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Finally, track your period and your steps

Finally, track your period and your steps

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I bought an Apple Watch. More specifically, I decided my Christmas presents would add up to an Apple Watch. Before that, I supported the Pebble smartwatch on kickstarter. I had a fitbit for awhile.

So you know, I’m into this smart watch/tracking stuff thing.

I track my bike rides, the food I eat, the steps I take, how long I sleep. But for some reason, none of these neat little things track something all women I know have tracked since they were about 13: our periods.

Yes I know there are many apps for that, but how can the all-knowing Apple Health app offer to track practically everything, but not my menstrual cycle? Is it really just because there’s only men in the room when they plan these features?

Then there’s tracking apps themselves. Why are they all pink with flowers? Menstruating is not a big deal, it’s just a monthly biological cycle. I don’t like talking or looking at people’s teeth, but I don’t feel any need to make a huge deal about it when someone talks about their dentist appointment, toothpaste, or bleaching stuff.

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Now that we’ve all agreed we’re grownups, I have to tell you about this new tracking gadget. The Leaf by Bellabeat. It’s not sporty, it’s doesn’t scream TECH OBJECT, it’s wearable in several ways. You can track your monthly cycle, and see how your exercise, sleep, and breathing changes in relation to it. Doesn’t that sound interesting and useful? I have to say, this isn’t hard stuff, but somehow no one has bothered before now. Possibly my favourite part of this is the 6-month battery life. Yes, you read that correctly. Six. Months. All of this for about $130 US. The preorders are flying out the door, so if you’re thinking about it, do it now. I ordered mine yesterday.

Congratulations to Bellabeat’s Urška Sršen, and thanks for making a piece of tech that addresses our needs.

Images courtesy of Bellabeat. This post contains affiliate links. 

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Gus on the Go giveaway

Gus on the Go giveaway

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You lucky people! After seeing how much we loved their language app, the generous developers behind Gus on the Go have offered 5 apps to give away to my readers. You can pick which language you’d like too. This giveaway is open to residents of Canada, US and UK, and you can pick iOS or Android.

Go forth and enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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App review: Gus on the Go French

App review: Gus on the Go French

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Language vocabulary apps – it sounds like a chore just thinking about them, let alone suggesting my son should try one. Memories of boring lists illustrated with dated line drawings pop up in my mind.

The other day, however, I woke up from a nap (bliss!) and I was body tackled by my 4 year old, asking me whether I knew the word for watermelon in French. And, well, no, I didn’t.

‘Pastèque!’

Hang on, he didn’t know any French when I fell asleep. What happened?

Apparently, my husband had downloaded Gus on the Go for French on our iPad.

Through a combination of picture matching, repetition, and games, Gus on the Go covers an amazing amount of vocabulary. In that hour I had been sleeping, Elliot picked up 30 or more words, and the next day another 20. The third day he skipped all the instructional elements and went straight to the games – there was hardly any loss of knowledge at all. I know this is an example of preschoolers being little sponges, but it amazed me.

The process is this: your child touches simple illustrations, organized into sets like home, animals, food, transportation, etc and hears the words spoken by a native language speaker. Once they’ve completed some simple matching quizzes, the games are unlocked. To be honest, these are more matching images to the spoken words, but in the guise of helping Gus the owl fly up a tree, helping a horse win a race, capturing the right objects with bubbles, and that sort of thing. Getting most of the matches correct wins a trophy and unlocks more games.

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Even though children progress through different vocabulary sections, the games still throw in a few from sections they’ve already completed. So when they’re capturing numbers with bubbles after hearing the French words, a cow will appear, or a pair of shoes, to keep their knowledge of the previous sections fresh.

The best children’s apps are navigable by a little person from the start, and Gus on the Go is right up there. He pops it open and is deep in learning new words within a minute. It’s been incredibly well designed, both in the speed of forward progress and navigation. My son chooses it quite often all on his own, which is an impressive badge of approval. He loves to show off his skill with the app to all his friends and family.

