Dr. Panda Town: Vacation by Dr. Panda is universal app for iOS and Android featuring Dr. Panda and the gang on vacation! Visit one of five islands on a boat which you pilot around the harbor. The app, free with in-app purchases was tested with a full unlock. Islands include: Winter Island, Forest Islands, Deep Sea, Spa and Pool Deck, the new locations are Ancient Ruin & Underwater City. Let your mind wander with these fun vacation destinations. There are seven different areas to explore and 30 characters included in Dr. Panda Town: Vacation – there are people of various ages and ethnicity as well as your favorite Dr. Panda characters from other apps. Once you are inside a scene, you simply tap on the paw print to bring up the menu of characters.
What we love…
fun new areas including an underwater world and ancient tomb add more hours of fun along with great hidden surprises when you tap around
What we’d love to see…
Skiing, educational video within the ancient ruins and perhaps integration of a “way” to get to your vacation destination like an airplane, car or train
The new play areas are super fun additions to the existing game. My kids loved taking the treasures from the ruins and moving them to other vacation locations.
Dr. Panda Town: Vacation by Dr. Panda is universal app for iOS and Android featuring Dr. Panda and the gang on vacation! Visit one of five islands on a boat which you pilot around the harbor. Dr. Panda Town: Vacation, free with in-app purchases was tested with a full unlock. Islands include: Winter Island, Forest Islands, Deep Sea, Spa and Pool Deck, the new locations are Ancient Ruin & Underwater City. Let your mind wander with these fun vacation destinations. There are seven different areas to explore and 30 characters included in Dr. Panda Town: Vacation – there are people of various ages and ethnicity as well as your favorite Dr. Panda characters from other apps. Once you are inside a scene, you simply tap on the paw print to bring up the menu of characters.
There are 15 pets you can take on vacation as well as a bunch of great outfits, and you can easily switch from day to night. My kids loved tapping on everything to find secret and hidden areas – I’ve shared a few spoilers below just in case your kids are struggling to find them. One of the other things I liked was that I was able to encourage my kids to narrate what they were doing and tapping on – we practiced counting, colors, naming items just to name a few.
There are seven areas to explore inside Dr. Panda Town: Vacation from aboard the cruise ship: beach, forest, winter scene, deep sea and activities aboard a cruise ship.
• **NEW ** Underwater City – this is one of the brand new areas in this new update. Head underwater to a fun city to explore! There is music , sea creatures including fish, a fun seahorse and even a spinning egg with a hidden treasure (be sure to tap it and see the other items appear including the throne and there’s even a hidden door. Be sure to tap on the handle in the music room where you can toggle between music on a red carpet or a fancy meal! My kids loved the different foods at the fancy table. Tap on the table in between near the anchor and you can go deeper into the ocean to explore more ruins. Don’t forget your life jacket! The basketball floating in the ocean was fun tool.
• **NEW** Ancient Ruins – Pack your bags and head to the desert – it’s time to explore the ancient ruins! This area opens with a market in the desert with all sorts of fun items to discover including food, vases, hats as well as tools like a hammer, magnifying glass to start exploring. Use the magnifying glass to find hidden surprises like a light over the throne. Try out a cane or find the hidden character (hint – it’s yellow!)
• Forest Islands is everything that outside play should be according to my kids. From a tire swing, to a zip line, swimming in the pond, catching fish, a mini recycle game and more! You can also hang out in a tent, cook fruits and veggies as well as other foods on the grill and even shine a flashlight after dark. My younger son loved toasting marshmallows on this island, playing with the fireflies and sleeping in the hammock. When play time is over, you simply tap the arrow and head back to the ship.
• Winter Island (winter activities) features everything winter! From penguins, snow mobiles, building a snowman, skating, ice hockey, snow tubing and more! My older son liked the ice hockey and playing inside the cabin.
• Beach: Here there is music, ice cream, volleyball, sand, hang gliding, beach fun, rafting and even a snorkeling trip in a underwater shipwreck. This island also includes a treasure chest — make sure you find the hidden key to find the gems, and lots to explore underwater.
• Aboard the ship: you are the captain! You can play with binoculars, a compass, test a protractor, try charting your course and steer the ship. Down a few steps is a relaxing music lounge, observation deck, luggage storage space and even an outside spot where you can test out some foods. There are lots of hidden surprises like the dolphins jumping, octopus grabbing onto the ship, and spaces to hide and jump in. Head down to the pool deck and you can play in the water slide, lounge with a drink, play dress up, listen to music ,test the diving board and more! Don’t forget the water guns and sunscreen! There’s even a small area where you can make a variety of frozen drinks and even recycle your unneeded items.
