“Mia the Happy Helper” is a free iPhone/iPad/Android game for kids aged four to six. (We remember the first version from more than a dozen years ago.) Mia is a mouse on a mission. Sometimes she’s looking for hidden objects, other times she’s playing a small piano, sometimes she counts. The $2 version adds more missions.
– “Lauren Ipsum” by Carlos Bueno is the story of a little girl who must find her way home by thinking like a programmer. It may do for children what Douglas Hofstadter’s “Godel, Escher, Bach” did for Joy back in the 1980s: get them excited about programming ideas. The name “Lauren Ipsum” comes from the dummy text used as filler when printers don’t have the actual text of a page yet or want to show off a font. It’s been around since the 1500s, when an unknown printer used assorted type to make a specimen book. The book’s title character tackles classic problems like “Zeno’s Paradox” and “The Traveling Salesman.” Each chapter connects to a real-life computer science lesson in […]
— “Next Move Quiz” is our favorite new iPhone/iPad app, free from educational book publisher Pearson. The app has fun and colorful quizzes for kids and adults in subjects like science, geography, food, sports, culture and history. Joy has a lot to learn about currency but aced the human body quiz. You can retake quizzes. “Quiz Up” for Android is similar. — FaceTune is a $5 app that goes way beyond blemish removal in photos. Want a thinner nose, a wider smile, and a forehead whose skin tone matches the rest of your face? (Joy’s bangs keeps her forehead white; like a baseball cap.) It can also sharpen facial details while blurring the background and adding other effects. This app […]
Search on the words “8 YouTube Science Projects Kids Will Love” for some neat stuff.
One is called “Milk into Stone: Life in Plastic, It’s Fantastic.” It shows you how ordinary milk and vinegar can be poured into a cookie cutter or other mold. After a couple of days it’s as hard as stone.
If your kid likes your fitness tracker and wants one of his own, it might be best to skip the new “KidFit.” Adult trackers work much better. The KidFit we tried out is a tiny black orb that fits inside an uncomfortable watchband. The instructions are laughably minimal. At first we didn’t know – and weren’t instructed — to pop the working part out of the watchband and connect it to a charger. We kept looking for some way to connect the watchband itself. We finally had to go to the website, X-doria.com, and watch a video to figure out how to get it going. But once we got it charged up It turned out to work badly and was […]
“SpeakaZoo” (iPhone/iPad only) lets children talk to cartoon animals, and they talk back. The free app has built-in speech recognition that works pretty well. It understood questions like “What’s your name?” and simple answers like yes or no. When we said “I like you,” the elephant said “I like you too Zookeeper.” Most of the animals are wistful. We hope the next version has happier creatures. Could be the zoo environment.
– In the next version of the Gmail app for phones, you can send an receive mail from Yahoo and Outlook as easily as you do Gmail; just tap on the icon for the other account. — ComiXchat is a free app for turning ordinary text messages into comic strips. Some have found it difficult to use. — Influenster is an iPhone/iPad app and website for consumer product reviews. It includes a barcode scanner so you can get an instant review when you scan a product on the shelves. Always be skeptical about any reviews; it’s difficult to know their origin.
“Trace & Draw” is a free app from Crayola for iPhone/iPad and Android devices. Place a piece of paper over your screen and a drawing underneath shines through, allowing you to trace it. The opening screen tells you to buy a $20 Crayola clip to hold your paper, but that’s unnecessary. Besides this app, you can get lots of images to trace for free from Images.Google.com. Search on “black and white clip art.” Ordinary paper works fine if you turn up the brightness setting on your tablet.