Archive for the ‘Jinny’s Corner’ category

NPR Talks Kid-Coders with Jinny Gudmundsen

Nov. 4, 2015 by Jinny Gudmundsen

Jinny Profile2 2014

Tech with Kids’ Editor Jinny Gudmundsen

On November 3, 1015, the NPR show All Sides with Ann Fisher invited me to talk about the “hot trend” of teaching kids to code. I was Ann Fisher’s first guest in the segment, called “Tech Tuesday: Kid Coders, Robot Myths, Apple TV,” which can be listened to here.

On the show, I explained that teaching children how to write code is important because it enhances their understanding of how computer science is used to make things work. If we teach kids how coding works, they can use that understanding to build new things. As a side benefit, learning to code requires kids to think logically, and to use math and reading skills. An easy way to interest kids in coding is to turn the learning into a game.

These coding games work well with children because they employ specially-designed programming languages that are visual and intuitive to kids. Many of the recent products have been created as part of the global kid-coding movement called Hour of Code hosted by and thus they are FREE.

Now in its third year, the Hour of Code movement has reached more than 180 countries and over 100 million students. The idea is to have students try one hour of computer science class so they get a taste of what it means to learn to code. Partners include Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and many more. Even President Obama is on board. Obama on Hour of CodeThe next Hour of Code events are scheduled to be held during December 7-13, 2015; and told me via email that they already have 67,000 registered events planned worldwide for 2015.

During the radio show, I discussed:

What are your favorite learning-to-code apps, websites, or games for children?

We would love to have you suggest good choices in the comments section below.

Tech with Kids Launches YouTube Channel

by Jinny Gudmundsen, Editor of Tech with Kids

October 30, 2015

We are excited to share that Tech with Kids has launched its YouTube channel called:


In addition to writing reviews, we are now also creating video reviews of kids apps to SHOW you why we rate an app the way that we do. Our video reviews are narrated by an expert reviewer and use video footage from within an app to show what it is like.

Check out the above video review of the new app: Toca Life: School. If you want to read about why we gave it “Straight A’s” (in other words, our top rating of 5 stars!), you can read the review here.

And if you like our video review, we would love for you to subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Best Halloween Apps for Kids

SagoMiniMonsters1-175x175 SagoMiniMonsters2-175x175SagoMiniMonsters4-175x175


By Jinny Gudmundsen, Editor of Tech with Kids

Downloading good Halloween apps is an easy way to set a spooky — but not too scary — mood for the upcoming holiday. Ghosts, werewolves, zombies, witches, beasts, and other things that go bump in the night — we got them all featured on our rec list:

Halloween Apps for Kids

While we love all the apps on this list, some stand out because they are so creative and different. Here are a few we want to draw your attention to:



This app is special because kids get to have hilarious conversations with 5 famous “scaracters”: Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein, a witch, a ghost, and a werewolf. What makes it fun is that each of the scary characters needs your child’s help. Read our review here.



Mask-Jumble-Halloween-Icon Mask Jumble Halloween

One of the cleverest Halloween apps, Mask Jumble Halloween turns your phone or  tablet into a dress-up mirror. Your child sees his or her image reflected on the screen. By  tapping on her virtual nose, chin, ears, and forehead, your child can make mask parts  magically appear. With just a few taps, children can see themselves as a witch,  Frankenstein, and so much more. Read our review here.


Haunted-House-3D-iconHaunted House – 3D Pop-up Activity Book

Presented in the format of a 3D pop-up book, kids play with an adorable group of Halloween characters — including a zombie, a skeleton, a Frankenstein monster, a witch, ghosts and more. Read our review here.



SagoMiniMonsters-IconSago Mini Monsters

We love this decorate-a-monster app because it puts kids in charge of designing their own spooky pal. The process of decorating is so simple that a two-year old can do it, but the result is so visually pleasing that a 5-year old will also want in on the monster designing. Read our review here.



Plants-vs-ZombiesHD-iconPlants vs Zombies HD

If your kids have yet to experience Plants vs. Zombies, Halloween is the perfect time to introduce this app about fighting zombies who are trying to invade your home. In this tower defense game, you fend off the always-silly-never-scary undead by planting cute and funny zombie-killing plants in your front yard. This award-winning strategy game is great, even for kids who think they don’t like zombies, because it’s so hilarious to explore. Fighting the undead has never been so much fun! Read our full review here.

Parents, don’t be lured into selecting the newer and free version called Plants vs Zombies 2. In this situation, newer is not better. Plants vs Zombies 2 is a freemium game where your kids will always be asking you to dip into your wallet to spend more. The first app, while a paid app, provides a better, robust play experience for kids.

We have two other Best Pick Rec Lists that might be of interest:

Google Play Taps ‘Tech with Kids’ for Expert Picks

Google Play is currently featuring us — Tech with Kids — as an expert in selecting the best apps for children. You can find our Expert Picks on the front page of the “Family” category in Google Play until Oct. 15, 2015. Wonder which apps we think are best? See our picks by clicking here.

