Featured App: Sparky’s Birthday Surprise by Cupcake Digital- FREE Fire Safety app.

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Sparky's Birthday SurpriseSparky’s Birthday Surprise is a completely FREE app from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Cupcake Digital. the app contains not only a story but 3 educational mini-games, a music video and coloring and drawing pages. It is a must-have app for anyone with young children, entertaining, yet educational and teaching important fire safety rules. The app can be enjoyed in English or Spanish, and external links are protected by a parental gate (you need to enter your birth year to enter).


The story stars Sparky the Dalmation, Sparky is a fire dog and it is his birthday. Sparky is working at a school teaching fire safety tips to children, whilst he is away his doggie friends plan a birthday surprise. As they bake him a beautiful cake and plan his party, they also learn about fire safety. The story is full of fun interactive elements- the child can learn all about the different parts of a fire engine, ring a fire alarm and help cook Sparky’s cake. The child can read the book themselves and tap on a word to hear it spoken, or listen to the optional narration with word highlighting; there is also “just a book” mode where narration and all interactivity or turned off.


Additional Activities

Birthday Shapes

This fun mini-game works on Shape recognition – the child needs to pick the correctly shaped birthday present. When they pick correctly they get to see what is inside and Sparky gives them a big hi-five !


Pinata Counting

Everyone loves to hit a Birthday Piñata and here children can practice their counting whilst tapping the Piñata. They hear and see the numbers as they count and a flood of dog cookies fall out of the Piñata when they get to the right number.

Sparky Addition

Help Sparky practice his addition, up to 10, by using his fire hose to spray the right number combination. The equation is written out as the problem is completed to help reinforce the learning.

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The child can choose one of six coloring sheets of Sparky and his friends or use blank paper to create their own masterpiece. Tools include brushes, crayons, chalk and spray paint all with a variable tip size and a whole rainbow of color options, plus a fill-in paint option for younger children or tricky areas. There are also a variety of stickers available to decorate their works of art.

Music Video

This fun music video stars Sparky and a chorus line of dancing ants. Whilst they sing and dance along children are learning what to do if they hear a smoke alarm, in a fun and entertaining way.


If you’d like to download Sparky’s Birthday Surprise, ($FREE, iPad/iPhone) please use this link so they’ll know who sent you:

Full version:

Sparky’s Birthday Surprise – Cupcake Digital

Sparky's Birthday Surprise Sparky's Birthday Surprise by NFPA

Price: $FREE

Now available in English and Spanish

​*Winner of Children's Technology Review Editor's Choice Award

It’s Sparky® the Fire Dog’s birthday, and his doggie friends are throwing a surprise.

You can also find more information and Sparky-related activities on his website Sparky.org

NOTE: A fee was received to Feature this app.

Mary is originally from England but now lives in California with her husband, dog, cat and three children. Mary and her family love Apple products and own an iPad2, iPad3, iPad Mini, iTouch, iPhone5 and several MacBook Pros. They also love cub scouts, skiing, camping and hiking. The family iPads are also used for therapy for their daughters Apraxia (speech disorder).

Language Empires by Smarty Ears- Review

Review by Mary Mahon and Suzanne Berhow, SLP
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What we love…

8 different goals, some with more than one level. Bright, vibrant graphics, rewards that keep students interested and wanting to play. Data collection, up to 5 students per session, unlimited student data tracking

What we’d love to see…

Option to see a report only on goals worked on in the session, or putting all data from one day in one report. Narration of the possible answers.


Overall, this is a great app with a lot of versatility. We love that each student can work on their own goals, there are different levels of difficulty and that you can selectively target auditory or written comprehension.

Our Rating

Language EmpiresLanguage Empires  was developed by SLPs Barbara Ferandes and Rosie Simms of Smarty Ears. It was developed for elementary school children age  children and has an ancient civilizations theme.  It works on 8 goals: answering how, why, and which questions; inferencing, vocabulary; predicting; figurative language and sequencing. Each student can work on their own individual goals and some goals have 2-3 levels so each student can work at their own level as well! Up to 5 students can play at the same time, each working on  their own unique goals, but the app will track data for an unlimited number of students. Data from the app can also be reviewed on the Smarty Ears Therapy Report Center app.

To play each student is placed on an Empire – each Empire targets different goals, and students can visit more than one Empire in a game, and more than one student an Empire at the same time. Each Empire has 50 questions and there are a total of 400 questions in the app.

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The Empires:

Sequencing has three levels- sort 3, 4, or 5 items and two types of tasks. Some items sort sequences in an activity. Some sequences sort items by attributes such as hottest to coldest.


Predicting has three levels- 2,3 or 4 choices.


Why questions has three levels 2,3, or 4 answer choices.

Which has two levels – 2 or 3 choices.

Inferencing has two levels 2 or 3 choices.


Figurative language and How only have one level with three choices.

Vocabulary has two levels, both with four choices.

