Thursday, December 20, 2012

’Appy Holidays!


Here’s a Santa’s bagful of apps that will make perfect last minute holiday gifts. Seriously, what could be quicker than an app download? They’re holly-jolly fun and for some of these apps, the price is very right; by which I mean free. As I always say: free’s a good price.


Toca Tailor Fairy Tales by Toca Boca is really a fashion design app where you choose an elfish looking boy or girl and design an outfit (with accessories, natch) from a wide variety of customizable choices. What I love about this app is the amount of choice the user has in creating the costumes. A shirt can even have two completely different sleeve styles; and every part of a garment can be colored separately from a large color palette. It would take ages to get to the bottom of this app. And a clever little window in the environment registers the season. Since it’s winter right now, the view out the window is snowy. So you can dress your figure for the weather, if you have a mind to. A photo studio function allows you to pose your dressed model for a fashion shoot. This is a lot of app and the price is right: FREE.

Nosy Crow has recently released a pair of apps that any kid would love. The first is Animal Snapp Farm. Users match animal pictures. When you have a match, a charming, interactive story plays about Cuddly Cow or Lucky Lamb (among others). An adorable child narrator (with British accent) leads users through the activities. This is a wonderful early literacy app, as the storybook’s words are highlighted as the narrator speaks them, giving nice reading support. It’s altogether charming and engaging. Users will have too much fun to realize they’re learning.

Another wonderful Nosy Crow offering is Parker Penguin (seen above), part of their Rounds series that teaches the life cycle of different animals. Their earlier offering—Franklin Frog—was also amazing, offering an animal biology lesson that’s as fun as it is fascinating. Games lead the users through the life cycle of the Penguin until Parker’s own son grows up and begins the cycle all over again. The games are engaging and the learning experience is clear and concise yet perfectly appropriate for preschoolers. Viva Nosy Crow! They really do have the knack for making learning entirely and utterly fun.

Night & Day Studios wonderful Peekaboo Series offers a wonderfully apt Presents version, where Christmas presents under the tree can be opened with a tap, revealing fun, animated sight words that are pronounced by a child narrator. It’s simple, it’s empowering, and the price is right: FREE. And Night & Day has also released a series of sticker-book apps that are sure to make your super-hero fan very, very happy. Sticker books featuring Superman and Super Friends are beautifully illustrated and allow users to create pictures using their favorite superheroes in a wide range of environments to create exciting, TALKING pictures. The app allows users to rotate and change the shape of individual stickers, as well as take pictures of and email finished pictures. I’m figuring grandma is going to be getting a lot of email after the holidays.

Story Toys has finally made a 3D interactive pop-up book of my favorite fairy tale, Snow White. This is a nice early reader’s app, beautifully illustrated and animated, but it’s also wonderful and easy to use for pre-readers. And the pop-up pages are beautiful and easy to navigate. And did I mention a lot of fun? Keep in mind that these are the Grimm’s Brother’s version of the classic fairy tales, not the Disney version; which I like, because it introduces young readers to the idea that there’s more than one way to tell a story. And while you’re at it, check out their Puss In Boots. It’s another delightful, gorgeous, engaging app that encourages and supports early literacy. And Snow White is FREE while Puss In Boots is $4.99.

Balloonimals by IDEO allows you to create balloon animals by blowing up balloons and shaking your iPad as the balloon twists and turns into pretty amazing animals. Users can they use a pump to inflate the animal to the point of popping or take photos of the animal in clever, often beautiful environments. The fish appears in a coral reef. The lobster fights off a would-be chef with a rolling pin on a kitchen counter. It’s a fun little time waster and the lite version is free.

Choccolapps has created something simply suddenly indispensible with Animap. A map of the world and its oceans is populated with illustrations of animals. Tap on an animal to get its story. But its story is offered from five different angles: its sounds; its designation; its habitat; its eating habits; and fun facts.



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