Category Archives: App Reviews

Baby Sign Language App

I bought this Baby Sign Language app by EverydayASL.com a few months ago, but she hasn’t seemed ready for it until now. I know ASL pretty well, so I’ve been teaching her basic signs without the app since she was about 6 months old. Lately her attention span and level of interest in learning new words has jumped, so we gave this app a try today.

The app offers two very different experiences for horizontal or vertical modes. Each flash card includes a picture of a word, audio of the word, and a video of the word signed. I tend to draw more towards flash card apps that use more realistic pictures, but Stella seemed to understand the cartoon drawings just fine. My only complaint is that when you are in horizontal mode, the video for each sign skips really fast the first time you watch it, so you have to tap it again. (You’ll see it happen in the video.)

It’s not an app that Stella can run independently yet because you have to manually tap to hear the word or watch the video. When left alone with the app, Stella just wants to paw the screen to see the pictures move. By the time she’s old enough to use this app on her own, her speech will probably be advanced enough that she won’t need signs to communicate. But for $1.99, it’s still a neat app—even if you use it to teach vocabulary without the signs.

Advertisements

Itsy Bitsy Spider App Review

The Itsy Bitsy Spider app by Duck Duck Moose ($1.99) is perfect for Stella’s age (almost 15 months). The developer has lots of similar apps (Wheels on the Bus, Old MacDonald), but I chose this one for my own sake because it had the least annoying song. The story itself is fun (touch the spider to advance each verse of the song), but there are also lots of other supporting touch-spots for her to discover and remain engaged— so much so, that we’ll probably even use this app without the audio on the plane.

Count to Ten

The Oscar’s 1-10 Balloons app ($.99) is a perfect introduction to the concepts of sequencing and numbers. It offers three modes: Learn, Follow, and Play. Stella thinks the Play mode is for the birds, but she’s very good at Learn and Follow.

I’ll Take it from Here, Mom

I first discovered the Choo Choo Time app from Jason Huber, who runs KidsiPhoneAppReview.com. (See his Choo Choo Time app review here.)

When Stella was 6-12 months old, I would often launch this app on my iPhone to entertain her in the waiting rooms of doctor’s offices and such. She liked to watch the scenery go by, and she got a kick out of the sounds whenever I’d tap the various creatures for her. Now that she’s more independent, she has learned to interact with the app on her own! It has been so fun to witness her transition from passive observer to active participant. Yes, she even makes a barking noise when she taps the dog, although with her pacifier it comes out more like a whimper. 🙂

(The neon glow that appears in the video happens sometimes when I record from the iPad 2. Anyone know why? I’m guessing it’s time for an iOS update.)

Where’s Your Nose?

Stella and I explored the BabyPlayFace iPad app, which features the cutest [literal] digital baby I’ve ever seen:

All you have to do is point anywhere on the baby’s head to learn the parts of the face. Stella had a difficult time with this, though, because she tended to “paw” at the image, which kept making the “BUZZ” sound (invalid selection).

I’ve noticed that she does this motion with certain apps, but not with others. I can’t figure out the variable. For example, when using the Color Dots app, she pointed with her index finger more frequently than she pawed. Perhaps low detail and high contrast are factors?

Maybe there isn’t a pattern at all. Lately when using the Monkey Preschool Lunchbox app (a game with high detail and high contrast), she paws when matching cards, but uses her index finger to drag-and-drop puzzle pieces to the correct location. I have yet to catch the puzzle part on video, which is probably for the best because I squeal in the highest pitch known to man every time she does it. But you can get the idea of the motion required from the screen shot of the strawberry.

Either way, Stella loves learning and loves the iPad 2!

Finger Dexterity

Stella reviewed the Color Dots app by Ellie’s Games. She gave it two index fingers up! Watching her finger dexterity adapt from one app to another is by far the most enthralling process for me. Sometimes her thumb would inadvertently touch the screen, which voided the touch of her finger, but overall she was very good at timing. As she mastered the index finger, she switched her strategy to slapping the screen with her entire hand, to pawing at the screen with all five fingers and waiting for the dots to come to her. “Work smarter, not harder, mom.”

