Me before kids: "I will not use electronics to entertain my children."
Me now: "Me before kids was a very naïve person."
The thing I have discovered about electronics - namely apps for children - is that they can be so educational.
I remember taking the Big One on holiday when he was two years old. I had an app of puzzles on my iPad. He loved it. He had the choice of ten jigsaws - I would never have been able to take that many actual jigsaws with me. I needed room for nappies, swim nappies and other essentials needed when taking a toddler abroad.
Ok, so he didn't develop the fine motor control he would have done with actual jigsaws (and we did take a few in our case) but trying to do a jigsaw on an aeroplane tray table would have been extremely stressful anyhow and as it was a 6am flight, I thought I'd be frowned upon if I ordered gin from the refreshment trolley to calm myself as I watched jigsaw pieces going everywhere.
So he used an app. The aspects of spatial awareness and problem solving were still being developed, not to mention the key skills of using technology (which, as a primary school teacher, I know is a key part of the curriculum and is becoming more and more challenging with every academic year - infants are now expected to program and code).
So when I was asked if I would like to try out the Kidloland App, I jumped at the chance. I read another review of it and checked it out as it sounded fab! The review said that there was so much within the app. Well I completely underestimated what they meant by 'so much'!
It is packed full of stories, songs, games, phonics, puzzles - and every aspect is interactive. There is tons my children have not yet discovered or explored which of course keeps it exciting and fresh for them.
The Little One loves the stories and the songs. His favourite is Insy Winsy Spider - you can tap the spider and he moves around the screen - if you tap him at the right time, his movements will match what is happening in the song. That's one of the best things about this app - children can of course explore it independently but there are loads of ways an adult can help support them with it. I like to sit with him and show him what happens when we press the characters and explain cause and effect; "If we press him now, he will climb up the water spout" etc.
The Big One loves the games and there are some of varying degrees but all educational in some way. You will see in the video below that there are simple 'tapping' games where you burst balloons or bubbles. Of course, this develops hand-eye co-ordination which is where the Little One is still at in terms of development. But it also tells you shapes or colours or animal sounds or countless other things. There are more complex games (you can see them both playing Train Adventure in the video - they love trains - in fact any vehicles - so the whole section on Vehicles in the app is very popular!) which combine different skills - tapping, dragging shapes to fit (matching), and picking objects by initial sound - to name just a few.
I was a bit dubious about the phonics initially because it is an American app and I was unsure about whether it would focus on letter names rather than sounds and I know how important learning the sounds is. However, the phonics section is structured brilliantly with a song for every letter which explains how the letter name makes a particular sound. You can then follow each letter through and play games like recognising the letter and selecting initial sound objects. The only thing I'd like to see here is more lowercase letters as this is what my son is learning primarily at the moment. Having said that, he seems to have picked up the relationship between letter and sound with the uppercase letters on the app and it is having a really positive effect on his sound and letter recognition and, as a result, on his reading.
We are really enjoying this app - there is so much more to explore. I think the eldest is probably just getting to the point where it wont challenge him for much longer but he's four so I suppose that's the be expected. The youngest however, will have loads of fun with this - it can really grow with him and he can develop different skills as he gets older. There is more than enough content for him to do something different every day for a year I reckon!
Have a look at the boys exploring the app below:
If you want to check out Kidloland simply search for it in the App Store or on Google Play as it is available for both iOS, Android and on the Amazon App Store. Click below for the appropriate link. It is £29.99 for a year's subscription but it is something I will definitely consider updating when ours runs out as I think the youngest will get another few years out of this!