Wednesday, August 12, 2015

App Review - ABCMouse

If you've read any of my previous posts about kids and technology, you'll know that I am a staunch supporter of using it as a learning tool. Technology is not to be feared and banned, but rather to be utilized in a child's development. It's with that thinking that I decided to introduce a new feature on my site - app reviews. There are a ton of apps out there for children and some are pretty lousy. It's my hope that by in pointing out some of the better ones, you're better prepared to let technology help your children learn and for parents to become less hesitant to utilize it. Technology isn't going anywhere, and our kids are going to grow up around tech we couldn't have dreamed of when we were children. So, with that I present my first App Review - ABCMouse.

ABCMouse is a website/mobile app that my wife stumbled across while looking into apps for our son. My son isn't exactly 2 years old yet (the recommended age range is 2-6 for ABCMouse) but I wanted to investigate the site for this post and Jack has shown he can handle things above his age range. ABCMouse is a subscription based website that costs $7.95 per month. That's a pretty steep price for a subscription to a website, so I really wanted to see if what was on offer actually warranted the price point. After making an account, you set up a parent user and then a child user. There are plenty of features in place to customize your child's avatar, what their teacher will look like, what kinds of classroom pets they will have, etc. It's a pretty exhaustive intro and when you're done, your child will most likely be foaming at the mouth to start clicking away, I know mine was. So after making an account we started clicking away at the first set of activities presented.

The classroom view with activities

The first thing you do is set up your child's learning plan. The learning plan will place the child in
their proper age bracket, with my son being in the "Toddler Time" bracket. The learning plan is set up almost in the same way that an Angry Birds game is set up with levels the child will progress through. Each step in the learning plan has a set of activities which include songs, cutouts, puzzles, and other such activities that are helpful for a child just learning his alphabet and numbers. I was even surprised to see some books available that had to do with emotions, something my wife and I have been on the lookout for. There is a nice array of selections for the child to do, and parental involvement with printing and helping color will even further the enjoyment of the app. As your child ages, new brackets are available to transition into which will have age appropriate activities for your child as they grow.

If your child doesn't seem to be taking to the learning plan's structure at first, that's OK, you can access everything available via the map. There is a zoo that you can virtually walk around in and experience, a farm, and even a classroom. Jack loved going to the zoo, someplace we take him frequently, and he had a blast having the animals make sounds while he repeated them. There is also a currency meta-game that gives out coupons for activities completed. With these coupons, the child can buy things to supplement their ever expanding pet arsenal. Jack has a goldfish and a hamster in the app, but with his collection of tickets growing, I'm sure he'll be able to purchase some more animals in the future. It's a nice little touch to give kids a reason to want to keep going that extra mile to be rewarded. As a video game fan myself, I know that achievements in gaming can be quite addictive, and ABCMouse harnesses that perfectly with the coupon system.

The map of activities on
There is a lot being offered on this site and one problem my son had was that he wanted to experience it all. This can be chalked up to him being under the recommended age level though, but it's something worth looking into if you child seems to frantically click around. Since we're not using it as a structured learning tool just yet, but rather as an experience, that's OK by us. But you may want to give a little bit of extra parental supervision when it comes time to structure the learning plan. Thankfully, ABCMouse has a number of parent only features that will help with this. The parents only section allows you to set time limits, change your child's age level, and monitor progress throughout the app. It's awesome to see that you can monitor your child's problematic areas to help them focus on things that might help them when they are in school. I can honestly see this being a huge benefit to children in school.

ABCMouse is a fully featured app that offers a one stop shop for activities for your child. The monthly price tag may be a bit of a shock to some people with so much for free online, but the staggering amount of content available, the potential of this app growing along with your child, and the healthy use of technology puts it above many other apps out there. With Educational Advisors on staff and an ever changing list of features, it's easy to recommend this for people who want supplemental material for their children. The website is one place you can access this, or you can download the app on any AppStore to play on your tablet device. Give it a look and see if it's something you could see your child enjoying and if so, subscribe for a month or two. If it sticks, you have a winner on your hands. If not, no biggie, move on to the other apps. I will continue to review apps in the future and you'll have others you'll be able to choose from. In the meantime though, I think Jack is going to try and steal my iPad again to feed his fish and play some alphabet songs.

Thank you to ABCMouse for allowing my son and I to review your site/app.

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