Bottom Line: The foundation is there for a really good sorting/motor skills app, but it needs a few tweaks.
Oolly is a new app by Progressive Education designed for toddlers and preschoolers (ages 2 ½ and up) to practice fine motor skills, vocabulary, and sorting.
Opening this app introduces you to Oolly, a cute lion-unicorn-dragon. At this time, there is only one Ooly game available to play, but it appears that four more will be coming soon because they are very prominently (and unnecessarily) displayed on the title screen.
The top screen has buttons for Help, About, and Music. The music is nice, but I certainly appreciate the option to turn it off. Unfortunately, this turns off all sound in the entire game. Separating music controls from other audio would be ideal, so the child can still hear vocabulary named even with music off.
Also unfortunate: With just a tap of the Facebook and Twitter buttons, a child will quickly be connected to the Oolly social media pages, clearly well before Facebook’s 13-year-old policy allows. Making these connections a little more difficult to access would be better for an app directed at preschoolers. Currently, they are prominently featured on the Home screen and the section selection screen.
The Help screen demonstrates how to use the pinch and drag motion in this app. This movement is great for developing fine motor and pre-writing skills, but did take me a few tries to figure out, especially on smaller items. My preschooler tried the app on her own one morning, but later reported it was too hard so she stopped. It only took a simple demonstration for her to figure it out, so play this one with your preschooler the first time to make sure the movement is understood. It also may make the game less accessible to children with special needs—an option to switch to a simple tap-and-drag would be a welcome addition.
Outside, your child will sort paper and plastic into recycling containers. This is a nice addition to teach good environmental responsibility along with the vocabulary. Envelopes, newspapers, and notebooks are sorted into a blue bin, and various bottles and plastic cups go into a green bin. One of the plastic items was a plastic bag, however, the kind that can’t be recycled except in special collection bins. The total vocabulary was more limited outside, but it was nice to see a kids’ app integrate some age-appropriate environmental education.
In the kitchen, items are sorted between food (refrigerator) and kitchenware (cabinet). There are food choices from all food groups, including banana, chicken, milk, and ice cream, and kitchenware including a wooden spoon, baking pan, and blender. A few of the named words were not ideal: the whisk is called a “manual blender,” and silverware/flatware was referred to as “cutlery,” not a term we use in everyday language with kids.
The sorting is different in the bathroom—instead of sorting into two groups, the items are put in the appropriate location. The soap is placed near the sink, the toothbrush and toothpaste in a cup, and a rubber duck in the bathtub. I was thankful for Oolly’s help in the bathroom, as sometimes I did have trouble figuring out where an item should go, such as when I tried over and over to put the shampoo in the bathtub area before Oolly pointed to the cabinet. In the bathroom, there are only 10 items total, no matter how many times you play the game. However, they are still presented in random order, keeping it somewhat new each time.
While playing in each room, the graphics provide even more opportunity for language expansion. In the kitchen, eggs are cooking on the stove along with a steaming pot of soup, and the oven door opens and shuts. In the bedroom, a pair of shoes walks around, a fairy flies off of a picture, and a truck also drives around frequently. These are not interactive, but still provide a nice addition.
Oolly points out where an object goes if it is not quickly moved to the appropriate location, but no verbal prompts are given. This level of cueing is perfect for me, both in therapy and when I play with my daughter. I can insert dialogue without being constantly interrupted or turning off the sound. (Question: “Who will wash the dirty dishes in the sink?” Answer: “Daddy!”) There is no need to pause this game, as Oolly doesn’t get overly impatient if it takes some time to move each object.
In additon to being a good intro to sorting, the app is also useful in speech-language therapy with kindergarten students with language delays. However, some preschoolers in the 4-5 year old range may find the app less challenging and would benefit from more customization to the sorting, such as sorting into three groups, or sorting by size or another descriptive feature.
Oolly has a great price ($0.99) for a fun game. The app has some issues that restrict its rating, but the fine motor pinch and vocabulary development are unique to this app and a nice addition to my app library.
There are also four languages available (English, German, French, and Spanish), with the option to change them in the Settings section of the iPad, rather than the app itself.
If you would like to download Oolly please use the links provided. Thanks for your support!
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.