Posts Tagged ‘apps’

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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Launchpads are here!

July 30, 2015

Come by and check out an educational Launchpad for your child.  They are at all Plano Public Libraries!Launchpad Web Banner 550x302





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What is a Launchpad?

A Launchpad is a tablet pre-loaded with learning apps and games for interactive learning and play made by the Playaway company.


What does it come with?

The Launchpad tablet, an orange bumper case, USB cable and AC adapter, a “Using Playaway Launchpad” insert, all within one easy-to-carry case!


How long can I check it out?

You can check out a Launchpad for 7 DAYS. If nobody has requested the Launchpad, it can be renewed ONE time.


What about overdue fees?

The fee for an overdue Launchpad is $1 per day.

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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!


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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 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.

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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.

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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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App Time Session 8

March 7, 2015

monster appThis week in App Time, we looked at the book app There’s a Monster at the End of this Book!  It’s produced by Sesame Street and available for $4.99 on the App Store.  Based on the beloved book of the same name, Grover narrates the book, warning readers NOT to turn the pages because there’s a monster at the end of the book. The book’s interactivity comes into play as readers can “untie” the ropes and “break down” the brick wall that Grover builds, in hopes of preventing the reader from turning another page. It’s easy to navigate with the bottom corner of the page pulling up, and Grover acting as a guide with funny comments. Interactive parts glow so it’s obvious where to tap, and there’s highlighted narration.  There is also a parent tab with lots of extension activities, and ideas for using the app to calm a child’s fears.
ACPL appThe activity app this week is ACPL Family (free on the App Store) from the Allen County Public Library.  The app promotes early literacy and can be used with preschoolers up through elementary-grade children. There are booklists with helpful themed lists, with some common ones such as Great Books for Toddlers but also less common ones such as “Dentist” or “Clay Illustrations.” Keep in mind that the books link to the Allen County Library so you’ll want to use the Plano library app to check for the titles recommended here.

There’s a Tips & Facts section that gives early literacy tips by age group.  There’s also a Reading Timer (great for independent readers or adults who want to commit to read-aloud time with their child).

The READY on the Go section is impressive for its videos related to each of the 5 early literacy practices (Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing & Playing).  The videos, aimed at the child but modeling for the parent or caregiver, give ideas for how to reinforce that practice.


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App Time Session 5: Boats & MOMA Art Lab

February 14, 2015

Boats appThis week in App Time we looked at Boats, an app based on the book of the same name by Byron Barton.  It’s produced by Oceanhouse Media and is available as part of the Byron Barton Collection #1 for $4.99 from the App Store.

This app has the bright colors, bold outlines and simple shapes that are familiar from Barton’s books.  The book will automatically read aloud unless you go into the settings. There is the option to record your own voice.

There are sound effects and animation as the different boats move onto the page. Navigation is intuitive with the triangle appearing in the bottom right.

Tapping on a boat repeats a sound effect. You can also move the boats by holding and dragging. Tapping on objects or parts of the scene will identify the object and the word will appear, a great way to build on a child’s vocabulary.


moma art labThe activity app this week is MOMA Art Lab from the Museum of Modern Art in NY. It’s available for free from the App Store and encourages open-ended creativity.

Once the app is opened, you’ll see 3 colored buttons on the left. The button with the lightbulb gives you ideas for your artwork; the scissors and pencil button gives suggests activities based on a specific artist’s work.   Each of these button also has the option for audio, so that a pre-reader will have the activity or suggestion read aloud to them. The third button is your gallery where you can save your artwork.  On the right side, there’s the option to start a new work, take a picture of your art, change the canvas color, or delete your artwork.

In the middle is a blank canvas with drawing, shape and color options at the bottom. Bring shapes onto the canvas by tapping on them. You can move shapes around, resize them and turn them…or drag them off the screen to remove them.  Practice shape and color recognition with your child using the app.  There are lots of color and drawing options, and a handy eraser if you need to revise your artwork. The drawing option will allow a child to scribble and practice pre-writing skills by “writing” in their own way.

This app has so many possibilities: discuss the artists featured on the app; visit a museum; try some of the artwork with real art supplies; talk with your child about their artwork.


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