stories to inspire your little artist (ages 3-6), followed by a hands-on art activity.  Tickets are available 30 minutes prior to the start of each session.
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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.

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 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.




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.


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