My kids really liked the new addition of the ancient ruins and underwater city. This is a fun no rules app which they can play for a few minutes when we are running to an appointment and waiting or even just during some downtime. The wide variety of areas allows kids to explore and learn with fun activities and is a great way to practice language skills describing what you are seeing. For my preschooler we practiced counting the number of objects, naming them, we also looked for colors and shapes as well which really helped because he was having fun and playing.
In terms of improvements, my kids wanted a “way” to get to the vacation which could be an integration with Dr. Panda Airport, Dr. Panda Bus Driver or another way to get there. Traveling for them is a big part of the fun on vacation. They also said they would love an area where they could have waterslides off the cruise ship or even go skiiing in the Winter Island. It would also be great if there were videos about ancient ruins and how they came to be to add an additional educational aspect to Dr. Panda Town: Vacation. My kids also wanted a “selfie snap” like in Dr. Panda Town Mall.
Dr. Panda Town: Vacation is free with three unlock options. To unlock Winter Island and Spa the cost is $2.99. To unlock the forest, pool & deep sea the cost is $3.99. To unlock the ancient ruins and underwater city the cost is $1.99. You can unlock the entire app for $5.99 USD. The unlock works for all devices in your iTunes account. Overall, Dr. Panda Vacation is a fun app that encourages open ended play for children. The wide variety of options encourages kids to play and explore and the integration with the other Dr. Panda Town apps provides a significant value add because you can bring all of the apps together. Be sure to check out our other reviews on Dr. Panda games. The in-app purchases are accessed via a shopping cart which requires you to enter the year to access the app store.
With Valentines Day just around the corner, a great way to get in the mood is to share some Valentine’s themed apps and stories with your children. Here are some of our favorite apps that feature Valentine’s Day or Love – whether it be for a child, parent, grandparent or friends.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Little Critter by Oceanhouse Media
In this classic story from Mercer Mayer it’s Valentine’s Day and Little Critter is excited as they are having a big Valentines Day party at school. This is a great storybook app for young children as it prepares them for all the Valentine’s day activities they will typically do in pre-school and early Elementary School. It features word highlighting as it is read, record yourself options and touchable words.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Little Critter!
by Oceanhouse Media
Price: $1.99 USD
*** Featured By Apple - Valentine's Day Fun for Kids *** *** Top 10 Book Apps - February 2015 *** *** 100 Noteworthy Apps From 2015 - Children's Technology Review *** "Looking for a solid app.
Elmo Loves YouPop up Storybook App by Story Toys.
Adorable Elmo and his Sesame Street pals are the stars in this pop -up storybook app. Elmo narrates the sweet simple story and explains that everyone has something they love. On each page Elmo gives examples such as birds love to make music, babies love to make noise and kids love toys. There are lots of fun interactions to find and familiar Sesame Street characters appear throughout the app. Read our full review here
iTunes Link: Elmo Loves You! – StoryToys Entertainment Limited
Elmo Loves You!
by StoryToys Entertainment Limited
Price: $2.99 USD
This is a storybook and early-learning reading app, which will help teach your child about love and friendship as you enjoy storytime together.
** Winner of The Appy Awards Best Book App **
I Love You Too – Ziggy Marley by Oceanhouse Media
This is Ziggy Marley’s first children’s book and is based on his 2009 song of the same name. It is about the power of love between a parent and child. It has bright colorful engaging illustrations by Ag Jatkowska and there is even an option to hear Ziggy sing the whole song.
Sing and play with Ziggy Marley as you explore his first children's book based off the song from his Grammy Award winning album "Family Time!" Explore pictures, learn new vocabulary, and personalize the.
I Love You All the Time by Cookie Bear Press
Delightful adaptation of the print book for young children and their families to read together, especially if family lives far away or children simply need reassurance that Mommy and Daddy will always love them no matter what they do. This simple bedtime story features rhyming verse with heartfelt sentiments and bright, simple colorful graphics. The app also has lots of hidden animations, a song and a record it yourself option. Read our full review
I Love You All The Time
by Cookie Bear Press, Inc.
Price: $1.99 USD
REVIEWS: "...should not be missing in your kids apps collection." topbestappsforkids.com
The light animation and digital enhancements are perfect for the toddler set. Highly Recommended!" www.
Will & Kate by Ink Robin
Will & Kate is about the real life fairytale romance between Prince William and HRH Kate Middeton, Duchess of Cambridge. It is told with hand drawn cartoons, interactive animations and lots of British humor. Sheep and corgis pop up a lot, and kids will have a lot of fun with this app from Ink Robin, and it is currently FREE
iTunes Link: Will & Kate – Ink Robin
Will & Kate
by Ink Robin
'Will and Kate is a charming, clever, witty and utterly gorgeous e-book. I want to read it over and over again forever ... This is truly one of the best e-books I've seen.' Kids Book Review
Draw With Hearts- Happy Valentine’s Day by L’Escapadou
Have fun creating your own Valentines Day pictures with this free app from L’Escapadou -the developers of the popular educational apps Word Wizard and Writing Wizard. You can turn your own photos into Valentine’s Day cards by adding animated pulsing hearts in different colors and sizes.
