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Entries in children (25)

Teach Little Ones To Play Piano on the iPad

Fancy giving your toddler a head start on their musical creativity? Juno's Piano aims to make teaching the piano to your little ones a fun and easy process. We take a quick look at the app and let you know if you should buy it.

Here in the UK, the Juno Baby brand isn't that well known, so I had no idea who Juno was when I first saw this app, despite having 3 and 5 year old kids.

The price of the app though and a desire to cultivate any musical creativity our young software testers may have, makes this a no-brainer. For $0.99 (59p) you can't go wrong with this app which children are sure to love.

How the app works

There are three ways to use Juno's Piano, or modes of play:

  1. Learn a Song
    Learn to play one of three Juno songs by following the keys pressed Juno jumps on to - a bit like the Simon game - but helped by the notes being highlighted in Pink one after the other during their go so they don't have to remember the sequence
  2. Play Together
    You play some notes and your little one plays them after - similar to above but you choose the notes
  3. Free Play
    As the name suggests, they can bang away at the keys while Juno dances and spins above the keyboard

At any time you can go back to the Home screen and jump into another mode. The app is fast and responsive, including playing notes on the keyboard (although one at a time, not polyphonic).

What the kids thought?

Even though they had never seen Juno before, the iPC kids loved seeing her jump around and talk them when they pressed the right keys whilst learning a song. It probably would have helped if they were familiar with the songs so that they could hear themselves playing something they knew.

There is a clever marketing trick here, because now they want to see more of Juno's world, I am saved only by the fact that the Juno stuff isn't currently easy to get hold of here in the UK. Having said that, the philosophy behind education through and by music is something we wholeheartedly support and for every Juno product purchased a music education DVD is given to children in need under their One for All program.

Things we liked

  • Constant encouragement from the Juno character and animated actions keeps children's attention
  • Pace of play is set by the child, they follow as quickly or slowly as they need to
  • Colourful design and graphics
  • Non-academic and fun way to learn
  • Price! Just $0.99 (59p)

Suggested improvements

  • The choice of songs in Juno's piano are limited to just three and likely familiar only to those who already know the Juno brand, more songs and perhaps better known ones would be appreciated
  • Keyboard is not polyphonic (not a major issue given the app's goals, but it would be nice to play more than one note at a time)
  • You can't turn Juno's voice over off on the Home menu or when first entering the modes, she says the same thing every time which can get a bit annoying, for the adults anyway. It would be good if we could tap on Juno to mute her momentarily or have a voiceover on/off button.

It feels a bit like nitpicking to be honest finding fault with an app this cute and inexpensive with such a great educational value, so we recommend you go and get this app if you have little ones. Our kids certainly enjoyed it and for fans of Juno Baby and now Juno Jr. it is probably a must have.

Quick Look: The Monster At The End Of This Book

A quick look at the iPad interactive version of the classic Sesame Street book 'The Monster At The End Of This Book', developed by Callaway Digital Arts and which has recently been updated.

Grover

We have not mentioned this app before now because, frankly, it was a bit disappointing and crashed repeatedly on the same page every time we read it through with the iPad Creative kids.

This caused no end of annoyance and frustration for little kids and big kids alike.

That changed though with the recent upgrade to version 1.2 a few weeks ago and now we feel we can recommend the app for your little ones, with a few caveats.

Fun and Interactive

The app has some great voice acting by Grover and really makes our kids giggle as his sense of panic heightens the closer you get to the end of the book. The interactive elements are fun too, encouraging you to move the story along by breaking down the various obstacles that Grover puts in the way to try and stop you turning the page, something which the kids really liked.

The text is highlighted as it is read by Grover and the synchronisation of this with the voice narration has greatly improved in the new version. The illustrations are as per the original book and are animated in keeping with the feel of the paper version.

A Bit Slow

Although there have been some major improvements in speed and crash prevention in this version, the animations still take a relatively long time to load whilst you stare at a blank page. It is only a matter of maybe 6 seconds or so at worst, but it feels a lot longer when you are waiting and is still long enough to annoy, especially impatient youngsters.

Some of the interactions can be a bit slow to respond too with our little testers touching the screen repeatedly when it didn't respond quickly enough meaning that by the time the app caught up, the wall (in this case) had already collapsed.

We have to say, this didn't happen every time (we have taken the Developers' advice and restarted our iPad after install) but occasionally these issues did still pop up.

Overall

All things considered though, we liked the app and, more importantly, our little ones like it and keep going back to it, a sure sign that something has been done well enough to appeal to its target audience.

The Monster At The End Of This Book is available for $3.99 (£2.39) on the app store.

If you have tried this app on your iPad and would like to add your thoughts please leave us a comment below.

2 Gorgeous iPad Books reviewed

Teddy's Day and new Teddy's Night are two of the most visually appealing, beautifully illustrated, interactive Children's books we have seen so far on the iPad, and my kids love them!

Geek Factor

The developers of these two interactive books, Auryn Inc., have created software that uses special techniques to animate 2D and 3D art so that pages from the book literally come to life. An element on a page, say a book or a drawn character, are suddenly animated when you touch them with no obvious jump cuts, blurring or stuttering in the animation.

