Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Four Paid Preschool Apps You Cannot Miss

When you purchase an ipad, be prepared to spend a little to get the best content out there for your kids. If you stick to the free stuff, you can certainly find some great apps, but in some cases, the more you pay, the more you get. Here are my picks for paid apps you can't do without.
iPhone Screenshot 1
Bugs and Buttons by Little Bit Studio LLC. (Normally $5.99 - currently on sale for 99c!!) This app is a must have. Beautiful graphics, lovely music that you could actually stand to listen to, and great games for kids to play with no instruction from adults. In fact, they will have to explain it to you. The bugs theme of course makes it something that would especially appeal to young children, but its an addictively good app that I kept coming back to when my head was about to explode from over doing the QCat matching....
iPhone Screenshot 1
Little Bit Studio also produces similar apps called Bugs and Bubbles and Bugs and Numbers which are both very worthwhile. If you pay for anything, these are the ones to pay for. The 99c deal will not last long so get in quick.

iPhone Screenshot 1Also by the makers of Bugs and Buttons is the Dial Safe Pro app. This is a great app for teaching children how to call emergency services. I particularly like that you can customise for the Australian 'Triple Zero' as well as other versions. My only concern is that you would need to teach the children to use the actual phone setting in the emergency situation, not just the app! This is currently being offered for free.

iPhone Screenshot 1Green Eggs and Ham full version by Oceanhouse media ($4.49).  The classic Dr. Seuss read along. You can't go past this one! Yes, you could probably buy the actual book for less than the app, but the read along features are great and this app will help to build on basic sight words using a text many children are familiar with. Great for educators who have lost their voice for the day by 10am... Similar apps of other Dr. Seuss stories are also available.

iPhone Screenshot 1Little Writer Pro by Innovative Mobile Apps ($1.99) This should really get a mention in the literacy and numeracy post, but it is the best letter tracing app I have come across. It is fully customisable with lower and upper case letters as well as numbers and the option to add photos. Australian children are taught reading through phonics, so the phonic sounds were helpful, although the US vocals can lead to accent copying! With support from parents and educators, this is a great app to back up the phonics children are learning in real-life contexts.

There are my top picks for paid apps. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but they each meet my criteria and are worth the money and time spent.

 *This is not a paid review. I have not received any compensation from the makers of ipad or the apps listed. All graphics are sourced from itunes. All opinions are entirely my own. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Five Most Annoying Preschooler Ipad Apps of All Time

This list wasn't hard! After the first hour of research, I suddenly realised that some apps are free because no one should have to pay for this stuff. So right up front, I figured at the beginning of this series, here are the ones to really make parents and educators want to throw the ipad at a wall.
Here are the 5 most annoying preschool apps I discovered*.

iPhone Screenshot 1
 Preschool Memory Match by Kid Baby Toddler LTD. (Free) There are stacks of memory and matching type games available for kids. This creatively-named, hyped up matching game features annoying music and hard to discern graphics. A better alternative is the similarly named "Memory Matches" by IDC. 

QCat’s Fruit by Scott Chen (Free) features cantaloupe and pomegranates. The app has a weird pop-up mouse and a frowning,
floating cloud in the background that really bugged me. There are better apps out there for this kind of thing.

Kids can match all in one full version by Kids Place (Free). This one is less annoying than QCat’s Fruit, but better with the sound off!  Skip this one unless you are desperate to keep your content free (I started to realise that many of these free apps are cheap knock offs of others. Original content people!!).

iPhone Screenshot 4iPhone Screenshot 5
Kids tidy up  by Ning Cui (Free). Quite possibly my favourite ridiculous app of all time. A Steven Hawkings sound-alike bunny in a psychedelic artwork asks children to tidy rooms by dragging and dropping items into bins, cupboards and shelves. This app really creeped me out.  Maybe just ask them to tidy the actual room they are in...

Dr. Dino by Joy Preschool Game (Free) I felt torn about including this one. Its actually more funny than annoying. You will probably want to download it just to check it out. Help the dinosaurs feel better by putting the cogs back in the right part of their brains, tipping snot particles out of their nasal cavities and administering ear drops after sucking germs from their ear canal. Don’t even get me started on the moving-food-through-the-oesophagus-until-the-dinosaur-farts-bit. Hilarious and gross. Perfect for 4 year old boys.

So there you have my top five apps that you will get a laugh from. For the first 4 minutes anyway.
Enjoy! Feel free to share your annoying app reviews in the comments!

*This doesn't mean you shouldn't download them. Your kids will probably love them. But you won't really. 

** This is not a paid review. I have not received any compensation from the makers of ipad or the apps listed. All graphics are sourced from itunes. All opinions are entirely my own. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Preschool App Review Week

Image Credit
I recently had the pleasure of road testing an ipad for 7 hours to determine the best content for preschoolers with whom I work.

I have been requested to share the findings of my work. I have a lot to say after all that time, so I have decided to break up the info into a series for the week.

