The snow is falling, holiday decorations are going up and people are discussing holiday plans for both December and January. Whether your clan plans to stay in Beijing or do a bit of traveling, I’ve dug up a variety of educational holiday apps for kids of all ages along with a couple of links to bags full of more.
Somehow I have made it thus far in life without ever seeing the Nutcracker. I’m not sure how that happened, but the developers at Mouse King Media produced a beautiful solution with the Nutcracker Musical Storybook. The story is elegantly illustrated by Yoko Tanaka to enhance Tchaikovsky’s symphony orchestral pieces. There are also hidden sounds for young fingers to find on screen. The first time Reina and I read the story, she kept saying, “Wow!” and “Cool!” and, “Baba, Clara must be dreaming.” This holiday classic can be narrated by a parent or a young reader, and includes a “movie mode” if you don’t want to turn the pages, however there is no narrated version as of yet. Reina and I were particularly enchanted by Tanaka’s illustrations for the Waltz of the Flowers. The app is available on iTunes, Android Market, and Amazon for $2.99. Recommended for all ages, especially those who like music.
App developer Auryn delivers another winner with the storybook Winter Is, written by Ann Dixon and Illustrated by Mindy Dwyer. This delightful story is narrated by a boy anxious for winter so that he and his family can shovel snow, skate on the ice, watch the wonders of the northern lights, bounce along a trail on a dogsled, and much, much more. Though he lives in a place with more snow than Beijing will receive in a decade, we can share his infectious enthusiasm as we in Beijing look forward to skating on Hohai and making a snowman or two of our own with the kids. This fun winter tale is on sale for $0.99 at iTunes until the end of the month and is recommended for kids ages 4-8.
Young children (ages 2-5) will delight in the tale of Peterkin Meets a Star by Emilie Boon. Developed by PicPocket Books, the story conjured up memories of Harold and the Purple Crayon as Peterkin seems to be a kindred spirit in his investigation of his world and his need to set things right when he realizes he’s done something wrong to a star in the sky. The snowy landscape, interactive sounds, and the narrator’s soothing voice, make this a great bedtime story during these long winter nights. Peterkin Meets a Star is available in HD on iTunes for $2.99.
My Black Dog Books recently released Violet’s 12 Days of Christmas featuring hand-drawn illustrations by award winning artist, Allison Keeme. This is the latest holiday app in the acclaimed Violet series after last year’s Violet’s the Night Before Christmas. It is difficult to classify Violet’s 12 Days of Christmas as simply a storybook app or as an interactive educational app. If pressed, I’d say Violet is in a category of her own this time as she stars in a theatrical rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas in the guise of a storybook app. It is whimsical, light-hearted, full of interactive surprises and in a word, fun. Little hands and parental fingers alike enjoyed searching out the hidden gems in all 12 of the stage settings in this unique app offering. Violet’s 12 Days of Christmas, along with her other six titles from My Black Dog Books, is available exclusively at iTunes for $2.99 and is rated for ages 4 and up.
What winter is complete without a snow globe or two? See Here Studios managed to bring snow globes to the iPad, in 3D no less, with their release of Snow Globes by Valerie Mih. Each snow globe is preceded by the narrator’s description of the “miniature story” contained within along with a hint about where to find the interactive bits. Even the falling snow can be captured by little fingers and moved about the screen. Alas, I haven’t located a pair of 3D glasses yet, so we had to content ourselves in the standard 2D mode. Snow Globes is on iTunes for $2.99 and is suitable for ages 4 and up.
For the older kids in the family comes the story of Urki, Beyond the Forest. Produced by PixelMoon, this book/graphic novel follows the adventures of Urki, a little troll struggling to come to grips with being the only one of his kind in the forest. In his quest for understanding who he is and where he comes from, Urki embarks on a journey through a kingdom of magical creatures that is fraught with peril. The story is heightened with occasional illustrations, sound effects, and music. Readers have the choice of English or Spanish language versions. This is Pixelmoon’s first endeavor in this space and I expect it will not be their last. Urki, Beyond the Forest is available for $2.99 for the iPad here and for the Kindle here.
Finally, if you still need to do some more app shopping for the holidays, never fear, there are plenty more to choose from and many are even free! The website www.BestAppsForKids.com has a list of 25 Christmas themed apps for kids that you can check out here, while www.digital-storytime.com has a list of their top rated storybook apps that you can find here.
Enjoy your shopping and happy holidays!