These techniques have been used to create full animated DVDs and other stories by Auryn, it is fascinating stuff and you can see more detail and samples (when using a Computer) of the DVDs by following the links on their Products page.

Interactive Fun

All of this builds into a seamless, involving experience that fascinates young ones (and the not so young) and encourages them to experiment by touching different parts of the illustration on the page in front of them to see which elements will respond.

Sometimes, my youngest who is three years old, found this frustrating because he was wildly tapping parts of the screen and nothing was happening, so a little guidance was needed to point him towards the interactive elements of the page.

When the reader turns the lights off and on the colours and light transitions are fabulous and it really looks like that is what you are doing, it is an effect the developers are obviously fond of as it is used quite a bit.

Other pages have a TV remote which actually switches the channel to another programme, the bathroom scene in Teddy's Night is packed with interactive elements such as a matching game on the bath tiles, bubbles that bounce around the screen and are popped when you touch them and a few other surprises (hint: try seeing what the boat does, and the Moon on the Title page of Teddy's Night).

There are creative opportunities too, both books have a drawing page with coloured crayons, variable crayon widths, eraser, etc. which add the saved picture to the wall in the little girl's room. We thought this was a nice touch and added a personal element to the book. 

  

Teddy's Night includes a building blocks game which has some slightly odd physics but kept the kids interested for a while trying to rebuild the tower.

Auryn do help out by circling the main interactive elements after the narration has finished on the page, but there are some things which are not indicated, which we think is a good thing because play and discovery of 'hidden' interactivity keeps curious children interested.

Just one problem

There were a couple of times when we came out of the app unexpectedly (the Home button seems very attractive to little hands) but neither app remembers where you were so, frustratingly, we had to wait for the book to load and then go through all the pages until we got to the point where we left off. It isn't the end of the world, but when you have two impatient children under 6 who keep stabbing at the screen it can be a real annoyance.

Recommended Reading

This doesn't stop us recommending these books wholeheartedly for some gentle fun, eye-pleasing visuals and repeated distraction for children and their 'grown-ups', be sure to check out the video previews and let us know what you think if you do buy either of them.

Teddy's Day is currently in the app store for $1.99 (£1.19) and Teddy's Night, a more recent release, is currently on offer for $0.99 (59p) but both books will be rising soon to $7.99, so we suggest grabbing them now.

How to Make an Interactive iPad Book

We mentioned yesterday how much we liked to see the Creative process in action, which is why we have been fascinated to watch the journey behind the production of new Interactive iPad book Astrojammies from Demibooks.

As well as creating a gorgeous and truly interactive storybook, Demibooks and author/illustrator Stacey Williams-Ng have shared the creative development process of making the app with us via a blog and videos as they went along.

About the App

Astrojammies for iPad tells the story of young boy, Jimmy, who believes that his pyjamas are magical and make him an astronaut who can fly off into outer space (actually a very normal fantasy for many of us as we grew up). The illustrations are sumptuously coloured and make the book very attractive and pleasing to the eye.

Here is a bit about the app from the iTunes description:

"..this story includes a dreamlike original music score by Steve Dixon, professional narration and amazing special effects. Readers can launch a rocket, squish and poke a planet made entirely of goo, and help Jimmy escape the jaws of a hungry space baboon... all with the tap of a finger! These interactive features help advance the story and enhance reading comprehension."

There is a 'read to me' mode as usual but you can turn this off so that you can read it yourself, or your kids can, if you let them have a go. The interactive elements have been designed to be engaging, but importantly great effort has gone in to making these elements a progressive part of the story, and this leads us on to...

The Process

What Demibooks and Stacey Williams-Ng have done to make this project stand out for us is to share their progress towards launch of the app in a series of blog posts and videos discussing some of the thinking behind decisions being made, how they tested the app with their target group (children), what this taught them, how they responded to it and its impact on the development of the app.

The posts also cover how the illustrations were developed and animated with some interesting learning points for the team.

The whole process is summarised in the video below, but if you want a really interesting read and further insight into the creative process behind Astrojammies then we would highly recommend reading through the 9 posts on Demibooks' website, we have really enjoyed it.

If you or your kids have tried out the Astrojammies app we would love to know what you think, let us know in the comments below.

Inspirational iPad Educator

How can you teach kids who cannot or do not want to learn the traditional way? How do you make a boring subject fun and engaging for kids? Kevin Honeycutt is one of those big thinkers who has a creative approach to this problem.

If you haven't heard of Kevin Honeycutt and you are even vaguely interested in how technology like the iPad and iPhone can be used creatively to help people learn, then we highly recommend you check out his site and YouTube videos for some truly inspiring ideas.

The video below is a section from Kevin's keynote speech at last week's AESA (Association of Educational Service Agencies) National Conference. It is a bit of fun with an iPad being played live as a drum kit, along with iPhone lead instruments and even a real guitar, but it demonstrates how involving this new technology can be and how people immediately respond to it being used with curiosity and good humour. 

Kevin is a fantastic speaker and he also has a few other clips on his YouTube account from this keynote speech which really made us think about how technology can be used to facilitate learning, at the same time enabling learners to have fun and express their creativity so they do not even realise that learning is taking place.

