Posts Tagged ‘apps’

Goodnight Safari

December 3, 2016

Many parents wonder whether sharing stories with their children on tablets or other devices counts as story time or screen time.  Digital books are a great way to provide access to books, especially on the go.  No matter what type of book you use, your story times should include imagination, curiosity, and conversation.  If you choose digital picture books, make sure that the actual story doesn’t get lost in all of the animations and activities included in the app.  Apps like Goodnight Safari provide an interactive reading experience while still maintaining elements of a “traditional” reading experience.

Goodnight Safari by Polk Street Press LLC

Ages:  4+ (made for ages 5 and under)

Requires:  iOS 4.3 or later

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch


Goodnight Safari is an interactive e-book that lets you read alone or with a narrator.  You’re at the center of the story as you help the animals get ready for bed.  The story takes place in the African savanna, and includes well known animals like zebras, but also lesser known animals like leopard tortoises.  Simple vocabulary and intuitive interactions help children follow the plot.  The main menu allows you to choose “Read to Me” or “Read Alone,” as well as “Pick a Page” to go to a favorite scene in the story.  The sound can be on or off in the app.  Additional activities are also available for a fee; a previous for each is available from the menu prior to purchase.  Activities include color identification, counting, and matching.

In “Read to Me” mode, a narrator reads the words on each page.  The words spoken are highlighted as they are read so that you can easily follow along.  In “Read Alone” mode, you can read the text yourself, at whatever speed you choose.  In each of the seven interactive scenes, you can help the animals prepare for bedtime following instructions given in the text.  Young children can simply follow the directions for each scene.  Older children can more fully explore each scene, touching different elements to see how the story interacts.  If you take too long, a graphic appears on the screen to highlight where you should touch to move the story along.  An arrow at the end of each scene advances to the next “page” in the story.

Elizabeth Stilwell has some great tips for sharing digital books with your children here.  Start by reading this story together without narration.  You can share the story like you would a physical book – pausing, asking questions, using silly voices, or even making up your own story.  You’ll also move through the book at your own pace, and you can return to pages as often as you like.

For more app recommendations and examples, be sure to join us for App Time at 11:15 on Tuesday mornings at Haggard Library or at 11:00 on Wednesday mornings at Davis Library.  Our storytimes will take a brief break for the holiday season starting December 12, but be sure to check out our full calendar online or in our Engage brochure to see more upcoming programs.  Happy reading!

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ABC Workbook

November 5, 2016

Did you know that writing starts with the same simple grasping motion you use to hold a spoon?  If your little one is grasping spoons, toys, and other objects, it’s not too early to introduce early writing concepts.  Writing is so important to your little one’s brain, even when it is just scribbles.  Scribbles on paper help your child understand that the words we see on paper represent things we can see, touch, and understand in real life.  This is the first step to reading!  Plus, all that grasping and moving helps fine motor skills, which your little one will need when they learn how to form letters.  Writing takes a lot of time and practice, but with the ABC Workbook app, you can take writing on the go wherever you are!

My First Speller Workbook Reading & Tracing A to Z by Andrea Perin

Ages:  4+

Requires:  iOS 6.0 or later

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

ABC Workbook is a letter tracing app that helps get your child ready to write.  Practice writing uppercase and lowercase letters with guided activities.  The free version of this app includes tracing all 26 letters of the alphabet in both forms, and you can also unlock additional games for a fee.  Work through each lesson in alphabet order, or skip to specific letters by tapping them on each side of the screen.  The app includes four different lessons.

For Lessons 1 and 2, each letter includes a word that starts with that letter (spoken in the app and shown on the screen with a picture) and a video of someone writing the letter.  You can write the letters by following the lines.  Each line has an arrow to show which direction to write.  As you follow the lines, you collect little flowers.  Once you’ve written each letter, you’ll see a comparison between what the letter looks like and what you wrote.  Each letter is widely outlined to provide an additional guide for shape.  Lesson 1 covers uppercase letters, and Lesson 2 covers lowercase letters.

