Category Archives: Apps

Buckle My Shoe, an app review

photo 1I have loved using Anna Grossnickle Hines’ version of One, Two, Buckle My Shoe in storytimes for years.  With its quilted illustrations, the slight variation in text from the traditional rhyme (just enough to make it interesting, not so much that it becomes weird or unfamiliar), and the layers of detail that you can choose to explore with kids or not, depending on how squirrely your group is (How many buttons are on this page? Where did that red thread come from?), this book is rich with read-aloud possibility. I was delighted to learn recently that this book has now been translated into an app called Buckle My Shoe by appropro!

photo 3I am happy to report that the app stays very true to the book. All of the quilted illustrations are intact (with very subtle animations that add interest, not distraction) and in addition to the counting element of the buttons (which is even more apparent in the app than it was in the book), the app incorporates some interactive activities at the end of the book. The activities are all done with a “pile” of buttons at the bottom of the screen, and activities include sorting, making patterns, and making pictures with buttons. I appreciate that the activities are after the book, not disrupting the narrative, but instead furthering the learning and play opportunities. I also love that the activities each have a guided option as well as freeplay prompts. This is one of those hard-to-find apps that work equally well for storytime and for at-home play.

We asked a few other librarians to review the app as well and here’s what they had to say:

“I actually had a chance to use this app in storytime this week, since our theme was nursery rhymes! The book part of the app worked nicely as an addition to our fingerplay. We used our fingers to count along with the app and then did some motions for the words. It’s short enough that we did it twice and then counted to ten using the buttons. The app worked well; although it did quit on me and I didn’t think the animations were dramatic enough to catch and hold my large group’s attention. I also wish the font had been consistent throughout the book.

I did really love the extras! The sorting part is ripe for parent-and-child interaction, which makes me really excited. I can just imagine a mom or dad and a preschooler hovered over the iPad, carefully sorting each button and talking about where it belongs. It’s wonderful!” — Rachel Sharpe, Virginia

 

“I like the illustrations!  Super cute, “quilted” style images make for a very sweet app.

The one thing I don’t like is that when I tap on the images of the numbers, there is no voice over repeating that number.  So when I tap on the number “1” it should say the word “one”.  There is a voice over when I tap on the buttons, which is nice, but I think for a counting app, kids should be able to tap on the numbers and hear the word.  This app seems to be aimed at very young children who are still learning their numbers so hearing the words when tapping on the images would go a long way to reinforce the concept.” — Anne Hicks, New York

 

“This was a very satisfying app – simple and colorful and easy to navigate.  The beautiful fabric pictures were as appealing on the screen as in the book and I liked the moving elements with the read aloud of the rhyme.

I especially liked the Design screen with the button pictures and patterns but to me one of the most appealing parts was the sound of the buttons falling in a pile.  I could definitely see kids following the patterns and creating their own or sorting by size or color.

I could see recommending this app to parents as an early literacy activity since sorting and sequencing contribute to emerging literacy skills and there are abundant opportunities to work on those.  It’s a simple app but it offers a lot of skill building and creativity – moving the different buttons around is easy and gratifying.” — Laura Antolin, Illinois

 

“I recently used the app with some story time participants 15-24 months old. Fortunately I had small groups that week. Though the illustrations directly from the book are bold enough to use with a group other components are best suited for a one child and one grown-up interaction. One child was already familiar with “1,2 buckle” and eagerly touched the buttons on the iPad. Some children came up to touch the screen but others sat back and observed. The app is a lovely extension of the book. Users can choose to have the book read to them, in a child’s voice, or turn off that feature. Words are highlighted as they are read. The automated reader counts the buttons as the child touches them, in any order, and, once touched, the buttons can be moved around the page. Other features of the app include opportunities for counting, sorting, designing, patterning and matching. Success is built in to the counting feature, where a button appears when the user touches a finger on the fabric hand. If you are on the page with the number 2, for instance, only 2 buttons will appear no matter how many times the finger tips are touched. Such is the gentle nature of the app that, in other activities, there is no right answer, encouraging experimentation and creativity. Users can interact as simply as counting from 1 to 10 or get more advanced and sort Venn sets. All aspects of the app lend themselves to conversation which enhances early literacy skills: “Can you find the red heart button?” “How many green buttons do you see?” A gentle, satisfying tinkling sound accompanies the movement of the buttons which are a lovely array of bright colors, sizes and shapes offering all the fun of playing with real buttons without the choking hazard. Buckle My Shoe is a high quality, visually appealing app offering numerous components for educational and creative play. No external links.” — Nicki Petrone, Ohio

