Bottom Line: Cute puzzle app for toddlers and preschoolers filled with giggle-inspiring absurdities, including a strawberry with glasses!
Trunky Puzzles is a colorful and entertaining iPad app developed by Upside Down Games for children approximately 2-6 years old. The free trial app gives access to three of the puzzles, with an in-app purchase of $1.99 providing access to all 27. (This review and rating is based on the full version, with all puzzles unlocked.)
There are three types of puzzles in this app: Scenes, character, and spelling puzzles. Each type of puzzle provides a different challenge and learning level.
Game play is simple: a piece appears inside a box in the upper-right corner and is dragged onto the puzzle. If dragged close enough to the correct place, it pops into place with a ding and occasional verbal reinforcement such as “woo-hoo!” and “super!” If the correct spot isn't found, the piece moves back to the box to try again. Getting the puzzle perfect on the first try earns three stars and a Trunky celebration with confetti flying out of his trunk!
Puzzles can be navigated in order or chosen individually from the main screen. In order to leave a puzzle, the red X button in the upper left-hand corner must held and slid down. This is a clever way to help prevent accidental exits by toddler fingers and is also useful in therapy.
Trunky's puzzles are full of possibilities for shared-language activities. My 4-year old daughter found the numerous absurdities hilarious. She giggled at the big strawberry with glasses, the fish cuckoo clock, the tree with a trumpet coming out of the branches, and the chocolate cupcake with a mustache. The laughs these induced were really infectious, and provided great discussion on why the pictures were so silly.
We also discussed Trunky’s position in each visual scene. For example, in Trunky’s home scene, he is in front of his house; in Singing Land, he's behind the snow-covered mountain peak. There were many opportunities to label vocabulary such as glasses, crown, mustache, helmet, and lunch box, and the spelling puzzles were also useful for object identification and early literacy awareness.
The music can be turned on or off on the main screen, and the pieces are presented in a random order each time the puzzle is played, helping to focus on visual discrimination skills even with repeated play. The letters are named when correctly placed in the word puzzles, helping with the kindergarten-readiness skill of letter naming, and the app works equally well as a shared adult/child experience or for individual exploration.
Some of the screens move too quickly, though, especially the spelling puzzles. After putting in the final letter of the second word, the game immediately continues, with no chance for the child to view the words again or any discussion with an adult to take place. After filling in the visual scenes and character puzzles, an animation begins immediately (normally a piece dancing around and off the screen), and there is no way to remain on the completed screen for further discussion.
While most of the puzzles were engaging and silly, the Singing Land scene, including a very well-endowed, opera-singing cartoon and a keg-carrying St. Bernard, were questioned by my daughter and are inappropriate for the targeted age group.
The app is best suited to toddler and preschool ages. I don't believe six-year olds and up will find it engaging more than a few times. If you have a child in the targeted age group, utilize the free trial to determine if it is something your child will enjoy as one of each type of puzzle is provided for free. If they enjoy the trial, the full version presents a good value for fine motor practice, early literacy skills, vocabulary development, and giggles.
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This review was completed by Heather Hetler, who works as an elementary school SLP and is a full-time graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.