For Lessons 3 and 4, the focus is on the progression of writing letters independently.  After the introduction to each letter, you’ll get to write it three times.  The first time uses the same method as above:  directional arrows to guide writing while you collect flowers.  The second time is a little harder; it includes flowers for you to collect, but no arrows to show how you should write the letter.  The third time, you’ll use dotted-line tracing while collecting the flowers.  This try is the closest to writing the letter independently, and it doesn’t include as much leeway as the previous two tries, since it doesn’t have the wide outline of the letter shape.  At the end, you’ll see all three letters side-by-side to see your writing progression.  Lesson 3 covers uppercase letters, and Lesson 4 covers lowercase letters.

You can start out using this app with your fingers.  To build hand muscles, add an additional challenge of writing letters with a stylus.  Ready to take your writing off the screen?  You can practice writing letters outside with chalk, or inside with crayons.

For more app recommendations and examples, be sure to join us for App Time at 11:15 on Tuesday mornings at Haggard Library or at 11 AM on Wednesday mornings at Davis Library.  Check out our full calendar online to see more upcoming programs!


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Evaluating the Three C’s of Technology

October 1, 2016

How do you decide what apps and technology are appropriate for your child?  It can be hard to decide what apps you want to allow, and which ones you’d rather avoid.  If you’re having a hard time deciding if an app (or any other technology) is right for your child, evaluate it using the Three C’s from Tap Click Read.  Imagine that each app starts out with 0 points.  For all the positive things you can list, add one or two points.  For all the negative things you find, subtract one or two points.  Here’s what to look at:

  1. Content.  Think about the overall content of the app.  Look for apps that show your child the types of skills or behaviors you want to emphasize, or help develop language and social skills.  Is the app scary or violent?  Take points off your grade.  Does the app encourage off-screen comments, questions, play, creation, or exploration?  Add points to your grade.
  2. Context.  Think about when your child is using the app.  Does your child use a device without supervision?  That’s most likely points off the grade.  Are you talking about what you are playing?  Those are points added.  Context also includes how you are modeling technology behaviors.  If you’re distracted and missing cues from your child, take points away.  If you’re playing with your child while they’re using technology, add points.
  3. Child.  Each child is unique, so think about what your child needs.  This is a great way to add points to an app’s grade.  Is the app helping your child develop a specific skill?  Does your child act on what he or she sees in the app, like asking questions?  Those are positive points.  Look for apps that are encouraging your child’s off-screen experiences, and decide which technologies are helping and which aren’t.  If technology doesn’t help your child, remove it.

Once you’ve scored your app, what does it mean?  If your app has a negative rating, it’s probably not the best choice for your child.  Look for apps that encourage more positive interactions with parents and other adults.  If your app has a positive number, it’s a good indication that you’re choosing apps that work well for your child.  The higher the number, the more aware you are of how that app is impacting your child’s development.  Also, you’re more likely to be modeling positive technology behaviors with your own devices.

If you’re not sure where you fall on the list, check out the full quiz on using digital technology here.  You can also find great apps to share at our App Time Digital Storytimes.  Join us at Haggard Library on Tuesdays at 11:15 AM, or at Davis Library on Wednesdays at 11 AM.

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1000 Books Before Kindergarten

September 3, 2016

This fall, the Plano Public Libraries are excited to introduce the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program.  Your goal is to read 1,000 books with your child before he or she starts school.  Sound like a lot of books?  Well, it’s not as many as you think.  If you read just 1 book a day, that’s 365 books each year.  That means you’d reach 1,000 books in less than 3 years!  Plus, you can count any book that is read to your child, including the books you hear each week in storytime.  Repeated books count too, so be sure to include all your favorites.

