Bottom Line: A basic but somewhat effective multilingual counting tool for Apple’s youngest customers.
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Simple Learning 123 is an iPhone-only app by Four Corner Learning, a new wife/teacher husband/engineer development team. It is designed to teach counting to young toddlers using sight, sound and touch.
When the app is opened birds start chirping until English, Spanish or French is selected. There is also a discreet i for information icon. The info is actually quite helpful in explaining the skills the app is designed to teach and should be included at least in part in the app store description. In addition to learning rote counting to 12, the app helps pre-schoolers recognize numbers and develop an understanding that each number represents a quantity of objects. A video welcome from Angela, the developer is also accessed from this screen.
Once launched, a peppy voice announces, “Let’s get counting,” and a number between 1 and 12 appears on screen. The child then “counts” up to that number by touching items such as dolphins, frogs, hermit crabs, rockets, or stars. Once touched the object animates with sound and motion. The actions are very cute without having a cringe-inducing Barney factor that might annoy parents or siblings. Dolphins make their chirp sound and spin when touched, while frogs croak and appear to jump off the screen. Each object changes when activated so the child knows to touch another. Objects can be touched in any order and the count will keep up with even the fastest fingers. The objects are all sufficiently gender neutral and have universal appeal to toddlers.
One surprise I had when playing Simple Learning 123 is that number order is random. I would have expected learning to count to start at one. There is no option to order numbers or limit counting to smaller numbers to start. The object associated with each number also rotates each time through and that's positive. Not tying frogs to three or rockets to six helps children generalize the skill.
The availability of three languages gives the app a wider market and a longer shelf life for users. Once counting in a child’s native language is mastered, adding a second language is quite fun and likely a necessity for Generation Z.The French and Spanish modules work the same way as English. The voices sound like native speakers as opposed to me and my Southern drawl trying to communicate in a non-English language.
There are two significant issues, however, that should be addressed in future updates. First, when a count off is completed the bottom right corner of the screen folds back. In book apps this is the universal sign to turn the page. In this app it takes one back to the launch screen. I made the mistake as did my son. Advancing to the next number simply requires tapping anywhere on the screen. Toddlers may find this easier but with so many book apps aimed at pre-schoolers, it may cause confusion. A simple home icon similar to the info icon on the home screen would alleviate any confusion.
Second, the app doesn't display numbers when it counts. Next to or on each item, the number should appear to reinforce the visual connection between counting and the numbers themselves.
Overall, worth a look as a first counting app.
No purple dinosaurs were harmed in the writing of this review by Jill Goodman. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.