Bottom line: If you want your kids to understand Christmas as something more than Santa and presents, then the depth and quality of this app make it worth considering for children ages 7 to 12. Download the free game for sure.
If you would like to download Children's Bible Games & Activities for your Kids and School (Free with $2.99 in-app purchase, iPad/iPhone), please support the mission of Smart Apps for Kids and use our link:
I'm not a follower of organized religion but I had a religious upbringing. The aspect of it I enjoyed the most was reading the Bible, so I was pleased when developer Barcelona Multimedia asked me to review Children's Bible Games & Activities for your Kids and School. One of my 'A' levels was in Biblical Studies, and I still remember writing essays on the passages in Genesis which, according to the Graf-Wellhausen source hypothesis, were from the J source (which presents an anthropomorphic view of God). Thankfully, this app is much more accessible and dare I say fun.
The app is free to download and has three modules planned for both the New and Old Testament. Only one module, Birth of Jesus, is currently available, however. Whilst on the main page, parents and teachers should make sure they check out the information section on the top-right as it contains a guide to using the app as well as contact and other information on the developer, if needed. In addition, there is a Settings area on the top-left in which you can restore in-app purchases, clear results and start a new game, free up memory space on your device and select the language. Options other than English are French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Catalan.
The Birth of Jesus module contains a set of 11 games, one of which can be played for free. The additional 10 games can be accessed via an in-app purchase of $2.99. The name of the module, Birth of Jesus, is something of a misnomer as it covers the period starting with the Annunciation (an angel appears to Mary informing her that she is pregnant with God's child) and continues through Jesus' childhood and early ministry, finishing with the Sermon on the Mount. The subjects of the 11 games are:
- Annunciation of the Birth
- Birth of Jesus
- Visit of the Wise Men
- Childhood of Jesus
- Baptism of Jesus
- Temptations of Jesus
- Call of the disciples
- Wedding at Cana
- The Beatitudes
- Love Your Enemy
- The Prayer
As you can see, now is the perfect time of year to use these 'Birth of Jesus' games with your children as either a complement to planned Bible studies or as part of daily devotional exercises. You could use them to reflect upon Jesus' birth and then with Epiphany coming up on January 6th to think over what the visit of the Wise Men might portend. However, before discussing any further how the app may be used, let me describe it for you a little more.
Each of the 11 games contains three sections:
- The first section is a cartoon depiction of the biblical story covered by that game. So, for example, in the game covering the Visit of the Wise Men there is a comic strip showing not just the Magi visiting Jesus after his birth but also their audience with Herod on their way to Bethlehem, the massacre of the innocents and the escape of Jesus, Joseph and Mary to Egypt. In addition to the comic strip, there are three phrases shown that your child has to match to the appropriate frame in the cartoon. If they drag and drop the phrase onto the correct spot, it becomes paper-clipped to the page. If your child guesses incorrectly then one of the three little oil lamps at the top left hand side of the screen goes out.
- After the comic there is a visual comprehension challenge. Your child is presented with 3 art works and asked to match a phrase from the biblical story to one of the three pictures. This isn't always as straightforward as it sounds. For example, the paintings shown in the game for the Wedding at Cana all show groups of people eating together. Your child has to examine the art works carefully and find the clues which will help him identify the correct picture.
The third section presents a different activity with three levels of difficulty for each bible story. The activities are not your usual or garden variety colouring or puzzles games but instead include unique challenges like: put the books from the Bible in the correct order; identify the people being addressed in a quote from the story; identify which individuals in a group of characters shown are biblical prophets; match the disciples' names to their picture using logic; and place randomized pictures from the story in the correct order.
There are a few recommendations I have for the developer to consider. I've listed these in detail because I'm hoping they will incorporate some or all of them as they publish additional modules in this series.
- A parent/teacher section on the main page of the app that can be accessed via password or a long press and hold. Currently, in both the bottom left and bottom right side of the main screen there are direct links to download other apps from the App Store. Also, there is an information section at the top right which includes useful content for parents but includes direct access to email, the App Store, Facebook and Twitter.
- The name of the app makes it clear that the developer envisages it could be used in an educational setting. Whether it's in a home school, religious school or a religious education class, in my experience all teachers want apps to be silent. I would therefore recommend that the developer add a mute option to settings so that the music can be turned off if desired.
- I would offer more than just one game for free. I think the price-point is reasonable, but for most potential buyers there isn't sufficient content in one game to convince them to make a $2.99 purchase.
- When your child first taps on one of the games' activity screens they will see a pop up explanation of what they need to do. However, unless a new game is started this pop up won't appear again. I think the pop up is a useful reminder, especially if the activities aren't all completed at the same sitting. The developer could include in settings an option for the parent or teacher to turn this off if they don't feel their child needs to see the pop up more than once.
- A lot of the art works used in the visual comprehension section are medieval or renaissance paintings. I'd love to see the developer use art other than paintings (like sculpture for example) and to include some more modern representations of biblical events as well. With respect to the paintings shown, after the child has matched the phrase to the correct picture I would like if they could tap on each picture to find out at least the artist and the painting's title.
- Some of the questions posed or words used by the games can't be answered without additional biblical knowledge - the activities focused on the prophets and married couples in the Bible for example. A link to relevant Biblical passages or at least a reference to the book and chapter where the answer could be found should be included.
As indicated above, I outlined all these recommendations for improvement because I hope they are taken into consideration during the development of future modules. However, I do still think the app as it stands merits a recommendation. Aesthetically the app is very good - both in terms of the artwork in the comics and the background music used. I love the focus on comprehension within the app - it's clear that the developer wants to help build a strong foundation of understanding concerning what these stories are actually about.
The inclusion of works of art in the app is inspired, not only in terms of visual comprehension but because it's such a useful springboard into discussions about how biblical texts can be and have been interpreted over the ages. The variety of activities used within each game will help keep children engaged as they go through it. I also like the games because they not only reinforce or test comprehension, but also make it so easy for parents and teachers to use them as links to other contextual information. As to price, I think the additional content is worth $2.99 but I'm going to keep an eye on where the developer goes next in terms of pricing for the other modules as $3 a pop is going to turn into a large outlay for six modules in total.
Deanne Shoyer occasionally dreams of the peace and solitude of a nunnery. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.