Winter has well and truly arrived in our part of the world with a good dose of snow this weekend. We’ve been having snowball fights, making snowmen and generally enjoying our wintry garden. Then, coming inside to warm up, we’ve been using Hippo Seasons to play with virtual snow instead.
This app has been in regular use in our house for a few months, and I thought it would be a great time to review it. Not only because of the snowy weather, but also because Burns Night is coming up this week, and like me this app hails from Scotland.
Hippo Seasons is the sort of app I really like – one which promotes open-ended play. The developers, Hippotrix, say their aim is “to develop original apps for children that stimulate learning and self-expression through exploratory play,” and I think they really have met that challenge with their first release.
At first glance, it is a very simple idea. You blow or turn a windmill around to pick a season. Each has its own screen showing a garden in that season. In spring, you can plant flowers; in summer, mow the lawn; in autumn, play in the leaves; and in winter, roll and stamp in the snow. It is up to you what you do - just swipe, tap and play however you choose. Tap on the paving stones to make different sounds. When you have finished, just shake the iPad and it will return to the beginning using great effects such as a spring shower or summer storm.
So far, so simple, but I love this app because you can use it to sneak in some learning while you play. You can make patterns, shapes, letters and numbers on the grass, talk about the seasons, colours, and sounds. As your child grows, the way you use it can adapt to grow with them, so this app has a really long lifespan. From 18 months to 2, you can just explore and play, then start to introduce shapes and patterns, and now aged 5 Mr Tall can use it to trace letters and numbers.
Mr T – I just want to make a HUGE snowball. Sorry, but I’m using up all the snow.
Little Miss C (wails) – But you need to share some with ME.
[I watch warily, ready to leap in heroically and save the iPad]
Mr T – *sigh* OK, you can use all the rest, I’m making footprints.
And you can use it for testing their memory. Today I asked Mr Tall, who was playing on the summer screen, ”What happens if we shake it?” He hadn’t played with summer for a while, but answered “A storm, that makes the grass grow.”
There are a couple of improvements I would like to see. Autumn is definitely the season we spend the least time with and playing in the leaves needs something extra to give it a bit more oomph. It is also sometimes difficult for my children to get the shaking action right to reset the screen.
Overall Hippo Seasons is colourful and fun, and you definitely get as much out of the app as you put in. I would recommend it to share with your child, whatever the season!
Hippo Seasons, developed by Hippotrix, compatible with iPad. Available from https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/hippo-seasons/id545284962?mt=8 priced at £1.99/$2.99 at time of writing.