Friday, January 6, 2012

Apps We Love: Counting Bees, Memory Train, and Interactive Alphabet by Pi’ikea Street





My daughter and I have been playing Counting Bees, Memory Train, and Interactive Alphabet all week and I don’t know who loves these apps more, her or me. Hats off to the developers at Pi’ikea Street. These apps are highly educational, fun, easy to use, and did I mention fun? There are layers of interactivity here that will keep your preschoolers to grammar schoolers entertained for months, possibly years.



Pi’ikea Street’s developers take their inspiration from none other than Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and mention at their site, “We want everything we do to be infused with a meaningful expression of care and to be a healthy part of a child’s interactions.” (emphasis theirs). But honestly, emphasis mine, too. I found their apps to be great teachers of the basic skills that will lead to literacy and numeracy, delivered in highly entertaining and engaging formats. Many people seek to make learning fun. These guys succeed. Big time. And you’ll love the way all their games are optimized for kids. There’s no way to “lose” these games.


Counting Bees teaches kids to count to twenty by fives. Children will develop their fine motor skills as they trace a path with their finger from bees to the center of a flower. It’s a simple but tricky task, and as the bees hit the targets, the app counts aloud. Want a greater challenge? Try playing/counting in Spanish, French, Italian, German, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese Chinese, and Japanese.


Interactive Alphabet presents each letter of the alphabet as an interactive flashcard. The app will pronounce the letter and word, such as “A” for “apple,” showing both upper and lower case letters. Each illustration has several fun actions. Users can “chomp” on the apple (with sound effects!) by tapping it with their finger. “B” for “beach” is complete with the sounds of the ocean and seagulls. Users can make the sun rise and set on the water, (with additional night sounds) and build a sand castle by tapping. The app will even sing the alphabet song for you, complete with a little show featuring dancing characters from the individual letters.


Memory Train challenges users to remember a shape (or number of shapes) or illustrations, which move across the screen as if on a train track. Kids are challenged to remember things like, “What color was the shape?” or “Which one was green?” The better kids perform, the faster the shapes move across the screen, making this a truly challenging game. Kids earn points, badges, and peanut trophies. This app can be adapted for various levels of play, making it appropriate for ages 4 to 7, but can be adjusted for ages 8 to 10. Players can select nine different avatars, and four players can play independently.


And here’s a little gift from me to you (okay, it’s actually free from Pi’ikea Street). You can download a great little Xylophone app that’s actually the letter “X” from their Interactive Alphabet. And there’s additional functionality in the freebie and will lead you through nine simple tunes. Love it. And the price is right.


But honestly, $1.99 for Memory Train? $2.99 for Interactive Alphabet? 99 cents for Counting Bees? This is the best just-under-five bucks you’ll ever spend. I even love their website, as it has a great little crafts department. Love the “Flying Kraken” sea creature. Seriously, can I buy stock in this company?

When I asked my daughter which app was her favorite, she said, “All of them!” and you know what? She’s right.

REVIEW SUMMARY:
App Name: Counting Bees
Category: Education
Age Level: 4+
Updated: December 9, 2011
Requirements: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad. Requires iOS 3.1 or later
Price: $.99
Bottom Line: So engaging, kids won’t notice they’re learning to count.


App Name: Interactive Alphabet
Category: Education
Age Level: 4+
Updated: December 12, 2011
Requirements: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later
Price: $2.99
Bottom Line: Much functionality for each letter of the alphabet; the entertainment factor will keep your kids glued to this.


App Name: Memory Train
Category: Education
Age Level: 4+
Updated: July 11, 2011
Requirements: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad. Requires iOS 4.0 or later
Price: $1.99
Bottom Line: Challenging yet fun. It will take a long time for your kids to get to the bottom of this app.


App Name: Xylophone from Interactive Alphabet
Category: Education
Age Level: 4+
Released: December 14, 2011
Requirements: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad. Requires iOS 3.1 or later
Price: Free.
Bottom Line: A sweet little introduction to the musical scale.

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