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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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The Day the Crayons Quit

The Day the Crayons Quit

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The day my son had his first ear infection, I found a new book on our doorstep.

After the screaming, the run down the road to the walk-in clinic a block away, the half hour in the waiting room with a wailing preschooler that felt like a year, the dash home again, the medicine and everything, I opened my apartment door to find a big envelope there from Penguin. It could not have arrived on a better day.

The Day the Crayons Quit is a beautiful book illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Lost and Found, Stuck, The Incredible Book Eating Boy, and This Moose Belongs to Me) and written by Drew Daywalt. If you’ve never heard of Daywalt, as I hadn’t, it’s probably because you’re thinking of children’s books. He’s an accomplished writer for TV and film, and currently ruling YouTube in the creepy horror genre with his short films according to Salon.

This book, however, is funny not scary.

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Crayons have opinions, you see, about how they are used. Beige is feeling slighted by Brown (all those puppies and horses Brown gets to do), and Red and Orange aren’t even speaking to each other over who is the appropriate hue for the sun. Blue is overworked, and Pink is irritated at being left out. The crayons have written their grievances to their owner, Duncan, in a series of letters they left in his desk. I think my favourite is the crayon whose wrapper has been peeled off, and is now naked! My son thought this was absolutely hilarious, of course.

Duncan does his best to appease the crayons, and draws the most colourful picture he can.

It’s a lovely book, and a patient three year old would enjoy it. My four year old liked it. Each letter is written out on a different kind of paper, together with a drawing in the requisite colour.

My only issue is the end – Duncan is praised by his teacher by being given an ‘A’ in colouring and an A+ for creativity. I get the intent, but kids doing colouring in school are not being graded like that so it won’t mean anything to them. Aside from whether the child understands, the concept of being graded on colouring and creativity didn’t sit well with me. They spend so much of their school lives trying to measure up, do we really have to drag it into preschool as well? And for such subjective things? Maybe this is my French Canadian Catholic preschool and kindergarten experience rearing its ugly head (getting told off for colouring outside the lines, only colouring in pre-drawn sheets, etc) but it just struck me as an odd way of ending such a lighthearted book. I get it was well-meant, but we just changed it to ‘and his teacher was so impressed with his colouring and creativity’ and left it at that.

It’s a beautiful book, and fun to read. A little tweak to the ending and it will be a regular at storytime.

[amazon_link id=”0399255370″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Day the Crayons Quit / Drew Daywalt, Oliver Jeffers[/amazon_link]

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On VancouverMom: Earnest Ice Cream

On VancouverMom: Earnest Ice Cream

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I have this problem with ice cream: so much of it is full of crap. Thickeners, preservatives, artificial flavours. Blergh. The gelato place near our apartment is no better, unfortunately. At home, I’ve come to grips with making our own ice cream with a machine I bought off craigslist (it’s the land of ice cream makers) and David Lebovitz‘s incredible book, [amazon_link id=”158008219X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Perfect Scoop[/amazon_link].

Some days, though, I don’t want to make my own. I just want someone to hand me a lovely scoop of ice cream. Earnest Ice Cream is a local company, best known for their cute bicycle ice cream carts. Now they have their own scoop shop on Fraser Street – I wrote about it for VancouverMom.ca.

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I love that their menu is just ice cream and coffee. The coffee is from Matchstick Roasters down the road.

And you can pick up their pint jars as well.

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