Negative NimbusThis weekend is here, and if you have some car travel or down time ahead, I have the perfect new app for you and your family. Boston-based, Emmy-nominated studio CloudKid has officially launched their first game for the iOS platform,Negative Nimbus. Those familiar with the work of CloudKid (“Fizzy’s Lunch Lab”) should expect the same candy-colored, bold and innovative design – priced at only $.99.

Already awarded “best visual and design” at the Boston Festival of Indie Games, “Negative Nimbus” focuses on a lovable and grouchy rain-cloud as he makes his way through the brightly colored Sunnyland. Players tap, swipe and pinch their way through different levels, trying to water flowers while avoiding  the quirky characters that populate the sunshiny land CloudKid has created.  The game includes unlockable achievements to keep players engaged, including comics, accessories and badges.

The visuals in this app truly speak for themselves, with a few samples below.

Negative Nimbus is available for the iPad and will hit the iPhone in November 2012.

 

Merry Meadow

Mean Streets

Volcano Isle

It’s the season of the witch, and we have been playing our Halloween music and watching our Halloween films since mid-September.  We have already rolled out our yearly music playlist, and are ready to follow up with some more ways to get your kid-friendly scares on this Halloween.

“The Grand Scream of Things” by Andy ZListen To: “The Grand Scream of Things” by Andy Z

Award-winning kids’ musician Andy Z has just released an ambitious musical audio play for kids 8-12 called “The Grand Scream of Things.” The 66-minute music adventure takes listeners on a Halloween day journey with protagonist Andy, his dog Reggie,  his buddy Danger Dude and Pleadia, a teenage alien and potential romantic interest for Andie. Interspersed through this “old time radio show” style adventure are stand-alone songs that span the punk, hip-hop, pop and hip-hop genre. Guest kid musicians like Paula Messner (Candy Band) and RhymeZwell show up while production is handled by Grammy-nominated producer Tor Hyams

Bonus Mention: Children’s musician David Tobocman is offering a free Halloween song download called “Spooky Stuff.” This tune was written by David’s 1st grade daughter Zoe.

PlayPeekaboo Trick or Treat with Ed Emberley.
Peekaboo Trick or Treat with Ed Emberley
We are long-time fans of Night & Day Studios’ Peekaboo brand of apps. Each release brings unique artwork and new tricks to their trademark line of  apps  featuring animals and objects popping out and surprising toddlers and babies. For Halloween, Night & Day enlists the talent of Caldecott award-winning author and illustrator, Ed Emberley (“Go Away, Big Green Monster!”) to create kid-safe interpretations of Halloween mainstays like witches, werewolves, bats and ghosts. In “Peekaboo Trick or Treat,” little ones tap on the  colorful “haunted house” and are greeted by a rotating cast of 14 characters with silly sound effects.  A simple app with inspired illustrations that allows even the youngest ones to celebrate the season without getting too scared.
 
Watch: The Worst Witch

The Worst Witch

The Worst Witch introduced the young, fledgling witch/wizard-in-the-making story years before Harry Potter entered pop culture history books. Based on the book series of the same name,  this made-for-TV production focuses on central character Mildred Hubble as she tries to find her way at Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. Along the way she deals with bullies, botched spells, evil witches and a meeting with the honored Grand Wizard. While the special effects are slightly dated, the movie’s central themes are ageless, as Mildred overcomes obstacles both realistic and supernatural to become the school’s superstar student. Adult viewers: come for the retro charm, stay for the positive message, and come back again for Tim Curry’s hammy performance as The Grand Wizard and his musical number “Anything Can Happen on Halloween.”

Bonus Mention: Scholastic Storybook Treasures: A Very Brave Witch…and more Halloween Stories.  Eight classic kid’s books are brought to life in this Halloween-themed edition of the Scholastic Storybook Treasures series. For parents who prefer a mellower, literary approach to television viewing, this a great option.  Most of the stories in this DVD compilation are filmed books with simple camera pans, celebrity narration and optional onscreen read-along.

Go & Do: PhilharMONSTER! @ The Peter Norton Symphony Space in NYC

Lucky NYC-ers can go to this special one-off Halloween show on Sun, Oct 28 at 4 pm.  The young musicians of the InterSchool Orchestras of New York’s Carnegie Hill Orchestra (ages 8 to 12) and ISO Symphony (ages 12 to 19) will perform horror-themed orchestral classics to get into the spirit of the season. All players will be dressed for the holiday, with a special Ghost Conductor.

HallowilloweenBonus Mention: Be sure to check out musician Alastair Moock’s “Slightly Scary Spectacular” concerts at Jammin Java (Saturday, October 27, 10:30 am) and 92Y Tribeca NY (Sunday, October 28, 11 am).