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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Dipdap: An app review, by Awnali Mills

Dipdap 002One of the hardest early literacy skills for me to add into storytime is writing. Holding a crayon, coloring, painting—all these activities help children develop the fine motor skills they will need to pick up a pencil in kindergarten and begin writing, and it’s necessary to model this for parents. But I confess that I rarely think to add writing skills into the storytime mix.  So, since we’re on a storytime break, I went looking for something to remedy this deficiency.  Success! I discovered a fun app that helps with these fine motor skills, and I’m looking forward to including it in our play time after stories. It’s called Dipdap by Cube Interactive and is available for iPad ($2.99), Android  ($1.99), and Kindle Fire ($1.99). Dipdap is a little critter who interacts with a child’s animated drawings.

There are two sections to Dipdap:

  1. There are 16 adventures available for play. A child can choose to play the adventure without interacting, or chose to interact by drawing. Dipdap wordlessly presents a scenario to the child, like trying to reach the stars. Little Dipdap jumps and jumps with all his might to try and reach the stars. Then, the dashed outline of a rocket is presented. The child traces the rocket outline (the outline can be turned off if desired), and can chose colors or any other add-ins he would like to draw. Then, Dipdap climbs into the drawn rocket and shoots off into space, bouncing off of stars as he goes. It’s pretty heady stuff for a cartoon character to jump into something you’ve drawn!
  2. There is also a drawing sketchpad in which the child can draw anything they would like. Dipdap sits at the bottom of the page and watches the drawing, actively moving his eyes to whatever part of the screen is being touched. He doesn’t interact with the drawing in any way besides watching it, but the drawing can be “photographed” and saved to the pictures section of the tablet.

There are no in-app purchases, and there are parental controls that allow you to change the music, sounds, and guides.  I think that it will work well to give each child who wants the opportunity a chance to play one of the adventures.  They only last a brief time and I’ll be able to move on to the next child who wants a chance.  I love it when a storytime plan comes together!

 

Awnali Mills works in the Children’s Dept. of a public library and she gets the snot scared out of her by sudden loud sounds coming out of apps she’s trying out. She blogs at The Librarian is on the Loose.
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

What Makes an App “GOOD”? A brochure from Bethpage Public Library, by Linda Greenbaum

Bethpage App BrochureIncorporating digital technology into the library is a particular interest of mine, and I have been trying to keep up to date with the discussion around these issues, particularly as it relates to children. About a year ago, I started a list of resources as I learned about them, including Little eLit. We saw a need, as many other librarians have, among our patrons on how to effectively use devices with their children. We recently got two iPads to lend to patrons to use in the Childrens Room. They cannot be checked out to be used at home. We downloaded some apps used by other Nassau County (NY) libraries as well as others we identified.

As a further service to our patrons, we felt that having a list of reliable and impartial resources they can use to decide which apps they want their children to see and use was more effective than our recommending specific apps. We want to empower parents to learn how to chose what is best for their child as every child is different. When we purchased the iPads, we thought it would be the time to put the brochure together as a supplement along with our tablet policy. I did a more thorough search of additional online resources and completed the final copy for the brochure, which was then designed by my colleagues in the children’s room.

We are happy to share our brochure with others!

Linda Greenbaum is a librarian with Bethpage Public Library in Bethpage, New York. She works with both children and adults.
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site app review, by Awnali Mills

106Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld is a classic bedtime story.  Now, it’s a delightful children’s bedtime app.  Created by Oceanhouse Media and available on iTunes for $3.99, this book app has all the same elements children love plus movement, sound effects, and some delightful surprises.

