Yesterday I spent a few pleasant hours with two of my grandchildren. The weather wasn’t great so I came armed with a plethora of techy stuff that I know would amuse them and keep them busy: a laptop loaded with software, and ipad full of apps and my phone. The boys, aged 4 and 6, are really typical boys: they love trains, cars, the Wii, Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Ben 10, Lego (well, anything construction based really), hand held gaming, rugby, football, swimming, the park and pretending to battle each other. They have an old laptop at home and use it for half an hour each per day and to help them with any homework. Although they’re close in age, and get on really well together, the younger one is always trying to do what his older sibling can, with varying degrees of success (and often a bit of frustration!).
The first thing they actually asked as I came through the door was ‘have you got the ipad?’ I brought it the last time I visited and they’ve been waiting to get their mitts back on it ever since. The last time they used it the app that had fascinated them most (especially the younger one) was Talking Tom, but this was old hat now. They’ve seen Talking Tom on the phones of quite a few family members now so it didn’t hold the same appeal. The same could be said of Angry Birds: both still had a go but were more impressed by the fact I now had it on the laptop! It was pleasing to see that the apps they had remembered from last time and wanted to revisit were mostly story based apps: Misty Island Rescue, Rumble in the Jungle and Toy Story 3. Although these apps are not free I do think they are good value: you get the story (read aloud or self read) and a number of supporting activities (colouring, matching, puzzles etc.) to go along with them. As the boys (and other grandchildren) have enjoyed them so much I had supplemented them with a few more, some of which would be great to use in the classroom. I particularly like Elmer’s Special Day but my grandsons really went for Cars 2 (‘it’s like the movie…but a story!!!’ commented the older one) but then they are mildly obsessed with Lightning McQueen, so that was pretty much expected.
Another app they revisited was Puppet Pals, which I’ve mentioned before and is my favourite app to use with youngsters: from EY to Year 6, they all seem to get something out of it. This time I got the boys to use ‘cut-out’ versions of themselves in their stories, which were strangely surreal but still entertaining. I’ll pop some links up to some of them later on (I would do it now but haven’t bothered to export them yet and OH has taken the ipad to work today). The older brother tends to base his stories around things he already knows: he made a cowboy story where all the characters were named after characters in Super Mario Bros and a couple of others where he borrowed quite liberally from Handa’s Surprise and Ben 10. Lovely. The younger brother likes to use the monster characters and pretend they’re eating or killing each other. He loves how he can make the characters really big or small and work this into the story. Not that there is a lot of narrative going on in these: he is HI and has articulation difficulties. His sound effects are spot on though and you can easily get the gist of what he’s trying to say! They even had a few joint attempts at creating stories: these made me laugh the most as every so often one or the other would say ‘no’ or ‘I don’t want that to happen’ and it all ends up on the soundtrack – priceless.
So, onto some new apps that we tried out for the first time yesterday. Clicky Sticky is an app that allows you to add bits of clip art to a background scene. You can add your own backgrounds and make adjustments to the clip art provided. You can save what you create. So far, so average. What really grabbed the boys attention was the addition of sound effects as you created your scene: simple but very effective and the clip art provided was really colourful and appealing to both boys. The themes were good too: all the usual things that little ones are interested in (dinosaurs being the boys top pick) – great! The boys also loved Lego Creationary (let’s face it: most boys, young and old, do love Lego) and the free Kid Blocks (the older brother loved this but found it tricky starting off) , Cars Painting and Simon Says Cars (see above re: Lightning McQueen), Photo Speak (like a basic version of Crazy Talk), My Very First App (gorgeous if you’re a fan of Eric Carle) and Create a Car. Yes – the majority of these apps are probably ones that are aiming to engage boys rather than ones that would be used equally by both genders but to balance it out there are plenty of ‘girl focussed’ apps available too (Peppa Pig Stars anyone?) and I have many of them installed. The boys just didn’t choose them…
And, just before anyone accuses me of getting ipad obsessed, we didn’t just do techy things all day. In dispersed between the ipad and laptop fun (Purple Mash! 2Paint an Picture! Red Fish! Help Kidz Learn! ICT Games! Incredibox!) we also managed to read some stories, build an array of models (Lego, Zoob, Techno Toolbox, Georello – you name it , they can build with it), played on the Scalectrix and did some painting and a bit of colouring in. We watched a bit of mindless children’s TV and cooked some bolognese. At one point we pretended to be pirates and finished off every sentence with ‘Arrrrrr’ (or a variation of it). Growing up is about having opportunities to try out different things and variety is the spice of life. They still think the ipad rocks though.