2012 NAPPA Awards: Virtual products
Apps, software, interactives and websites
Apptivity™ HOT WHEELS® Car
Mattel, Inc., ages 3-5, 19.00 - 9.99
Why the judges liked it: Some of the best electronic gadgets are ones that let you play with classic toys in a whole new way. The Hot Wheels Apptivity play set is a pair of specially designed Hot Wheels cars that can be safely put on your iPad. Paired with a special free downloadable app, it lets your kids take their Hot Wheels cars onto a “secret test track” where they can race their cars around the world in ways today’s grown-ups could only dream of as kids. They can run timed laps, jump over canyons and through whoops, test fire car mounted weapons and much more.
Great for: Kids who dream about fast cars and exciting stunts.
Why it deserves a Silver Award: Racing around the test track (especially jumping over canyons) is endlessly fun and the free-form world without a set storyline helps kids bring their imagination to life without robbing them of the power to create their own stories. BUY IT
Kinect Sesame Street TV
Microsoft, ages 3-5, cost to be determined
Why the judges liked it: Straddling the line between a TV show and an interactive game, Kinect Sesame Street realizes the dream of early 90’s multimedia prophets – an actual interactive television show. Using Kinect Technology and the eight specially filmed episodes of Sesame Street, kids will actually find themselves inside the world of Sesame Street interacting with Elmo, Zoe and all their other Muppet pals. They’ll do things like throw a ball back and forth, help the characters search for rulers hidden in the street and sing along with lots of great new songs. It’s an extraordinary way for little kids to get off the couch and move while watching their favorite TV shows.
Great for: Toddlers young enough to enjoy Sesame Street but old enough to understand the concept of interactivity.
Why it deserves a Silver Award: The eight episodes on the disc live up to the high quality that Sesame Street has established over 30 years of development and the added Kinect functionality adds an extraordinary new dimension to the experience. BUY IT
Magic Town, ages 3-5, FREE
Why the judges liked it:magine a virtual world to explore made up completely of stories. That’s Magic Town, a virtual world in which your guides Izzy and Max and a storytelling lion named Louis bring you new stories to read and interact with every day. Magic Town’s many structures are built of downloadable stories, many of them free, others available only with a subscription fee. Each new story adds some new building to the world and part of the fun of exploring Magic Town is finding the new stories to read and listen to. Mindshapes, the app’s developer, gas deals with many publishing houses and has a wide selection of stories ranging from classcs like The Emperor’s New Clothes to new tales like Winnie the Witch.
Great for: Young children learning to appreciate the magic of reading.
Why it deserves a Silver Award: In a world full of electronic gizmos, it takes a special app to make today’s kids appreciate the joys of reading. By couching books in a virtual world, Magic Town is a great way to help children learn the wonder of the written word. BUY IT
Pat the Bunny
Random House Children's Books, ages 3-5, $4.99
Why the judges liked it: Random House added all kinds of wonderful improvements to this extraordinary digital update version of Dorothy Kunhardt’s classic touch and feel children’s book. The illustrations are even more interactive and include an Easter egg hunt and a coloring book. The best additions this year are the ability for children to record themselves reading the book and a camera function that projects the child’s face into a mirror.
Great for:Smaller children who can practice their word recognition and reading skills.
Why it deserves a Gold Award:Pat the Bunny is a classic for a reason, but this app takes a great book and brilliantly extends it into the digital realm with wonderful animations and music. Kids will adore the chance to search for the hiding bunny and tuck the book’s protagonists into bed and turn off the lights. Our testers actually fought over the chance to record themselves reading the book. BUY IT
Child's Play Communications, ages 3-5, $9.99 a month or $29.99 for six months
Why the judges liked it:This app from the popular television program for kids presents users with a magical world of floating islands, each following a particular theme. On each island, parents can purchase virtual books to download. All of the books are of uniformly high quality (many are classics) and come with fun games to play. Many of them are read by celebrities. Each island also has a collection of video clips featuring Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton in a variety of fascinating places, including an observatory, a sailing ship and a nuclear submarine.
Great for:Any kid who likes the adventure of a good book.
