It’s time again to look at some of the apps that are leaving smudge marks on my iPod Touch. Here’s a broad look at some of the best kid-friendly applications worthy of some gigabytes on your device.
Anorak Magazine (Oksar Ltd) –$1.99
Based on the beautifully-designed international magazine for kids, this app offers a handful of goodies for just $1.99. Featuring the urban-art also present in the magazine, this ‘Happy App for Kids’ offers three categories of interaction: Read Stuff, Do Stuff and Play Stuff. Read Stuff features digital books taken right from the pages Anorak, including the delightfully unique “Three Eyed Dog” and the brightly colored and humorous “Gardens of Maryland.” Do Stuff features some standard drawing and coloring apps, but with added twists: the scribbling is on top of Anorak’s trademark character creations and kids are given a prompt on what to draw. Play Stuff features “Whack-Anorak” in a “Whac-A-Mole” style game that I found myself enjoying as much as Maia did. A Cycling game included in the app is cool looking too, but was less interesting to Maia as it seemed a little above her skill level. This app will definitely be the most colorful and artistic on your iPhone.
- The many colors of Anorak
Sprout Player (PBS KIDS Sprout)– Free
This free app lets the the little ones stream short video clips from the PBS KIDS Sprout network. You won’t find regular Sprout shows like Caillou or Sesame Street on the player, but instead, original Sprout-owned content like segments from The Good Night Show, The Sunny Side Up Show, and The Sprout Sharing Show. The app is easy to navigate for toddlers, letting them slide through visual thumbnails of the shows until they find the one they want. Maia’s favorites are episode clips that are all under 2 minutes or so, featuring recipes or crafts being made by kids and their parents. And, you know you are getting quality content when it is served from PBS.
- Bite-sized Sprout
Disney Puzzle Slider (Disney Interactive) –$2.99
This app is currently getting the most usage in our house. Just like one of those scrambled tile puzzles you would find in a birthday goodie bag, this app serves up almost 100 puzzles with Disney characters on them. Users choose the number of tiles, a Disney theme and image, and then solve away. Maia especially loves collecting points to unlock “hidden” images. Some of the themes include Villains, Mickey and Friends, Classic Mickey, Fairies, and my personal favorite, the stylized work of Bloc28. A recent app update also added a slew of “Princess and the Frog” puzzles to the mix. Favorite images can also be saved and used as backgrounds on your device. My daughter’s only complaint was the missing Princess category.
Disney eliminates need for dime-store puzzles
Little Red Riding Hood StoryChimes (Siena Entertainment) – $.99
One of a series of digital books in the StoryChimes line from Siena, Little Red Riding Hood is a great addition to our growing digital book series. This book was notable for its ease of use, unique & retro artwork, professional narration and original music. Yes, “Little Red Riding Hood” can often be scary, but this version is softened with no dead grandma or slaughtered wolf.
- Little Red meets Big Bad
Belindra–Vegetable Delivery (Morgan Marion) –$.99
This cute interactive storybook features “hand-drawn” style illustrations that really pop on this platform. ‘Belindra’ is certainly not flashy, but it is quirky and sweet in its appeal. The book tells the story of Belindra as she delivers veggies to her neighborhood. As an added bonus, this digital book features surprise interactions by clicking on cherries featured in each image.
- Belindra delivers veggies and a smile
Old MacDonald (Duck Duck Moose) – $1.99
The creators of one of my favorite apps, Wheels on the Bus, are back with a worthy follow-up, Old MacDonald. Similar to its predecessor, it is described as an “interactive musical book” where users sing along with each line of the song on a different page. Each page also includes a different activity as well, such as using your fingers to shear a sheep, paint a pig, operate a tractor and trigger a cow’s alien abduction. Duck Duck Moose have definitely found a way to tap into the interactive possibilities of the iPhone/iTouch touch screen.
And on that farm he had a painting pig…
Slide-a-ma-jig (Lucky Radish Amusements) –$.99
This app is definitely not going to be called educational, but Maia has a lot of fun with it. Players create wacky, and sometimes gross, character creations by either shaking the iPod or sliding the hat, head, torso, legs and feet. Backgrounds can be switched up as well, creating tons of new scenes with every play. The entertainment value is provided by the detailed work put into the design of each character, and the humor behind it. Definitely an inexpensive distraction for older children.
