App Time – Magic Belles

Magic Belles Logo

Have you heard of Magic Belles? There’s six of them and they live in Bellevue. They’re colourful, have pleasant music accompanying them and there’s quite a lot to do – spotting things, colouring in, animated stories, crafts – oh and there’s also the Flutterbud Club (and we’re loving Rainbow Belle’s Rainbow ring)! They’re targeted at girls, particularly ones of H’s age; three and upwards. Here’s what their creators Luma Creative have to say:

Magic Belles is a brand with good values and special wishes:

  1. To help little girls appreciate the many wonders of life.
  2. To celebrate and encourage their talents.
  3. To engage them in the magic of music.

We hope, with your help, that these wishes can come true!

We were given an opportunity to review the Magic Belles app, which has just been released. I sat with H and we went through each section so we could see what you had to do. I’m very much a fan of letting her work out games herself with minimal help from me, and happily she played immediately and with no help – a very good sign.

Magic Belles Homepage

So the app opens and you’re greeted with this page. If you’re familiar with the Magic Belles website, then clicking the blue bird in the middle will take you to a very familiar page

Magic Belles

Drag each Magic Belle onto the star and they’ll play their tune (which is quite lovely and hypnotic!). However, if you know about this already, chances are you’ll be exploring all the other parts of the game…

Here’s what you get:Magic Belles - how to play

So as you can see there’s more than just the games – little extras and what H and I love is how lovely it looks – bright and colourful and most of all fun! (and an additional huge bonus point from me – no Comic Sans to be seen ANYWHERE which is a good thing!)

Magic Belles

Of all the games, H’s favourite by far is Cupcake Belle’s one – she always going back to that one first – though loves playing Star Belle’s dot to dots game (and has a real sense of pride every time she completes one). MY favourite is Love Belle’s guitar game when I can get a turn…

All the games are really straightforward to play – they’re not complicated at all. We also celebrate music in this house and I love how each game follows the same overall tune but is based around each Belle’s part. The extras in each game are fun too, and helps with H learning to explore beyond what is obvious.

We love Magic Belles – this gets a BIG thumbs up from H!

Magic Belles: Magic Music is available from the App Store for £1.49 now. There’s a free Lite version too which has the first game – try it out!

We received a code to review this app – all opinions are our own.

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App Time – Bob the Builder Playtime Fun

Disclaimer – this app has taken us the longest to review – and there’s a reason why. H is a huge Bob fan, but all she wants to do is clean the characters from the show – and that’s one of the game options here; you choose the character, get the sponge and clean them (and there’s almost always some muck left around the wheels) then rinse off with water (you need to be a good aim here, though it’s not difficult), then polish with a cloth.

Every time we’ve played the game, it’s the only part H will actually play.

Bob the Builder Play Time Fun MenuThis morning we’ve sat down together and I’ve instructed her that she has to play the other parts of the game which include:

Clean the Can Do Crew – Can you clean it? Bob the Builder’s machine wash has broken down and needs fixing.  Can you help wash and hose down his muddy crew?
Mix and Paint – Can you mix it? Mix the colours together to create the perfect palette and paint your favourite characters.
Who Is It? – How well do you know the Can Do Crew? Match the characters to their shadows. (you get an Easy or Hard option on this too)
Picture Puzzle – Complete the puzzle by connecting the pieces to create scenes from the TV show. (another option for Easy or Hard)
Memory Game – Remember the location of the character cards to match all the pairs. (another Easy or Hard)
Plus special Sticker Book – collect stickers throughout the games to decorate a various Bob the Builder scenes within a sticker book.

H loves memory games, so played that for a while, and had fun with ‘Who Is It?’, but I’d say within five to ten minutes of playing those games she’d still made her way back to the ‘Clean the Can Do Crew’ section for the bazillionth time – she just loves cleaning, it would seem – even over the colouring in  section which she does enjoy doing.

