Bottom line: cute, fun early learning app with lots to do in one place. Thanks to clear directions and an easy-to-use interface, little kids can feel "big" when they use the app with zero help from parents. Substantial content is available for FREE.
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Okay, I admit it. I often choose books from the library based solely on whether or not they have good cover art and catchy titles. So I was a bit put off by the unimaginative title of Preschool Fun, the first offering from Luzac Media. I'm happy to report that a) I was completely wrong, and b) I hope we see more from this developer soon.
Preschool Fun isn't just for preschoolers. My kindergartener loved it, too, and found plenty to entertain herself. The home screen features nine activities, ranging from balloon-popping to music composition to a scary spider whose only purpose seems to be to jump out and scare the user (I wasn't too crazy about that part). Kids can spell their names, trace their letters and numbers, color a picture, work a puzzle or two, or write a song. When they're tired of that, they can help a hungry caterpillar find lunch or work their way through the alphabet and its 26 fun activities. It took ME a long time to get bored with this app, and my daughter played with it for well over an hour the first time. She's since been back for several repeat play sessions, and still hasn't exhausted everything the app has to offer.
I'm not a fan of in-app purchases, but I found this one to be well worth the $2.99 price. And the good news is that, if you add a review in iTunes, Luzac Media will send you a code to unlock the full version for free. Details can be found in the iTunes description. I recommend searching on "Luzac Media," as "Preschool Fun" pulls up a ton of unrelated stuff you have to wade through in order to get to the right app.
As the mom of a five-year-old who gets bored easily, I like that some of the concepts here are introduced just briefly enough to make my daughter hungry for more. For instance, the letter Q offers an analog clock that moves in 15-minute increments (hence Q for "quarter" – get it?). A digital clock in the bottom right corner matches the time shown on the clock face. My daughter is just beginning to learn to tell time, and she loved watching the hands move and the digital numbers change to match. But the activity is really only a small part of the larger alphabet lesson, and isn't designed to do much more than whet the child's appetite. That's exactly what it did for my daughter – about the time she was ready to know more about this time-telling business, she discovered she had exhausted the app's capabilities in that area. That prompted her to come to me with additional questions about telling time, and led us into an extended teachable moment on the subject – one I probably would never have gotten her attention for on my own.
The graphics are great – very age-appropriate and simple, but with a lot of attention to detail. The black cat that accompanies the letter L is worth the price of admission, as are the changeable moustache and nose that illustrate the letter M.
The music section was also a big hit with my little app tester. She loved being able to compose her own musical masterpiece and play it back in one of five different instrument sounds (including choral voices). Your little Mozart can use only quarter notes, which is something of a drawback, but there's also a quarter rest available, which was a new musical concept for my daughter. There are also five pre-composed pieces available for playback, and this was also a popular feature at my house. My daughter didn't seem to notice, but I was a bit bugged that two of the five are "Ode to Joy," although the second time the tune is, for reasons that remain unclear to me, labeled "Clair de Lune." This is a pretty basic error that really should have been caught and fixed before the app was released. Beethoven would not be pleased.
As much as I enjoyed this app, there is room for improvement. A couple of the alphabet activities don't seem to work as they should, and I was unable to determine if this was poor programming or operator error. Is the "G for golf" activity supposed to do something besides allow the little golfer to swing at the ball? I'm not sure, which means I don't know if the problem is with me or the app. And the wigwam that accompanies the letter W is inexplicably labeled a "wigman." I don't know what that is, but it sounds like it involves a bad toupee.
I love a good British accent, but the voice that accompanies the activities is robotic and completely lacking in inflection. Something that sounds a bit more like a person would have been good. It doles out praise for a job well done, but it's a little hard to take seriously when the praise is "That's. Fantastic."
This has quickly become one of my daughter's favorite apps, and we can't wait to see more from Luzac Media. Ellie gives it two thumbs up and I give it four stars.
Emilie Davis is a writer, mom and closet classical music fan. She is terrified of spiders. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.