I checked out the developer’s website when I was writing this review, and they have a lovely selection of free language printables for downloading including number flashcards, mix-and-match clothing vocabulary blocks, zoo animal fortune teller, and a transportation wheel.

Incredibly, Gus on the Go is available for 22 languages: French, German, Cantonese, Spanish and more, on both iOS and Android. For only $3.99, this is an incredible deal for a solid language app. Suggested age range: 2-6 years.

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App review: Endless Reader

App review: Endless Reader

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One of our favourite apps last year was Endless Alphabet, a well-made game that managed to make spelling both funny and interesting. Good quality animation and silly sounds together with creative word choices (‘humungous’, ‘bellow’) kept my son coming back to play.

We were thrilled to find a new app from Originator, Endless Reader.

Using a similar format, Endless Reader gets children to pull the letters into order, each one making its phonetic sound, as in Endless Alphabet. This app goes one further, however, and offers a sentence to assemble as well. The word the child has just spelled is waiting to be put in the right place, as is two or three other words. These ones are ‘sight words’ – like the, and, is and to – that are hard to sound out phonetically, don’t have meanings that are easy to illustrate in picture form, and come up often. The goal is for the child to recognize these words by their shape, and learn how they work in context.

Once the sentence is complete, the narrator reads the sentence and the monsters act it out. There is a repeat button, and my son often watches the animations two or three times after completing a sentence.

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This all sounds quite simple, but what sets it apart is the quality of both the narration and animation. The whimsical monsters are perfect – funny, a bit weird, and incredibly flexible. The voice acting is professional and clear. I’m disappointed so many app developers are unwilling to pay for proper voice overs; it is so frustrating to listen to badly read stories or even mispronounced words in what is ostensibly an education app. That’s one of the reasons the Endless apps are such a joy – the narrator sounds like she would be great fun to play with.

The initial app is free, with packs of additional new words costing $2.99. Download Endless Reader from the App Store.

 

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iPad app review: Naxos Records’ My First Orchestra

iPad app review: Naxos Records’ My First Orchestra

Naxos Records' My First Orchestra app

As a musician myself, albeit a keen amateur one, I’m always looking for ways to involve Elliot in listening and talking about classical music. We watch concerts on TV, we listen to it around the house and talk about how the music makes us feel, maybe about which instruments we can hear. Sometimes if I’m feeling brave, I get out my cello and let him bow while I stop the strings, or we drag out the accordion for a bit of a polka party.

When I spotted Naxos Records’ My First Orchestra iPad app, I had to try it.

Tormod the Troll takes you on a journey around the orchestra, learning about the different instrument families and what each one sounds like. You get to hear a few composers talk briefly about their music, and Tormod even has a go too. The app is for ages four and up, though Elliot is only three and a half, he is quite interested in it. There is a lot of text on the screen most of time, and I was sure this would turn him off, but it doesn’t seem to. He goes back to it quite often of his own accord –  I have to admit I was thrilled!

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A price of $4.99 CDN is likely to stop a few people in their tracks, but let me tell you why it’s worth it.

Naxos Records has an interesting story – they are relatively new as record companies go, beginning only in the late 80s. Starting out as one Hong Kong entrepreneur’s idea alongside his high-end audio equipment business, Naxos grew into one of the most innovative and interesting classical record labels out there. They commit to recording new classical music, which is something spectacular in itself as the market for these recordings isn’t huge, and they keep their prices low. It’s incredibly important now, because without Naxos we wouldn’t have the ability to hear some of the newest composers at all. Within traditional classical music, they tend towards young performers and lesser-known orchestras. These are not substandard recordings, by any means.

Of course, this means they have an extensive catalogue to draw from when it comes to an app like My First Orchestra, and for your $5, you get full recordings of over 30 pieces of music. Full-length ones, not just clips. Whether your child will sit through an entire recording is something else of course.

There is loads to explore here, and I would happily recommend it. No wonder both the Sunday Times and the Guardian picked it out in their best apps lists.

Note: I just spotted this isn’t available in the US, but it’s good to go for the UK and Canada.

Disclosure: None, I spotted the app myself and paid for it.

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