Category Archives: video

Learn. Grow. Repeat.

I’ve had a lot of traffic lately from other moms looking for app reviews, which is really fun for me! I love getting in touch with other parents this way! The excitement made me consider devoting more of my posts exclusively to app reviews. However, I realized that there are already other sites that do a really great job of this; plus, it would derail me from my original purpose, which focuses specifically on one child’s digital journey between 12-24 months.

Anyway, that sums up the reason why I continue to post videos for apps that we’ve already reviewed. If an app has the ability to grow with a child, I think that process deserves a showcase, too! It’s a testament to both the child and the app. Here are two apps that we’ve revisited or re-purposed lately:

Virtuoso Piano 2 HD
Stella loves to sing; her favorite song is “Twinkle Little Star.” I figured out how to play the song, so I decided to see if I could teach her the notes—or at least see how long she would retain interest during the lesson. It was fun! I think she understands that each of those keys produces a different sound, so with a little repetition, I think she’ll become more aware that there is an order in which to play [touch] them. It’s fun to see what she thought of this app just 7 months ago.

Tappie Colorit:
We reviewed this app a month ago. At that time, I noted that she couldn’t do a lot of the games in this app (or maybe just didn’t have any interest). Either way, she is becoming a lot more independent with many of the app’s tasks now. She rarely needs my help when putting the right shapes into the right silhouettes. This app has been a perfect partner for her as she refines her visual-spatial awareness.

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Learning Colors and Shapes

A few months ago, Kids iPhone App Review suggested that we might like the Tappie Colorit app by ADUK GmbH/Zanymation ($.99). At the time, Stella was 15 months, so she was still a little too young for the concepts. Now that she’s 18+ months, she has become much more successful with this app—although there are some parts that are still too advanced for her. We mostly stick to the “cars” game. Each time we play, she always picks the red car first, regardless of whether it starts on the top, middle, or bottom. Hmmm…

Overall, this is a very good, educational app for young kids. I like Zanymation’s philosophy: “All the games and books in the series are outlined by colorful, but calm palette that does not overload child’s nervous system. In general we aim to help your child develop the following skills: fine motor fingers coordination, attention, comparing objects, logic, grouping by shape and color.”

Little Letters / Little Numbers

I downloaded the Little Letters app from Mobile Merge several months ago, but Stella hated playing it so I forgot all about it. She accidentally launched it again the other day, and now it’s her favorite one! I think it’s a great one for all ages—little ones like to hear the different sounds and touch the squares, while older kids can practice their letters and numbers. My 4 year-old nephew is in town this week, and we had fun trying to guess which letter was showing with only a few of the squares revealed.

Because I downloaded the Little Letters app several months ago, it has since had a name change to ABC Preschool Alphabet and is now $.99, but I still think it is worth the money. Also, its counterpart, Little Numbers, functions in the same way and is still free.

Why an iPad is NOT a Digital Pacifier

This article from Bloomberg deserves a comment or two. Let me break it down for you:

  • iPads are a popular Christmas wish list item. Check!
  • Some households with one iPad are planning on getting a second just for the kids. I actually know a family who has already done that.
  • Tablets can help kids learn to write. Ok.
  • A pediatrician in Boston says children under 2 should only use the iPad to display books. Hold the phone…

I have two comments about this part. First, the paragraph starts out by calling adults with tablet-related concerns as “child advocates.” Hey, wait a minute! I’m an adult with no tablet-related concerns, can I also call myself a child advocate?

Second, the pediatrician who made that comment was Gwenn O’Keeffe, a CEO of a health and communications company, among many other credentials that you can read about on The Huffington Post. Her statement intrigued me more than it alarmed me, so I went hunting for more of her research. In this article from the Pittsburgh Tribune, she says, “Little kids’ brain development needs to evolve un-interfered with. The more technology that is introduced at a young age, it disrupts how their brains are wired and how kids think and learn. Kids under 2 don’t understand what they’re using.”

I am not a pediatrician—nor am I a CEO of a company with financial interests in making regular appearances in print, online, radio, and TV—but I still don’t buy it. I’m sorry! I could very well be wrong (and biased), but it’s just that since starting this blog I know Stella definitely understands what she’s using. I wouldn’t continue doing it if I didn’t see positive results.

Everyone seemed to get a kick out of the viral video of the toddler frustrated with a magazine because she couldn’t zoom in on one of the pictures. But I bet if that same parent recorded that little girl again, it wouldn’t be a big deal because she has since probably played with it enough to learn the difference. I make this assumption because Stella once did a similar thing with an animal book shortly after we got the iPad (she expected the book to make sounds like her animal app), but she has long since gotten over that novelty (see video below):

(Note in the video that she signs the word “spider” when we find it in the book, which is an action she learned from an iPad app, thank you very much.)

