KinderTown reviews lots of apps for kids that never make it to the KinderTown store. This week I thought that I would share an app I didn’t choose, and why, and recommend a better replacement that exists, but may not be on a banner ad in the iTunes store right now. This will be the first in a series of posts called “Buy This, Not That App.”
This week: Word Games
Buy This…Futaba: Word Games for Kids
Futaba Classroom Games for Kids comes highly recommended as a multifaceted game to use with your family or in your classroom. The app is completely customizable for what you want kids to learn and play. This is one of the few apps designed completely for social play. Either play with the provided content or create your own. Up to four players can sit around the iPad. Tap “start” and the game begins. One game might have the center showing a picture of a pig. The first player to tap the word “pig” on their panel scores a point. After winning three rounds, the child is awarded a Futaba which is a small seedling. Futaba comes with several learning sets, but what makes this app exceptional is the fact that you have complete control of the content. Design your games by using the camera on your device or add your own text. The latest update provides an option to use Dropbox to upload images. The amount of customization allows both parents and teachers to get creative. The options seem limitless. Futaba is free, but KinderTown recommends the in-app purchase for $2.99 to unlock all the features.
Not That…Mad Libs
At first glance, Mad Libs appears to be an educational app for kids. I remember playing Mad Libs as a kid, so I assumed that today’s digital version would be even better. I assumed the app would read aloud directions to children, give them feedback on the words inputted, make suggestions for nouns, and detect whether the words inputted fit the grammatical category. These are all the things my mother did for me as a child to create a learning experience. I was disappointed to learn that it did not include these features, and appeared as sadly lacking in interaction as it was when I was a kid. When the app opens, the words and graphics appeared fuzzy on the iPad. To get started, children choose a theme for their story, for example, bowling. The app assumes children know what to do, and can easily begin adding nouns, adjectives, etc. in the appropriate blanks. The app also accepted non-words typed in by children (tlsdjgs), and the app does not evaluate if the word is actually a noun or not. The app does provide a sliding bar at the top to define what a plural noun is, and give examples. This was the best feature I encountered.
Once the story was finished, the children had to read the story themselves, and most of the time the story didn’t make any sense based on the words that children picked. The app congratulated the child for their work with the words, “Word, Playa!” regardless of the quality of words inputted. This is not how I think children should be given feedback. The bottom line is that Mad Libs does not aid in a child’s comprehension and understanding of language skills, so why not spend your money on an app that does? Don’t fall for the nostalgia you associate with the name Mad Libs.