Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Techy Tuesday: Kid Zone Zoodles App (Android)

I know, I know.  It's been a while since I did a Techy Tuesday.  Guess that shows how many non-ereader posts I really had.  I've been thinking I may move those posts back from GADGETreads since I just don't have the time to maintain two blogs.

Anyway - today I come to you with a great Geeky Mom entry about something my twinners are LOVING lately.   Kid Zone by Zoodles.  I am going to cover the Android app, primarily, because I am not impressed with the iOS version (iOS only has videos and drawing) and have not played with any of the other platforms.

When I first acquired my tablet (Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 inch), I immediately went looking for apps to occupy my toddlers.  I wanted storybook apps, video apps and some game apps.   Then, I discovered KidZone by Zoodles.   This was all of that and so much more...and was FREE!  The funny thing is that I didn't appreciate it until I suddenly received an email one day - an email summarizing what Doodle had done in the app that week.  She had apparently gone in on her own and started to play.  This email I received told me how the games she played and videos she watched related to school subjects.  It also sent me images of the drawings she had made.  I was completely blown away and it made me take a closer look at the app itself and the many features it has.

1) Age specific videos and games - When you first set up zoodles, it asks you to list the age, gender etc of your child(ren).  It then sets up an age appropriate section for each child to log in.  You can add photos of your kids so they can select their own picture to access them.  

At the toddler stage, the videos are mainly simple cartoons and sesame street music videos.   Doodle found a Barney game in there that she will play for long stretches.  As soon as I taught her how to find the "play again" button, she stopped bugging me each time it ended.

2) Simple drawing tool - the drawing program in this app is really good. Among the best I have seen for toddlers.  It is easy to select different colours and thicknesses and super easy to reset the screen and start over.
Not MY kids artwork...yet

3) Storybooks - there are an assortment of picture books available.  You get a couple for free and to obtain more, they are around $3 each.  I think the thing I like best about the books is that you can log in to the Parent dashboard and film yourself reading the book to your child on your webcam.  Then, when they select that book, there will be a video of you reading to them.  I think this would be fantastic for families where one parent travels often because that parent could record several books for their child to "read together" while they are away.  Also - your kids can request which books they would like and Zoodles will email the parent to let them know.
4) Video mail - In the parent dashboard, you can also configure video mail for your child, which allows you to send video messages to your kids.  You can also set it up so grandparents and other people are able to log in to record messages as well.   We haven't played with this year, but I think they will really love it when we do - especially if we can get the grandparents and cousins to do it.

5) Superb Parent Dashboard - I've mentioned this a couple of times, but it deserves to be a category on its own.   The parent dashboard is what really makes this app sing.   Through the dashboard, a parent can lock down the home button to keep the kid inside the program instead of wandering around the tablet!  This is only in the Android version - iOS can still be escaped.  I love that I can set the girls up on the tablet and know that they will be entertained for a long time without worrying that the rest of my information is accessible (and delete-able).  

The parent dashboard is where you can manage the accounts of each of your children and manage email notifications.  I like to receive a weekly summary of each kid - especially when I may not have been able to see their drawings as they did them.  

It is within the dashboard that you can also identify other users to connect grandparents and other family members to your child's accounts.  

You are also able to download jpeg images of your children's drawings to use as desktop wallpaper if you want. Or, you can share them directly to Facebook or Twitter.   As soon as that first real masterpiece arrives, I will totally be doing that.   actually - I'm tempted to do it with the "A" that Doodle drew last weekend.

I have talked a great deal about the features Doodle uses because she is the twin with the greater concentration.  She will sit with the tablet for an hour at a time.  Buggie has a shorter attention span and it is hard to know if the details on her account are actually her work.   I set her up on the iPad with the app and she drew for 10-15 mins and then lost interest...but even that is good for a 2.5 year old!  

Of all of the toddler apps I have played with, I am most impressed by this one and highly recommend it.   I look forward to seeing how their interests and abilities improve the more they use it. 

The only downside is that Doodle now thinks my tablet is hers! 

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