Dr. Panda Plus: Home Designer – Review



Dr. Panda Plus: Home... iconDr. Panda Plus: Home Designer is a physical toy which includes cards as well as the ability to take a photograph of them and display them on your device.  Inside the box are 51 flashcards, 12 non-toxic erasable markers and a QR code which activates the app.  Cards inside the box include everything you would find in a home ranging from bathroom items (sink, tub, toilet, towel rack); bedroom (crib, loft bed, bunk beds, lights, flooring, characters, clothing for the characters,rocking chair, bookshelf,  ); kitchen (table, counters, plant, laundry basket, stove, cabinets and living room (couch, stereo system, chair.)  Note these are not all of the items – they are selected ones that I picked out.

What we love…

fun interactive app that showcases what an iPad can do using a physical toy and merging it with 3D design

What we’d love to see…

ability to save your creations on the camera roll, ability to move from house to house more easily, an outside space for kids to design and play in

Summary

Super fun app which brings Dr. Panda to life in physical play.  It can be played for long or short periods of time or longer periods of time.  Dr. Panda Plus Home Designer provides a fun augmented-reality like experience which helps kids be creative with art and design while helping to familiarize letters and words.

Our Rating

 

recommended-by-the-imums

To play, first you launch load the app on your device.  Next you scan the QR code which is located inside the Dr. Panda Plus box to activate the app.  Then you can take out the cards and start creating.  When playing with Dr. Panda Plus: Home Designer with my kids – I usually separated the cards into categories like bedroom, characters, clothing and then also by room to make it easier for my toddler to follow along.  Each card is double sided – one that kids can color in using the included dry erase markers and the other is already colored in.  Once the card is done, you simply hold it up and take a photo of it using the camera on your device.  The object is rendered into 3D and then you can place it within the home.  My younger son loved taking photos of all of the objects to make his dream house – there were lots of flooring changes along with multiple beds in the bedroom,  With my older son – he’s a third grader he picked out specific cards he wanted to color prior to even launching the app.  He then colored them in using the included markers and making his own designs.  He was a bit more thoughtful in how he organized the house making a kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom as well as designing all the clothes for the various characters.  To wipe off the cards we used a baby wipe although any soft cloth will work.  A few times, my older son didn’t want to erase his creation so it did take a bit more “scrubbing” to get it off.  Each house has four rooms – and you can choose where you want the rooms to be placed.  When you take a photo the image can be lined up and then it “pops” into 3D mode for placing.  When you take the photo it also brings out letters which encourage kids to spell the name of the object they are creating – kids can choose to bypass this.  If you accidentally take a photo of an item or too many you can simply place it in the recycle bin.

I loved how easy this app and game were to use.  No rules no fuss!  I could play one way with my younger son and then with my older son he could be independent and color in his own cards to create the room and design it as he wished.  We could use the pre-designed cards or use the cards that we colored on/decorated and play.  I found it was easiest to scan things in bunches to complete one room at a time just to make it more fun.  My kids also enjoyed making multiple houses – they made one for Dr. Panda, another for Tao and a third for Meimi junior.  The also created a bunch of cute clothes for each character to wear.  In addition – my older son had a larger set of dry erase markers that he was able to use with the cards so he had more color choices.  The box holds the game and markers making it easy to keep everything together.  The cards are made of a sturdy cardboard that has stood up to repeated uses and did not bend despite the best efforts of my younger son.  The game can be used across multiple devices which was great as it meant my older son could play on his own iPad while my younger son and I could use a different iPad.

In terms of improvements – it would be neat if you could go from house to house within the app rather than having to open each house separately.  In addition, it would be nice if there were a “holding area” for you to scan your cards and that way you could wipe them off and make a different design without losing the first design.  We tried a few different ways to do this without success.  It would also be nice if there were a way to “back up” the QR code just in case something happened to the box.  It might also be fun to include mini games within the app from the various Dr. Panda titles to provide different activities for kids to do.

Dr. Panda Plus Home Designer provides a fun augmented-reality like experience which helps kids be creative with art and design while helping to familiarize letters and words.  My kids have spent hours playing with the app and each time they create a new house or go into play it’s a fun new experience.  I encourage them to narrate and tell me what they are doing and making during the process which also helps familiarize them with various names of objects.

Dr. Panda Plus Home Designer is available on Amazon for $39.99.

