Bottom Line: A storytelling app for the younger set that uses virtual stickers to create scenes and record and narrate animations. Cute, colorful and easy to use without adult direction. A great app for open play and creativity. FREE in Australia and $1.99 everywhere else.
Art Maker, an Australian app produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, features characters and narration from a long-running children’s program, Playschool. The app is aimed at children 2-6 and includes a great deal that can be used as free play by toddlers and as a learning/teaching tool for preschool-aged children.
The app has six open-ended backgrounds (beach, farm, moon, bedroom, kitchen, underwater) and 16 plain paper colored backgrounds. There’s also the option to use your own photos. Children can create scenes with the characters and decorate them with various arts and craft pieces. The picture can be saved to your photo album.
Now to the part that I love – children can click the video button and move the characters around while narrating the scene. The app records the movement and narration, creating an animated story that can be saved within the app. The balls bounce, the dollies wander across the screen, the teapot falls off the table onto Big Ted’s head, all at the whim of her finger. My three-year-old is particularly good at this, and I love watching the imagination of my tot at play.
The app is a great tool for storytelling and sequencing in lower primary children. How many of us have listened to a never-ending child-told story that has no climax and meanders along forever? The story slideshow section is a powerful tool for teaching story construction - children must take those animated scenes and put them in order to create a storytelling sequence. This is a great parent/teacher-driven activity to teach sequencing as an extension of the open-ended creation opportunities that this app provides.
The music is sweet and not intrusive, the characters are bright and cheerful, and there are verbal instructions and encouragement to help the little creator navigate his/her way around the app. I also particularly like the fact that a lot of the decorations and furniture have been constructed from craft materials (the tractor is a cardboard box with spool wheels and a button steering wheel). A few of them explode into simple puzzles when selected for use that must be put back together before they can be used in a scene.
There is an option to view episodes of Playschool through the app, but this is only available to Australian users (which is a great shame, as Playschool is a wonderfully high-quality children’s program – it’s been around since I was a kid).
There are hours and hours of open-ended play and creation available in this app.
My main criticisms are that, although they are saved within the app, there is currently no option to export the animations and story slideshows at all, to send to grandparents, etc. There is also no way to import your own photos or drawings to use as characters, backdrop, etc. It's also available only for the iPad.
Art Maker is comparable to Toontastic and Puppet Pals, which are essentially variations on the same create-a-video theme. Those two apps offer a lot of the same functionality for free, but they are crammed full of in-app purchase offers. Preschoolers and toddlers (and their parents and teachers) will definitely prefer the simplicity of Art Maker.
If you would like to download Playschool Art Maker ($1.99 for iPad) please support Smart Apps for Kids by using this link button:
Eleanor Holland is a stay-at-home Mom who was a primary school music teacher for many years, has a Master's in Philosophy and is a part-time opera singer.