Why it deserves a Gold Award: The collection of books currently available on the app is already impressive and new islands, books, and video clips are being added all the time. BUY IT
Toca Boca, ages 3-5, $1.99
Why the judges liked it: Toca is an app company that specializes in creating “electronic toys” for the iPad. Toca Kitchen lets kids explore the world of food preparation with no mess to clean up and no danger of burning anything on the stove. Kids can combine a dozen ingredients in hundreds of ways and try feeding the resulting mixtures to the inhabitants of the house.
Great for: Younger children who enjoy playing with their food.
Why it deserves a Gold Award: That glorious giggly moment when your child realizes that they can burn stuff in the microwave and you realize that you’re not stuck cleaning up the mess. Quote: “Wow. Even the dog won’t eat this.” (Girl, Age 5) BUY IT
Toca Boca, ages 3-5, $1.99
Why the judges liked it:Toca Boca has created a little niche for itself in the world of iOS apps by bringing out a series of truly excellent “digital toys.” Toca Train, like all Toca products, has no real challenges, no complicated controls, and no fail states. Instead there’s just a cute train traveling around a pretty little island. By pushing buttons kids can speed up and slow the train down, make stops where they can load and unload cargo and put passengers on and off. It may not sound like much, but the app is full of delightful little details that make it a fun and imagination building place to play for little ones who love the idea of running their own trains.
Great for: Kids who enjoy trains and like pushing buttons and exploring mechanical objects.
Why it deserves Honors: Toca train, like all Toca products, are true digital toys. They don’t try to force anything on a child. Instead they offer kids the tools and freedom to make their own fun. BUY IT
Ansel and Clair Cretaceous Dinosaurs,
Cognitive Kid, Inc., ages 6-8, $1.99
Why the judges liked it: This app is part of a series in which Ansel and Clair, an alien student and his robotic companion, come to Earth to study the dinosaurs. They first visit a modern-day dig site where they help dig up dinosaur bones and then travel back in time to interact with these incredible animals in the flesh. The entire experience is richly rewarding and very educational, imparting an enormous amount of knowledge about these strange and wonderful beasts.
Great for: Any kid who ever oohed and aahed at dinosaur bones in a museum.
Why it deserves a Silver Award: Ansel and Clair and fun and endearing characters. Production values for the information presentation are very high and the app delivers a tremendous amount of dinosaur information in neat, bit-sized chunks perfect for the target audience. BUY IT
Grammaropolis LLC, ages 6-8, $34.99/year
Why the judges liked it: Any parent who remembers learning the Preamble to the Constitution will appreciate the aim of Grammaropolis, an educational website and curriculum that aims to be the Schoolhouse Rock for the Internet age. That perhaps sells it a bit short because Grammaropolis is much more than just fun music videos that teach grammar (though it has those too), it’s an entire educational system that includes worksheets, quizzes, and even online tracking of a student’s progress. All of the materials available are of extremely high quality and parse out information about the parts of grammar in easy to understand and fun ways that any student will enjoy.
Great for: Parents and educators struggling to explain the difference between a verb and an adverb.
Why it deserves a Silver Award: While none of the music videos are quite as catchy as the classic “Conjunction Junction,” all of them are really well done and do a great job in breaking down what a part of speech is and how it works in a sentence. BUY IT
National Geographic Animal Jam
Smart Bomb Interactive, ages 6-8, $5.95 (monthly); $39.95 (6 months); $59.95 (12 months)
Why the judges liked it: Animal Jam is a virtual world where kids can create animal avatars and explore the land of Jamaa with hundreds of other kids from around the world. While they’re there, they can play a variety of games, collect virtual money to buy items to decorate their lairs, and discover fascinating facts about the natural world through terrific short films.
Great for: Kids who would like to learn about nature, play all kinds of enjoyable games, and interact with other kids in a kid-safe, tightly monitored online environment.