Dr. Panda Plus: Home Designer
Dr. Panda Plus: Home Designer
by Dr. Panda Ltd

Category: Education
Requirements: Compatible with iPad2Wifi-iPad2Wifi, iPad23G-iPad23G, iPhone4S-iPhone4S, iPadThirdGen-iPadThirdGen, iPadThirdGen4G-iPadThirdGen4G, iPhone5-iPhone5, iPodTouchFifthGen-iPodTouchFifthGen, iPadFourthGen-iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G-iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini-iPadMini, iPadMini4G-iPadMini4G, iPhone5c-iPhone5c, iPhone5s-iPhone5s, iPadAir-iPadAir, iPadAirCellular-iPadAirCellular, iPadMiniRetina-iPadMiniRetina, iPadMiniRetinaCellular-iPadMiniRetinaCellular, iPhone6-iPhone6, iPhone6Plus-iPhone6Plus, iPadAir2-iPadAir2, iPadAir2Cellular-iPadAir2Cellular, iPadMini3-iPadMini3, iPadMini3Cellular-iPadMini3Cellular, iPodTouchSixthGen-iPodTouchSixthGen, iPhone6s-iPhone6s, iPhone6sPlus-iPhone6sPlus, iPadMini4-iPadMini4, iPadMini4Cellular-iPadMini4Cellular, iPadPro-iPadPro, iPadProCellular-iPadProCellular, iPadPro97-iPadPro97, iPadPro97Cellular-iPadPro97Cellular, iPhoneSE-iPhoneSE, iPhone7-iPhone7, iPhone7Plus-iPhone7Plus, iPad611-iPad611, iPad612-iPad612, iPad71-iPad71, iPad72-iPad72, iPad73-iPad73, iPad74-iPad74, iPhone8-iPhone8, iPhone8Plus-iPhone8Plus, iPhoneX-iPhoneX
Size: 206.26 MB

$FREE

Screenshots
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Screenshots for iPad
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NOTE: A product was supplied by the company for review purposes, no other form of compensation was received, all opinions stated in the review are those of the author and have been offered honestly.The links in this post may contain affiliate links where The iMums will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on our link, this helps to support the costs of running this site and we appreciate your support.

 

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.

Building, creating and more – toys for my 3 year old boy

Cars_boy

As a mom of two, I always struggle with what the “right” toy is for my three year old son.  Should I get him something that is educational or should I defer to his favorite of cars and trucks and things that go?  We have some older toys from his brother who is now 8 and are among his favorites.  Below are some of our favorite toys for 3 year old boys which I’ve categorized by type.  I also try to get science based toys which fit into the STEM theme as well.

When shopping for a new toy I try to use the following criteria

  • usability – is it a toy that my son will play with once and be done?
  • durability – is the toy durable enough to last through multiple play sessions and not be broken?
  • learning – will my child learn something from the toy – either by reading or creative thinking skills like a puzzle
  • “fun factor creative toys” – will my kids have fun using it even if it creates a mess?
  • imaginary play – does the toy encourage imaginary or role play?

Let's Play House! Dust! Sweep! Mop!My kids love sturdy wooden toys, and I have found Melissa & Doug toys to be a huge hit over the years.  The content of the toys is timeless and typically there is an educational twist to what they are doing.    Plus, sometimes they even help out mom and dad with chores!  I call that a win all around!  My nephew got this cleaning set over the holidays, and it was fun to see my three year old play with it.  Guess what is on his birthday list?!?  I keep hoping he will help me tidy up or at least sweep up the constant messes that he seems to make.

 

 

Big Building Bag (classic) (80 pieces)I also like to look at learning types of toys, especially since I know preschool will be just around the corner.  We regularly work on letter recognition and colors.  In this category I like simple 5-6 piece puzzles, building blocks like Mega Blocks which are easy to stack and sort by color or counting, and even things like arranging them by size.

 

 

 

 

Toys that target imaginary play are important to consider as well.  My son also loves to dress up – so a few costumes might be a good fit here while we learn about different types of “jobs” in the community.  He currently has a dress up costume for a firefighter and construction worker and we have seen lots of great pretend play from these.  He also loves cooking in the kitchen, I like to present all types of foods for his play kitchen beyond the traditional meat and potatoes to include vegetables.  This tote from Learning Resources has a variety of fresh fruits and vegtables which then we use to talk about why we need to eat our veggies at dinner – which are unfortunatley not a favorite!  I love watching my son cook – and he’s now even more intersted in helping me prepare healthy snacks like carrots and apple slices.

