Archive for the ‘App Developers’ category

Exclusive Look into Why a Kids App Gets Reviewed

By Jinny Gudmundsen, Editor of Tech With Kids Digital Magazine

I am frequently asked how I select my topics for coverage on this site and in my USA Today Kid-Tech Column. My goal is to find the best kid tech being created, whether that is in apps, video and online games, websites, or tech toys. I share my findings to help parents and others working with kids to find these top products. I am also looking for innovation — for products that are pushing the envelope, resetting the bar, or doing something no one has ever thought of before.

My process varies greatly from week to week, but I will use a recent USA Today column and a Tech With Kids rec list as an example of how new content evolved.

On March 29, 2015, my kid-tech column entitled Three Visual Stunners in Kid Apps went live on USA Today. One of the Bonus Tips offered inside that column was a link to a Tech With Kids rec list called Apps with Standout Visuals.

Here is how that coverage came about: As a professional kid-tech reviewer, I look at hundreds of apps every month. Every once in a while, I am bowled over by the creativity of an app made for children. That happened when I opened Metamorphabet, one of the most visually stunning and enthralling children’s apps I have ever seen. Playing  Metamorphabet was the catalyst for my USA Today column and for creating the rec list Apps with Standout Visuals.

Why Metamorphabet Wowed Me


On the surface, Metamorphabet is an alphabet app. But at its core, it is an ode to the magic of digital creation. It is a journey filled with wonder, where every touch of the iPad screen produces delight for both children and adults. Metamorphabet puts on a masterclass of how to make an app to inspire creativity in children. After playing it, encourage your kids to pretend they were the app developer. Ask them how they would morph a letter into something new.

Each letter of the alphabet appears on the screen alone, with no embellishment. The first touch produces a percussive sound, followed by the narrator’s pronouncing of the letter’s name while the letter turns slightly, as if to preen. And then the magic begins.

The next touch results in the letter’s morphing into an object or action that starts with the featured letter. With the letter “C,” kids watch the letter transform into a “Cone,” which they roll around the screen. More touching causes the cone to multiply into a spinning siren of four cones, which produces a familiar warning sound. As the siren slides into the background of the scene, you see that it is sitting atop of a “Car.” Tapping the car makes its horn blare, wheels spin, and lights flash. Next, a jaunty “Caterpillar,” sporting a billowing neck scarf, pops his head out of the car window. It’s silly, imaginative fun!

When you have explored all that is possible with a letter, a star appears in the upper right corner of the screen, signaling that another letter awaits your investigation. Each letter bubbles over with zany, delightful animations. To read my full review of Metamorphabet, click here.

Metamorphabet Led Me to Petting Zoo – Animal Animations

PettingZoo Screen3

My response to Metamorphabet reminded me of the awe I felt when I first discovered Petting Zoo – Animal Animations, an app that showcases the creative talents of Christoph Neimann of New York Times fame.

In Petting Zoo, pencil lines morph into wriggling animals eager for your touch. Each petting interaction with these 21 animals is wacky, surprising, and delightful. With the rabbit, if you touch its face, it bounces back from the screen and then appears to smack the backside of the screen. Tap the lion, and you turn on a fan to blow the big cat’s mane. Each of the animals has a unique musical riff, which starts when the drawn lines fluidly reconfigure into a new beast. To read the full review of Petting Zoo, click here.

From Petting Zoo to Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats


Another kids’ app that wows the visual senses is Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats. While this app doesn’t have the polished visuals of Metamorphabet nor the mesmerizing drawings that flow from one animal to another as in Petting Zoo, Kalley’s Machine has irresistible, pulsing creativity.

Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats is a book app featuring a highly inventive, playable Rube Goldberg-like machine. Four-year-old Kalley is upset when her work-from-home Dad decides to take a job downtown. Hoping to solve the family’s problem of having Dad work to put food on the table, Kalley designs a remarkable machine that uses bashers, blowers, gears, and gizmos to make the family’s food.

Most of the pages are filled with playable portions of Kalley’s fantastic invention; and that play represents some of the most sophisticated interactions yet found in a children’s app. The icing on this ingenious app’s cake is that the developers are the family of the real-life Kalley! You might want to check out the family video about making this app, because it is both precious and inspirational. To read the full review of Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats, click here.

Back to Shaping My USA Today Column

I had one problem with the thinking I have shared above: I had already covered Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats and Petting Zoo – Animal Animations in my previous USA Today columns. While I occasionally cover an app more than once, in this case, new releases lined up perfectly to help me fill out the Metamorphabet-anchored column.

Shortly after reviewing Metamorphabet, David Wiesner’s new book app Spot was released. My sons enjoyed Wiesner’s Caldecott Medal-winning Tuesday, so I was interested to see what this gifted visual storyteller would do in the app format. Spot is unlike any app I had seen before. It offers a unique navigation system, where kids use the pull-and-pinch action of zooming to arrive in five alternative-reality worlds. Because of its exciting and intriguing visual presentation, I added it to my list for my column. Click here to read a full review of David Wiesner’s Spot.


I found the last app for the column by going through my daily emails from app developers sharing with me their new apps. I got an email from an Irish developer introducing me to her new app Scribbaloo Train. When I opened up this app for toddlers and preschoolers, I discovered an adorable train ride filled with rich visuals completely constructed from craft materials. The train-riding world of Scribbaloo Train is so delightful that I added it to my column on USA Today. Click here for the full review of Scribbaloo Train.


