ReadAskChat by ReadAskChat, Ltd. – Review



Art for “Light of Mine” (c) 2012 by Christopher Lyles

What we love…

fantastic app that encourages parents and caregivers to read with children featuring a library of curated stories, conversation starters and bright colorful artwork.  I loved that we were able to carry over and do activities after learning about them during our daily lives like stomping, slipping, sliding and being more observant

What we’d love to see…

parental lock of some sort on the cog wheel – there are no external links but my son liked to tap on it.  I would also like to see a bigger parent’s resource section included – there are a number of resources on the web but not integrated within the app.

Summary

Beautifully illustrated app that encourages active reading via the story by asking questions, making observations and learning.  Kids can also tie it to real life and role play the stories.

Our Rating

ReadAskChat is a curated library of stories designed for children from six months to age 4.  The stories feature bright artwork, text and parental cues to help parents read with their children.  I still remember the first time I sat in the rocker with my then infant son and held a black and white board book to read with him.  I felt unprepared, because I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to read with him or help him learn.   You can read our interview with co-founders Alice and Carolyn to learn more about the reasons on why ReadAskChat was created.  You can also read a paper about the science behind ReadAskChat.  This app takes it beyond your device or tablet and encourages interactive reading using conversation starters to help kids engage and learn.  Key concepts in the app include rhyming, patterning, early academics like colors, shapes, early sight words along with math and science concepts.

As I have gotten to be a mom of two – reading with my kids has gotten easier.  They both know when it’s bedtime – we have 15-30 minutes depending on the day that we sit, snuggle and look at books.  We practice things like how to hold the book, turning pages from front to back as well as moving with the text via songs, pointing to objects and just handling a book.  In this digital age, it’s also important to consider that books are available on tablets, smartphones and other devices meaning that downtime doesn’t just have to mean that your child “plays” on your phone — you can turn it into educational time.

Here’s a snippet from Carolyn about the idea behind ReadAskChat

 The inspiration for ReadAskChat comes from personal experience. My husband and I are adoptive parents, and when our daughter Jiji came home at 9 months, she was clinically failure to thrive. She couldn’t hold her little head up or babble, or reach for shiny objects—things that 9-month-olds should be doing. But after only one month of reading picture books, singing songs, playing and snuggling, and “chatting” about anything and everything, Jiji was a fully caught up and happy 10-month-old.

When we read using my tablet or smartphone – one of the first things I do is to turn on the “night shift mode” which changes colors to be more easy on your eyes and less stimulating for children.  I also love that the app can change depending on which child I am reading with – meaning I can choose prompts for my toddler or my older son while reading the same story.  When you open the app, there are three free stories that are included in the library.  Additional stories are available for purchase.  Each story includes “conversation starters” – these are based on the developmental level of your child and can range from suggesting you bounce your baby in time with the rhythm of the story or music to questions you can ask your kids to prompt them to engage more with the story.

iPad Screenshot 1

Using your device, you login to the app to access the library.  For purposes of the review I was given access to the full library of stories.  When you use the app for the first time on your device or a new device you are prompted to download the stories.  The Starter Pack includes, “Light of Mine”, “Animal Tails” and “The Old Man in the Tree”.  In the subscription based version other stories are categorized by Big Ideas, Special Friends, Indoor Mischief, On The Move, Action Rhymes, Math Stories, Science Stories.  You also choose the developmental level for the conversation starters.  They range from baby (six to 18 months);  toddler (12-24 months); preschooler (2 -4 years).  As we have gotten more familiar with the stories we have recently changed from toddler to preschooler level to help him continue to follow along and be engaged.

“Mario’s Trucks” illustrated by Hyewon Yum

My toddler aged son loves anything to do with cars and trucks and things that go.  We typically let him pick a story and then I choose one.  One of his favorites is Mario’s Trucks – which includes descriptive text like “Raise that Shovel!  Dig that hole”.  I typically read to him and then we talk about what we see in the photo – things like a yellow dump truck, a hard hat that Mario is wearing, a yellow digger and blocks and a crane.  The conversation starters also encourage parents to add the sounds to the story and then the “ask” which encourages kids to think about what the truck does – my toddler answered carries and dumps.    You are also prompted as you read to chat about what Mario might be building – my son said “tower”.  We talked about it being a construction site on the first page.  I also loved using the app to guide off-device play where we re-enacted specific stories that my son identified with.  The illustrations in the app are beautiful and encourage kids to look and pay attention to details.  The stories appeal to children and are not too overwhelming in terms of new information that is shared on a page.  They also gently encourage sleep or relaxation at the end.  At the end of the story you can either slide to the next story or close out of the app.