Why it deserves a Gold Award: Since it launched, the world of Jamaa has expanded enormously. There’s now tons of world biomes to explore, new games to play, and animal facts to discover. The reputation of National Geographic and their well-developed safety protocols that keep Animal Jam a kid-safe environment will help ease a parent’s mind about letting them play online. BUY IT
Savings Spree App by Money Savvy Generation
Money Savvy Generation, ages 6-8, $2.99
Why the judges liked it:In a time when the economy and being smart with money is on everyone’s mind, there couldn’t be a better moment for an app like this to come along. Savings Spree is a series of activities built around a faux-game show that teaches kids basic money principles including the concepts of saving, investment, and donation. The mini-games themselves are quite fun, but the big take-away here is a series of important life lessons about money that every kid should learn.
Great for: Kids who have just started to get an allowance or who are old enough to learn that money doesn’t come just from a parent’s pocket.
Why it deserves a Silver Award: The most important thing about an app like this is that the individual activities are fun. That lets kids enjoy the app itself while learning the very important money lesons they’ll need as they get older. BUY IT
Spirituality For Kids
Spirituality For Kids International, Inc., ages 6-8, FREE
Why the judges liked it: Spirituality For Kids is a project run and administered by the Kabbalah Center, an organization dedicated to the study of the more mystical aspects of Judaism. The Spirituality For Kids website offers a kid friendly-view of many Kabbalistic philosophies through a series of lessons that follow a young boy named Ari as he navigates “The Game of Life,” a strange dimension that can only be navigated by learning and practicing positive spiritual actions such as friendliness, compassion, and charity. As a result of its connection to Kabbalah, parents with strong religious beliefs from other faith traditions may want to view the material first to judge its compatibility with their own faiths, but the lessons offered in Spirituality For Kids are fairly universal, very positive, and well delivered, and can be found in virtually any faith on Earth.
Great for: Kids beginning to ask questions about morality, faith, God, and other difficult philosophical subject.
Why it deserves Honors: Spirituality For Kids is not a proselytizing site for Kabbalah. The lessons it teaches are common to all faith traditions and the material is presented in a kid-friendly and fun way that teaches kids some excellent spiritual lessons. BUY IT
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, ages 9-15, $19.99-$59.99
Why the judges liked it: LEGO Batman 2 is more than a digital game; it’s a whole LEGO city for your kids to explore! Fly, drive LEGO vehicles, or just walk around Gotham city with LEGO versions of classic DC superheroes like Superman and Batman, and villains like Lex Luthor and the Joker. You’ll discover a world of hidden secrets, hilarious comedy and pure joy. Available on all game systems: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, 3DS, DS, PS Vita and PC.
Great for: Unstructured and co-operative gameplay. The game supports two players who must work together to solve puzzles and discover secrets.
Why it deserves a Gold Award: It would take a heart of stone not to get goosebumps the first time you leap into the skies as the Man of Steel to the strains of John Willams’ classic “Superman” theme. BUY IT
PMK*BNC, fun for the entire family, $74.99
Why the judges liked it: Imagine the chance to actually bring your toys to life. Skylanders Giants gives you that opportunity through a brilliant melding of toys and video games. The sequel to last year’s “Skylanders,” Giants features a series of action figures that, when placed on the “Portal of Power,” come to life. As you play the game, all of the powers, skills and special hats and prizes you win are stored on the figure itself, eventually making each Skylander totally unique.
Great for: Kids who enjoy collecting things and staging mock battles with acton figures.
Why it deserves a Gold Award: While Skylanders collecting can be expensive, the game and the action figures that are part of it are insanely fun. The ability to take your unique Skylander to a friend’s house and play with it on their system also encourages social interaction and co-operative play. BUY IT
Fuel, Fun for the entire family, FREE
Why the judges liked it:In a world that gets more complex every day with new ways to communicate, share information and shop online, a site like this is both inevitable and necessary. It teaches young people through well-done (if slightly cheesy) video vignettes how to navigate the pitfalls of the social networks that today’s kids are seeming born jacked into. Through self-paced lessons kids can learn about obvious Internet dangers such as stalkers and the perils of posting private information online, but the site also talks about less obvious but more commonplace dangers such as the possibility of online bullying and the social consequences of posting private or personal images.
Great for: Kids just getting their feet wet on Twitter, Facebook or learning how to text message.
Why it deserves Honors:It would be naïve (not to mention probably impossible) to assume your kids won’t get involved in the world of social media, so this Web site gives kids a powerful tool to teach kids how to navigate it safely. BUY IT