If you’re looking for a way to track your progress online, be sure to check out the official 1000 Books Before Kindergarten app.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten by 1000 Books Foundation

Ages:  4+

Requires:  iOS 7.0 or later or Android 2.3 and up

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android

The 1000 Books Before Kindergarten app lets you track your reading activity electronically.  Even better, you can track the progress of more than one reader in your family.  You can scan books into your library, then mark the ones you’ve read.  When you first start, you’ll need to set up an account with your email address and password.  You’ll need to input a name and a zip code, to assist in case your information needs to be retrieved.  Once you’ve created your account, you can add your readers by entering a name and, if you want, a custom photo for each reader.

Next, you’ll need to build a library of books.  From the “Library” tab, you can add books by searching, scanning, or manually adding a title.  Books can be searched by title, author, publisher, subject, and ISBN, though the ISBN search is easiest.  Once you’ve found your title, you can save it to your library.

From your “Readers” tab, you can add books as your child reads them.  Simply choose, “Finished a Book” to access your library, and then click the book you read.  You’ll need to confirm that you read each title by selecting “Yes” to the confirmation message, which will then add the title to your counter.  For each reader, you can see your progress towards the 1000 books goal.

Ready to start reading?  Stop by any branch of the Plano Public Libraries to learn more about the program.  You can track your progress on the app, or by picking up paper logs at any library branch.  You’ll earn milestone prizes for every 100 books you read, and a special gift at 1000 books.  Join us for storytime or other library programs this fall, and keep reading.  Be sure to check out the Engage brochure online or in the library for more information about upcoming programs.  Happy reading!

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Sports Apps for Families

August 6, 2016

Yesterday was the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.  To celebrate, check out some of these sports-themed apps.  What’s your favorite Olympic event?

The Olympics – Official App for the Olympic Games by International Olympic Committee

Ages:  4+

Requires:  iOS 6.0 or later or Android 2.3.3 and up

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android

Take the Olympic Games with you wherever you go!  The official app of the Olympics provides a variety of information.  You can view top moments from past Olympic Games, both winter and summer, including photos and videos.  If you want the results of your favorite event, you can find results for specific sports, athletes, or just the Games overall.  Plus, you can see the Olympic records associated with each sport.  If you’re having trouble finding what you want, search by specific dates, athletes, and countries.  This app includes the latest news and schedules for the 2016 Games, but also provides information about the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang.

Math Climber HD by John Crandall

Ages:  9-11

Requires:  iOS 7.0 or later or Android 4.1 and up

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android

Math Climber HD combines sports and math into a single app.  Using 18 different math topics ranging from simple addition and subtraction to advanced concepts like order of operations, this app helps build skills through fun.  You will select and customize your climber, and then select which game to play.  In addition to choosing the topic, you can choose a difficulty level of easy, medium, or difficult.  You can practice your skills first, or choose from competitive levels including speed climbing and races.

In each game, a correct answer lets you move up the climbing wall.  As you climb, earn virtual coins that can be exchanged for virtual rewards for your avatar or hints on harder problems.  Each game includes 10 questions.  To improve your score, you can play the game again as many times as you want.  This app offers a perfect amount of challenge – you can control the subject and difficulty level to make the game fun.  The further you advance in the game, the more important it is to answer questions quickly.  You can earn victory dances with perfect scores, and the Wall of Fame and Progress Report let you easily view and manage your progress.

Kids Match Sports HD by Yik Jin Low

Ages:  4+

Requires:  iOS 4.2 or later

Compatibility:  iPad

Kids Match Sports is a simple but fun matching game that helps teach your child about different objects associated with popular sports.  Each challenge features a picture of sports equipment, which is labeled.  Underneath, you will see three different items to match it with, also labeled.  Upon correctly matching the objects, the name of the sports object will be read aloud.  Sports covered include football, basketball, track and field, ice skating, and more.  Three games are included in the lite version of the app, and an additional 24 games can be purchased for 99 cents.