We hope you enjoy watching the video, as we did, and Kevin's extraordinary presentation style. Don't forget to let us know what you think in the comments.

'Coloring Farm' for Free but be quick

We spotted the Coloring Farm app being offered for free today and thought you may want to grab it quickly for your iPad (or iPhone) as a nice little colouring book for your kids or young at heart iPad users.

The app has some nice line drawings to colour in with the original set of 18 Farm pictures and recently added set of 18 Vehicle images.

There are a set of coloured pencils represented at the bottom of the screen and an eraser, but not much else by way of tools or controls, so no line thickness, etc. which makes it a little bit difficult to keep inside the lines sometimes. 

For a quick distraction and with the ability to add your results to an in-app gallery for keeps, we think it is worth a download and our little people enjoyed playing with Coloring Farm. It is only available Free for 2 days so if you want to grab it, be quick.

Creative Kids? Griffin Has Your iPad Covered

Kids are naturally curious and the iPad is a big attraction for them as we know from first-hand experience. However, it is a bit scary for the iPad owning adult to hand their beloved (and expensive) iPad over to sticky little hands.

Griffin want to help you out with this quandary whilst providing something fun and engaging for creative kids with their LightBoard iPad Case. This case is part protective cover, part art stand, and is a unique approach to involving younger iPad users in educational and creative activities using the device.

The LightBoard uses appealing colours in its 'shatter-resistant polycarbonate shell', which includes a cover to protect the iPad screen and a specially designed pocket into which you can slide a piece of paper for kids to draw on.

Griffin have also developed an iPad app to go with this case called LightBoard Trace, a free download in the app store. When you place a piece of paper into the pocket on top of the case, the LightBoard Trace app will display line drawings which can be seen through the paper.

Kids can then trace the drawings using the provided washable felt-tip marker. There are also games and animations using words and letters that teach the child to write their own name and phone number.

We think this is a brilliant and inventive way to involve children in using the iPad creatively with a nice educational slant and this idea really impressed us. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

War of the Worlds re-imagined

The classic H. G. Wells book War of the Worlds has been re-imagined as an interactive eBook and it looks really impressive.

We like to see this kind of innovation and creativity in publishing on the iPad and the mix of eBook with more interactive, almost gaming, elements make this a compelling app. We think it will definitely appeal to the target 'youth' audience who can get physically involved in the story through the iPad's touch interface, even starting the Martian invasion themselves as part of the interaction.

The key features (from the Press Release) include: 

  • 27 interactive, visually stunning pages integrated with text from the original 1898 publication
  • Intuitive design allows readers to touch-swipe the Martians Cylinders towards Earth and begin the invasion 
  • Features real-time motion graphics as readers gesture or tilt iPad through the Red Weeds
  • Touch interactive elements throughout the story that allow reader to act as Martian or Human
  • Aim the Tripod’s heat-ray to disintegrate fleeing people and artillery-men
  • Create ominous lightening storms, tap the crow to eat the dead Martian and throw the Canisters to emit the thick deadly, Black Smoke 

War of the Worlds is available now in the US app store (not available in the UK at the time of writing) for an 'Introductory' price of $3.99.

A Picturesque iPad app

Picturesque by Kelibo LLC looks like a fun app for kids to get creative on the iPad but also learn about perspective in art, with a little bit of education on the alphabet thrown in.

Combined with fun music and lots of sounds that will appeal to young children it looks like a nice way to play with the kids and share their creations either via e-mail or by saving into your iPad's Photos app.

It does seem to be a little bit too animated at times, with some of the animations being reminiscent of PowerPoint's animation effects, but on the whole, for $1.99 (£1.19), Picturesque looks like a good way to get the kids involved creatively with the iPad and keep them entertained for at least a while.

If you are a Graphic Designer or Sound Artist yourself, Kelibo are looking for people like you to get involved with the app's development. Check the link for more info.

SpinArt Studio - save the mess and 60% for a limited time

To celebrate the second anniversary of the original iPhone version of SpinArt by Brian Smith (7twenty7), you can save 60% off the iPad version, SpinArt Studio, for a 'very limited time'. This makes the price of the iPad app just $1.99 (£1.19). The iPhone version is on sale too with 50% off at $0.99 (59p).

This app is great fun and such a fantastic way to keep the kids entertained on a rainy Autumn weekend (we think a few of those are on the way).

You can even share your wonderful creations (once your head has stopped spinning) in the SpinArt Flickr group or on the SpinArt Facebook page and browse other users' creations there too.

If you get this app let us know what you think of it in the comments below, we would love to hear from you.

In the meantime, here is a rundown of the app's features from the iTunes description, and don't forget to check out the review of the app in the video above:

• Full 1024x768 HD resolution
• 15 canvas shapes!
• 54 colors!
• 3 brush types and 5 brush sizes.
• Multitouch painting with up to four fingers at once.
• Improved glitter from the iPhone version.
• Use in any device orientation.
• Ability to offset the canvas to create even more amazing designs!
• Save to your Photo Library or email directly to a friend.
• Undo