The app brings the book’s illustrations to life with small movements and sound effects, but not so much that they distract from the story.  At the beginning, you are able to choose to read for yourself or have a narrator read to you.  As the narrator reads, each word in the text is highlighted.  A touch to anything on the screen brings up the noun for the object and the narrator says it, including any of the words in the text.  Some of the object touches bring up not just the word, but an action as well:  a vehicle rumbles, puddles splash, the bird sings. Great vocabulary shows up, with words like “spigot” and “cardinal.”  Lest you think that all this might be too exciting for little ones you’re trying to get into bed, be assured that the narrator’s voice is very soothing and the yawning and gentle snoring the vehicles were doing was enough to make me yawn in sympathy!

108As much as I love this app for the story alone, the thing that tips it into fantastic is that it allows you to record your own voice reading it.  I can just imagine grandparents reading this for grandchildren or a traveling or military parent being able to read their child to sleep from hundreds of miles away.  The app also lets you email your recording. This record function is very easy to use.  The info section on the home page tells you how to do it, but the interface is so simple that I didn’t need instructions to figure it out.  Even better, more than one person can record the story.  The voice options screen, accessible through the little blue arrow on the center bottom, allows you to choose which narrator you’d like to hear from.  The last person to record is the default for narration.

The only thing I disliked, and it was a preference really, were the home screen buttons for the Bookshelf, which offers an app to corral your OM apps, and Apps, which takes you to the app store.  I’d have liked the ability to eliminate these from the screen.

I’m a cheapskate, and don’t usually pay much for apps, but this is totally worth the $3.99 price tag, especially if you’d like someone far away to be able to read to your child each night.

Awnali Mills works in the Children’s Dept. of a public library and she gets the snot scared out of her by sudden loud sounds coming out of apps she’s trying out. She blogs at The Librarian is on the Loose.
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

iPad Apps in Storytime at Upper Hudson Library System

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 10.04.34 PMThe Upper Hudson Library System in New York state is a regional/cooperative library system that includes 29 independent public libraries. UHLS Youth and Family Services Manager Mary Fellows opted to tackle the topic of young children and new media with these libraries by creating an excellent primer on using iPad apps in storytimes. This resource, which Mary has graciously allowed us to share in full, can serve as inspiration, motivation, and a model for youth services staff at these–and, truly, any–libraries to wade into using new media with intentionality in youth services. Bookmark this resource!

My Very Hungry Caterpillar: A Review, by Maggie Kutsunis

photo (1)App: My Very Hungry Caterpillar

Developer: StoryToys Entertainment Limited

App Store: $3.99 as of 10/30/14

Google Play: not available as of 10/30/14

 
In Brief:

  • Recommended for: toddlers, preschoolers
  • Reading required: no
  • Highlight: promotes active play as a part of everyday routine, beautiful clear graphics with white space, open-ended game play, familiar character
  • Problem area(s): high-level fine motor skills are required for some game objectives, which can make this game frustrating for young toddlers

Comments:

Carle’s art translates into 3D computerized imagery quite well. Trees, fruit, flower pots, and toys are rendered against a background of white space that makes it easy to focus on the open-ended gameplay. There isn’t any directly educational content, e.g., 1-2-3s and shapes and sorting, but the objectives require fine motor and critical thinking skills that would challenge 2 year olds and be just right up until about kindergarten (every child is unique/your mileage may vary).

Every in-game day, you are in charge of feeding the caterpillar an increasing amount of fruits and playing with it until both health bars (one for feeding, one for playtime) are full. The concept of a video game health bar will be familiar to older children, but little ones may need a bit of instruction. When both bars are full, you can put the caterpillar to bed, where it will sleep for a few seconds and then wake up for another day with its health bars empty again. After a few days have passed, the caterpillar will form a chrysalis and change into a magnificent butterfly – then you start again with a new caterpillar.

One of the active play scenes involves putting the caterpillar on a little boat and floating around with some rubber ducks. I found the boat very difficult to control and it was almost impossible to land it on the shore and then get the caterpillar to jump off – it’s unclear whether this is user error (hey, I’m not perfect) or just bad design, but it looks to me like a stopping point for child players.