Ready to get up and moving?  Join us for some fun movement programs coming up this month:

  • Dance Party – Tuesday, August 9 at 10:30 AM – Haggard Library:  Move to the music, listen to books with beat, and have lots of fun.  Music helps with early literacy!
  • Parachute Party – Thursday, August 11 at 10:30 AM – Haggard Library:  Up, down, and round and round – join us for rhymes and songs using giant parachutes.

Be sure to check out the Engage brochure online or in the library for the rest of our upcoming programs!

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Summer Reading…with Reading Apps!

June 4, 2016

Summer reading starts today!  For a tech twist on summer reading, try some of these free reading apps to combine learning and fun.

Pango Free by Studio Pango

Ages:  5 and under

Requires:  iOS 4.3 or later or Android 2.2 and up

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android

Explore reading with these interactive stories, featuring adorable cartoon characters.  The free version of the app includes five stories – Pango Takes a Bath, Pango’s Home Repair, Pango and the Apples, Pango Plays Hide-and-Seek, and Pango and the Balloon.  Each story is easily accessed by tapping an accompanying picture on the right hand menu to bring up the book.  As you read the simple stories together, interact with the characters by performing the commands.  You can also create bonus images by rubbing the screen to make artwork appear in a separate tab.  While the stories are short, they are still entertaining; the app’s simplicity makes it both easy to use and fun to play with.  If you enjoy this free app, there are several other for-purchase apps from Pango Studios, including 7 game apps and 7 other story collections.

Sky Fish Phonics by Knowbility

Ages:  4-6

Requires:  iOS 4.3 or later

Compatibility:  iPad

Combine play and phonics with this interactive app.  This learn-to-read game lets you choose your costume and level to start, and then provides narrated instructions to get you started.  Guide your fish through 20 different levels by identifying words that start with the same sound, or by matching pictures to words.  Guide your fish through the sky maze to collect stars, avoiding obstacles when necessary, and stopping at periodic multiple choice questions.  Each question must be answered correctly before your fish will advance.  By completing levels, you can earn different character costumes for future games.

While disguised as a game, this app includes letter recognition, letter-sound correspondence, reading consonant-vowel-consonant word groups, and word building.  There are also problem-solving skills taught, as you must learn how to navigate the course to achieve all the stars.  Best of all, this app is self-paced – it’s based on the answers that you give, factoring in both speed and accuracy.

Endless Reader by Originator Inc.

Ages:  4+

Requires:  iOS 7.0 or later or Android 2.3.3 and up

Compatibility:  iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android

A follow-up to the popular Endless Alphabet app, Endless Reader is a fun app.  Parents should know at the start that only a limited amount of content is available for free.  The free version provides access to a few words, with additional content available for purchase.  You can purchase additional packs within the app.  Use the free portion of the app to determine if you think it’s worth purchasing the full set.

For each letter, you’ll see a different sight word.  Then, you’ll identify the letters in the word and match words to parts of a sentence.  You can hear sounds and the words while touching them on the screen, and also hear the words read in a sentence.  Throughout, animations emphasize the content, especially when you give the correct answer.  For example, see the word “dog” jump and bark like a dog.  However, some parents have expressed frustration with hearing the letter sounds, as sight words are recognized without sounding them out.  Because of this, some parents have opted to use this app to teach vocabulary rather than sight reading or phonics.  Use this app in conjunction with other teaching methods, like letting your child fill in a sight word while you are reading a short picture book.

Have these apps inspired you to start reading?  Sign up for Summer Reading!  You can sign up online or at the library and set your own reading goal.  Complete the program online and you’re automatically entered into a drawing for a Kindle Fire.  Plus, kids and teens get a free book when you reach your goal.  Summer Reading is part of Explore Plano, so be sure to sign up and then join us for fun, interactive programs all summer long.  Tell us about your experience on Facebook or Twitter.  Learn more at or

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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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