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When Google asked us to curate our favs among the family-friendly Android apps, we immediately pulled up our own Best Picks Lists relating to Android Apps:

  1. Top Android Apps for Kids Ages 5 & Under (2015)
  2. Best Android Apps for Kids Ages 6 to 8 (2015)
  3. Amazing Android Apps for Kids Ages 8-up (2015)

We quickly realized that we couldn’t include all of these great apps on Google Play, so we tried to find a balance between hidden gems and blockbuster favorites. Every one of the apps on our Google Play Expert Picks list has earned our Best Pick Award and has a full review on our Tech with Kids site.

After submitting a list to Google Play, we discovered that some of our top-rated Android apps had not opted into Google’s “Designed for Families” program, so they couldn’t appear on our list being showcased on Google Play. We didn’t want you to miss out on these great apps, so we decided to share them with you here instead:

Moo, Baa, La La La! – by Sandra Boynton

MooBaa3Toddlers interact with animals in this Sandra Boynton classic that is darling, whimsical, and hilarious! — Read our full review here

Bugs and Buttons 2

Bugs and Buttons 2 Screen1Kids explore 18 different activities that teach early learning concepts such as counting, patterns, shapes, logic and more. And they do it while playing with realistic-looking bugs. — Read our full review here.

My Friend Scooby-Doo!

My-Friend-Scooby-Doo-screenshot1Zoinks! Scooby-Doo wants to romp with you in this virtual pet sim filled with mysteries! — Read our full review here.

Blueprint 3D HD

Blueprint-LeadThis collection of over 300 levels presents the player with a mass of seemingly unconnected dots and lines to rotate until you start to see order out of the chaos. — Read our full review here.

Heads Up!

HeadsUp LeadA variation of Charades where the group acts out words, trying to help the designated player figure out what is on the screen of the smartphone or tablet (which he is holding up over his head.) — Read our full review here.
Monument Valley

Monument-Valley5A visually arresting puzzle game filled with landscapes that would have made M.C. Escher proud. — Read our full review here.

Plants vs. Zombies

PlantsvsZombiesHD-LeadIn this tower defense game, kids fend off the undead by planting hilarious zombie-killing plants in their front yard. — Read our full review here.

We want to thank Google for asking us to curate Android apps for them. And parents and teachers, we hope you will find some favorites among our Expert Picks List!

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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.

Want to Teach Your Child the ABCs? There’s an App for That!

In the old days, we used flashcards to teach ABCs — now there are apps! With apps, the alphabet learning becomes interactive, animated, and personal to your child. In other words: exciting!

Here’s a list for the top ABC apps:



Adorable Elmo serves as your child’s cheerleader while he or she explores the letters of the alphabet. Kids will trace the letters, learn their beginning sounds, and play games with the letters. Elmo energizes the learning with his silly antics.



When each letter of the alphabet is introduced, kids get to play a game that reinforces the letter sounds. They will build a robot with the letter “R” and kick the soccer ball with the letter “K.” This app turns learning the alphabet into hands-on learning.

AlphaTots Screen 2


This app takes kids on a bike ride to find the hiding letters of the alphabet. At 26 different locations, kids first find the hidden letter and then enjoy silly antics with it, such as jumping on jiggling jelly!



Puzzle play is what sets this ABC app apart from the others. Each letter has a fun puzzle that kids put together.



This ABC app is the most visually exciting of the ones on this list. It mesmerizes children (and adults) with its dazzling transformations and intriguing animations. Each touch of a letter produces something new. Don’t miss this one.



Silly monsters act out the meaning of words that start with the letters of the alphabet. The animations are great and hilarious.



My Beastly ABCs uses mythical creatures and beasts to demonstrate each letter of the alphabet. Told in a book app format, this tale about a timid boy playing with monsters is told by the master narrator Jim Dale of Harry Potter fame!





Best Book Apps Discussed on NPR’s All Sides with Ann Fisher

JinnyBio2TWK2014The NPR radio show All Sides with Ann Fisher invited our Editor, Jinny Gudmundsen, to be a guest last Tuesday, March 10, 2015 to talk about:

 The Best Book Apps for Kids


Given that March is National Book Reading Month, Jinny and Ann discussed the kinds of book apps that are available and if there were any advantages to reading a book on a device versus reading one on a page. Listen here to the podcast to hear Jinny’s responses. Jinny’s interview starts at minute 17:53 and runs until minute 35:11.

Book Apps for Kids Discussed During the Interview:



Peek inside the imagination of a little boy who is looking for friends in unusual places.

To read our full review, click here



Refreshing version of Cinderella where the prince falls for her because she is nice. This book app makes good use of tech, including having readers tap on the characters to move the story forward.

To read our full review, click here



A modern version of the classic tale where Little Red is the heroine, and she saves her granny from the wolf. The app lets you choose your own path through the woods, so when you replay it, you can experience several different endings.

To read our full review, click here.



This classic fairy tale is presented in an innovative way that blends gaming and reading so that reluctant readers will be intrigued.

To read our full review, click here.



Grover tries to stop kids from turning the pages of this book app in this hilarious story about overcoming your fears. This classic tale is even better as a book app in showing Grover at his paranoid best. – See more at:

To read our full review, click here.



Toddlers interact with animals in this Sandra Boynton classic that is darling, whimsical, and hilarious!

To read our full review, click here.



Second in a series of graphic novels for kids, this book app explores friendships and some of the issues that can come up, including eating disorders, disputes, being used, and other important topics.

To read our full review, click here.



This graphic novel explores family issues in a manner that’s meaningful to tweens and teens.

To read our full review, click here.


Editor Jinny Gudmundsen Talks Best Kid Apps with NPR’s All Sides With Ann Fisher

JinnyBio2TWK2014On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, our Editor Jinny Gudmundsen spoke on the NPR radio show All Sides with Ann Fisher. Jinny and host Ann had a lively discussion about the pitfalls of freemium apps and how to find the best apps for kids.

Jinny then shared the details about four of the top apps for kids.


The apps discussed were:

Elmo-Loves-You-iconElmo Loves You

A preschool app where kids snuggle up with Elmo to learn the meaning of love.

To read our full review, click here


Peg-Cat-icon175x175Peg + Cat: The Tree Problem

Peg and her pet Cat provide hilarious situations for kids to use logical thinking and math in rescuing the tree-climbing feline. –

To read our full review, click here


Kalleys-Machine-icon175x175Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats

An outrageously inventive story app where kids get hands-on time with a fantastical food-making machine. 

To read our full review, click here



Hoopa City

An adorable and easy city-building sim that rewards exploration.

To read our full review, click here



To listen to Jinny talking on Ann Fisher’s NPR show, click here.


How to Load Your Kid’s Tablet with High Quality Apps

Have you recently added a tablet into your kid’s life? You and your child are about to embark on a wonderful learning adventure.

From "Kiddie" app

From “Kiddie” app

If you are like most folks, you have dipped your toe into the apps marketplaces by downloading free apps. While there are some great free apps (check out our rec list: FREE and Fabulous: Top Apps for Kids), most aren’t really free. Tons of apps are masquerading as “free,” when in truth, they are making money by advertising to your child or enticing them to spend your money with in-app purchases. To learn more about how the world of freemium apps works, read our blog article here.

How to Find the Best Apps for Your Child

Think of the content you are about to put on your tablet as your child’s media diet. The key is to not fill it with junk. You want to give your kids compelling apps that are rich in fun and make them think or learn something new.

Here at Tech With Kids, we play and test thousands of apps every year, looking for the best of the best. We screen out the apps that contain:

We write reviews of the apps we love (and pen a few reviews about the ones you should avoid); and then sort them for you into helpful lists.

When selecting apps for your child, keep in mind your child’s age, interests, and the operating system of your device.

Search by Age

One way to start, is to look at the best apps recommended by age. The key to hooking a child on digital play is to find apps that are right for their developmental age. The following lists are a good place to start:


Search by Interests

Many kids have strong interests or preferences. As parents, we all know that we can use our child’s interests to introduce them to new things. I have a son who went through the “car and all things that go vroom” stage. If I wanted to teach him math, all I needed to do was use a bucketful of cars in the lesson. The same concept holds true with apps. And thus, we go looking for apps based on typical interests of kids. Here are some lists to check out:


Search by Platform

Our site reviews more apps for iOS (the operating system running the Apple devices of the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, which are found in the iTunes App Store) than for Android (the operating system running app found in Google and Amazon app stores). That is because most children’s app developers release in iTunes first. Only when they reach some economic success do most children’s app developers then reprogram their apps to play on the Android system. And interestingly, when they do release in the Android marketplaces, they don’t automatically show up in both the Google and Amazon marketplaces — so make sure to search both.  And sadly, Windows tablet owners, your choices are even slimmer. 

 All of our rec lists feature iOS apps. A great list to start with is our:

 20 Best Kids Apps of 2014

That list was created at the very end of 2014, and it identifies the best of the best apps that were released in 2014. So this list gives you a way to find the most current top-rated apps. It is displayed by age, with the apps for young children listed first and the ones for older children at the end.

We have just recently created three lists that pull together the Android apps which received our highest ratings. We divided the lists by ages into:

Top Android Apps for Kids Ages 5 & Under (2015)
Best Android Apps for Kids Ages 6 to 8 (2015)
Amazing Android Apps for Kids Ages 8-up (2015)