Although it is working on different goals and has a different theme, the app layout is very similar to Syntax City, which we have previously reviewed. For each question a photograph and accompanying short paragraph sets the scene, then the student has to answer a related question by picking from several possible answers. In the default setting the paragraph is both seen and heard, the answer options are only displayed in written form, not narrated; I would like the possible answers to also be narrated. If the student is working on auditory comprehension there is an option to hide the paragraph so they only hear it, not see it. If they are working on written comprehension you can switch off the narration. If a student gives an incorrect answer you can choose for them to hear a buzzer, or for the wrong answer to just silently disappear.

When students get an answer correct on the first attempt they earn a gold coin, once they have earned enough gold coins to master a given category they earn rewards in the shape of treasures from the ancient civilizations, these can be accessed in the student’s profile. The app also offers built-in homework sheets  for each target.

As with all Smarty Ears apps, Language Empire offers detailed data collection. A set of graphs provides immediate visual feedback (colored bars to help students see how well they are doing- green is passed, yellow is developing, red needs work). The data can be emailed, printed, or shared to other compatible applications such as iBooks or Pages.

We would like to see the data for every session in one day put into one report so that you can track all of the different goals in one report for each day while targeting one goal and then going back to target another goal. Not all students are ready to jump from one item to another and back to the first goal in one session. If that is not possible I’d like to see only the goals worked on in each session.

Overall, this is a great app with a lot of versatility. We love that each student can work on their own goals and that there are different levels of difficulty.  The app can also be used to selectively target auditory or written comprehension. Data collection is also a must for the busy SLP, and with Smarty Ears Therapy Report Center App data from all their apps can be collected in one report.


If you’d like to download Language Empires, ($24.99, iPad only ) please use this link so they’ll know who sent you:
Full version: Language Empires – Smarty Ears

Language Empires Language Empires by Smarty Ears

Price: $24.99 USD

**Chosen top pick app for educators by Fun Educational Apps**
Greetings from Language Empires! Although we are divided into many kingdoms we are united in helping all learners of language. Each empire.


If you would like to win a promo code for this app, please enter via the widget below. Winners will be emailed and must contact The iMums within 48 hours to claim their prize. This giveaway is open to everyone, worldwide, and an iTunes account is required to claim the prize. Please ensure you have read and understand our Terms & Conditions. Good luck!

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Mary is originally from England but now lives in California with her husband, dog, cat and three children. Mary and her family love Apple products and own an iPad2, iPad3, iPad Mini, iTouch, iPhone5 and several MacBook Pros. They also love cub scouts, skiing, camping and hiking. The family iPads are also used for therapy for their daughters Apraxia (speech disorder).

Dragon Shapes: Geometry Challenge by Lighthouse Learning – Review

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What we love…

a new and different approach to tangram puzzles, incorporating a story teaching geometry at the same time

What we’d love to see…

narration in the puzzle section


Highly recommended – an educational app that is fun, challenging and teaches new skills in a way that feels like playing rather than learning.

Our Rating

Dragon Shapes: Geometry Challenge

Dragon Shapes: Geometry Challenge is an educational app that combines teaching geometry with a story set in ancient China and a series of tangram puzzles. It is designed for children aged 6-10 years, although older children and even adults will enjoy the challenge of completing the tangrams. The story is narrated but the additional information about shapes is not, so reading is required to get full educational value from the app. The app is free to download and comes with fourteen puzzles unlocked; there is a single in-app purchase to unlock all fifty puzzles. The parental section is locked with a press and hold button, this area contains the IAP and external links; the links are disabled by default and need to be switched on in this area. There is also an option to switch off sound effects.

Druzzle the dragon lives in the village of Tan in ancient China. One night whilst watching smoke rising from the chimneys in the village, Druzzle sees smoke in the shape of the dragon; he follows it and gets lost. The village folk are distraught and want to find him, the only clue is some dragon scales of different shapes that he left behind – will re-arranging them give a clue? They arrange the scales to form a butterfly and one brave warrior follows it on a quest to get Druzzle back. To succeed in the quest he must solve many different puzzles and become the Shape Master!

The student gets to join the warrior on his quest and they too can become a Shape Master. There are four levels of puzzles to solve, each increasing in difficulty, and between each level there is another installment of the story. Each level includes a sequence of geometric puzzles themed to the characters from the story: butterfly, turtle, mountain goat, and dragon. As the student solves the puzzles they also learn geometric terminology and features of different shapes. This starts simple such as: how many sides a triangle has and progresses to more complex terms such as understanding what “a quadrilateral with four equal and parallel sides” means (a square!) If they get stuck at any point help is at hand- just tap on the light bulb to get hints one step at a time.

The tangram puzzles themselves are created using various sized triangles, a square and a parallelogram. The student is always given the correct number of pieces, but may need to rotate them to solve the puzzle. As they progress through the levels they learn different ways of looking at shapes and how to create shapes using others. The puzzles start out very simple but grow to very complex ones in the higher levels. To add an additional challenge in the later levels they also learn to “copy shapes” -re-creating a shape without a template; and they also learn to create a shape with only written directions and no visual clues.