I loved the wide variety of content that was included in the app and that my son was engaged and learning from stories – which we could look at no matter where we were at a point in time.  I actually found myself reading more with my son because I could pull out my iPhone or tablet while we were waiting for appointments or had short periods of downtime.  He loved tapping on the screen to show me what he was seeing – and I liked hearing what he saw in the photos and engaged.  Both of us became more engaged with stories – rather than him sitting in my lap passively to hear a story.  In addition, I recently read to my son’s classroom  and used ReadAskChat along with a software which was able to reflect my screen onto a whiteboard so that the group of kids could participate.  Although the app is designed for more 1:1 or 1:2 use it was fun to use in a class because it encouraged open ended conversations and allowed kids to really engage with the story.  As kids get bigger you can encourage them to help swipe and actively pick out sight words, look at the images within the stories and pick out specific details or even find an object or color within the image.  With my son as we read the stories and he’s become more familiar – we now sometimes play “I spy” to see the details that we might have previously missed.  One of the other things that I really enjoyed was the conversation starters to help me encourage my son to better engage with the story.  Another feature I liked was the “swipe lock” which made it so my son couldn’t accidentally move forward beyond pages that I wanted him to be on.   The app also lets you favorite stories using a heart at the bottom – my son quickly learned about this and we picked out his favorites and then we were able to scan for the hearts when picking a bedtime story.  I also really liked the descriptive words used within the app to tell a story which tied to the picture.  Words like  “slip and glide” for my son were new – so we actually practiced them by sliding our feet on the rug.

In terms of enhancements – I would love to see a section for parents to understand more about reading with their children as well as the importance. I found a number of resources on the website for Readaskchat – but they were not referenced when we used the app.  It would also be nice if the cog wheel at the top were parental gated – there are no external links but my son recognized this from other apps and wanted to touch it.

ReadAskChat comes with a free starter pack with three selections: Light of Mine (song); Animal Tails (science feature/African American folk rhyme); and The Old Man in the Tree (nonsense verse by Edward Lear).  ReadAskChat is offering a 2-week sale of $34.99/year (which comes to $2.92/month) OR $4.99 for one month. Subscribers receive a new story pack (each with three selections) bimonthly, beginning early 2018.  On December 15, the price will be $39.99/year (which comes to $3.33/month) OR $7.99 for one month.

Overall, this is an app that is unique in that it actively encourages parents to teach their children while reading.  My son loved sitting on my lap and engaging – rather than passively listening to a story.  Since then I’ve noticed that when we read board books or bedtime stories he looks at the picture and we read and talk about them more – for example, find the green wall or white bunny rather than just reading the text as a more rote method of learning.

NOTE: This app has in-app purchases

ReadAskChat for Children 0-4 ReadAskChat for Children 0-4 by Read, Ask, Chat, Ltd.

Price: $FREE

This beautifully illustrated library includes on-demand guidance for parents in reading interactively—the tried-and-true way to foster school readiness and love of learning. Subscribers receive new .

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.

 

Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her two sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. My older son loves technology and loves testing out the “latest and newest” apps and tech. I love sharing information about apps and products with others to help them make decisions without feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices.

Dr. Panda Trucks by Dr. Panda Ltd – Review



 

What we love…

fun truck themed app which encourages kids to knock down and build new buildings

What we’d love to see…

more realistic sounds for the horns on the trucks as well as a tutorial for how to drive and maneuver some

Summary

Overall, this is a super cute construction and truck themed app that will have your preschooler and older kids building for hours.  You can knock down the building, head to the factory for new blocks and build your new creation all in moments.

Our Rating

Dr. Panda Trucks by Dr. Panda Ltd. is a brand new Dr. Panda themed app featuring 7 unique vehicles.  The app features a bulldozer, dump truck, truck with wrecking ball, army style truck which shoots cannon balls, crane, and a cleaning truck.  My son had so much fun building with Dr. Panda.  This app is full of fun – first you demolish the existing building using a variety of trucks and then the building begins.  After demolishing the building – you go over to the brick factory to get bricks to build your new building.  Then you can head for paint or go to the construction site and start building.  After you get to the construction site – you move a lever and dump the dump truck which then creates a building.  To put the finishing touches on you can head over to the door and window building to load up the dump truck.  We used the crane to move the windows on top of our newly constructed building.  When you open the app, the trucks are all neatly parked – you can either drive them from the parking lot or access them from a top menu which is accessed via swipe at the top of the screen.  I enjoyed hearing my son narrate a bit as he picked his favorite trucks and was building.  We named colors, favorite trucks and described what we were doing all while playing with the app.  It’s a great app to use your imagination with as well as practice fine motor skills.

iPad Screenshot 1

My son’s favorite part was getting bricks to build the new building.  He loved seeing them sort and organize themselves into the back of the truck.  He also liked making the different truck noises including beeps, saying “watch out” when he dumped the dump truck.  You can build up to six different buildings at a time.  My son loved scooping, pushing, building, expanding the buckets, dumping and more.  As a parent I loved the variety of buildings kids could make as well as the variety of things they could do.  The hidden surprises like the mud that made the trucks spin made my toddler smile.   His favorite truck was the street cleaner which picked up the mess.

