Images and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Toca Boca.
Oh my goodness. It’s been over a year since there was a children’s app review on design mom, but I’ve got a really good one for you today. It’s new. It came out last week and it’s called Toca Nature. It was developed by the team at Toca Boca, a Swedish-based development company that makes fantastic apps for kids.
There are no points to earn in Toca Nature. No high score to beat. There are no berries to buy, or any in-app purchases at all. The app is about building and exploring. You can go macro and see the whole “world”, turning it around and around to see different habitats and perspectives. Run your finger through that forest and you can create a river. Or a mountain! Or a forest!!
Or, you can zoom in to the details at dirt level. You can make a place for plants and mushrooms. See the animals grazing. Create a place for fish to swim. The app is designed to encourage kids to think about how different aspects of the environment connect and interact.
Instead of a competitive framework, think of this game like playing with Legos. You’re not using bricks, but you’re “building” a little world. You can work slowly and carefully if you’d like. You can change things if your first plan doesn’t work out the way you expected.
Probably my favorite part is the colors. The little world in Toca Nature is beautiful! Muted, comforting, calming colors instead of the usual intense options offered on kids apps. It’s really lovely to look at.
After asking for recommendations for apps to review, I received a plethora of tweets and emails asking me to please review TinyBop’s freshly launched app, The Human Body. I’d seen the buzz and was super curious what everyone was so excited about. Since my son is a little young to explore the app, we invited a friend’s four-year-old to explore it with us and give us his uncensored feedback. Ha!
From my perspective, the app itself is beautiful. It’s easy to navigate, well-designed, and well constructed. It’s not blatantly obvious how to interact with the app, but the poking and prodding around makes for an interesting and wonderful discovery. There’s a surprise sound (guts gurgle) or subtle interaction at every turn. (The sound effects are really amazing and add to the whole experience of exploring the different body systems.) If you have a child that learns better by just getting in there, asking questions, and poking around, this app could be a great way to create a deeper understanding and fascination with the body and its systems. Our little friend enjoyed the app and especially loved the sounds the body makes as you explore different systems. We would definitely recommend The Human Body for all kids.
The app crashed a couple of times but I’m sure that’s only from small bugs the team is busy remedying. The app is recommended for age 4+ and available for iPhone and iPad only at the moment. (I apologize to all those that have asked for app recommendations not only on iPhone, but on Android and other devices. If you have any favorite apps for Android, I’d love to hear. It’s been hard to find them!)
P.S. — We’ve reviewed lots of other apps, too. You can see them all here. If you have a favorite app you’d like to see reviewed, let us know.
Peekaboo Forest is a beautiful discovery and narrative app based around the illustrations of Charley Harper. Children explore various forest scenes and discover new animals along the way.
It’s a quieter app—it’s not flashy or fast-paced—but it’s engaging enough for a small child to stay interested for more than a couple minutes. I also love that it teaches animal sounds and names along the way.
I’m excited to share another educational animal app that I just love. It’s called Peek-A-Zoo. There’s also Peek-A-Zoo UnderWater app, which my son loves just as much. And the creators just announced a new version, Peek-A-Zoo Train, that will be available on June 14th.
First, I love the sense of humor and quirkiness behind the illustrations in this app. I also really like the app’s melody upon opening and the children’s voices that announce the name of each animal when you tap on them. I’ve been surprised at how quickly my one and half year old has picked up on the names and sounds of the new animals he’s encountered in the app. It’s really fun to watch! It’s easy for him to navigate all by himself, too. This would be especially fun to download before a big trip to the zoo or aquarium.
You can buy the app here. It’s available for iPhone and iPad only. Recommended for ages 6 months-3 years.
Drawnimal is an app for your little artist. This is how it works: Place your iPhone on a sheet of paper or any surface you can draw on, draw around the phone, press play to call up the animal, and tap the screen for a little surprise. The experience is surprisingly delightful. I love an app that spurs creativity and Drawnimal definitely does that.
What are your favorite children’s apps right now? Do your kids play with Drawnimal already?
P.S. — We feature favorite apps for children regularly. You can see what we’ve featured so far here.
Fiete is an illustrated, interactive book for children ages 1-3. You follow a friendly sailor type through a miscellany of games. Various tasks like, putting swiss cheese on toast, dropping apples in a basket, or loading cargo onto a ship take a little bit of coordination to master, but even a baby as young as a year could have fun moving the objects around.
The background music is darling and subtle, which becomes extra important after the app has been open awhile. : ) We loved this beautiful app and highly recommend it for a long flight or a lazy Saturday morning. Available for iPhone and iPad only. You can buy it here.
My husband and I are huge Christoph Niemann fans (as I’m sure so many of you are!) and just heard that he has a new app for children and adults called Petting Zoo. It’s an interactive book with illustrations of 21 animals. When you swipe or tap each animal, it reacts in a surprising way. What would an elephant in the bathroom do? Can a dog breakdance? I can’t wait to play with this. It’s right up my alley. The app is available for iPhones and iPads.
Do you have any favorite apps or digital pictures books you love? Which ones do your children love the most? I haven’t been able to find many I’ve liked for my 18-month old son, but we love Wee Alphas, Timbuktu, and Where’s Puppy. We also let our son draw on the iPad using the app Paper. It’s so cool!
Oh my goodness. How completely adorable is this Paper Town Friends app? Dress-up for your iPhone! It’s my new favorite thing. There are six characters to choose from and over 180 items of clothing — all cut from tiny pieces of paper. The viking hat. The skull tee. The monkey. Too cute for words!
Would you — or your kids — love playing with this more?
My name is Gabrielle Blair. I'm a designer and mother of six. After 2 1/2 years in France, we bought a home in Oakland, California. We call it The Treehouse. I post on where design and motherhood intersect.
The Design Mom Book made the New York Times Bestseller list! The book is filled with tips and strategies for making your home beautiful, comfortable, functional and kid-friendly — a place where both you and your kids will thrive. I hope you're enjoying it. Thank you for the lovely Amazon reviews! I appreciate them so much.