Bottom line: a narrated preschool storybook /activity center combo with some cute animal friends sharing in the fun and learning of pre-math skills.
If you would like to purchase Jungle Picnic for your tiny tot ($.99 iPad only), please support smartappsforkids.com and use our handy link:
Bipedal giraffes are becoming something of a common site in apps. Jungle Picnic has Ralph, his upright zebra friend Alice and a silly monkey named Charlie as its stars. Developer Shiny Things has merged a simple story with games which address some of the most common preschool skills. It's a concept that works well with this age group that has a limited attention span and need for high interest, motivating activities.
Kids have a choice of two options for using the app. They can enjoy the story which features word by word narrated highlighting or go straight to the games. The story uses very simple language and is a good selection for beginning literacy. Many kids recognize animal names quite early from flash card apps so much of it they may be able to recognize even if they haven't really begun reading. Words are individually spoken when tapped, so this gives kids even more support for independent reading. The narration is British so pronunciation of zebra has a short e rather than the American zeebra.
The story line is of course going on a picnic. It's a good choice for sequencing or recall activities since everything proceeds in a logical fashion. Get the food and pack the basket, serve the food and then eat. Along the way kids get a chance to help out by collecting fruit, sorting items to go in the basket, and feeding the animals based on foods pictured in thought bubbles above their heads. The items needed changed each time through the app so there is replay value. Also, stickers are earned upon completion of an exercise.
Unlike many preschool puzzle / sort games, these activities gradually add a second variable. For instance, apples may be red or green so kids must discriminate between items and colors. It's a very basic introduction to logic games that is perfect to stretch eager little minds. Finding all the bananas is fairly easy even for a two year old but gathering all the yellow foods which include bananas and Swiss cheese is definitely a challenge for the target age range of 2-4 years old.
Although the games are relatively simple, they address several key skills which promote number sense needed for math and do a good job of just getting kids this age to follow directions rather than randomly tapping and swiping. A Parents section, nicely passcode locked, does a good job of highlighting the developmental benefits of the app. Chief among these fundamental skills are matching by color, shape and theme; sorting by color and shape; and one-to-one correspondence.
Visually, the app is quite appealing. Everything is bold with high contrast colors. The zebra and giraffe look very friendly and they along with the monkey do a good job of encouraging reader participation. The pace and animation are lively enough to hold the often limited attention of busy tots. There is music and some jungle type screeching sounds which keep the mood lively. I especially like the sound effects when the animals eat. A setting to mute the music might be desired by some parents, however as it does wear on you after multiple times through.
One thing I appreciate about this app besides the very reasonable price is that the activities match the story. Many kids' book apps have interactivity that only marginally relates to the plot. Here the games make the reader a part of the story so he feels as if he is on the picnic with his animal friends. If parents are lucky, it may even inspire a child to help out by clearing the table or doing some other chore. A healthy allowance and unseemly begging don't seem to work when dinner time rolls around in my house.
Jill Goodman has hand fed giraffes and a zebra, both of which require lots of hand sanitizer when through. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.