Unless you live in a cave — and even some caves have decent Wi-Fi — your kids will very likely get hooked on video games. Just accept the fact that your phone and tablet will never, ever be smudge-free again. Here are a few new apps to educate, entertain and occupy the wee ones in your family. I’m calling these “back-to-school apps,” but they could just as easily be called “prep-for-school” or just “not-annoying-or-violent” apps.
And unless noted, none of these include in-app purchases, and all are ad-free. Also, not a single SpongeBob. Apps tested by me and and my expert panel of one 4-and-a-half-year-old.
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COOKIE MONSTER’S CHALLENGE
This deliciously fun app is the first mobile team-up between kiddie powerhouses PBS Kids and Sesame Street. It launches just in time for Sesame Street’s 45th (!) season, which premiers September 15 on PBS Kids (check your local listings).
While the graphics and interface are clean and simple (as they should be), don’t be fooled into thinking this is a simple — or short — activity. In fact it’s pretty elaborate. Epic, even. There are 10 mini games that focus on skills vital to the pre-k crowd – like memory, following directions and self control. There are 9 levels, each one ever-so-slightly more challenging to keep your little ones on their adorable toes. The final payoff is a Rube Goldberg-esque cookie-making contraption that requires completion of all 9 levels for Cookie Monster to finally get his cookies. I’m not sure how he survives the anticipation!
But Cookie keeps his composure, as did my son… completing each level, finishing each piece of the cookie machine, and feeling pretty darn excited with each accomplishment.
C is for cookie, but we give Cookie Monster’s Challenge an A.
Preview / buy on iTunes • Ages 3-5 • iPad only • $2.99
Like most of the world, I was first introduced to the work of Evan Spiridellis (the designer half of the humor site, JibJab) through the still-hilarious lampoon of the 2004 presidential election, “This Land.” In 2011, he and brother Gregg launched StoryBots, an awesome online land of apps, videos, books and activities for kids (and parents). As a longtime fan, I was downright giddy Evan agreed to a DDQ&A!
Q&A with designer dad Evan Spiridellis
Tell me briefly about your design/illustration career.
My brother and I started JibJab back in 1999. Early on we supported the studio by doing service work for clients like Disney, Scholastic, Kraft and Sony — but the goal was always to build a new kind of entertainment company. So we would take on enough client work to pay the rent and our team, then we would turn down commercial projects until the coffers ran dangerously low. Nowadays, JibJab supports itself by selling our products directly to our audience without commercial interference. We much prefer this approach 🙂 READ FULL ARTICLE >>
We’re currently trudging towards the epic milestone of bowel autonomy. JJ had one rapturous success, got derailed (understandably so) by our trip to Italy, and has yet to regain his commode momentum. We’ve employed several potty training tools, which so far have produced squat in the way of results. But I thought I’d share them with you since I think they’re fun. And who knows — hopefully they’ll work for someone else in the same, um… poodicament*.
DC Super Friends in POTTY TIME POWER!
This book is all kinds of awesome — each page features a different DC superhero explaining some aspect of potty training (Superman blows away a giant stack of diapers! Plastic Man shows how much toilet paper is the right amount! Flash warns to give yourself enough time to get to the can!) Many of the pages have flaps for your child to reveal more fun and action, and there are 2 full pages of stickers! The book is nice and thick and well-laminated to avoid any bathroom mishaps or accidental drops in the tub/sink/commode. ($8.99 on Amazon)
And oh yeah, my man Aquaman gives a lesson (kind of) on the importance of washing up afterwards!
So far the book hasn’t “worked,” but its repeated use has helped JJ’s spelling. And the fact that it’s chock full o’ heroes makes it a wee bit more bearable for me to read over and over and over.
READ FULL ARTICLE >>
JJ and I spent part of a rainy, Sunday afternoon in one our favorite places — snuggled up together transfixed by the soft glow of my iPad. I try not to expose him to it for too long in one sitting (especially when playing games) and never let him have it alone. I know how hard it is for ME to put it down, so I get how traumatic it is for a toddler to have his fix suddenly cut off. I also try to make every experience just the tiniest bit educational. Sometimes it’s miniscule.
Followed by greatest hits from “The Wizard of Oz”:
“Follow The Yellow Brick Road”
“A Munchkin Welcome” (Lullaby League/Lollipop Guild)
“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
A little Wonder Woman tutorial:
Theme song (he’s heard it before, but it’s not memorized like Spider-Man or Batman. Gonna take a little extra work.)