Maggie Kutsunis is a children’s librarian in the Chicago suburbs. She blogs at storytimewithmaggie.wordpress.com and tweets @maggiekuts. She also reblogs feminist rants, jokes about art history, and gifsets from Disney films at mbwk.tumblr.com.

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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Osmo at the Library, by Rachel Sharpe

A few months ago, someone posted about the Osmo that was ready for pre-order. I convinced my library’s Friends to purchase one and have been anxiously awaiting a chance to debut it in a program. (The Osmo is awesome, and I love it!) One of the reasons we bought it is so that we can use it at our annual math nights and literacy nights that we host for our local Title I elementary schools.

There are three apps for the Osmo right now. One of the apps, Words, has kids competing or working together to spell words based on the picture on the screen. Luckily, right before our literacy night, the developers released an update that allowed users to create a custom word list. What better way to promote literacy and the library than with a customized library-themed word list? I spent an afternoon running around the library taking pictures to build the list, and I’m really happy with the results.

Ridge Elementary Family Literacy Night %40 TU 001At the night of the program, I set up the Osmo station, just one iPad with two sets of letters and the Osmo. Kids had to take turns using the Osmo and could play two words in a row before they had to switch. If no one was waiting, they could keep playing.

Some kids were really competitive, but it was really wonderful and heartwarming to see some of the older kids helping the younger ones spell the words. If a child hadn’t gotten a right letter in a while, some of the older ones would hand them a letter and show them what to do. I didn’t even have to say anything!

While the kids were playing, I had a chance to speak (well, shout, really) with parents about screen time and what resources the library offers for them.

The whole experience went so well that we’re bringing the iPad and Osmo back for Math Night in the spring, and the local teachers all want one for their classrooms. All in all, it was a huge success!

Rachel Sharpe
Library Assistant II
Henrico County Public Library
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

WePublish app review, by Claudia Haines

Two of the six early literacy skills I focus on in storytime are print awareness and print motivation. Like librarians everywhere, as we read, play, sing, talk, and write I want kids to see that print is everywhere and understand how a book works. I also want to get them hooked on stories, books and reading.

Along with print books, I’m always looking for early literacy boosting apps and other digital media that I can review, use in programs, and recommend to families. So when I had the opportunity to review the WePublish app recently, I was interested to see what it was all about. Oftentimes the way to connect a young child with reading is too share with them books that reflect their experience. So the idea behind WePublish, an easy to use app that helps families or multiple children make their own book together, intrigued me.

WePublish is an app that lets kids and adults design and publish an eight page book, creating a new story or retelling a favorite. The app is based on digital collage, an interesting choice.

When creating a new book, each of the eight black pages appears separately. While the bookmaker works on each page independently, all of the pages can be viewed in preview or imposition view with a tap of a button. Design tools include images of common textures that can be cropped and snipped to make shapes, along with a drawing tool (black or white) and multiple fonts. The combination of the new images, text, and accents blends to form a collage on each page. Instead of a bookmaking tool where the sky’s the limit, the few design tools in the WePublish app help keep things simple, allowing young book creators to focus on the elements of the story instead of the various tools.

Book creators can use the device’s camera to capture new images for the texture library. Kids and adults can find interesting textures, snap a picture, and then cut or crop the image to turn the texture of grass into a tree, for example, using one finger and budding fine motor skills. Kids can also make artwork to include in the book, again using the device’s camera and photo library. The artwork can be used as a texture to further manipulate with the design tools, or included as is. The finished book can be printed on A3 or A4 size paper or shared via email (via a parental gate). I used legal size paper (similar to A3) and it worked fine.

This app would fit nicely in an early literacy program for adults and kids that offers enough time to learn how the app works and time to create a book. I’m planning such a program for later this winter. Kids love telling stories and this app helps them share that story in a new way–in a book of their own making. An adult working with one or more young children would make a nice bookmaking team, each member adding to the collaborative project.

While English is the only language currently included, a wordless book could easily be created and have significant value for pre-readers and those who speak a language other than English. Creating images that prompt an oral story can strengthen bonds between family members and build a child’s narrative skills.