Because of word-count limitations in my USA Today column, Metamorphabet, David Wiesner’s Spot, and Scribbaloo Train were the only three apps I could fit into my column. But, I knew of many more visually exciting apps for kids that parents would love if they are trying to create a rich tapestry of artful experiences for their kids. Thus, I created the rec list: Apps with Standout Visuals here on Tech With Kids and linked it to the USA Today column.

A Word about Best Pick Rec Lists Here on Tech With Kids

In both my USA Today column and here on Tech With Kids, my goal is to help parents and other caregivers to discover the gems in kid-tech. Since the world of children’s apps is so massive, most parents feel overwhelmed and most app developers feel under-appreciated. I focus on helping with the discovery process. That is why at the end of every review on Tech With Kids, we offer you other hand-picked choices that we think you might like. Likewise, we create rec lists of apps by interests, subjects, and age to make the discovery of the best apps easier for you.

An Open invitation to Share Apps with Standout Visuals

In the days since the publishing of my USA Today column and the Apps with Standout Visuals rec list here on Tech With Kids, several people have reached out to me to share projects in development or to suggest other apps with exciting visuals. Do you have a favorite? One you think we should look at and perhaps add to our rec list? If so, leave your suggestions below in the comments.

Developing Apps for Kids Conference 2015: AGENDA


Developing Apps for Kids Conference

2015 Agenda

9:00-9:05 Welcome by host Jinny Gudmundsen, Editor of Tech With Kids

9:10-10:00 Panel: Innovative Kid Apps: The Editorial Viewpoint

Stuart Dredge and Jinny Gudmundsen will sit down for a fireside chat to discuss how they each decide what to cover, how they rate products, and what are most exciting innovations in kids’ apps.

 10:10-11:00 Panel: Discovery: Thinking Beyond the (Unreachable?) Store Banner

This panel will focus on how to get your apps discovered in this ever more-crowded app space. What can app developers do themselves, and what other resources are there to help your app be found by the public? Discussion will include how to approach the media and bloggers, and how and when to use Public Relations/Marketing specialists. Are there associations and partnerships that can help?

11:10-12:00 Panel: Consolidation of the Industry

The past year has seen many kids’ app developers get acquired or sell off their suite of apps to others. Discover who is interested in buying (hint, they are on the panel!) Learn what smaller app developers need to do to put themselves into position to be acquired. Hear what it is like to get acquired by a bigger player, such as Google.

12:00-1:00 Lunch, Networking, and App Demos by Attendees (sign up on White Board)

1:10-2:00 Panel: How Branded Apps Work

Many of the popular kid apps showcase brands kids love. This panel will have executives from the companies that own popular brands as well as other app developers who have created branded apps under their own company name. What is involved in creating a brand-based app? How does marketing a branded app differ from marketing ones that aren’t part of a brand? How often do brands hire independent app developers to create apps?

2:10-3:00 Importance of Diversity Representation and Positive Role Models in Kids’ Apps

Apps are the go-to media of this generation of children. How much impact does what kids see in media have on their future attitudes? How does character representation affect a child’s willingness to explore an app? This panel will discuss the importance of diversity representation (race, gender, and ethnicities) and positive role models in children’s media.

 3:00-3:25 Coffee Break

3:30-4:20 Panel: Making Money: Monetary Models and Strategies

Paid apps, freemium, subscription, and free. Which economic models are working in the kid apps space? What do the statistics show? Are there any new models? Should you release your app globally? In what markets? Listen to a discussion as key app developers and data specialists share what they know and what they have learned.

4:30-5:20 Panel: Trends and New Frontiers in Children’s Apps

App-connected toys, Apple Watch, augmented reality, wearable tech are just a few of the new frontiers in children’s apps. Come and listen to thought leaders share what they think is coming down the pike and where they are headed.

 5:20-6:00 Networking: Attendees can also choose to use this time to demo their apps. Sign-up on the white board.

6:00 Conference Ends

NOTE: If you are interested in attending this conference, tickets are still available by clicking here.

6:00 to ???? After Conference Drinks: ThirstyBear Brewing Company, 661 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94105. Some attendees suggested it might be fun to meet up after the conference. Nothing formal and not sponsored by Tech With Kids, but sounds like fun.

Why Updating Apps Is Important: How Hoopa City went from 4 Stars to 5 STARS!

I love it when app developers listen to reviewers and their audience to make their apps better. That is exactly what happened with Hoopa City, an app we originally rated at 4 stars. Today, we upped that rating to 5 stars and here’s why.


The original Hoopa City app was a unique city-building game where kids as young as age five could play. With seven building elements dangling at the top of the screen, kids could easily decide which element would fill a square in their city grid. The app encouraged kids to explore by having them select a second element and then re-tap a square to see it morph into something new. As a consequence, Hoopa City earned our Best Pick Award; but we held back on awarding it our top rating because there were a couple of things missing.

The missing items were:

In a recent update, TribePlay addressed both of these issues by:


Because of these updates,  we changed our rating and are now excited to award Hoopa City our top rating of 5 stars. You can read our updated Hoopa City app review here.

Congratulations to the development team at TribePlay!