Category Carousel: This app was developed by speech pathologist Lois Kam Heymann. The app offers nine general categories: transportation, animals, clothing, food, occupations, household, summer, winter and instruments. There are subcategories within animals (birds, bugs, farm, water, jungle, forest), transportation (land, water, sky), clothing (body, head, feet), food (breakfast, desserts, drinks, meat, fruit, vegetables), and household (cleaning, furniture, toys, tools, bathroom, kitchen). The screen for each category presents 12 photographs of items within the category selected. The child needs to drag each of the pictures into the category icon at the top of the screen. Each picture touched is named and when it is dragged into the icon two things happen: the number of items placed into the icon are counted and shown with a number and there is verbal praise. I like the large variety of items presented for some categories. For the categories with many pictures, each time a picture is placed in the icon, new picture appears on the screen so that there are always 12 pictures from which to select until the picture limit is reached. Some categories, such as winter, have only 12 pictures. One has the option of rotating the pictures on the screen by tapping the circular arrows at the bottom.
Although the focus of this app is categories there really is no challenge for the child in this respect. This is because the child does not need to determine the category nor sort pictures according to their categories. The challenge only occurs when the child needs to sort pictures into their subcategories. This app, however, is a good choice for vocabulary learning.
Developer website: pocketslp.com
Clean Up Category Sorting: This app focuses on three categories—foods, toys, and clothing. An item appears on the screen. It is named and the narrator asks, “Where does/do the _____go?” The child plays the game by dragging the item into either a shopping cart, toy bin, or clothes closet at the bottom of the screen. This limits the learning of categories to three: food, toys, and clothes. A correct answer elicits a positive narrator response such as “Yah,” “Way to Go,” or clapping accompanied by a fleeting visual reward of either thumbs up, blue ribbon, star, confetti, or balloons. After all the items have been placed, a score screen shows the percentage correct for the session. There is no database for storing the scores of the children who use the app. This app can also be used for vocabulary building.
Lacking any creative elements, this app is basic and bland. The items that appear on the screen are photos common to the paper materials that have been around for years.
Developer website: Difflearn.com
Families 1 and Families 2: My First Apps consistently puts out good apps for the 2-5 year set. These apps are similar in layout to the association apps I reviewed last November. There is a central box with seven pictures surrounding it. In Families 1 and 2, the center box has three items in it of a particular subcategory. Surrounding the box are seven pictures. The child has to find the picture that fits the subcategory presented in the box. For example, the screen may show different pictures of foods. The pictures in the center may be fruits. The child has to find and drag a fruit into the box. The next screen may be drinks. Again, the child has to scan the foods and drag the picture of the drink into the box. The types of drinks are varied so that the child is simply not matching pictures.
The drawn pictures are clear and pleasant. I like the variety of general categories as well as the inclusion of the higher level concept of subcategory learning. There is also a lot of vocabulary to enhance the learning process. The pictures in Family 1 are more visually similar, making this app easier than Families 2
Ages: 2-5 for Families 1; 3-5 for Families 2
Developer website: myfirstapp.com
Cost: Free for two categories for each of the apps. One can upgrade to eight groups for $.99.
What Does Not Belong: One can tell by its name that this app takes a different approach to category learning. I downloaded the first level which is free. Five photographs pop up on the screen. Four fit the same category and one does not. The child needs to drag the one that does not fit in the category into the trash can at the bottom of the screen. As a vocabulary task the child can name each of the pictures. The pictures are not named when they are tapped. The child can also explain why the one picture does not belong in the group. When all the pictures in the level have been correctly placed in the trash, a screen with additional levels appears. I did not purchase the other nine levels so I cannot comment on whether or not the tasks become more challenging. I found the photographs to be mediocre. Some were images of amateurish looking ceramic animals.
Developer website: brain-go.com
Cost: Free for the first level; $1.99 for the nine additional levels.