Another pleasant surprise was the way she handled the iOS rotation. While playing with Talking Tom, she accidentally lowered the top of the screen, which caused the screen to flip. “Hey, Tomcat! You’re upside-down!” To fix it, she attempted to physically rotated the device. How cute is that?! The problem of course is that the iPad 2 is just too heavy for her to handle. But I just didn’t expect her to do that. I’ve since locked the rotation for her (Settings > General > Lock Rotation).

Hello, cheese? NO! Cheese can’t dial a phone.

…Nor can it play the piano. Stella likes the Virtuoso Piano app, but for some reason she got very frustrated when her fake slice of cheese (made out of felt) did not produce sound. At least, that’s what I *think* she was getting frustrated with. After all, her various cries have become a language of their own, which makes me her master interpreter. A subtle change inflection can mean the difference between “I’m hungry,” “I’m angry,” “I’m angry because I’m hungry,” and in rare cases, “I’m hungry because I’m angry!” Now that I’ve experienced it from both sides, I’ve come to better appreciate the delicate patience required for this primal communication!

As for the title of this post, I had the chance to reference The State, and I took it—primarily because I hope to make 50% of my readership smile from the line.*

*I know for sure that two of you read this, and one of you is Sara!

Adopting the Digital A/V Adapter

The A/V Adapter allows us to output the iPad display onto our TV. It was expensive ($40 + HDMI cable), but it’s great for parents because it gives us the option to keep our child’s paws off the control and still share the output with her for movies, flashcard apps, and more:

  1. Netflix: We are able to stream Neflix through our Blue-ray Player or XBox (wow, are we spoiled), but there is something especially enchanting about resuming content in our queue at the exact spot where we left it.
  2. Videos: I feel like I got a 2-for-1 on my Yo Gabba Gabba downloads. And, no more storing DVDs!
  3. Kids App (Monkey Preschool Lunchbox): This is one of Stella’s favorite games, so it was fun to watch her use both the iPad and TV screen. The game incorporates colors, shapes, fruit, counting, puzzles, and matching—worth every 99 pennies. Bonus: Stella signs the word “more!”
  4. FaceTime: Grandpa is finally life-size!
  5. Web Browsing: Browsing the web as a family affair? Hello, Google DNS and parental controls.

And for those of you who are concerned about the amount of her daily screen time (more on this later), she also played with non-digital toys—and boys!—all day long.

Baby-Silencer

Not necessarily related to language development, Stella took a break from flash cards to explore the Baby-Silencer app by jolly1312. (Hey jolly, the link to your web site is broken.) This app is designed for younger babies with less mobility than Stella (3-6 months), who like to focus on and track small objects. Although the visuals are great, the app does not include sound. (At one point, Stella actually leaned in to listen for something! That is, until she became more interested in the case than the device.) You can upgrade sound effects by navigating through some strange point system—one that involves installing other apps to earn credits—but it looked painful. I would’ve rather paid the customary $.99 for the upgrade had that been an option. Considering the target audience for this app is a presumably a busy parent with an infant, the scavenger-hunt-upgrade-path seems to miss the mark.

Customized Flash Cards

Customizing the “My First Words” app for Stella so easy! I took pictures of familiar objects around the house, added photos of friends and family, and recorded my voice next to each entry. For 40 new words, the whole process took me under an hour.

custom words

Although *I* was wildly impressed with the custom category of words, Stella didn’t seem to notice a difference from the generic photos. Her response to hearing “mom’s” voice was also the same as hearing the perky lady voice that came with the app. I imagine that this customization feature hits home with older children who already have an active vocabulary (toddlers and above). Customized categories or not, thank goodness the app finishes the audio track for each word before advancing—despite a preemptive touch— because Stella’s paw was on rapid fire mode:

I can’t give enough positive feedback for the “My First Words” iPad app, but unfortunately it was removed from the iTunes store shortly after I posted my first review. When I e-mailed the SmartBabyApps support team for more information, they gave me this response:

Thank you so much for your help and support. Unfortunately, we had some problems with the latest update of the app and will bring it back again in the near future.

I hope they work out their issues soon because this really is a fantastic app!