 

 

 

VTech   Call & Chat Learning PhoneAs a tech mom, I also like to look at “tech toys”.  We introduced a tablet to my younger son at the age of 2.5 – earlier than I would have liked, but we limit #screentime and try to ensure we balance out learning in other ways.  We also have had fun getting toys like a pretend remote control which helps him work on numbers and colors.  He has an “old school” flip phone that he pretends to call me on from daycare on occasion which is fun as well.  When using the iPad I try to limit him to educational type stories or learning type apps.  We also love listening to music on the iPad and getting up to dance.  Be sure to check out our app reviews here at The iMums for some great apps to add to your device.  We also have some great tech toy reviews as well including a Bluebee Pal named Hudson that my son adores who reads stories to him from books on our iPad.

 

My son loves all things that move and go.  Little People are among his favorites.  He likes to intermix the Little People along with farm animals so it can make for some pretty creative combinations when he is playing.  By far his favorite though is his racetrack.  We practice patience – using the “on your mark, get set, go” as well as turn taking skills when he plays with other kids.  Most of the time, if my son is given the choice of toys to play with he will almost always choose something that can go.  He enjoys a variety of cars, trucks, and construction vehicles.  This year, I know I am looking at some Tonka Trucks he will be able to play with outside as well as a few of the lights & sounds trucks which are among his friends favorites.

 

 

 

6 Count Washable FingerpaintLast but not least are the “fun factor toys”.  Many of these toys fit into the “messy” category and include things like paints, bath toys and more.  We use crayons, markers, finger paints, chalk to make fun art related creations.  The most important piece here for me is a smock, and then we can move on to good “clean” fun!   Kids learn and practice so many skills when doing artwork like grasp as well as figuring out spacing on a page.  These may not be my favorites given the mess factor but I do love all of the artwork they create.

 

 

 

No matter what you choose, your three year old will love it.  My son loves sitting with me and playing toys no matter what the day.  Seeing him have enjoyment during play on his face – is simply priceless!

 

NOTE: This post is a partnership with Nakturnal.  The links in this post may contain affiliate links where The iMums will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on our link, this helps to support the costs of running this site and we appreciate your support.

 

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.


Toca Blocks by Toca Boca – Review



iPad Screenshot 5

What we love…

colorful, open ended, lots to discover and create, educational

What we’d love to see…

detailed instructions for parents, unlocked items to stay in inventory, characters to interact with objects, reset button for when characters are stuck, more objects and different shaped blocks..

Summary

Creative app with a fun spin on building blocks

Our Rating

Toca BlocksBuilding Blocks, though among the simplest of toys, provide an incredible amount educational benefit and entertainment for a child.  For parents, they are tools to encourage creativity, to develop eye-hand coordination, to teach basic math skills, and to elicit communication, just to name just a few.  For children, they are the most magical of toys that can be transformed to anything they can imagine. Toca Boca’s latest app, Toca Blocks, brings this same magic to children, digitally.

Toca Blocks is a colorful world of blocks.  The first one you see when you play includes a few items already pre-built to give you the different things you can make or do in Toca Blocks.  There are five different icons on the screen.  On the very top right is an icon with stick figures on it.  This icon allows you to find the 3 special inhabitants of Toca Blocks (more on them later).  Right below that icon is the zoom toggle that allows you to get a wider view of your Toca Block world to see where everything is.  On the bottom right is your inventory. On a completely new world, this will only contain your basic building blocks and a pink door (more on this later as well).  On the middle bottom is a round multi-colored ball that you use to scroll left, right, up, and down in your world.  On the very left bottom is a pencil icon that allow you to quickly place a string of blocks together.  Next to it is what my children like to call the eraser monster.  This creature, when chosen, eats up the blocks you put it next to.

You start with four basic building blocks.  A multi-colored block, an orange block, a red block. and a green block.  They are just plain solid blocks by themselves, but combine them and they create new blocks with special properties.  For example, a multi-colored block combined with a green block makes a blue water block, an orange block combined with a red block makes a red brick block, and a green block combined with a red block makes a gray block that crumbles when you step on it.   Every time you create a new block with two basic building blocks, it gets added to your inventory which is located on the bottom right of the screen.

Now you have a set of basic blocks and special blocks, which leads to even more block combinations!  Combine two special blocks or a basic blocks with a special block to create objects to beautify your world.  Some of the things I found include an apple (red block combined with a water block), a light bulb (orange block combined with a red brick block), a trumpet (orange block combined with a bouncy white block), and a fish (water block combined with a sticky block).  All objects you create will also be added to your inventory.  More objects can be created by combining 3 blocks in a specific order. You can even create something by combining two of the same basic colored block with a special block if you sequence it as follows: basic block A – special block B – basic block A.  As you can see, it can take quite some time and thought to see what new objects can be made.   I’m not sure if I have discovered all there is to create!  Sometimes the result of combining blocks simply results in  block that combines the colors of both blocks and contains the same property as the special block.  These color combination blocks are not included in the inventory.