Bob the Builder Playtime Fun colouring in

The sticker book characters can’t be made larger or smaller (like with the Peppa Pig and Ben & Holly games) which isn’t a problem as they’re in proportion with the scenes you can stick them to.

Neil Morrissey narrates through the game as you’d expect (and if it isn’t him, it’s a good soundalike), and much like the other games from P2 Games it follows a familiar pattern – do well in games and win a sticker. I have to say it’s definitely a hit in our house as H just will not stop cleaning the characters!

Bob the Builder – Playtime Fun! is available for £1.99 from the App Store on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.

We received a code to review this app – all opinions are our own.

App Time – Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom – Big Star Fun

We have a bit of a Ben & Holly fan here at home, just a bit (quite a lot, actually). When we had the opportunity to review the new app from P2 Games, we jumped at the chance. So far we’re really liking it too – as while a lot of these games have a similar theme (win games, collect stickers, play on the sticker book afterwards), there’s some additional variations which we think are fab.

You choose to play as Ben or Holly, though so far we’ve not noticed any difference in who you choose to play with, other than your child gets to choose a favourite.

You have four games to choose from :

Ben and Holly app MenuCollecting Stars
Throwing Sticks
Hiding
Sweeping the leaves

Throwing Sticks - Ben and Holly app

All of the games are pretty self-explanatory – but here’s where we like it that little bit more – you have an option to choose an Easy or Hard game – and while H does love playing the other games that are similar, levels of difficulty help make this a bit more challenging (though to be fair, right now she seems to love cleaning Scoop on the Bob The Builder game, and we’re finding it difficult to get her to play any other game in that app!) – and means it wont get too easy too quickly.

Ben and Holly app - Easy or Hard

Collecting Stars is straightforward enough, you move Ben or Holly and avoid the bees and butterflies, otherwise you’ll lose a life
Throwing Sticks was a bit more difficult – we’ve not been able to complete this on the Easy level yet! I’m not quite working out how to throw the stick in other directions, but that helps make this more challenging!
Hiding is a simple variant of Whack A Mole – without moles and without whacking – just tap the screen when Ben and Holly appear and don’t hit the other animals otherwise you’ll lose a life!
Sweeping the leaves is another simple one – move the leaves to the corners of the screen and don’t let Gaston mess them up while you’re doing it!

Gaston with a twig - Ben and Holly app

Another nice touch, the option to play again. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember that option on the other games.

Ben and Holly app - Again?

Would we change anything on this game? Right now we’re loving it – it’s straightforward and uncomplicated and has the option of being a little more difficult. Like the Peppa Pig game you can make the stickers in the Sticker Book larger or smaller, and there’s a good selection of stickers to collect, so your book wont be complete for a long time which keeps you coming back to play more times. H did wonder why Daisy and Poppy weren’t together, but there’s the toddler way of thinking in action there, rather than a criticism!

Ben and Holly app sticker book

I like that you use the pincer grasp to make the stickers larger or smaller, as while H has always been good at it, a little practice never does any harm!

So yes, in summary, I’m finding this good, it’s got different features to ones we’re used to in previous games while still similar.

You can buy the Ben and Holly game at the App Store for £1.99

we received a review code for this app – all opinions are our own

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App Time – Tap A Tune

There’s a fantastic group over on Facebook, Apps for Parents where we’ll find out about a lot of games which are free – which is always the best time to try one out – or being reviewed. A few days ago we were alerted to ‘Tap A Tune’ which is essentially a tuneful Whack A Mole, done gently. Or at least, is so far…

I decided rather than attempt to explain it, I’d put up a YouTube video of H playing it – after all, that’s how you know if something is any good (other than trying it out for free).

Here’s H’s rendition of ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ for the very first time. I love the iPad is so easy to pick up and use, and I love that this game is so quick to play – anything that encourages her to learn about music is a good thing.

You can pick up ‘Tap A Tune’ for free at the App Store for a limited time – hurry! Thanks to Mags for the tip!