Draw with Hearts - Happy Valentine's Day !
Note: Screenshot feature does not work anymore in iOS6. So please use the following workaround: -Press the Home button (the main button below the screen) and Sleep button (on the top edge of the device.
My Little Pony: Hearts and Hooves Day by PlayDate Digital.
Little pony fans will enjoy this Valentines-themed storybook app. It is Hearts and Hooves Day in Ponyville – a day when ponies celebrate friendship and caring for one another. The fillies get carried away trying to find a special friend for their teacher Miss Cheerilee. Everything goes wrong but they manage to put it all right and learn a valuable lesson in the process and that Hearts and Hooves Day is really about friendship and caring for one another.
My Little Pony: Hearts and Hooves Day
by PlayDate Digital
Price: $2.99 USD
It's Hearts and Hooves Day, and all of Ponyville is celebrating friendship!
But that’s not enough for Scootaloo, Sweetie Belle, and Apple Bloom! They want to help their teacher, Miss Cheerilee.
Is the Witch in Love by Slim Cricket
The witch thinks she’s in love with the handsome and famous sorcerer Merlinor. She dreams of being invited to the big party that he throws every year for Halloween. Despite the advice of her faithful bat-friend, Batina, she decides to do everything she can to charm Merlinor: change her appearance, swap her old broomstick for a deluxe model and even learn good manners.
Is the Witch in Love?
Price: $2.99 USD
“Is the Witch in Love?” is a subtle blend of story, games and cartoons.
Discover --- or rediscover --- “The Witch with No Name” in a new interactive adventure full of emotion and magic.<.
Grandma loves bugs by Fairlady Media
Grandma Loves Bugs by Fairlady Media includes ten mini games including: spot the difference, magic coloring, letter match, bug spelling, counting fireflies, number groups, bug identification, feed the baby bird, bug matching and building a spider web. The app incorporates skills for children aged preschool through early elementary school who are learning while they are having fun!
Grandma Loves Bugs
by Fairlady Media
Price: $2.99 USD
Learn all about bugs with Grandma! This adventurous Grandma needs help identifying bugs, coloring butterflies, catching fireflies, spelling buggy words, matching letters on bees and flowers, building .
I love Mountains by Forest Giant
Mountains are AMAZING! Join Sloan Graham as she shares her love of mountains in her first book for the iPad. Inside you’ll explore and learn how mountains form and where some of the most impressive mountains are located. You’ll also learn a thing or two about the plants and wildlife that call mountains their home.
I Love Mountains
by Forest Giant, Inc.
Mountains are AMAZING! Join Sloan Graham as she shares her love of mountains in her first book for the iPad. Inside you'll explore and learn how mountains form and where some of the most impressive mountains.
Playful animated videos that teach the meaning of new words
What we’d love to see…
Words to be introduced in increasing levels of difficulty, spelling from left to right only, more explicit prompts to help teach how to blend sounds
An engaging and outstanding multi-game app that teaches children how to spell, read and learn new vocabulary words that are beyond their school levels
Wonster Words Learning by 77Sparx Studio recently had a major upgrade to give children a new learning and play experience while retaining the same fun and playful approach that appeals to children.
From just Word Families, the app now engages learners through Stories, Math, Science and, Art and Music to teach students phonics, spelling and vocabulary. While the Phonics Word Families and Stories teach students new words by spelling and sounding them out, words introduced in the Math, Science and, Art and Music sections are taught by sight.
Before your child begins to play, I would recommend you to switch to the option to learn words in lower case in the settings as upper case letters are the default (unless you prefer to use upper case). You can also opt to turn off the music background in the app.
There are currently 11 word families included in the app. Each word family introduces 8 words from the word family that are of mixed levels of difficulty. For example, the ‘at’ word family has the words splat, brat, rat, copycat, cat, flat, acrobat and bat instead of the usual simple CVC words like bat, cat, fat, hat, mat, pat, rat, sat and vat.
For each word, students are prompted to complete the word puzzle, from left to right, using the freely floating animated letters. But kids can also piece the word puzzle in random order. They can hear the associated phonic sound as they drag and drop each animated letters. Tapping on the letters in the word puzzle also produces the phonic sound. But once the animated letter is put in place in the word puzzle, the letter name is read out instead of the phonic sound. So kids get to learn both the letter name and sound.
After the word has been put together, a fun animated video clip featuring the Wonster characters is played to demonstrate the meaning of the word. For simpler words, a mini-game based on the word will start.