Monday: Five of the Most Annoying Preschool Apps of All Time for ipad.
Tuesday: Four Paid Preschool Apps You Cannot Miss
Wednesday: Free Apps for Literacy and Numeracy that are Worth Your Time
Thursday: Tips for Using Ipads With Preschoolers
Friday: My Other Favourite Preschool Apps List

The ipad I road tested came preloaded with content, some of which was paid, and some which was free. I played with the different apps for a while before I started to search out my own preferences on the itunes store. I pretty quickly realised that there are thousands of similar apps out there for children and some are clearly better than others. I became fussy pretty quickly!

Here are my criteria for what makes a good app for children.

  • The apps I am looking for are mainly for the 3 to 5 year old age group. Content that would also be useable for 2-3 years was also a bonus as we will have an ipad available for that age group too at the day care centre (with different limitations on use suitable for age). 
  • The child needed to be able, for the most part, to start the game themselves and respond to the content with limited teacher instruction. 
  • The app could be US based, but letter formation that sits closer to the Australian primary school fonts were picked over those with cursive letters or weird fonts. 
  • Australian children are taught lower case letters first in kindergarten. I picked letter writing apps that had the ability to choose a lower case setting or which were only lower case. 
  • Matching games that mostly used the Australian or English terms for objects were picked over those using US terminology. For instance "trousers" instead of "pants" or "texta" instead of "marker". 
  • Weird, annoying music or useless apps that had no real content were rejected. 
Screen time for children should be limited. If we are going to provide screen time for children then it needs to be for quality products! 

*This is not a paid review. I have no personal or professional affiliation with any product or company mentioned. All opinions are my own. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Nourishing Habits

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Is nourishing a new fad? Like detox?

I'm not sure but its something I've been preoccupied with a bit of late.
Between balancing work, house selling, packing ... my brain has been at times... ridiculously overwhelmed. At times I've struggled to cope with the demands of my life. One of my 'coping mechanisms  was to eat. Pretty much anything with sugar in it. In secret. It wasn't helping.

I also stopped exercising as my back had been playing up when I exercised and I was scared to do more damage. No need to point out the obvious issues so far.

So this is not going well. Brain is foggy from being over tired/lazy/sugar-dependent. Body is sore, blocked and sluggish [honesty time ok?] and overall I feel... not so crash hot actually.

After a day of eating mainly chocolate, I caught myself in the car on the way to Bible study with chocolate in my pocket, waiting for Awesome to look out the other window so I could sneak bites. And something snapped. What am I doing? I can't live my life like this. I'm paying a small fortune for gluten-free products and stuffing my body with crap on the other hand.


Time for change. Simple life habits.

Back on the lunch from home bandwagon
Pilates twice a week
Cooking at home. Making things from scratch.
Drinking water
Bed early
Sleeping with the window open (helps you sleep better and not get as sick. apparently.)
Talk to people. Process thoughts and feelings.
Seek out inspiration: read and search things that help me to process thoughts.

I feel better. I still eat some chocolate. But its not as much. And I'm trying not to be secretive about it.

I have a Pinterest board for nourishing habits. Helpful.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

And that was a long break.

So that was a pretty long 6 months. For reasons I don't really want to go into right now, I figured a break from blogging would be appropriate. It turned into a long break, with all the usual soul-searching questions about how much is too much to put on the internet and who is really reading this blog and should I really let them? 

Well, I've made some decisions about those things and I figured now is as good a time as any to return to the blogosphere (do we still say that? Its been a while...I particularly enjoyed how the computer tried to change that to 'hydrosphere'). 
While I'm still figuring out the details of what it is I would like to blog about, how often etc, I figure now is as good a time as any to update on my goals.
Menu Planning
I still menu plan weekly, although some of the details have changed. I use the same system I have spoken about previously, however Awesome now cooks on two set nights a week. These also happen to be the nights I am often out at meetings etc, so that if I am not home for some reason, Awesome is still planning the meal. I recently started a lunch box list to more consistently pack our lunches. More on that later.
I am trying to focus on building long term habits rather than short term goals or weight loss. I plan to post about this too.
Mission Statement
My personal mission statement still stands. I revisit it regularly to realign my goals and track my priorities. I'm also keeping an eye on whether the  goals I have are founded in God's Word, and making changes when they are not. I'm not perfect. I get it wrong sometimes. 
We came. We sold. We moved. Into my parent's house for a year while they are away so that we could save for a house. The move was challenging but in a head way. The apartment is where we got married. [not where we had our wedding. like, where we lived after that. Silly.] Moving was hard for me. Awesome does not like bugs. My folks bushland location has meant an influx of bugs and a sometimes unhappy Awesome. This is really the subject of a whole different post. We are learning how to live in a massive 5 bedroom, 4 garage, pool and two car house instead of a two bedroom apartment with no yard at all and a veranda we swept twice in 5 years. 
My heart has been knocked around a bit. A lot. Its been a big six months. I'm clinging on to God sometimes and sometimes I let go a bit. Thankfully He doesn't let go, so I'm ok. But I have learned the value in hanging yourself on your habits, and I have been trying to continue my quiet times each day. With varying success. 
I have some things to share. Hopefully helpful things. Its kind of nice to be back. Like comfy slippers.