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App Time – Peppa Pig’s Sports Day

It’s impossible to avoid The Olympics (especially if you live in London right now), and here’s another fab addition to sporty-themed merch that’s been released to coincide.

Peppa Pig’s Sports Day came out on July 20th 2012, and is available in the App Store for £2.99 and is compatible with the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone.

What’s more is, we love it. So many games are single player – whereas this one has multiplayer options which make it so much more competitive (especially difficult when you want your almost-three-year-old to win).

Firstly, after the Peppa Theme you’re greeted with this screen with your options

That’s Obstacle Race, Long Jump, Ice Cream Maker, Bicycle Race, Tug Of War, Rosette Making and finally a selection of scenes to place your reward stickers.

We’ve had several games on the multiplayer options (Obstacle Race, Long Jump, Bicycle Race, Tug of War) which was fun – you can play up to four people, though I’m not sure how well it would work on an iPhone or iPod.

The multiplayer mode looks like this :

Peppa Pig's Sports Day Multiplayer

Simply drag your character into the relevant ring.

H loves making pictures on the iPad and we were impressed with the rosette making, as once you’ve finished and click that final tickbox, it will auto-save it to your pictures folder. Nice!

Peppa Pig's Sports Day Rosette

Finally, the sticker scene – what I really liked about this was each sticker can be made smaller or larger – though right now all H wants to do is put all of them onto the scene. I suspect we may run out of stickers soon – I haven’t done a count, but it’d be nice if there were more – though the option to reset a profile is really straightforward so you could start collecting again that way.

Peppa Pig's Sports Day sticker scene

As previously said, it’s a fun game, and it’s perfectly timed. At £2.99 it’s not cheap, and you’d expect to get a fair amount of use from it – which we have. I love that we can join in with the games as we’ve found most games we try don’t have that as a feature.

Available now at the App Store

We reviewed and paid for this app. All opinions are our own.

App Time at Mum Friendly

App Time – Olly the Little White Van

Yeah, so I work for this cool group of labels which releases cool music. For the last two weeks I have spent my entire working days whistling the theme tune to ‘Olly the Little White Van‘ – and this is all thanks to a new app which we’ve been testing out.

Olly the Little White Van appOlly the Little White Van is currently available at iTunes for free – so firstly, go and get it before it costs something – I’m a firm believer in trying things out when they’re offered for free. It’s a nice simple game and while the theme tune might end up stuck in your head for the forseeable future, it’s proved to be one that H keeps playing and doesn’t need too much supervision.

A big bonus is there’s no buttons which send her off to the internet to buy things that she shouldn’t – there’s a link to Facebook and Twitter pages that are hidden away in the information section – so it is possible to click outside of the programme but no more than that.

Olly the Little White Van appThere’s two games. ‘Delivery Race’ involves you directing Olly around the roads to pick up packages in Bumpton – one which I started playing dragging the car (this can be done, and easily) before I realised you could also tap where you want the car to go. H picked this up straight away and had no difficulties and had a sense of pride when she did each level.

The second game ‘Fix It’ has three of Olly’s friends who have broken down, and you need to help fix them – a simple drag and drop the car part into the right bit. H did struggle a bit with this one, but it’s not difficult – I think it’s something that will come as she’s older (she’s nearly 3).

Olly the Little White Van appOverall the game is quite short, and very straightforward. It doesn’t have any bonuses for completing levels (like, say the City of Friends app), but that’s not a problem – it just means you’ve finished quickly. On the plus side this works if you want to limit the time your child plays on apps, as they’re not on for a long time.

We like it – although I wish I could get the theme out of my head!!

We played the game on the iPad – the app is compatible with the iPod, iPhone and iPad as long as they’re running iOS 4.0 and later.

Olly the Little White Van airs weekdays on CiTV at 9.45am and 1pm. Did I mention that Justin Fletcher is the voice of Olly?

