Bottom Line: Soothing, highly polished toddler/early preschool app which includes four simple early learning exercises.
Flutter-by Butterflies is the first app from the creative team at Fee Fi Fo Fun who are responsible for the popular preschool website of the same name. This universal app is designed by mums and dads that just happen to be artists, writers and designers for Pink Floyd, Cirque du Soleil and Blue Man Group. It's an eclectic group of talent headlined by illustrator Alan Aldridge aka "The Man With Kaleidoscope Eyes." Aldridge is perhaps best known for his work with The Beatles, but he also designed album covers for Elton John and The Who. If you have been to Hard Rock Cafe, you are familiar with his work as he created the logo.
Butterflies is as simple and straightforward an app as one will find. It is appropriate for the very youngest iOS users. The look is bright and cheerful with lots of primary colors and simple line drawings of grassy hills, a tree and four flowers. Each flower represents a game children can choose.
Matching colors starts things off. Children slide a fluttering butterfly from the tree onto the same colored flower. As the butterfly is tapped, its color is said aloud. The flowers also speak their names when tapped so the child learns the name of the color while demonstrating the ability to match. If correct, players receive positive reinforcement like "you made a match." Incorrect attempts get a gentle "not that one" reminder and the butterfly flies back to the tree for another try.
The letter matching games work the same way. One game has lowercase letters and the second has matching uppercase letters to their lowercase companion. Much of what makes this app special is virtually unnoticeable. If kids dilly dally, a soft chime plays to redirect their focus. Play advances without tapping a next arrow and stops after ten matches. Counting also comes into play as five bees count off and fly into the tree following each match. The bee count also serves as a scorekeeper because fewer bees fly in if an incorrect match is made. The child controls all facets of game play and is able to learn at his or her own pace.
The rhyming words match up is the most challenging of the four games. While the color and letters match are suitable for 18 months to age three, the word game is really for ages four to six. In it kids hear a cvc three-letter word spoken and they have to slide it onto a flower containing a word which rhymes. All words are said aloud so true reading is not required to succeed. I do think going from letter identification straight into phonics may be a bit of a leap developmentally. It seems a phonemic awareness game that concentrated on initial word sounds would be the logical next step.
All the exercises are super simple and might lead parents to ask "What's the big deal?" The answer may involve the focus on experiential art and learning which is a hallmark of all of FFFF's offerings. Their aim is to make fine art accessible to youngsters. Already this app has received NAEYC approval and the Parents Television Council's Seal of Approval. It has a certain less is more quality that really works. The soundtrack is soft and animations are simple. Touching the sun makes it briefly shine brighter. There is just enough pizzaz to keep a toddlers' interest without being distracting. The biggest surprise is actually accessed only on the home menu where tapping the cloud makes it rain jelly beans and cats and dogs. Limiting access like that is just one of the many well thought out little details FFFF have incorporated into this app.
My own kids are closer to teenagers than toddlers, but I appreciate the attention to detail and effortless learning seen in this app. The credits page contained in the app lists over a dozen names involved in its creation. All should be commended for putting together something worthy of their impressive artistic pedigrees.
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This review was written by Jill Goodman, who is a big fan of Cirque, Pink Floyd and Blue Man Group and finds it remarkable that the illustrator for the Beatles has a Victoria's Secret supermodel daughter. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.