How to Engage Kids Beyond the App

Our feature this week is written by Karen Robertson, author and developer of “Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island,” a Digital Storytime “Best of the Best Top 25 Most Essential Children’s Book App.”  Karen explores the way parents, teachers and developers can engage kids “beyond the app”, and talks specifically about how Treasure Kai expands its utility with contests and activities. The “Treasure Kai” app will be on sale for just $.99 (down from $3.99) this App Friday, Sept 2nd.

As a children’s author, I love doing school author visits because meeting a “real” author can really ignite kids’ creativity. They draw treasure maps, create friends for Treasure Kai, send me their own stories, and even ask if they can be in my next book!

When my son picked up an iPad for the first time and chose storybook apps over games, I knew I had to turn my interactive treasure hunt adventure book into a book app. What I didn’t expect was how “going digital” would inspire me to think “beyond the app” to find new ways for kids to experience my story.

To inspire parents, teachers and developers to engage kids beyond the app, I wanted to share some of the things we’re doing with Treasure Kai and some of the ideas teachers have shared with me.

What We’re Doing to Engage Kids Beyond the App

“Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island” is an interactive treasure hunt adventure story that sends kids on a hunt for gold using a twist on the choose-your-adventure format.

Knowing that kids are curious about things they see in stories, we’ve created Fun Fact Videos to help kids learn more. For example, in one adventure Treasure Kai falls in quicksand and has to remember a lesson from science class to get free. So we produced a Fun Fact Video about quicksand which includes an experiment kids can do.   In another story, Treasure Kai faces eating bugs. So we produced a Fun Fact Video about edible bugs.  Fun Fact Videos are free on our website –

During my author visits, it’s the behind-the-scenes content that kids can’t get enough of, so we created a “Behind the Scenes” video for kids (with more to come): We also have free mazes, cross words, coloring pages and an online games available on our website:

Taking Engagement to a New Level with “Be an App Star”

By combining our desire to engage kids with our ability to update content, we created Treasure Kai’s “Be an App Star” contest. Three kids will have the chance to win cameo roles in the Treasure Kai book app. To enter, kids simply draw a treasure map and submit it via our website or email.

Our finalists will be chosen via public voting, along with a group of guest judges, to choose three winners who will be drawn as cartoons and added to our app. More details on our contest are available at

Ideas from Teachers

I’m inspired by the creativity teachers bring to the classroom. Here are some of the ideas teachers have shared. Encourage the children to:

  • Draw a different illustration for a scene in the story
  • Write a different ending or a new story with the same characters
  • Create new characters or pets for the story
  • Make a video trailer for the book or book app (storyboards or video)
  • Create a puppet show or skit inspired by the story
  • Research “facts” from a story to see if they are actually true or an exaggeration
  • Make a board game inspired by the story
  • Write about what you think a character’s family is like and draw pictures
  • Go on a real treasure hunt – have one group hide a treasure and make a map, another group has to use the map to find the treasure and vice versa
  • If a book has been turned into a book app, look at how the two are different and how they’re the same

For Fellow Authors and Developers

What can you do to further engage your fans with your content and brand? As we all know, marketing an app is a challenge and finding a way to excite kids and parents about your app is tricky. Engaging kids beyond the app is a powerful way to build a connection with your fans and create buzz around your brand.

Karen Robertson
Author – “Treasure Kai” series
Author –“Author’s Guide to Book Apps”

2 Replies to “How to Engage Kids Beyond the App”

  1. Very nice article Karen.

    “To make an app that extends beyond the device” was the main motivating factor when we started creating our app Clay Ten –

    Clay Ten was released last week and it introduces children to the numbers 1 to 10 and it features 10 cute animals created out of clay and sparks a curiosity in the children about clay art.

    We believe that clay art is one of the ways in which we can engage kids after they have spent some time with the app and device. It helps strengthen those tiny hand muscles as well :-). They can learn a thing or two while they make these animals.

    The app currently includes instructions for making Clay Octopus (claytopus!) but we are planning on releasing the instructions for the other animals either as part of an app update or by posting them on our website.

    Would love to hear your feedback !

    Thanks & Regards,
    PixelMat Software

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *