Archive for the ‘Jinny’s Corner’ category


BEST OF 2014: KIDS’ APPS, TECH TOYS, & GAMES

As the year draws to the close, we here at Tech With Kids have been busy compiling our BEST of the BEST lists. We review children’s tech products all year long, and post reviews of the ones that represent the best the industry has to offer or those that are getting a lot of buzz.

This week we named our:


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.

HoopaCity1

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:

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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!


NPR’s Ann Fisher Talks Learning Apps with Jinny Gudmundsen

Jinny Profile2 2014Our Editor, Jinny Gudmundsen, was a guest on the NPR show All Sides with Ann Fisher on November 4, 2014 to talk about the best Learning Apps for Kids. If you want to listen in, here is the link.

You can also read  reviews of the apps talked about on the radio show by checking out our Best Picks Apps List:

 

BacktoSchool-Image20 Terrific Back to School Apps

The apps discussed on the show were:


Back to School with Apps

Back-to-School-with-Apps-Border1-700x81With kids settled into the routine of going to school and their minds switched into “learning” mode, this is a good time of the year to download some high quality learning apps to keep kids on the path of acquiring knowledge. The key to kids playing educational apps — especially at home — is to find the ones that make learning fun.

Our rec list 20 Terrific Back to School Apps does just that! On our list you will find apps that secretly teach Algebra (DragonBox Algebra 5+) and Geometry (DragonBox Elements) by putting those math concepts into progressively more difficult puzzles. There are also apps that teach the ABCs (AlphaTots, Endless Alphabet) and ones that make learning the 123s fun (Little Digits, Bugs and Buttons 2). And one that covers Preschool Learning (Leo’s Pad).

Some of the apps make Vocabulary Learning a game, such as:

But that is not all; there are also apps to teach:

We set up the list to go from the youngest users to the oldest. If you have very young children, we also have specific rec lists by ages, including:

And for kids in older grades, please use our search boxes. You can sort apps by grade. We would recommend putting in the additional search parameter of a star rating of 4 stars or up, so that your search return gives you the best apps in our database.

Do you have a favorite back to school app that we didn’t include? We would love to hear about it. Just use the comments section to add your recommendations, and please tell us why you like it.

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NPR’s ‘All Sides’ Talks Roadtrip Apps with Jinny Gudmundsen

Jinny Profile2 2014Our Editor, Jinny Gudmundsen, was a guest on the NPR show All Sides with Ann Fisher on July 29, 2014 to talk about the best Apps for Traveling Kids. If you want to listen in, here is the link.

You can also read our reviews of the apps talked about on the radio show by checking out our Best Picks Apps List:

 

Apps-For-Traveling-Kids-ListLeadApps for Traveling Kids

The apps discussed on the show were:


Four Top Kid Video Games Coming This Fall

This time of year, video game companies reveal their lineups for the fall releases at a conference called E3 and at “early look” press meetings.  So far, four titles have grabbed my attention as must-have games for families with kids. Look to nab these when they hit store shelves later this year.

Skylanders Trap Team

Releasing Oct. 5, 2014 from Activision on Nintendo Wii, Wii U, 3DS, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One

 

SkylandersTrapForce

The fourth game in the mega-popular Skylanders franchise, this one continues to pioneer the use of toy figurines to bring video characters to life. When kids place a toy on a portal, the toy comes to life in the game as a playable character.

What makes it cool: All the past Skylanders games had a great story and interesting strategy and combat elements; and Skylanders Trap Team has all that. New to this adventure game is the ability to trap the villains into real toy crystals, thus removing them from the game. But even better is the option to then bring the trapped villains back into the game to do your bidding as you fight to clear out the other bad guys roaming throughout Skylands. These trapped villains have useful powers and deliver plenty of hilarious snark as they talk to you from within the toy trap when it is placed in the new Traptanium Portal.

http://www.skylanders.com/trapteam
 

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Releasing late fall, 2014 from Nintendo on Wii U

 

SuperSmashBrosWiiUWhere can you find your favorite Nintendo characters all in one place and posturing to be the biggest hero of all time? In Super Smash Bros., a battle game coming to the Wii U this holiday season. Iconic characters vie for supremacy in a king-of-the-hill-type gameplay where each character has unique combat moves in an environment rife with exciting power-ups. Joining the Nintendo gang are other video game greats such as Pac-Man, Sonic, and Mega Man.