Toca Blocks is inhabited by 3 characters with special powers.  There is a red character that looks like a bear with fantastic climbing skills.  There is a green character that my kids think looks like a cat that has the ability to destroy blocks by smashing them.  There is a black character that looks like a bird who is fast and can somewhat fly. These characters will help you discover how each block works and help you explore your world.  You can guide them with your finger, or you can bring up the controls by tapping on a character.  The controls include left and right button to direct the character’s movements and a green jump button. Jumping can help the characters  get out of sticky situations.

I mentioned earlier that in your inventory you will find a pink door.  When your character goes in front of the pink door, an icon pops up.  Clicking on this icon will make your character enter the door and be teleported to another room or world.  You can also turn this world into whatever you wish.  You can return back to your original world by going through the door again.

My children enjoy Toca Blocks and have been creating all kinds of structures and worlds with it.  They love discovering what combing different blocks would do and what each block does.  They also enjoy seeing how the different characters interact with the blocks.  They have suggested a few things for future updates and I wholeheartedly agree with them.  First, they would like a “reset” button for the characters so that if they end up falling down far they can quickly get the back to the top with just a click of the button.  Second, they would like to see the characters interact with the objects.  Currently, most objects are just for decoration.  Third, they would like to create more objects and different shaped blocks.  Finally, they would like to have all of the items in the inventory to stay inventory when creating a new world instead of having to start all over from scratch. It can be tedious to combine things all over again to get them in the inventory.

Toca Blocks comes with very minimal instructions.  As a parent, I would have appreciated a detailed instruction including a list of blocks and their properties, a list of block combinations and objects they create, explanation about the characters, hints, and tips.  I would like to have this in the parent section so that if our kids need help we can provide it for them easily.  I believe parents are a good judge of how much and how little assistance our children need.

Toca Blocks can be enjoyed by the youngest child for simple block building to the oldest child (including adults) for more complex building and landscaping.  There is of course no substitute for the classic toy blocks, but Toca Blocks makes an excellent alternative.  It takes patience to figure it all out, but I highly recommend it.


Toca Blocks
Toca Blocks
by Toca Boca AB

Category: Education, Entertainment
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone4-iPhone4, iPad2Wifi-iPad2Wifi, iPad23G-iPad23G, iPhone4S-iPhone4S, iPadThirdGen-iPadThirdGen, iPadThirdGen4G-iPadThirdGen4G, iPhone5-iPhone5, iPodTouchFifthGen-iPodTouchFifthGen, iPadFourthGen-iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G-iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini-iPadMini, iPadMini4G-iPadMini4G, iPhone5c-iPhone5c, iPhone5s-iPhone5s, iPadAir-iPadAir, iPadAirCellular-iPadAirCellular, iPadMiniRetina-iPadMiniRetina, iPadMiniRetinaCellular-iPadMiniRetinaCellular, iPhone6-iPhone6, iPhone6Plus-iPhone6Plus, iPadAir2-iPadAir2, iPadAir2Cellular-iPadAir2Cellular, iPadMini3-iPadMini3, iPadMini3Cellular-iPadMini3Cellular, iPodTouchSixthGen-iPodTouchSixthGen, iPhone6s-iPhone6s, iPhone6sPlus-iPhone6sPlus, iPadMini4-iPadMini4, iPadMini4Cellular-iPadMini4Cellular, iPadPro-iPadPro, iPadProCellular-iPadProCellular, iPadPro97-iPadPro97, iPadPro97Cellular-iPadPro97Cellular, iPhoneSE-iPhoneSE, iPhone7-iPhone7, iPhone7Plus-iPhone7Plus, iPad611-iPad611, iPad612-iPad612, iPad71-iPad71, iPad72-iPad72, iPad73-iPad73, iPad74-iPad74, iPhone8-iPhone8, iPhone8Plus-iPhone8Plus, iPhoneX-iPhoneX
Size: 93.55 MB

$2.99USD

Screenshots
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Screenshots for iPad
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Fides and her husband have been married for 16 years. They homeschool their 4 children: two amazing sons and two beautiful daughters. Fides likes to walk and jog outdoors everyday and has as very difficult time resisting a slice of paradise cake.


