Bottom line: A good edu-tainment app for toddlers/preschoolers which helps reinforce beginning learning skills. Lots of variety and a great self-directed activity.
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Preschool Funtime, a universal app by Underground Systems LLC is designed specifically for preschoolers and aimed at independent learning/reinforcement for beginning skills and concepts.
There are nine puzzle types which address different skill areas - drag and drop, pick the biggest or smallest, pick the correct object, pick the correct colored object, count the objects, count the correct amount, pick the numbers sequentially, starts with the letter, and memory/matching game. Each game flows into the next and it seems to be randomly generated so that there is the potential for unlimited play and good variety so the user doesn't lose interest too quickly.
It is designed to be used by younger children without needing parental aid - the voice instructions are clear and concise and there is verbal encouragement and redirection when the player chooses the incorrect answer. After several activities there is a reward screen where the player can have a bit of fun with building blocks before moving on.
Looking at the activities included, a lot of fundamental concepts are covered here; basic counting skills; shape, color, item and letter recognition; biggest and smallest. The items introduced in one activity are then integrated into others and used in different ways which requires some higher order processing.
Some of the instructions are worded in a way that is not the everyday way of asking that question - such as 'tap only three of these'. I really like this as children need to be exposed to different ways of being asked similar questions for skill generalization.
The counting activities have a voiceover that counts with the child when the item is tapped. This is great for little learners as it's reinforcing counting skills. The shapes which are used in the activities include not only the simpler ones such as squares, circles and stars, but also some more advanced ones like pentagons and hexagons. I really appreciate these being included as an introduction to these shapes.
There are a couple of details that could be added - the activity 'Which starts with the letter _' would benefit from more specific verbal prompts if the child chooses the incorrect answer. For example, if the letter to be chosen is L (for lion) and the child chooses the monkey, a verbal redirection of 'monkey starts with the letter M, try another one' is more useful than a simple 'try again'. I also found that I would sigh each time the 'Match the shapes' memory activity popped up as the eight card choices were too many for my Little Miss Short Attention Span 3-year old and she'd lose interest and turn the app off. An option in the settings to reduce the number of cards would remedy this.
The background scenes change regularly, are non-gender specific, and have elementary cartoon-style graphics so they are not distracting to the user. This is not an app with lots of bells and whistles, but very clear and definite objectives so if you have a little one who tends to get distracted and off task when there are several choices/objects to touch and interact with then this is a good app for them. It lacks energy though and I can't put my finger on why. I don't know whether I've been brainwashed to expect a nimble somersaulting character to interact with in these sorts of apps, but even though the pacing is good, it lacks zing. The somewhat methodical pacing and emphasis on basic skills does make it a viable choice for special needs children however.
I'm going to insert a note here that this app has had an update from when I first started using it and some of my dot points that I had jotted down for this review as 'needing work' have been addressed. I am suitably impressed as this means that the developers are listening to their public. I did experience technical issues with voice instructions on my iPad, but the developer was very quick to respond and to look into this for me and the issue was not replicated on two other SAFKer's devices.
There are no links to social media and no in-app purchases. The only button that will take the user away from the app and into the app store to add a review has been unobtrusively embedded in the ? button. This is really thoughtfully done and is one of the items that was recently updated. There is the ability to turn on/off the music and the sound effects, and a parents section which records the time that it takes for the user to complete each activity type. This info can then be used to discern the areas your child might be having difficulties with.
It's not quite as sophisticated graphically or as entertaining as some others out there, but as good solid edu-tainment with lots of variety, Preschool Funtime is an app that's worth considering.
Eleanor Holland is a stay-at-home mum with a Masters degree in Philosophy. She still struggles to put a coherent sentence together at times though and blames this on baby brain. She wonders whether she will still get away with blaming this condition on the kids when they are teenagers. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.