Bottom Line: a refreshingly simple app to teach colors. It's a bit silly but likely to catch the eye of tots and stands a good chance of actually teaching the skill.
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With preschool learning apps continually upping the ante by going from 6-in-1 to 12-in-1 to everything your child needs to know to get accepted at Harvard, it was a pleasant surprise to see developer CJ Educations join forces with Blue Apple Books and recognize sometimes less can be more. What Color is Bear's Underwear is an interactive ebook based on an original book by Todd H. Doodler (best name for an illustrator ever) that does does one thing - teach colors - and does it well.
The book introduces colors, color words and the days of the week through the guise of helping a teddy bear put on the correct underwear. The poor teddy is shaped a bit like Sponge Bob, but he has a great deal of charm. He blushes when his bath towel is flapped up, and gamely wears underwear on his head. The silliness is part of the attraction. The app actually grew on me with successive runs through the weekly dressing and associated activities.
Kids have a choice of Read to Me or Autoplay with the difference being underwear must be searched for in read to me mode. The colored undies may be in the refrigerator or the shower so lots of tapping and sliding is required to find them. Along the way the bear makes googly eyes, plays a bit of soccer and eats cereal. The narration is an enthusiastic child's voice that is offset by a suitably peppy soundtrack. Each setting has animations and things for youngsters to discover.
Monday introduces all seven colors addressed in this app. Children can try out bear's undies by tapping different colors on a xylophone across Bear's chest of drawers. When tapped the color is identified, a note plays and bear does a quick changeroo. Tuesday has a shower curtain that plays a piano scale when swiped aside. There's also an exploding toy chest full of undies and plenty of fun sound effects.
One thing I like about the narration is the lockout of interactive elements until the reading is finished. This feature makes a lot of sense in books for the youngest children. They can listen without all the distractions. Also, the language used is very age appropriate. The focus is on distinguishing colors so the text is centered around making this happen in a hands-on way. The color names are printed in a large font of the actual color so children can make the proper connection. Words are highlighted as they are read or sung to support early literacy.
The nicely designed pull down menu has several options. There are individual buttons which turn music and narration on and off. A thumbnail index makes it easy to jump pages, and there's a - you guessed it - coloring activity. What would be considered tired in most apps works here because what better way to reinforce colors than in a child's own pretty picture.
An added bonus, and the highlight of the app, is Bear's music video. It's an MTV worthy production and really rather catchy. Bear is one hip guy and he may give Psy a run for his money come Grammy time. It plays with a pause button and progress bar similar to a YouTube video.
The only drawback I see in the app is the plethora of links to social media, iTunes and external websites. Some are fairly well disguised under the info button, but there is also a slide out menu full of large, colorful eye-popping graphics from the developers' other offerings. Some of these are companion apps to this one, but this sort of advertising is clearly a no no in an app geared toward toddlers. Another issue is the content under the ? found on the top right of the screen. It contains tips which inexplicably are written predominantly in Korean.
I appreciate the straightforward presentation of a limited number of preschool skills seen in this app. Bear is a good teacher and CJ Educations just may be onto something with their approach. The price tag may cause a bit of sticker shock given the limited focus though.
Jill Goodman's hair color could best be described as fifty shades of gray at the moment as she needs a session with a good colorist. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.