In terms of enhancements – my toddler said the horns didn’t sound like big trucks. At times, he had a little bit of trouble navigating using the bars to move up and down the various items as they were not typical of items he usually saw.  He also wanted to make the army style truck shoot higher but neither of us could figure out how to make it do that. It would also be fun to have a variety of buildings to choose from to build rather than having the app choose.  I’d also like to be able to choose the shape of the bricks I wanted.  Another wishlist item would be the ability to navigate all within Dr. Panda apps – similar to Dr. Panda Town.

iPad Screenshot 3

The app is free with in-app purchases (IAP) for all buildings or all trucks – if your kids like the app I would suggest paying for the unlock all.  There are advertisements for other Dr. Panda apps on the splash screen.  External items are parental gated via birthday.

Overall, this is a super cute construction and truck themed app that will have your preschooler and older kids building for hours.  You can knock down the building, head to the factory for new blocks and build your new creation all in moments.  It’s a fun game to play on the fly or to entertain your kids for a longer period of time.  You can read our roundup of all the great Dr. Panda apps we have reviewed here.


Dr. Panda Trucks Dr. Panda Trucks by Dr. Panda Ltd

Price: $FREE

Clear the way for Dr. Panda Trucks! Master the machines, build funky constructions and blast them to pieces on your very own construction site!
TAKE CONTROL!
Drive and control up to 7 giant vehicles.

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.

Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her two sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. My older son loves technology and loves testing out the “latest and newest” apps and tech. I love sharing information about apps and products with others to help them make decisions without feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices.

Toddler & Kids Learning Games by Clapenjoy SRL – Review


What we love…

Activities that help develop early science thinkers.

What we’d love to see…

A harvesting step to complete the plant life cycle and parents’ guide.

Summary

This is a fun app that stimulates preschoolers’ curiosity to find out how nature works.

Our Rating

Toddler & Kids Learning Games by Clapenjoy SRL is the perfect companion app for curious preschoolers to discover the wonders of nature that are all around them. What they learn in the app can be easily linked to what they observe in the real world.
 
There are 4 nature-based learning activities in the app. Through these activities, kids imagine what happens when temperature changes, grow their own vegetables and fruits, witness the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly and feed baby birds. They also learn about the life cycle of plants, butterflies and birds, and what is needed for healthy growth. All these information is presented in cute animation.
 

Besides the age-appropriate educational content, I like that the app frequently prompts young learners to think about what item or action is needed next. You can talk about the 3 options given and guide your child’s thinking process in choosing the correct option. As the answer options change at every play session, you can have different discussions deliberating and explaining why some answers are good choices and why others are not.
 

Another point that I like is that there are many opportunities for children to make decisions while playing the app e.g. which outfit to wear, what vegetables to plant, which fancy watering can to use, which fruit tree to grow and what color should the butterfly be.
 

This app is easy for young children to navigate, with prompts given when they are stuck. Players proceed from one learning section to the next seamlessly and there is no need for instructions. Simple finger actions like tapping, dragging and rubbing are all that is needed to activate a response from the app. There is also no time limit or score keeping in the activities.
 

In addition to the nature-based educational games, kids can also have fun with puzzles, memory match games and coloring pages that are based on the nature activities.

Digital puzzles take away the frustrations that some younger children experience when they don’t have the fine-motor skills to manipulate a physical puzzle yet. With digital puzzles, children continue to reap the benefits of putting together a puzzle like hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills . Each puzzle in this app starts with 4 pieces. It gets more difficult with increasing number of pieces. But you can change the level of difficulty at any time by tapping on the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ on-screen buttons. In total, there are 30 puzzles of varying difficulty levels in the app to be solved.
 

The 24 memory cards games included in the app are also presented in increasing levels of difficulty, from 4 to 12 cards per set. Similarly, you can adjust the number of cards in each game. The memory cards are randomly generated and players get a different set of cards each time they play. These games are great for concentration and improving memory.

Coloring activities are always popular with preschoolers and having some sessions on digital coloring pages that are easier to complete can help kids achieve success and boost their self-esteem (especially when you keep a screenshot of their masterpiece). The 11 coloring pages in this app come with 4 coloring tools, an eraser and 13 color options. The paint brush, crayons and color pencils are standard offerings but the rub-and-color magic wand will be great for younger kids.
 

