Bottom Line: This book has a lot of potential. It's worth a look for parents of toddlers and preschoolers, but a number of things need to be fixed in an update before it can live up to that potential and be fully enjoyed.
If you would like to purchase Luca Lashes has his First Swimming Lesson ($1.99 iPad/iPhone) please use Smart Apps for Kids' handy link:
This story for ages 0-4 is one of a number of book apps that we have reviewed as a series. I wrote this review of Luca Lashes has his First Swimming Lesson based on my first impressions of the app and then checked back to see what my fellow reviewers thought of the other instalments in the series. It seems we have similar impressions both in terms of the things we liked and the things we felt needed some work.
The apps, by Luca Lashes LLC and Flying Word, have the potential to be must-downloads for parents of toddlers and preschoolers but various (mostly technical) issues need to be resolved first. I gather that additional Luca apps are planned - I fervently hope that the developer takes these recommendations into account for future apps and overhauls the current ones in an update.
Let's start with what I like about this book:
- The character of Luca is adorable. He's little boy, who faces new experiences with some trepidation, but overcomes his qualms and ensures the experience is a success. Luca has a way of tapping into his self-confidence by blinking his eyelashes. He believes that his eyelashes are magical and that blinking them gives him courage. I love the idea of him finding inner strength by being self-reliant and he's learning a valuable life-long skill.
- The illustrations are hand-drawn and a key component of Luca's appeal.
- The narrator does an excellent job - she's energetic without being too perky and is a good fit for the material.
- I like the 3D and tilt effect - it doesn't feel gimmicky or detract from the story, it adds a nice depth.
- The interactivity is nicely done - mostly cause and effect which is perfect for the app's target age range and there's not too much packed onto the page which I like. An app with too many interactive components can end up being far too busy and the interactive elements detract from the story.
- The Parents guide at the end of the book is a great idea.
There are a number of things that are problematic however, as I mentioned previously:
- The text is too small to read, even on the largest setting.
- The app uses autoplay, so the pages move forward automatically once the text has been read. The pages turn far too quickly however - it's impossible to absorb the material, let alone play with the interactive elements on the page. There is a pause button, but this negates the whole advantage of autoplay which is hands-free enjoyment of the app. My recommendation would be to let children move the pages forward at their own pace.
- If your child leaves the app part way through, when you open the app again it starts from the beginning. It should open at the page that the child was last reading.
- All book apps, in my view, should have a page guide.
- The sound effects used are often stock ones, like Luca's laughter, and sometimes seem a little weird, like the mural on the wall at the swimming pool. The voices when they are recorded specifically for the app don't sound as if they were recorded in a studio.
- The parents' guide states that a flotation device should always be worn by a child when in or near water, and yet Luca doesn't wear one in the pool.
The items I've listed above are ones that I really believe need to be remedied in an update. There are additional recommendations that aren't must-haves but I would like to see the developer consider:
- A resource section for children in addition to the parents' guide. There are fun ways that you can help children learn how to deal with and process anxiety. I envisage a really nice feature - each of the Luca books could teach a different strategy for children to practice and use when they feel anxious. They could copy Luca doing breathing exercises for example.
- The parents' guide in this app discusses mostly water safety issues. I might have made this section even stronger given that most children drown within sight of an adult and that people generally don't recognize when someone is drowning. However, what I felt is really missing from the parents' guide is help in dealing with the issue that the Luca books were ostensibly written to address - how to help children handle first experiences. I'd like to see more practical tips here, particularly with respect to how children can be helped if they are scared and anxious and don't have the capacity to blink their fears away.
Deanne Shoyer is the mother to twin boys on the autism spectrum, blogs at smallbutkindamighty.com, has two history degrees and looks a lot less hip than her avatar. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.