More words are introduced in the 11 original Wonster stories that revolve around popular children’s themes like birthdays, friendships, adventures, nature and space. Words relating to the theme of the story are taught following the sequence of the story. Word puzzles are also used here to reinforce the letter names and sounds. Again playful animations help define the meaning of each new word. What proved to be a hit with my youngest were the mini games that he was rewarded with as he built more words along the story path.
For this update, the developers added puzzles and mini-games covering Math & Logic, Science & Nature, and Art & Music from their award-winning Puzzingo app to further build students’ vocabulary. I think it is meaningful for children to learn new words in context when these are grouped according to themes.
Math & Logic Puzzles
Science & Nature Puzzles
Art & Music Puzzles
Wonster Words excels in a few important ways. The animation video used to demonstrate the meaning of words are very well done. I like that there are lots of humor and playfulness in the videos to engage young learners. Plus there are some memorable comments (like “It’s easier to unwrap than to giftwrap” and “Never give up on the things that are important to you” ). Another star feature is the inclusion of many fun mini games related to the vocabulary words to keep learners entertained and interested. There is never a dull moment.
While the word and puzzles are easy to play, the learning content is not preschool materials but chosen to stretch students beyond their years. The words taught are varied in theme and difficulty level. And there are 3 different ways in which children can learn new words – by word families, through stories and themed puzzles. It’s amazing how much new knowledge young children can absorb when given the right tool. They learn difficult words easily when the gameplay is designed at their interest level.
Access to the app’s huge amount of content is through a monthly subscription of $7.99 after a 7-day free trial. A one-time payment for the lifetime all-access Pro version is $54.99. So, start the trial with your child right away and decide which option is the most suitable for your family’s needs before the trial period is over. You may be surprised to see how much your child will be enjoying learning while playing with the app.
Cubelets Discovery Set by Modular Robotics is a great way to integrate fun, learning, STEAM, STEM learning along with coding and more! As a parent, when getting my kids things I try to think of not only the educational value of the item but I also like to think about usability. I tested Cubelets Discovery Set with my boys – and took a step back after opening the box to see what they would create. One of the best parts of Cubelets Discovery Set is that they are modular making putting them together even for the smaller of hands (preschool) easy using cause and effect. If I place the blocks this way they will work. One of my favorite new enhancements is the Bluetooth Hat which means we can customize our creation, without having to worry about where to place the Bluetooth block. Cubelets are designed for builders ages 4+. Read our original review.
What we love…
Cubelets Discovery Set is a fun, affordable modular robot which teaches cause and effect, coding, STEM and STEAM
What we’d love to see…
option for an extra Bluetooth hat (I was most afraid of losing this one)!
ubelets do more which makes them a tool that grows with your child!
Using the Cubelets Discovery Set, both my boys were able to build their first robot in less than five minutes after installing the Cubelets app on our iPad. Using the app, you can remotely control the robot and look at different robot building options using a fun new feature called Personality Swap which changes the behavior of a Cubelet with the touch of a button. As a mom, personality swap was great especially for my preschooler who built his creation and didn’t want to have to change it after building it. Cubelets snap together using magnets, which means no tough connectors. The blocks work collaboratively to do different actions and really encouraged my kids to explore and build a variety of different creations. My preschooler actually asked if we could make robots longer than the 25 minutes I allotted because he was having so much fun! That is a huge win in my book!
We loved the Cubelets Discovery Set overall, especially compared to the original set that we tried. My kids also made some Lego creations which we snapped on the Lego adapter and then brought power to! With my older son, I sat back and watched him create. He made a few fun creations and when they didn’t do exactly what he originally wanted them to, we tried moving around the blocks to show how each block had a cause and effect.
Cubelets Discovery Set can be used with or without a screen. Users learn programming and troubleshooting just by figuring out how to put the Cubelets together. Once they have made a creation you can open the app and start having more fun! The app uses Blockly or C with Cubelets within the app – which means that they are practicing a great skill that ties in STEM and STEAM. Last year, we tested Cubelets and did a robotics requirement with our local Cub Scout pack, seeing the engagement from the Cub Scouts was so fun especially when they were learning. Having your robot move, turn on it’s headlight and drive was so much fun and really satisfying.
In terms of enhancements, I wish that there were two Bluetooth “hats” included. When I played with Cubelets with both my boys – I was careful to make sure we didn’t misplace it. We loved Cubelets and it’s a gift I’m going to give over the holidays!
Overall, Cubelets Discovery Set is a fun addition to our technology tool suite. Seeing my kids engage with the robots and learn real world skills like coding, cause and effect and most of all fun was a great way to engage and spend time with them. Cubelets Discovery Set is a great addition for kids from age 4 and up – plus as they get bigger Cubelets do more which makes them a tool that grows with your child! It makes coding for kids and learning fun!
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