App Time at Mum Friendly

App Time – City Of Friends

City of Friends logoFirst off I should admit, we haven’t (yet) watched City Of Friends. It’s on Channel 5 on Milkshake at the early hour of 6.20, when we’d be fast asleep  – so we have very little background on the programme this game is adapted from. However, having the opportunity to play this game we’re learning – and we do have it programmed into the V+ box now – and I’ve just read a second series has been commissioned.

City of Friends game options

The programme is based around three characters – Max the Police Officer (who is a monkey), Ted the Paramedic (who is a bear) and Elphie the Fire Officer (who is an elephant) – and this app is based on their various skills. Each game is made of three parts – one star (the easiest), two star (a bit harder) and three (the hardest) – once you’ve cleared all three levels you can earn one big star which unlocks some episode content on another page (which I quite like).

 

City of FriendsThe individual games include :
•collect things in Max’s helicopter
•Ted’s first aid kit needs tidying
•Put out fires with Elphie’s trunk
•Matching pairs
•Emergency vehicle play
•The unlockable episode content

H was handed the iPad, and we selected a few games. At two and a half I thought they might be a bit advanced for her but actually, she picked them up immediately. The Elphie game was a hit (she actually got all three stars with minimal help from mummy), and she really liked matching pairs. The helicopter game was a bit more difficult so we’ll come back to that one in time, but I don’t see that as a huge problem – the age range for this is 2-6 years, so it’s something we’ll get a lot of play from (which is a very good thing). She also really enjoyed tidying up the first aid kit – the games really suit her age without her feeling too out of her depth.

City of Friends flowersAs a music-loving mummy the biggest plus point for me was the music – I’m not sure if it’s the original Norwegian tunes, but it wasn’t in any way annoying and was really quite pleasant – plus there’s more than one tune in there, so it’s not the same few bars on repeat.

Having no background on the programme, it would have been nice to know a bit more – there’s credits, but no biogs (though there’s links to the official website and Facebook – though I’m not so sure about H clicking through to my Facebook page – I couldn’t find a way to disable it). Having lots of emergency vehicle toys and books has meant she was immediately interested – she just likes it without having any history (the graphics and colours are lovely and bright and appealing too). There’s no instructions how to play the games, although we picked them up quickly so that shouldn’t be a major issue.

City Of Friends app

To sum up, it’s a hit in our house, and now we’ve another new programme to learn about…! Would it help knowing about the programme first? Possibly – but on the plus side like a lot of tv programmes these days YouTube and the ITV Player is your friend, with many to catch up on. The game is so user-friendly, which is all that matters!

City Of Friends is available at iTunes for £1.49.

We were sent a code to try out the game.

 

apptime-150x150

App Time – Read Write Phonics

Read Write PhonicsRead Write Phonics was released in April 2012 – and for us a slightly different approach, as it has been launched for Android phones first, rather than heading the Apple way (that’ll follow towards the end of the year). This isn’t a problem for us, as we both have Android phones, hubs was able to put it on his (I’m still on 2.1 for my OS), and we got it up and working quickly.

I’m often quite paranoid about H being an August baby, and that she’ll be the youngest in her year at school (when she starts in September 2013, erk), so we’re encouraging as much play with learning as possible – and Read Write Phonics is an app we’ll be spending a lot of time on. Also, the app isn’t a full programme in it’s own right – it’s designed to be played and used alongside other products – it’s there to complement it.

Read Write Phonics bee

The ‘Read’ section has words which are sorted into various categories – explosive, nosey, friction, short vowel and long vowel – and there’s plenty of words to choose from. H isn’t really reading much at the moment (she’s very much read to), but this is a great way to learn, plus there’s so many different ways of saying a lot of letters. Each word is accompanied by an image – for example the letter ‘m’ features with ‘map’.

Write with Read Write PhonicsThe ‘Write’ section is a favourite in our house, if only for giving you the chance to write some letters. H is only young (at two years and almost nine months) so occasionally got frustrated when she couldn’t quite get it right – but we found it was a lot easier for her to do with her smaller fingers, than our larger adult ones, so we were often met with a “you’re nearly there!” and “try again!” type comments, which were encouraging and didn’t frustrate her when she didn’t quite do it. I think this aspect would work a lot better on a larger tablet than a phone – but probably for adults (and our big fingers), as H had no problems other than she’d never written anything before. She did manage to write a lot of the easier letters (i, j, o, a, t) so that’s a really good sign!