The app is free to download and kids can play with the vegetable garden activity right away. The free app also comes with a puzzle, a memory card game and a coloring page for your child to try. The other 3 nature-based activities can be unlocked with an in-app-purchase (IAP) of $1.99 . The developer keeps the app kids-friendly by giving users the option to disable the IAP from within the parent’s section. You can also turn off the background music and sound effects (like the rabbit’s springy hopping sounds) from the parent’s section. It would be great if this section can also provide parents with the key learning points that they can highlight to their children in each of the learning activities.

Nevertheless, Toddler & Kids Learning Games is still a standout among the very few early science apps that are available in the App Store for the preschool age group. It encourages young learners to ask questions about how nature works and to find their own answers. It should be renamed to reflect its area of focus. Download the free app and check it out!

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Toddler & Kids Learning Games

Toddler & Kids Learning Games Toddler & Kids Learning Games by Clapenjoy SRL

Price: $FREE

Learning games for kids to explore nature, an early science kids app especially designed for AGES 2 to 5. Play and learn with free preschool and kindergarten interactive games, puzzles, memory and colouring.

 

 

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.

Grace was working in the fields of early childhood education and staff training before quitting to attend to her 4 children full time. She and her family live in Singapore, which is well known for her highly competitive education system.

Recipe Manager with Serving Sizer by Creative Algorithms


What we love…

easily scale up or down recipes to make them for your family; ability to keep recipes in a database so that you can easily find them

What we’d love to see…

ability to categorize recipes by difficulty

Summary

My favorite cooking app – makes sizing up and down recipes easy!  I also love how easy it is to keep track of all of my favorites!

Our Rating

 

Recipe Manager with Serving SizerRecipe Manager with Serving Sizer for the iPad by Creative Algorithms, LLC takes the guesswork out of changing your recipes depending on the number of people you are feeding.   It makes keeping track of your favorite recipes easy!  A little bit of background of the developers, they are a husband and wife team. Cory, does all the programming and Justine, does designs and graphics. To learn more about the design of this app, Justine’s blog post provides great background. This app allows you to copy your recipes into a database where they are all easy to find and re-size as necessary. Once you have entered the recipe, you can change the serving size and the entire recipe is converted to the number of people you need to serve.  We have a CSA and have collected some great recipes over the years.  I used to keep everything in a 3 ring notebook but struggled to keep it clean – and I was always finding new recipes which needed to be shrunken or made bigger depending on the number of people I was feeding.

I used this app on Thanksgiving and found it was very useful in sizing recipes down for my family, plus taking photos of the various creations was wonderful so I can pull up a recipe card and see what it is that I made via a photo. I also liked the ability to snag recipes from various websites and copy them into the recipe cards giving me the ability to try them before entering each of the ingredients onto the card. I also liked the ability to email the various recipes to friends and family.  You can add recipes directly from the web using a built in browser as well as paste from the clipboard.  One of my favorite features is the ability to easily import recipes that I have collected from various places into the app making it a one stop shop.  A number of ingredients are pre-populated making it easier to pick ingredients as well as the amount of each that you need.  I also love that when the app scales it automatically converts them to a proper measurement instead of 12 tablespoons it converts to 3/4 cup.

In terms of enhancements, I wish there were a way to categorize recipes in terms of difficulty.  My son is learning to cook with me and will often look at the recipe database.  I hate telling him a recipe is too hard – so sometimes we wing it.

This app is ideal for anyone who has a large collection of cookbooks, with favorites in each since you can find the recipe you are looking for in one easy location. It also works well during the holidays when recipes need to be doubled or tripled and during parties where you can size up a standard recipe to feed a crowd of people. Creative Algorithms, LLC is part of the Moms with Apps collaborative focusing on family friendly apps. The app now includes an in app purchase capability where you can purchase specially designed cards including fall and holiday themed.

iPad version
Recipe Manager with Serving Sizer for iPad – your recipes, organized – Creative Algorithms

Recipe Manager - Serving Sizer Recipe Manager - Serving Sizer by Creative Algorithms

Price: $4.99 USD

Manage. Organize. Scale. Personalize. Keep all your personal recipes on all your iPads.
Scale recipes by serving size to number of dinner guests–something your ordinary cookbook can't do!
Personalize.

iPhone version
Serving Sizer Recipe Manager – Creative Algorithms

Serving Sizer Recipe Manager Serving Sizer Recipe Manager by Creative Algorithms

Price: $2.99 USD

Customize recipes for families, couples, large or small groups. This app does what a regular cookbook can't--instantly scales all ingredients based on number of guests coming to dinner!
● Also converts.

Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her two sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. My older son loves technology and loves testing out the “latest and newest” apps and tech. I love sharing information about apps and products with others to help them make decisions without feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices.

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