How to spin (JJ had been swinging around a dog toy all day pretending it was Wonder Woman’s “wope” so I figured I’d show him how to spin like her, then watch him get dizzy and laugh. Like I said, it was raining—we were bored.)
Super Friends: Hawaiian Ice Mystery interactive book/game
This is a relatively new interactive story book from the DC Super Friends line of characters that heavily features my main man, Aquaman! You can go through the story with narration or without, and even record your own voice to tell the story! There are also several activities to choose from including coloring pages, puzzles and a Colorforms-type sticker page. $4.99, ages 4+ (JJ’s not yet 3 but it’s still keeps him busy and entertained. And oh yeah, educated)
Designer Daddy’s Facebook page recently reached its 200th “Like” milestone, so a big shout out to Todd P., Claudia H., and Tom S. (#s 198, 199, and 200, respectively)!
And to you and all the other Likers, posters, commenters, forwarders, followers, retweeters, sharers and readers, I send you a heartfelt…
I’ll admit that as a good liberal/progressive, I’ve signed my share of online petitions over the years. But I’ve grown a bit weary as they come at you so hard and fast through every online avenue imaginable. And often with horrendous spelling.
However, I did come across two petitions from Change.org (one of the more reputable sources of online petitioning) that definitely hit home. They relate to Design and Daddyhood, respectively, so I’m setting up the soapbox here at the blog today.
The first is in response to reports of extremely unhealthy immoral conditions at Chinese factories producing Apple products such as the iPad and iPhone. I had initially heard about it on The Daily Show (the juicy part starts at around the 1:50 mark):
These atrocities have also been reported on by This American Life and CBS News. Why does this example of Chinese inhumanity bug me more than others? Because Apple has always touted itself as being different: mindful of the human condition, a friend of the misunderstood genius, and above all a responsible business. I won’t go into all the ways I’ve loved Apple over the years (you can read that here). But suffice it say that I — like any lifelong Mac user, as well as the legion of newcomers to the fold — have come to expect more.
Here’s the blurb I wrote to accompany my signature:
I’ve been using Apple products exclusively since 1990. All my computers, iPod, iPad, iPhone, even AppleTV. When Steve Jobs passed, I was heartbroken. His vision has inspired and motivated me my entire professional life. This is a blight on his memory and goes against everything Apple has ever stood for. Please remedy this immediately or risk losing your reason for existing — your loyal Mac Users.
Read more about the petition, as well as sign, comment and share by clicking the graphic below:
The second petition relates to the long, ongoing battle regarding same-sex marriage, specifically in my state of Maryland. A couple of times we’ve gotten close to becoming the 8th state/district to grant equal marriage rights to all its citizens, but alas have fallen short. The issue has been brought up again by our wonderfully supportive governor, Martin O’Malley, but it’s still going to be a long, arduous process. I implore you (especially you fellow Marylanders) to not only sign this petition, comment, and share it all over Facebook and Twitter, but to contact your local representative to voice your support for my family and many, many others like it who are second-class citizens in this particular area.
Comment posted with my signature:
My partner and I have been together for almost 15 years; more than half of that we’ve lived in Maryland; we’ve been fathers of a beautiful boy for the last 2 years. Please do all you can to help ensure our family gets all of the same rights and protections as every other citizen of this wonderful state!
Read more about this petition and sign, comment and share by clicking the graphic below:
Thanks for your time and support. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…
I’ve spent 15 years gently pushing the Apple Agenda and iLiving by example, and it’s finally bore fruit… Papa has seen the light and purchased his first Mac! STEVE BE PRAISED!
I can’t believe another year has zoomed past, and with that a toddler that’s learned to zoom quite a bit on his own! To recap, here are a few of JJ’s favorite things from 2011…
Thanks for following along on my little Advent project! It’s been a fun (though sometimes stressful) exercise in flexing my creative muscles. These daily doodles have also surprised me in that they caused me to reflect on various aspects of the Holidays I’ve either come to take for granted or failed to notice at all.
But I’m done reflecting and exercising and doodling for now. I’m taking a blogfast for today, and pushing the off button on my laptop to make a concentrated effort to be present and engaged with JJ, Papa, Cordi, Grandma & Grandpa, Uncle Baby and Amy, Uncle Bryan and Tio Danny. I encourage you to do the same and unplug whatever regularly distracts you from real life and the real folks around you.
But be sure and come back and post a comment on how it went. 🙂
Again, thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!
On the 4th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
FOUR TWEETING BIRDS! Because SRSLY, who calls anymore?