I’m looking for an app about… starting school

Every month, I link up with the brilliant children’s book blog Playing By the Book written by Zoe Toft. Zoe hosts a monthly thematic round-up of bloggers’ book reviews under the title “I’m Looking for a Book About…”  This month, it’s the turn of Going to School.  Do head over to Playing by the Book to check out the links to reviews of traditional books.

I was so pleased to see the theme for this month’s round-up. As Mr Tall starts Reception in September (aged nearly 5) and Little Miss Chatterbox starts preschool (aged nearly 3) at the same time, it’s the perfect time for us to explore these apps.

Topsy and Tim at schoolTopsy and Tim Start School
by Penguin Books

This app features the much-loved Topsy and Tim characters, created by Jean and Gareth Adamson. The main selling point of the app is the way it is personalised. Your child can create their own character to star in the story with Topsy and Tim. They can also (with adult help if needed) input the name of their school for the school gates.

The app takes your child through packing their bag, going to school, finding their coat hook, doing classroom activities, playing in the playground, having lunch, and going home. There are six games included – finding the right coat pegs, matching colours and shapes, jigsaws, sorting in size order, matching lunches to children, and copying actions to music. Each has an easy, medium and hard difficulty level. Mr Tall absolutely loves seeing himself in the story, and it has really supported his interest and excitement in going to school.

If I were to be picky, considering the price of the app, I would like to see it optimised for the iPad and for there to be more variety in the puzzles. For example, there is only one jigsaw for each difficulty level. However, the strength of the app is in the story and the personalisation, which will delight any child starting school in September.

Compatible with iPhone and iPod Touch (can be used on iPad but graphics not optimised). Available from http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/topsy-and-tim-start-school/id379900572?mt=8 priced at £2.99/$4.99 at time of writing.

Pre K screen shotHurray for Pre-K!
by Auryn Apps

This is a lovely non-fiction book by Ellen B. Senisi about going to preschool (pre-K in the USA). The text introduces simple preschool routines and activities, while reinforcing fifteen key words such as play, rest, pretend, feel, sing and help. There are many photos to familiarise children with preschool. The only animated elements are the highlighting of words when narrated, and tapping photos to hear and see key words. However, there is one great feature which really stands out – the ability to completely rewrite the text and re-record the narration. You can add in your child’s name, change pre-K to preschool or nursery, or tweak an element to suit your own preschool. We all clean up can become We all clean up when Mrs Smith rings the bell.  Both the original and new versions are stored, and it is very easy to make changes.

Compatible with iPad. Available from http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/auracle-hd-hurray-for-pre-k!/id453873860?mt=8 priced at £1.99/$2.99 at time of writing.

Spot Goes to SchoolSpot Goes to School
by Penguin Books

This is a bright and cheerful app featuring the very popular character of Spot. Although it is called Spot Goes to School, I would suggest it is more suitable for those going to preschool or playgroup. It is a very simple story with lots of dialogue, introducing the various activities Spot and his friends do on a typical day at (pre)school. The narration is activated by pressing the text and speech bubbles. There is also one short game, where the child helps Spot to tidy the interest table. Little Miss Chatterbox really enjoys lifting the virtual flaps on each page to find where Spot is hiding, as you do in the physical Spot books. On the down side, the story is quite short and the interactions are fairly limited. But this will not deter any young Spot fans who will really enjoy seeing their favourite character on the iPad.

Compatible with iPad. Available from  http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/spot-goes-to-school/id383904892?mt=8 priced at £1.99/$2.99 at time of writing.

First day of school countdownFirst Day of School Countdown
by Appracadabra

This is not a book, but a calendar game to help children count down the seven days of the week before they start school or preschool. (Apologies to those who have already started back!) It can be personalised for up to three children with their name, start date and photo. If you set it up more than seven days in advance, dots count down to the seven day marker. Then each day, you unlock a different character in the picture, with a short animation. On the day before school starts, there is a small puzzle to complete, and on the last day the animals all zoom off to school. The illustrations in the app are lovely, it has fun jazzy music, and I love the concept. On the other hand, it can be confusing to work out with no instructions, and it is a little light on content. It has led me to check out Appracadabra’s other two apps, on the strength of the fun vibe and Dutch illustrator Caroline Ellerbeck’s beautiful illustrations.

Compatible with iPhone and iPad. Available from http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/first-day-school-countdown/id540430603?mt=8 priced at £0.69/$0.99 at time of writing.

Do you have a  book app about starting school to recommend? I’d love to hear your suggestions below.