So here are my final thoughts:

1. The person who coined the phrase “digital pacifier” has obviously not had a baby or an iPad before because if you’ve ever tried to leave your child (0-2) alone with the iPad, you’ll know that it’s impossible! If she’s not looking for immediate praise from me, she’s looking for me to help her out of some inevitable jam with one of the apps. She’s pretty skilled at navigating by herself, but she’s certainly not able to do everything independently.

2. An iPad should not be argued as a potential replacement for parent-child interaction or human contact no more than a Barbie doll or a scooter. It’s one tool in a box of many. (I bet if you kept your daughter from her favorite doll, she’d go crazy, too.) The American Association of Pediatrics has recommended limiting screen time for kids (TV or otherwise) for some time now. Whether it “disrupts how their brains are wired” or not, that recommendation just seems obvious enough that it doesn’t really have to be said. Most kids get bored with playing the same toy after a while—even with the iPad. (Trust me.) If your child plays too long with any *one* thing, it’s probably time to mix it up.

3. We need to stop treating “the iPad” as if it means the same thing to everyone. It’s what you put IN your iPad that gives it its essence. Some people might use it mostly for a second TV device, while others might load it with these fun apps for babies and toddlers. One app might rot your brains, while another might stimulate it. I would love to have my girl Etel from SignShine visit us 3 days a week to sign songs with Stella. But in the mean time, the iPad is a wonderful tool to bring her into our home without requiring her physical presence or my husband to put on a shirt.

With that said, I’m signing off with Stella’s favorite book:
Good night, Minnesota.

Family Photos

Living almost 2,000 miles from most of our family/friends makes the holidays difficult. Stella cheered us up this Thanksgiving weekend by going through a bunch of photos of loved ones and reciting their names—yet another simple way to use the iPad 2 with your kids!

Disclaimer: The video does not show all of the family photos that we actually have in our library (I had to cut out some footage in the middle due to stinkerness), so if you think you’re forgotten, think again, Katie, Kara, Brandon, Logan, Mandy, Clint, Amy, Tony, Brenden, Brooks, John, Ilyse, and Mary!

Get in the Game

Stella’s dad is a true gamer. To give you an example, he was one of those dorky fanboys who picked up his copy at midnight when Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was released Nov 8—contributing to the new entertainment record of $400 million in the first 24 hours, making it the biggest entertainment launch property of all time (source). (It’s not the first time he’s done that either.) So whenever there are interesting studies about gamification of learning, he and I both tend to perk up.

Gabe Zichermann recently gave a talk at TEDxKids@Brussels on “How games make kids smarter:”

Some of the highlights in his talk:

  • Is it that our children have ADHD, or is our world just too freaking slow for our children to appreciate?
  • Today’s kids play games and they are expected to chat, text, and voice; operate a character; follow long- and short-term objectives […]. Kids have to have extraordinary multi-tasking skills to be able to achieve things today.
  • The act of learning produces increased gray matter [in the brain], not performing the activity itself.
  • There are five things you can do to increase fluid intelligence [to help build problem-solving skills]: 1. Seek novelty, 2. Challenge yourself, 3. Think creatively, 4. Do things the hard way, 5. Network. (Does this resemble the pattern of a video game?)
  • Video games present a constant and exponentially increase in learning, which may help us explain the Flynn effect, which is that the pattern that human intelligence is actually rising over time. The rate of fluid intelligence increase has risen starting in the 1990s…[hmmm…coincidence?]
  • Games are wired to elicit a particular kind of dopamine loop in the brain, which produces an intrinsic reinforcement to keep seeking that activity.

Related to problem-solving skills, I recently recorded Stella playing the matching activity in the Monkey Preschool Lunchbox app. It’s so cute to see her discover a pattern (dopamine rush!), although she doesn’t yet use a very effective strategy. It appears that she can only hold up to one card in memory at a time.

Gabe’s TED talk ends by telling parents to “get into the game” with their kids. One way to do this is to ask your kids to explain the strategy of the game back to you. It reinforces their ability to synthesize and verbalize complex material. Most importantly, it communicates to them that you’re interested in what they love to do. I’m sure Jesse will have no problem with this advice! I can already imagine Stella a few years from now playing Xbox with her dad. (Do they make pink headsets?) As for me, I will sit happily on the sidelines for that one. Maybe then I can finally use the iPad for myself for a while!