- Gooey, gross-out fun goes mobile
Despite the fact that it occurs every year, I am always flabbergasted when Christmas products hit shelves as soon as the Halloween candy has left them. However, in this spirit of planning in advance, I am laying out my Chanukah playlist. Chanukah starts earlier this year, December 12 to be specific, so I have about a month to get Maia excited for the “festival of lights” and some of the tunes that go with it. Since we celebrate the traditions of both December holidays in my house, we try to select songs that match this festive, but not particularly religious, spirit. While it is fairly obvious the quantity of tunes will never measure up to those of Christmas, there are a few kid-friendly jewels to keep the flame burning.
As a quick editorial note (and I realized this is actually a hotly debated topic), I have chosen to go with the “Chanukah” spelling.
Mama Doni – Chanukah Fever (13 Macca-Beats For The Whole Family!): Set to be released November 24, I had a chance to preview this comical take on the holiday from Mama Doni, aka Doni Zasloff Thomas. Filled with Jewish humor and a novelty-spin on the holiday, Mama Doni takes a multi-genre approach with her music, covering hip-hop, swing, dance, Latin-pop and even the self-described “Jewgrass” genre. Titles sure to get the kids singing, and giggling, include “The Funky Gold Menorah,” “La Vida Dreidel,” and “I Say Chanukah (You Say Hanukah!).” Sure, this CD is “shticky,” but Doni seems to embrace this point and run with it. Unlike some of the Chanukah titles, this one is “kid-safe” from start to finish. Doni is currently touring JCCs around the East Coast to promote “Chanukah Fever.”
- She’s got the fever for the flavor of fried potatoes
Indie pop that will melt your gelt
LeeVees – Hanukkah Rocks: Released several years back, this project is a collaboration between Adam Gardner of Guster and Dave Schneider of hockey-loving band the Zambonis. Like many Chanukah music projects, the LeeVees were inspired by the lack of original holiday tunes. While some of the indie-pop style songs may not be kid- apropo (not so ready to play Maia a song called “Goyim Friends”), there are some true gems on this. “Latke Clan” should be the true token Chanukah radio song, wiping Adam Sandler’s tired tune away, with its Beach Boys-inspired melodies and witty lyrics. The fist-pumping “Gelt Melts” is a punk-rock ode to the chocolate money ever-present at this holiday. The indie pop tune “Applesauce vs. Sour Cream” brings up the classic debate about the best topping for your potato pancake. There is even a slow-groove song mourning the healthy makeover of Jewish noodle pudding dish “Kugel.” The CD is especially notable for its production, with Peter Katis (Interpol, The National) behind the decks.
Erran Baron Cohen – Songs in the Key of Hanukkah: Another album inspired by lack of quality musical product for this Jewish holiday, this album takes a less humorous approach. Erran Baron Cohen, brother of actor Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat”), is already an accomplished musician, scoring soundtracks for his brother’s projects and releasing albums under his ZOHAR band. “Songs In The Key Of Hanukkah” combines multiple genres, including klezmer, reggae, electronica, and hip hop, as well songs in English, Hebrew and Ladino. For this album, I cherry-picked out a few of my favorites that were more kid-friendly and more tradition-based vs. religion-based. Cohen completely reworks classic songs “Hanukkah oh Hanukkah” and “Dreidel” to re-inspired klezmer/hip-hop mash-ups that take the songs seriously. “Spin It Up” has a reggae feel, and despite minimal lyrics, seems to be a celebration of dreidel time.
- Chanukah gets mashed up
Danny Adlerman, Kevin Kammeraad, and Yosi - “…and a Happy New Year”: A superstar team of well-known kids’ recording artists have gathered to create a holiday album that fit several faiths. The collaborative “…and a Happy New Year” is a mix of original tunes, and remakes of classics. Chanukah-specific tunes include the Danny Adlerman-fronted remake of novelty tune “I’m Spending Hanukkah in Santa Monica,” a song Maia instantly got a kick out of even if she didn’t understand the context. Adlerman also fronts “Tikkun Olam,” a song about “repairing the world” during the holiday season. “Yosi & the Superdads” do a unique (and much-needed) bluesy rock rework of “I Have A Little Dreidel.” There is even a future Chanukah kindie classic from Yosi, “She Just Doesn’t Get It,” a modern day tale about a “baby sister” who can’t quite figure out the holiday. This collaboration is another stellar effort from a team of musicians that know their demographic.
- Kindie crew covers all the bases
Barenaked Ladies – Barenaked for Hanukkah E.P.: This three song E.P is actually pulled from their Barenaked for the Holidays album. Always willing to dabble in family music, the ‘Ladies serve up the classic “Oh Hanukkah” with a klezmer twist, a fireplace-ready version of “Hanukkah Blessings” and their version of that famous Dreidel song.
Have any Chanukah songs you like? Send your recommendations along in the comments!