Bottom Line: Another amazing app from Marco Polo Learning, offering young children the opportunity to explore and change weather. It’s a great example of how kids can play and explore and still learn about weather and its changes. Play with nine different weather types, changing temperature, wind and sun levels, while interacting with cute animal characters.
What's free: Five weather types and all interactive elements.
What's not free: Four extreme weather additions.
When Cynthia reviewed MarcoPolo Ocean, she made it a Top Pick, proclaiming it a great app for vocabulary and understanding the ocean. MarcoPolo Weather continues this trend, providing a fun experience for kids to learn about and explore weather.
There are four fun characters to interact with in this app. Scout is a little bear with big ears, Willow is a pink rabbit with big hair, Gorbie is a hippo (I had to read the parent guide to figure that out — he’s orange and looks like a monster) and Nash is a ram (though I never saw Nash on my screen; he’s just listed in the parent guide). Each character has a personality to discover, according to the parent guide, and they definitely all have food preferences.
It’s easy to pull the desired character up to the main play space. In fact, all of the controls in this app are intuitive and great for kids. Put a character on the scene and then modify the environment to see what happens. Change the temperature to see them sweat or shiver, then change the clothing to help the little animals be more comfortable.
Tap the sun at the top of the screen to change the weather. There are four weather options available for free, with the rest requiring an in-app purchase to use, for nine in all. The weather ranges from typical (sun, rain, clouds) to extreme (a tornado and hurricane that run until the weather is switched).
The temperature can also be changed, by moving the slide from cold (blue) to hot (red). The temperature can be switched between Fahrenheit and Celsius, too. I also liked how the weather and temperature have to be in sync — if it’s 90 and the child selects snow, the temperature will change to one that fits with that weather range. I also learned that hurricane can’t be selected with temperatures at 30 degrees F or below. Go from 30 to 40 degrees F and the weather changes from snow to rain, too.
In addition to the temperature and weather, there are four wind speeds to explore. The heavy wind speed will blow everything on the play space away. The sky also changes from day to night. All four of these areas are operated independently, but their interdependent is connection clear, too.
There’s continued fun with the bottom toolbar of interactive elements. Each character has three different clothing sets available at a time, which change depending on the weather and temperature selected. When the clothing choice doesn’t match the weather or temperature, the animal makes little sounds of dismay to indicate a change would be good, but play continues regardless.
Each character also has three food choices available, but doesn’t always want to eat them and will often refuse. There are also flowers to plant and various other playthings, including a tent, pinwheel, picnic basket, snowman, igloo, kite, umbrella and snowball. These interactive elements change depending on the selected weather, which is a fun way for kids to learn.
Along with the free exploration play, the app shares small facts throughout play, such as “hurricanes revolve counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere, and clockwise in the southern hemisphere,” or “There are seven colors in the rainbow. They are always in the same order.”
The type of weather is always narrated when selected, as is the wind speed and a general rating of temperature (very hot, warm, very cold, etc.). However, the items selected are never named, nor are the characters. Given that each character has a name and personality, it would be great to hear a little about each one. There are also other animals moving across the landscape, like an owl, a raccoon and a cute little hedgehog (or is it a porcupine?). The other interactive elements are also not named. I would like to see the app name this vocabulary, or at least available as an option to name.
I also was expecting more explanation about clothing type. Perhaps many children will correctly infer why Scout is sweating when wearing a winter coat in 80 degree weather. However, based on my interactions with kids at my school, they don’t always figure that out on their own! Inclusion of some explanation would be great.
However, these narrations are things I automatically include when using apps with kids. For independent play, it’s missing, but as parents and teachers use it with young children, they can include this additional vocabulary and reasoning support.
Though I think it could use more narration, it’s designed as an app to explore with play, and it certainly does that very well. The parent section includes the option to set the app in six different languages, as well as turn off the voice-over and sound effects independent of each other. There’s also a great section explaining the game play philosophy and how to extend the app into other activities.
Overall, MarcoPolo Weather is a great way for kids to enjoy exploration of different weather and how it influences the world around us. It’s made for kids 5 and under, but kids from about 3-7 years old will likely enjoy the free play and opportunities to learn a few facts about different weather types.
Heather H's son missed the memo that 55 degree temperatures require a jacket.