December 12, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Drawnimal, Miximal, and Loopimal: A Trio of Skill-Building Apps | Touch and Go

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We love apps that combine skill building and fun. In today’s post, Allison Tran reviews productions that manage to do just that—in five languages.

Three new apps from YATATOY invite opportunities for young children and their adults to engage in exploration, conversation, and play. Each app jumps right into the action with no obvious instruction, encouraging exploration and discovery. The interfaces are straightforward enough that the youngest users will catch on quickly. Each production also provides an information section aimed at adults, providing usage instructions, language options, and the developmental concepts behind the app design.

“N is for Narwhal” from Drawnimal (YATATOY )

Drawnimal  (Lucas Zanotto, iOS, $1.99; PreS-Gr 1)  combines technology and good old-fashioned illustration fun by inviting users to set the iPad on a piece of paper and draw a specific shape next to the device. Together with the image on the screen, their drawing forms an animal—one for each letter of the alphabet. This app provides an opportunity for young children to practice their fine motor skills, and for parents to engage in conversations with their children as they guess what animal they’re going to create. When they’ve completed the drawing, they press “play” and the creature’s face pops up. A narrator says the letter and animal (“M for mouse”), encouraging letter knowledge and vocabulary building.

Screen from Miximal (YATATOY )

Miximal (Lucas Zanotto, (iOS, $1.99; PreS-Gr 1) encourages users to play with phonics and expand their imaginations by providing pictures of animals (divided into three sections) to recombine to create an unending gallery of mixed-up critters; for example, kids can combine a koala’s head with a flamingo body and penguin feet.

Children swipe through various combinations and call up the name of their creations with the tap of a button. The animal’s head corresponds to the word’s first syllable, the body is the second syllable, and the feet are the third syllable, which the app’s narrator pronounces out loud as the child reads the letters on the screen (“KO-MIN-IN”).

Conversation opportunities abound at different levels of learning: the youngest users will have fun flipping through the animal combinations and identifying the real animals pictured, while older children can hone their skills with syllables and phonics.

Screen from Loopimal (YATATOY)

Loopimal (Lucas Zanotto, iOS, $3.99; PreS-Gr 3) is the most robust app of the three—the standout that will engage children and parents equally. Music lovers and kinesthetic learners won’t be able to resist. It incorporates concepts of rhythm and sequencing as users choreographs dance routines for bears, hippos, and sloths by sliding different colored blocks into place.

The app starts with one animal, but enthusiastic viewers will quickly find themselves creating dance-offs for up to four animals at a time, developing different music and movement sequences for each creature. Loopimal is addictive fun, a great way for children to learn about patterns and rhythm—and it’s almost impossible to use this app and without getting up and dancing along. A trailer is available.

With their colorful designs, appealing animal characters, and easy-to-use interfaces, these apps have much to offer parents and teachers seeking entertaining ways to engage young learners in important pre-literacy concepts. The language options in all include: English, Italian, Spanish, German, and French.—Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA


Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.

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