Repeat After Me: ABC

Stella’s 18 month appointment with her pediatrician is coming up, so I decided to quickly jot down all of the words that she says so that I’d have a ballpark figure. Once I started writing, I almost couldn’t stop. I easily filled up a page worth 65 80+ (see update below) words—words that she regularly says on her own without any prompting from me. (A widely-known benchmark at this age is 20, but it’s common for kids to have much fewer or much more without any indication for concern or pretense.) She also strings a few of them together; her favorite phrases are, “Kick it,” “Where-da-go?”, and “Hi, baby!

Obviously I can’t credit the iPad for everything Stella does. After all, she does get to spend a lot of one-on-one time with me, and she has a phenomenal daycare provider, where she is also surrounded by a 4-year-old boy, from whom she learns a lot.

However, I can’t diminish the iPad’s role in her learning environment either. Not only have I seen some amazing apps with excellent educational value, but I also think the iPad itself has given us a reason to sit down and interact with each other more than we might have without it. We take walks, read physical books, and build blocks together, but what I mean is that the iPad removes the burden of creating both educational content and context, which makes the learning process so much more accessible. For example, I don’t think I would have taken the time to create physical flash cards, let alone keep her interested enough to practice them daily. The iPad just works.

Now that she has started repeating EVERYTHING anyone says, the ABC app has been really fun for me to watch. Most of the time she repeats the letters without my prompting. How cool is this?

Remember, the purpose of my blog is not to make claims one way or another, although I have an obvious bias toward both my daughter and my iPad! I’m simply exploring a new technology that hasn’t been available to us before, so I’m not judging against an alternate approach. What parents do with their children’s educational experience is their own business—I’ve just chosen to share mine along the way.

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UPDATE: We were way off with our estimate. As the week went on—and now conscious of counting her words—there were easily 30-40 more that we missed. I’d estimate that she is well over 100 and into the 120s. According to BabyCenter, this is very common for 19-24 months: “[Your child’s] pace will pick up as he acquires ten or more new words each day. If he’s especially focused on learning to talk, he can add a new word to his vocabulary every 90 minutes — so watch your language!”

SignShine – Take 2

I know I already reviewed the SignShine app last month, but since purchasing additional songs, it has become one of her favorites, and I have an update to share. In the last few days, her signs have evolved to express emotions by using her facial expressions with her hands. (Note her furrowed brow and pouty lips for the “wha-wha-wha” part of the “Wheels on the Bus” song.) So cool!

Movie Critic

Stella’s new favorite thing to do on the iPad is watch videos of herself from my YouTube channel. I showed her the video of herself going down her new slide, and she absolutely lost it—she was laughing so hard that it gave her hiccups and we had to stop. I decided to record her the next day when I showed her the same video again (this time on my phone). I didn’t get quite the same response, but you get the idea:

I also gave Stella a video to watch of Stella watching a video of Stella, but she seemed uninterested. Too many layers, I guess. (It’s okay, Stella. I couldn’t really follow Inception either.)

Things Don’t Have to Change the World to Be Important

I’m not going to pretend like Steve Jobs held a special place in my heart before he passed—I probably saw more screen time of Noah Wyle in Pirates of Silicon Valley than of the actual man himself. But I read many tributes to Steve yesterday, and I became very moved. I stumbled upon this excerpt from 1996 hidden among his many other, more widely-known quotes:

“The problem is I’m older now, I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t. I’m sorry, it’s true.

Having children really changes your view on these things. We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much—if at all.

These technologies can make life easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. You may have a child with a birth defect and be able to get in touch with other parents and support groups, get medical information, the latest experimental drugs. These things can profoundly influence life. I’m not downplaying that.

But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in this radical new light—that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important.” [Wired, February 1996]

Will these technologies make your child smarter? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s not the point.

They offer an extraordinary gift of sharing, learning, and interacting. And little things like this—however humble or ambitious they may be—do matter! They matter because they can change *your* world.

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Update (Nov. 23 2011): I just finished reading the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. I am no less convinced that he was an extraordinary man, albeit a touch narcissistic. One of the things his wife, Laureen Powell, said in her interview struck me for this post: “Like many great men whose gifts are extraordinary, he’s not extraordinary in every realm. He doesn’t have social graces, such as putting himself in other peoples’ shoes, but he cares deeply about empowering humankind, the advancement of humankind, and putting the right tools in their hands.” This wonderful iPad journey is not just about *my* daughter and her progress, but also the implications for all sons and daughters in this next generation.