Bottom Line: A variety of fun, easy-to-use games to help preschoolers expand their familiarity with basic shapes by finding examples in everyday objects in the world around them. Best enjoyed if kids already know their shapes.
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GazziliShapes from GazziliWorld, LLC is designed to teach preschoolers all about shapes. It goes beyond a simple quiz on the name of shapes and helps youngsters examine how shapes fit into our world using a series of interactive activities.
There are six games to play in this app featuring different members of the Gazzili Bunch, and they must be unlocked in order. The shapes to find are listed on the bottom left of each screen. When the game is completed, the shapes are reinforced with name and visual, along with the spoken number and written numeral.
The first game features Kenji ordering a pizza. The user taps the square window, the rectangle panes in the door, the circle pepperoni, the rectangle green peppers, and the triangle pizza slices to complete the level. This first game does not require discrimination between circle and rectangle on the pizza. Later games require the user to find a particular shape. In the Cookies game, the user helps Mimi make shape cookies by tapping the desired shape on the cookie pan.
My favorite games are those which present different shapes each time. In the Circus game, the user gives Tyler different shapes to juggle. One game might require two triangles, one square, and two circles, while the next asks for one triangle, two circles, and one square. This allows for continued learning without relying on memorization, and keeps kids more engaged. Several of the games do not vary in subsequent play, however. The final game involves Purple the friendly monster building a rocket ship with shapes found and placed by the user. The shapes are always placed in the same place. The pizza game and scuba diving also stay the same.
Each completed game earns a new shape in the Gazzili Fun Page to complete a picture. However, there isn't much fun on the page after that. These shapes, which turn into kites, a hot air balloon, and other things that fly, are not interactive. They don't do anything interesting, and the shapes aren't even named. No additional shapes are ever added, even with continued play of the games. A more interactive Fun Page would be a good addition.
While this app does a great job of helping preschoolers to see shapes in the world around them, it isn't the best choice for a child who doesn't yet know shapes. The shapes are only named in audio instructions and in the summary at the end. Surprisingly, they are not consistently named when each shape is found.
The characters do teach about shapes in each game, though the user has to tap the character first. Purple said, "A pentagon is a shape with five straight sides and five corners. A special building in Washington, D.C. is shaped like a pentagon!" However, the shape discussed by the characters is not highlighted visually at the same time. This makes it difficult to draw a connection.
It also does not teach through wrong answers. If a child taps an unneeded shape in the bead necklace game, it beeps and the shape is returned to the table. A more useful response might state, "That's a circle. Try again. A triangle has three corners," while highlighting a triangle shape. The shapes do at least move or glow if the child takes too long to tap.
The app has some important settings, allowing the user to turn the sound, music, and instructions off, as well as turning off the ability to post to Twitter. There is also a setting to make it accessible for the hearing impaired. This turns on words for all of the audio information, including all words from the narrator giving directions. The Menu button at the top of every screen, however, provides easy access to Twitter, Facebook, and email in the Share area. Only Twitter can be turned off in settings. The bottom of the Games page also has links to the app store, but this area does include some parental safeguards. In order to access, parents must type in the numbers spelled out. This is a good feature—the share section should be included here.
The game was difficult to use in therapy because there is no pause button. The game times out with inactivity and returns the user to the Home screen. Stopping to talk about a shape or teach a concept was not possible within each game. In spite of these weaknesses, this app is my 5-year-old daughter's current favorite. It's relational and fun for her. Preschoolers can reinforce shape knowledge, expand on knowledge of shapes in the environment, and solve simple puzzles.
Heather Hetler can find all sorts of shapes on her desk, and next will be teaching her children and speech therapy students about shapes as they find three rectangles (envelopes), one circle (speaker), one square (mousepad), and lots of junk. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.