Photo Tales – Create Photo Stories with Your Kids By Tho Pham – Review



iPhone Screenshot 3

What we love…

easy to use personalized story that will help readers connect the text with the actual written story.  Inspires creativity

What we’d love to see…

ability to record your own story, easier login method especially for forgotten passwords and stronger parental gate

Summary

Overall, this is a fun book which brings personalized reading to a fun new level and encourages kids to engage with reading.  By using visual cues, children can learn how a word is associated with an image which helps promote literacy.

Our Rating

 

Photo Tales - Create Photo Stories with Your KidsPhotoTales by Tho Pham is an app for iOS which allows your family to customize a story with your photos and images based on the text provided.  For the purposes of this review, I looked at “A Happy Day in the Zoo” which I customized to be about a recent family trip to the zoo using included images and my own personal photos to make the story more interesting and help to engage my son.  The first time we created the story, my son and I did it together using photos from my iPhone as well as those I stored on our Bevy to pull into the book.  We completed it together and then saved it off to our computer.  The second time I did the same book, I was planning a trip so I re-did the book and left it to be read at bedtime.  Once you have created the story you “own it” and can restore it by tapping on it within the app.   The app allows you to change key words in a story to personalize it which range from name to specific word phrases.  In addition you can change the background color, crop photos, draw on photos and stamp icons as well as change font, size and color.  The stories are available in English, Chinese, Hindustani, Spanish, Russian, German, Bengali, Portuguese, Malay-Indonesian, French, and Japanese.  In the “Create Your Story” you can actually use any of the languages in your Apple Device to write the story so you are not constrained to the traditional language stories.  A story is 12 pages and every page has a caption and space for up to three photos which can include images, drawings or more.  New images can be taken with your camera on your iPhone, in my case imported from another source to the camera roll or you can draw them into the story.  each option was easy to use and navigate and my son seemed equally comfortable when we picked items either from the camera roll, image library or creating his own.  He even drew a few pictures on paper which we took photos off with my iPhone for the story.  The app developer Tho Pham built it after his children were looking for a creative way to express their stories.

iPad Screenshot 1

I loved the ability to be creative with the app.  I also loved that my son and I could use photos and images to illustrate the story, so even though there were words on the page he might not know we could create cues for him to understand what the text said and ultimately connect the words to the images.  My son is an emerging reader, and at times when he is given the choice between a picture book and a chapter book he will choose the picture book simply because of the visual cues of the story.  The app can be expanded to additional titles via in-app purchases, but using the story I had I was able to provide a great story for my son and I to work on together as well as for me to send to him while away.  I also liked that you could change the sentence structure which meant you could make the story harder or easier – and with the images make it harder or easier for them to get clues from the images.   I actually just purchased the Make your Own story so I can make up a story for my son about an upcoming trip – this could also be used as a social story or anything that you want which is not already covered in the app.  I am looking forward to more broadly sharing my son’s stories with my family and saving them in PDF format for when he is bigger and a better reader to show him progress over time.  I really enjoyed sitting with him to create the Zoo story and personalizing it to his specific level of reading.  I even personalized one of the stories with my son’s weekly spelling words to help reinforce the words during a bedtime story.

In terms of enhancements, I’d like to see an option for narration. I realize that it is expensive to include this feature within an app, however, for parents who might be away or travelling I think that they would appreciate it a lot which could translate to higher sales.   It would also be great if the developer were to create a version where several of the stories were unlocked upon download so that you could complete a few stories at a time.  The parental gate for the app is a random math problem – some of which my son could answer even in first grade.   I would like to see the gate strengthened especially since additional books are for purchase and I wouldn’t want kids to get beyond that by mistake.  It would also be nice if there was an easier way to login to the app – I forgot my password and it was a bit cumbersome for me to reset it.
 

 

Overall, this is a fun book which brings personalized reading to a fun new level.  Kids can illustrate the books with their parents to help understand reading as well as parents making them for kids. I am looking forward to more broadly sharing my son’s stories with my family and saving them in PDF format for when he is bigger and a better reader to show him progress over time.

iTunes Link: Photo Tales – Create Photo Stories with Your Kids by Tho Pham

Photo Tales - Create Photo Stories with Your Kids Photo Tales - Create Photo Stories with Your Kids by tho pham

Price: $FREE

April 2015 Silver Award winner for "Best App for Children and Toddlers" by BestMobileAppAwards.com.

"The well-executed mix of creativity and literacy development that is possible in this app make.

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.

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