What makes it cool: It is a riot to see beloved characters pulled out of their game environments and placed into the frenetic competition of pushing other characters off of stages. Kids can choose to play as popular characters such as Mario, Peach or Pikachu, or they can create their own fighter using their Mii. This game will also allow kids to use toy collectible characters called amiibos as a way to bring a Nintendo character into the game.

http://www.smashbros.com/us/
 

LittleBigPlanet 3

Releasing November, 2014 from Sony on PlayStation 4

LBP3

 SackBoy is back in a brand new quirky platform puzzler. Players can jump, fly, and zip through zany worlds while collecting game development pieces to build their own game levels to share with the world.

What makes it cool: Adorable SackBoy attained rock star status in 2008 when he was first knitted into LittleBigPlanet. In this third iteration, SackBoy has made new hand-stitched friends:  OddSock, a four-legged creature who can scamper and wall jump; Swoop, a bird who can fly and carry his friends over treacherous terrains; and Toggle, a woven behemoth who can switch into a tiny version of himself to travel through small crevices. This four-player game offers delightful co-op puzzling.

http://www.playstation.com/en-us/games/littlebigplanet-3-ps4
 

Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved

Releasing Oct. 21, 2014 from Disney Interactive on Xbox 360 and Xbox One using Kinect

 

DisneyFantasiaBased on the treasured animated film Fantasia, this musical motion game lets players become the conductor/composer as they wave their arms to follow visual cues that appear on the screen. With a story mode about working with Scout, a former Sorcerer’s apprentice, to push back noise that has been accidentally released into 10 different realms, players explore diverse musical genres depicted in environments ranging from urban to underwater.

What makes it cool: As the new sorcerer’s apprentice, players use their bodies to remix over 30 musical scores and transform 10 different environments. The combination of wielding magic and composing music creates a powerful play experience.

http://games.disney.com/fantasia-video-game

How to Find the Best Free Apps for Kids

 

Downloading free apps can be a dicey matter when kids are involved. Free apps entice us with the promise of mobile fun at no cost. But it doesn’t usually work that way. Most “free” apps have a way of making money. And that way is not always good for kids.

THE FOUR CATEGORIES OF FREE

Free apps fall into four categories:

WHEN FREE ISN’T FREE

The first two categories above — Apps with Ads and Freemium — are frequently bad for kids. Here are two examples to show why:

Apps with Ads

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Flow Free Free (Big Duck Games LLC, for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and Windows phone) is a nifty logic puzzler about connecting colored dots by adding pipes to a grid. Sounds perfect for kids. The problem is that this free app makes money by hosting ads at the bottom of your screen. Thus the price of “free” is direct, in-your-face marketing. But it gets even worse, after winning a few levels, the app “rewards” you with a free download of another app – a casino-themed one. It goes so far as to lock your screen unless you download. I had to quit the app to get away from the promotion. You can pay $.99 for one of the many packs to get rid of these ads; but, as you can see, this free app is then no longer free.

Apple-Store  Google-Play

Freemium

PlantsVsZombies2

Plants vs. Zombies 2 from PopCap is an alluring puzzler about growing warrior plants to stop hordes of hilarious zombies. This freemium game (for iOS and Android) sucks you in by providing nicely balanced levels in the first of three worlds. But, by the time you reach the middle of the second world, the puzzles get hard, thus enticing players to spend real money for power-ups. This free-to-play game becomes a pay-to-win game. And parents have to deal with frantic requests to spend money on in-app purchases while their kids are in the middle of an undead battle.

Apple-Store  Google-Play

 

WHEN FREE MEANS FREE

The better route to go when kids are involved is free apps that are genuinely free or free-to-try apps where the additional content is offered as an in-app purchase presented only to parents (meaning the offer-to-buy is behind a parental gate where parents need to answer a question that allows them into a “Parents-only” area of the app.) That way kids can enjoy a free app without suffering through hidden or aggressive in-app marketing.

To find the truly free and good apps for kids, we have created a Best Picks List just for that purpose entitled: FREE and Fabulous: Top Apps for Kids

On that list you will see examples of truly FREE such as:

The list also has Free-to-Try examples such as:


Top Music Apps for Kids

Want to introduce your child to music? Check out our recommended list of apps called Top Music Apps for Kids. These fun apps can help.

These apps are great way to get your kids groovin’ to the music.