Against my better judgment – technically against my wife’s better judgment, and that of my wallet – I bought an iPad the day after they were released here. So far, it’s been exactly what I expected in that it’s mine in name only – my 2-year-old son climbs into my lap, presses the home button and switches to his apps.
Yes, he has apps. Handy as the device is for on-the-go Sesame Street sessions on YouTube and he has an odd fascination with the Entertainment Weekly app (despite not knowing which Kardashian is which), he has apps of his own. We have some flashcard apps for animal noises and vocabulary and so on, and the ‘Toy Story’ interactive storybook apps are probably the most frequently used apps on it – I’m fairly sure the regular commuters on the 7.13am to Dublin are sick of hearing ‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me.’ When Disney offered me review copies of two apps based on the Playhouse Disney show ‘Handy Manny’ (one of his favorite shows) to review last week, I couldn’t really refuse.
Two Handy Manny apps have been released, priced at $2.99 each – ‘Handy Manny’s Workshop’ and ‘Flicker’s Flashcard Fiesta’. The first is a collection of four simple games aimed at preschoolers – this turned out to be very popular.
I decided to give them a test run on the morning rush hour train – generally this is the time of day the iPad gets the most use in an attempt to stop him stealing other commuters’ newspapers, or shouting at them, or generally being uncontrollable. He recognized the icon for the ‘Manny’s Workshop’ app (it’s Manny’s head) straight away, and got the hang of the four games – Puzzle, Match, Find and Colour – very quickly.
If anything I’d say a little too quickly – whereas the ‘Match It’ and ‘Puzzle’ games have three levels of difficulty each, they do become a little repetitive. The ‘Find it’ game even more so – the object of the game is to find the tools scattered around Manny’s workshop, but when they’re all in the same place every time, it very quickly becomes a case of going through the motions to pick them all out. Pretty soon the games became something that he could either fly through, or were just that little bit too challenging to keep him engaged. With all that said, he certainly didn’t object to being able to fly through them, and it’s still the first app he goes for every time.
The second app, Flicker’s Flashcard Fiesta, is aimed at slightly older kids. There are two options – Learn Spanish or Learn English, with each consisting of a series of vocabulary building flashcards from fourteen categories, and a ‘match the picture to the word’ game appropriate to your choice of language. Whereas tapping on the words or pictures does read the word aloud, I really feel that being able to read is a massive help in getting the hang of this – but if you’re going to supervise it’s use and play along with your child, then you’ll definitely see some benefit (and if you’re leaving a toddler unsupervised with an iPad, good luck to you – you’re braver than I am.) However, if you have a kid of reading age who is trying to learn Spanish, or who speaks Spanish and is trying to learn English, then I can really see this app as being a terrific vocabulary builder. I might even use it myself to help me get beyond the word ‘cerveza’.
Full disclosure, just to be clear: review copies of these apps were provided by Disney. Normally they’re $2.99 each, and are available for both iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch (iOS versions 3.2 and 4.0 required, respectively.)
Wired: Fun, simple, engaging games for preschoolers (Handy Manny’s Workshop); Fun, easy and effective vocabulary builder for English and Spanish (Flicker’s Flashcard Fiesta). Both reasonably priced for the mileage my kid has gotten from them so far.
Tired: Some games are a little repetitive (Handy Manny’s Workshop); possibly a little advanced for the ‘Handy Manny’ audience. (Flicker’s Flashcard Fiesta)