More on the iPod Touch
My two-and-a-half year old son Auden gets his share of screen time, because in addition to some time on the computer and with my iPod, he also plays Cars and Thomas the Train games on his Leapster. However, the Leapster’s entry-level games are still somewhat frustrating for him, in part because the available combination of keys, touch screen, and the pen is still a little too complex. Many times he just touches the screen with his fingers, even when the application calls for use of the little attached pointing device. Furthermore, because of the low screen resolution, the visual cues on the screen can sometimes be hard to see. The arrow pad is really stiff, making it hard for him to manipulate with his little left fingers and thumb.
I do like the Leapster because it’s sturdy. It’s been dropped a few times with no obvious consequence. And last night we went to dinner, Auden was playing the Cars game while he waited for us to finish eating. He was still hungry, though, so he kept eating his noodles with his hands. By the time we were ready to go, he had covered the device in a thin layer of butter. No worries, though! However, with the much higher price point of the Touch (and the fact that it’s more than just a little toy for him), I would have been pretty upset to have it covered in butter! So the Leapster does have it’s benefits.
As I mentioned briefly in my earlier post, one of the things I’ve enjoyed about my iPod Touch has been watching Auden learn to navigate the device and the (mostly) gaming applications I have installed. Although he enjoys playing with everything from iTunes to the notepad on the iPod, we have also found a few really great age appropriate games and interactive books for him. Right now his favorites are:
- All the books by Duck Duck Moose (we have the three that are currently available – Wheels on the Bus, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Old MacDonald). Itsy Bitsy Spider seems to be the best of the three and Auden’s current favorite. What I especially like about these games is that they favor open-ended exploration. Kids can touch a wide variety of different elements of the screen in any order, and enjoy colorful responses, movement, and funny noises. This one keeps him busy for quite some time.
- The book Little Bella’s – I Close My Eyes by Tui Studios is another favorite. It’s simple and well done. The story is cute, well illustrated, and it has fun sound effects – for example when Bella becomes a giant, her face is stuck in the clouds, so she sneezes and blows the clouds away. The reader ‘turns the pages’ by pressing on the text in the center of the screen. It’s also possible to browse the story by chapters, which is great when your child – like mine – wants to play one scene over and over (did I mention over?) again.
- The Monkey Preschool Lunchbox and Monkey Preschool: When I Grow Up by THUP Games are also really well done. The first focuses on colors, letters, and matching. The second allows kids to pick a combination of hat, shirt, and bottoms to make outfits in an appropriate scene (e.g. the first pick of a fireman’s hat results in the appearance of a firehouse backdrop). Based on parents’ feedback, the developers have made some adjustments in the responsiveness of these games, and they are therefore very simple and responsive to a little one’s touch. One of the fun elements in both games is that kids get to “pick a sticker”, which they then drag and place it on a virtual wall.
- Word World is a game based on an Emmy-winning PBS television show of the same name. In the show, the characters and the world around them is constructed of letters. Episode themes range from finding a bird’s egg and caring for it until it hatches, to celebrating dog’s birthday with a surprise party. Although we’ve downloaded the whole first season from iTunes, we haven’t watched them all yet – partly because Auden has been captivated and wanted to repeat the episodes that he has seen. The interlude between episodes features letters like h-o-r-n and g-u-i-t-a-r that ‘build a word’ into instruments, where they are played by the main cast of characters. We have already noticed Auden picking letters out (usually correctly) and saying words (usually incorrectly, still!) in a way that he hasn’t before. Anyways, the iPod game shows the outline of both capital and lowercase letters, and then there are solid letters floating all over the screen. The child has to touch the correct solid letter and drag it to the outline. After completing the word, the background changes, and the child can pinch or compress the word, resulting in the ‘build a word’ song and outcome – that is, the d-o-g turns into a little brown dog wagging its tail. It’s another game that’s not terribly complicated, but it’s visually compelling, engaging, and even educational.
I’ve been thinking about the Touch because I feel like it represents such a leap from other common interfaces that also leverage touch screen technology (e.g. ATMs). I would like to have a more informed understanding of the differences, because based on the naive perspective I have right now, I feel like the additional sophistication, flexibility, and ease-of-use will open new markets and new ways of computing that I would like to learn more about, and maybe get involved in researching.