The ‘Phonics’ section is divided into two sections, small words and big words – and both spell out individual letters you’ll have covered on the earlier sections. I really liked how they’re regular words you’d use every day so there was a good context to it – and nothing too difficult. Also – the way they’re phonetically spelt out is really good – as I’ve found a few games we have will only have one option of how a letter sounds. There’s also combinations, such as words like ‘queen’ breaking it up into qu-ee-n sounds. If you slide your finger quickly along the word it sounds like the actual word, rather than a weird amalgamation of letters – another plus point!

Another bonus – no Comic Sans has been used. I hate that font so much, and while I accept it’s used a lot in child related things it still drives me mad – so to see the much more appealing Sassoon Infant font is a major thumbs up for me!

Writing with Read Write PhonicsI was pleased that the phonics are all British English – H comes from a Yorkshire Mum, an Australian Dad and has nursery with people from Sutton and Croydon, so her accent is all over the place at the moment (though definitely London), I found the accent here to be nice and clear and with no regional variation. The app features all 44 phonic sounds of the English language, plus all letters and combinations.

As far as how easy the app is to use, it’s simple tapping, swiping and drawing – something H picked up immediately – it’s very intuitive.

I think this is something that we will benefit from hugely – as we’re just getting into all of this at nursery, plus she’ll be starting pre-school this year which will have a lot more learning going on – so everything is helpful right now.

The target range of this app is ages 3-7, though don’t let that put you off – it’s definitely very user friendly for younger children (and older too!). The Apple version is launched later this year and we’ll definitely be getting a copy for the iPad when it is!

You can buy Read Write Phonics at the Google Play store now for £1.49

Read Write Phonics official site is here, they can also be found on Facebook and Twitter

we received a free download of this app for review.

iPod vs iPad and games

I previously mentioned my new iPod Touch – I had a second generation one and was starting to find I was out of date with apps – and with a toddler who is starting to show more interest in learning and playing games, this was not a good thing – plus I had a load of Amazon vouchers which need spending!

I’d been following a few groups where everyone alerts each other when a game is free – and saving up the apps for when I got some updated Apple gadgetry.

My fantastic friend Jos has given us her old iPad – so within a week we have a brand new iPod Touch and a 1st generation iPad – and all of a sudden a whole new world has opened to us – the world of apps.

I’ve bought for myself in the past and haven’t thought about games for H – but there’s so much good stuff out there at the moment – and the majority of it is educational too, so from time to time we’re going to review apps we love.

Actually, as well as the iPad and iPod, we both have Android phones. Mine is stuck in a vintage Android system, but Shaun’s runs on 2.2 or something higher, so can do more modern things with it – and we’ve already got a few games we’re testing.

Funimal Phonics on the iPod
Funimal Phonics on the iPod

Over at Mummy’s Space there was a giveaway for a fabulous app by School of Happy called ‘Funimal Phonics’. We played this for a while on the iPod Touch, not realising just how great it is – and found it lovely – english accents  and beautiful clear graphics too (there is a US accent option).

But then! We loaded it onto the iPad and everything was so much larger and clearer – each animal moves, you get to hear the letter it begins with, as well as the name. We’re really impressed – but even more so H loves it too. I love you can feed a carrot to the rabbit and flick a switch to watch a bubble in the X-Ray Fish.

H is learning more animals and on one of her first plays had already corrected the game “No Mummy, O is for Owl!” and so on… it’s a game we’ll be playing for a while – and one H picked up immediately. H is two and a half and while her speech is excellent there’s words she needs to work on – this is perfect for that – and it’s something she can control.

 

Funimal Phonics is out now, and costs £1.49 from the app store.