I, and a couple other reviewers, did find that editing is limited after a book has been created and stored in the app’s library. Imported images can be moved around, but not deleted. Drawn lines couldn’t be deleted or moved and text cannot be deleted by tapping on it. I was able to slide the text and a texture image off the page that I didn’t want and they didn’t appear in printing, but I figured that out through trial and error. In other cases I had to delete the page’s entire content and start over.

Tips, sample books, and a short video on how to fold your printed, finished book (origami!) are included in the app. The app is free of in-app ads and purchases.

Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Librarian
Homer Public Library
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Sago Mini Monsters, an app review by Carissa Christner

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 9.07.34 PM

Sago Mini has created many delightful toy-apps for young children. Last week, I had an opportunity to use Sago Mini Monsters in storytime at my library and everyone loved it!  Gameplay is simple:

1.  Drag a monster silhouette up from the primordial goo at the bottom of the screen.

2. Decorate the monster using your finger to draw in one of 5 colors.

3. Tap on the checkmark to tell the game you’re done drawing on the monster and your monster will grow eyes, horns and a mouth (although if you don’t like those, you can pluck them off and different features will grow in their place).

4. Feed the monster foods that pop up from the goo (could be cake, could be a boot…)

5. After the monster has eaten, its teeth look quite dirty, so it’s time to brush!

6. Pull more accessories up from the goo (a hat! a bandaid! a lightning bolt! the options are vast.) and finish designing your monster.

7. Take a picture (or don’t) and tap on the checkmark when you’re ready to meet a new monster.

I love this app for the open-ended (but not overwhelmingly option-heavy) art play and for the silliness factor that makes users of all ages giggle. The storytime kids loved telling me how to design the monster (What color should we choose next? Should we draw spots? Stripes? Squiggles? Where should we put this mustache? Do you like these eyeballs?) and they loved watching it eat crazy food and brushing its teeth.  One mom told me that her daughter loves to use the app and then go into the bathroom and brush her own teeth.  Every time. Hooray for the sneaky health lesson!

For a limited time, it’s free in the app store (all decked out for Halloween!), so grab it while you can. Read about the other monster apps I used in my storytime here. Make your own Sago Mini Monster finger puppets by downloading the pdf’s here (then printing them at 25% and adding a strip of paper at the bottom to wrap around your finger).

Finger Paint with Sounds app review, by Awnali Mills

fingerpaint 001Finger painting is a tremendous amount of fun. But let’s face it. It’s messy. Some kids hate getting their fingers dirty, and most adults hate cleaning up. Now the Finger Paint with Sounds app (iPad/Android) by Inclusive Technology Ltd. not only allows kids to finger paint without getting dirty, but also throws in the fun of music or sound effects.

The app provides clear directions for use; choices for no sound, music, or sound effects; multi-touch and single touch options; and contains no in-app purchases.

The blank screen has seven half-circles of color on the edges. Touch one of these and every touch on the screen after that is that color and has that individual sound until you touch another color. A double tap in the corner allows you to exit the screen or clear it. It’s that simple! Preschoolers adore this app, and the single touch selection lets them practice the fine motor skills they need for writing in kindergarten. It’s an Early Literacy Skills builder cleverly disguised as a lot of fun. Shhhhh—don’t tell!

fingerpaint 002During playtime after stories last week, I pulled this app out and let the kids go to town.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  I had it on multi-touch so that more than one child could play at a time.  I sat down on the floor to hold the tablet, since we don’t yet have kid-friendly holders.  Immediately, I had kids crawling all over me, making various parts of my body lose circulation.  They were utterly glued to the screen, creating, making the sounds, exploring—it was a thing of beauty.  Then, I looked up to find parents clustered around us, too, and they promptly demanded to know what this fabulous app was and where they could get it.

I love that!

I used the app as a general playtime app, but it would also work great with a color storytime, or a music storytime.  Comment if you dream up any other uses!

Awnali Mills works in the Children’s Dept. of a public library and she gets the snot scared out of her by sudden loud sounds coming out of apps she’s trying out. She blogs at The Librarian is on the Loose.
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Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.