I used this app with my six-year-old and ten-year-old sons and they both loved it, and I really enjoyed playing it myself too!

Overall, this is a really well done app. It feels like a fun combination of a story and a series of puzzles, but at the same time it is teaching some important mathematical skills. By playing the app students work on their spatial awareness, visualization and rotation skills as well as learning terminology and attributes of different geometric shapes. The one thing I would like to see added in a future update is narration in the puzzle section- this would allow children who are not yet proficient readers to fully access the app. Both my sons and I really enjoyed playing the app and solving the puzzles, and even as an adult I found some of the later puzzles challenging. I really felt we learned to look at shapes in a different way by completing all the steps. Highly recommended – an educational app that is fun, challenging, addicting, and teaches new skills in a way that feels like playing rather than learning. I’d definitely recommend downloading it- the free version has a lot of gameplay, and if you enjoy that, $2.99 to unlock the full game is great value for an app of this quality

If you’d like to download Dragon Shapes: Geometry Challenge, ($FREE, iPad/iPhone; ) please use this link so they’ll know who sent you: Dragon Shapes: Geometry Challenge – Lighthouse Learning

The app includes 14 puzzles for free, there is an in-app purchase (currently $2.99) which unlocks all 50 puzzles.

Dragon Shapes - Lumio Geometry Challenge Dragon Shapes - Lumio Geometry Challenge by Lighthouse Learning

Price: $FREE

Solve math puzzles and unlock the legend of Dragon Shapes!

'Highly recommended... fun, challenging and teaches new skills' - theimum.com

'Drop dead gorgeous apps you don’t want your .

NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.


Mary is originally from England but now lives in California with her husband, dog, cat and three children. Mary and her family love Apple products and own an iPad2, iPad3, iPad Mini, iTouch, iPhone5 and several MacBook Pros. They also love cub scouts, skiing, camping and hiking. The family iPads are also used for therapy for their daughters Apraxia (speech disorder).

Zorbit’s Math Adventure Preschool – Learning. Reimagined. by Best Boy Entertainment – Review


What we love…

Many different scenes, adventures, characters, & creatures; beautiful colors, animation, and sound effects; gives children a chance to try on their own first and then gives a hint to help them fell successful.

What we’d love to see…

A rush on development of the next apps in the series!


An out-of-this-world math learning adventure with a hidden agenda: to secretly prepare preschoolers for Kindergarten math!

Our Rating

The developers of Zorbit’s Math Adventure did their homework before creating this app. Their web page states: “We created this game in response to the increasing body of evidence that shows early exposure to math is as important to a child’s long-term academic and career success as early literacy skills – if not more so.” Best Boy Entertainment’s own study showed an average improvement of 73% in children’s math skills after playing Zorbit’s Math Adventure for a three-week period.

My own preschooler went from kind-of-sort-of-knowing numbers to definitely knowing numbers up to 20 (including rote counting and one-to-one correspondence). She’s even made the connection with numbers beyond 20. She plays the app for as long as I will let her and repeatedly goes back to the Zorbit’s Math Adventure even though she has completed all the levels. The app also teaches shapes, size, early estimating, amount comparisons, colors, positional concepts, classifying and grouping – all in a storybook/play atmosphere that keeps kids engaged and looking for more.

This app is fully kid friendly – with no in-app purchases, no advertising, no social media, and no Internet access required. It appeals to both boys and girls and is packed full with encouragement, praise, sticker rewards, and star rewards. A new level is unlocked as the previous level is completed, although users can visit previous levels at anytime – and my little preschooler takes full advantage of this! All 6 levels are graded according to the child’s responses – offering more help (both verbal and visual cues) and practice when needed. I could tell my daughter’s improvement as she counted her way throughout the day – without me urging her to do so ☺ What I loved even more was hearing her answer the characters’ questions out-loud and giggle at their silly antics.

For those wanting more, Best Boy Entertainment offers a facebook page for fans of Zorbit’s Math Adventure. Here you can find teaching tips and nominate your child for fan of the week or whiz kid of the week. Developers also offer a blog on their web page linking parents to numerous articles and tips about child development and current research. Currently, this app is compatible with iPhone and iPad. However, developers plan to offer multiple languages and versions compatible with Android and in-browser devices. They also plan to release Kindergarten and Grade 1 games in 2014.

Zorbit’s Math Adventures is loaded with intriguing graphics and inter-galatic themed music/sounds (with options to turn on/off) that are kid friendly and keep space adventurers exploring for more. My preschooler’s new favorite app – “I like it a lot, a lot, a lot ☺”. It was hard to get my hands on the app if she was awake!



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“Marica is a married mother of three girls (ages 3, 7, and 9). She works as a school based occupational therapist in Northwest Ohio servicing children with unique needs from ages 3 -22. In her free time ☺ she enjoys learning and exploring with her loving family.

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