Read: “Hallowilloween: Nefarious Silliness” by Calef Brown 

Artist/poet Calef Brown could be described as a modern-day Dr Seuss, with an edgy folk-art touch. He has even inspired an album based on his previous books. “Hallowilloween” features Calef’s trademark ridiculous rhymes, this time themed around his own brand of monsters. Meet the baseball “Vumpire,” shunken head Duncan, the brain-eating “Oompachupa Loompacabra”  and the cowgirl “Witches of Texas.” Age appropriately morbid, Calef Brown’s poems are humorous enough to circumnavigate any nasty nightmares.

Bonus Mention: “Tales from Lovecraft Middle School #1: Professor Gargoyle”  by Charles Gilman. A novel for tweens that references the king of horror and “speculative fiction.” Yes please! “Tales from Lovecraft Middle School” tells the story of twelve-year-old Robert Arthur as he navigates his way through a middle school filled with mysterious passages,  Lovecraftian beasts, and teachers that are never who they appear to be.

I’ve seen the look of horror on people’s faces when they see my 20-month-old swiping and poking away on our iPad. I know they are thinking “Isn’t she too young?”  Frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn.  At 20-months, I have already seen the payoff in the dozens of apps I have purchased for her. Whether it is her advanced vocabulary, growing knowledge of her ABCS and 123s or basic memory skills, I attribute a good portion of it to the wonderful iPad apps being built by smart and talented developers.

So what are some of these apps turning my little girl into a pint-sized prodigy and burgeoning tech wiz? Below is Part 1 of an introduction to our favorite apps for the under-2 set.  (Please note: when apps have multiple levels for different age ranges, I will just be reviewing the portions of the app relevant to my little one.)

Peekaboo FridgePeekaboo Barn, Peekaboo Forest, and Peekaboo Fridge

Night & Day Studios are the developers of these three apps, created to build your child’s vocabulary and learn about cause & effect. Each app encourages the child to tap either a barn, refrigerator door or animal habitat, so a different animal or food item pops out and surprises your kids. The art for each app is beautifully done, and the surprise appearances are randomized.  The Forest and Barn apps also educate children on the sounds their favorite animals make.

Counting with the Very Hungry Caterpillar and Eric Carle’s My Very First App

Eric Carle's My Very First AppSome more love for Night & Day Studios! Both of these apps incorporate the beautiful artwork of Eric Carle, with the famous Hungry Caterpillar showing up. The math-themed Counting with the Very Hungry Caterpillar has multiple levels to appeal to children all the way up to 5. For my youngest, we usually stick with Level 1, which, according to the developer, introduces the concept of counting. Players have to eat each fruit as instructed by the narrator, with the names and symbols for numbers one through twelve appearing on screen as you munch away on fproduce. Level 2 starts to introduce vocabulary as players are asked to eat only specific fruits.

Eric Carle’s My Very First App takes the illustrations from My Very First Books and  also put them into different levels of game play: Easy (ages 1-3), Medium (ages 2 and up) and Hard (ages 3 and up). Easy has players matching the top portion of the screen with the bottom.  For example, match the color white to a snowman or bees to a honeycomb. The Medium mode – which may actually be easier for some children – is based on the standard game of Memory, flipping cards over to make matches. There are different themed card sets (Colors, Animal Homes) and additional ones are available for purchase.

Goosed Up Rhymes HD

This app, from Brain Freeze Entertainment, is surely one of the reasons the iPad was created.  Mixing a storybook/TV show format, humorous animation, simple gameplay and elements of surprise throughout, this is a one-of-Goosed Up Rhymesa-kind app. My daughter has had an interest in Mother Goose stories since she got a Humpty Dumpty doll from NH-theme park Storyland. When looking for Mother Goose apps, I found some decent options, but this leads the gaggle. With humorous animated interludes that will appeal to adults as well as kids and four casual games, your child will soon be  reciting poems about tuffets and blind mice. .

Pat the Bunny

One of your favorite childhood books makes it way to the iPad. And while you won’t be able to feel dad’s rough beard or smell the flowers, Random House Digital has a bunch of other tricks up their sleeve.  Fourteen interactive scenes have made this app one of our little girl’s favorites. Whether watering flowers in the garden, velcroing Judy’s shoes, catching butterflies, hunting for Bunny or using the front-facing camera as a mirror, it will take a while before your child tires of this app.

In the Night Garden™ HDIn the Night Garden

Although this television property never quite found its footing in the United States, this app is not one to ignore.  From BBC Worldwide, this app lets your toddler interact with the characters from this popular global TV property. Visit the gentle ‘Night Garden’ where users  can play simple games with characters like Iggle Piggle, Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka. This app is probably one of the most simple for young users with basic touch activities like washing faces, touching flashing hidden objects, and making characters dance. It is also a great introduction to a unique television property worth finding on home video.

 

Check out some of these apps for your tech-happy toddler, and look for another roundup soon!