Review: Shape the Village

Shape the Village1
Photo: WiseKids

Shape the Village is a fun new app designed for toddlers. Released by WiseKids, it is a bright and engaging way of introducing and reinforcing shapes for very young children. It’s amazing what variety can be created by combining squares, circles, and triangles of different sizes and colors.

The app (available for both iPhone and iPad) has a number of different activities to play around with in the “village.” There are two screens worth, one on land and one more water-based. You can make different kinds of fish, cover a cookie with chocolate icing, or clean the window of a spaceship to see the astronaut inside. It has lots of potential for repeat play, and a pleasant soundtrack. A lot of the games will use different shapes when you open them multiple times, so the spaceship has a round window (and a round astronaut) one time, and a triangular window (and a triangle astronaut) the next. My son (a 26 month old) already knows the basic shapes, but found the app engaging and returns to it often.

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Geekling and GeekDad with Shape the Village on iPad. Photo: Karen Burnham

One nice thing is that the game makes it easy to succeed. In different tracing games, the child doesn’t have to match the lines exactly—whenever their erratic lines cross the pattern, color shows up. There’s also a nice variety, between tracing games, matching shapes, making patterns, and filling in shapes. Several games involve animals, such as a cute little caterpillar made of squares that will eat different shapes out of a leaf. Whenever the child completes a game successfully, they get some “ta-da!” music, applause, and a voice says the name of the shape on the screen.

I do have a few minor complaints:

At first, it took quite a bit of random tapping around before we figured out where the games were, what parts were interactive, and which were just background. This is mitigated by having the background elements respond a little to being poked (like the train that will make a “choo-choo” sound when tapped, but otherwise doesn’t open any game). Of course, for small children, randomly exploring a new app is no hardship, and after the first day my son had figured out his favorite activities. Similarly, some of the individual activities required some random poking before either of us could figure out how to play them. But random tapping around always worked eventually; we were never stranded.

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Photo: WiseKids

That said, my son definitely enjoys Shape the Village on both the iPhone and iPad. We’ve had it for a week, and he returns to it often. It’s gone into the current set of favorites. I like the fact that it’s so interactive and that the games cycle through the shapes instead of being exactly the same each time. And after a week, there’s still more for him to explore; he hasn’t come close to finding every game (there are 16 total). He hasn’t explored the water screen as much yet, so there’s a lot more there. Although my son already knows his shapes, it’s good reinforcement and he’s not at all bored by the games. I think that $2.99 is a reasonable price for an app that engages a toddler so well.

This is one of four apps that WiseKids is launching this week. The others are interactive story-telling apps that are aimed at somewhat older children. They are:

Pinocchio
Sleeping Beauty
Jack and the Beanstalk

GeekMom received a free copy of this app for review purposes.

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