Making Tickle Tap Apps

 Our feature this week is from Jason Krogh of Tickle Tap Apps, who shares how this successful line of preschool apps got started. If you or your child have ever played a Tickle Tap App, you understand the quality, clarity, fun and effectiveness of their designs. An ideal role model for aspiring developers, Jason provides insight on what it took to make it happen. Toddlers never had it so good.

I love building interactive games for kids. Last year we set out with the goal of building a set of fun, inventive apps for young kids. Fast forward to today and we now have eight Tickle Tap Apps in the iTunes store. I thought this might be a good chance to share our experience.

Ten years ago I set up zinc Roe – a company dedicated to building interactive content for kids. We’ve grown slowly over time and now I lead a group of ten really talented programmers, designers, writers and artists. For us Tickle Tap Apps is a bit of a dream project. A chance to put down our typical work and build something totally new.

We gathered together our team and, starting with a blank slate, generated idea after idea for iPhone apps. And then we quickly tossed out most of them out. Eventually we settled on an eclectic mix of apps with one thing in common – they were all based on simple, focused concepts – shapes, patterns, counting, sounds, etc.

Then the real work began. We took each idea and sketched out all the screens and tried to hammer out how they would look and work. A few more of our ideas were dropped at this stage. They had sounded good, but when we tried to map them out they just didn’t come together.

Next we brought in an illustrator (the very talented Aaron Leighton) and music composer (Brian McBrearty) who looked at the ideas and brought the sound and visuals alive.

Our programmers went to work putting basic versions of the apps together, our writer worked on the voice overs, and our animator set to work on some fun character animations. Once these elements came together it was time to show the kids. This part is always scary and exciting because you never know what to expect.

We took our team, gathered together some kids and a couple of iPhones, and went to the park. We played and played and made notes of what the kids liked and didn’t like. We repeated this process in our studio and in the homes of friends, relatives, and neighbours. It was a great learning experience. And it was humbling. Some of the ideas we were so proud of just didn’t work in the hands of a four-year-old.

Making Tickle Tap Apps has been a great experience. We’ve learned so much and we love sharing our apps and our story with friends and other iPhone developers. There is a great community of people building kids content for the iPhone, from the mom developers working late at night to the big kid brands (there are even a few kids making apps themselves!). We can’t wait to see what comes next!

App Friday: Family Matters

Welcome to App Friday, our weekly link exchange of family-friendly apps. Today we are featuring the only app in history suitable for the dinner table: Family Matters. Developed by a family (Weiner Family Studios), for families, this app gets parents and siblings talking, laughing, questioning, and discovering together. With Family Matters in your pocket, traveling with kids just got better. Let’s find out how communicating more, and whining less, is possible with this brilliant app.

What is your app about?Whether your family is heading to the airport, on a roadtrip, visiting the doctor’s office or waiting at a restaurant, Family Matters has hundreds of interesting questions and activities to keep your family busy and engaged. This app is not a game you win or loose. Rather, it is a stockpile of thought provoking topics that take family communication to a new level. For example, in the airplane module, you might find:

  • If you could take your family anywhere on vacation, where would it be?
  • Do you think flying a smaller plane would be easier than flying a bigger plane? Why or why not?
  • Why do your ears pop on an airplane?

Why is it special? Aside from the cool questions illustrated above, Family Matters also has engaging activities. This app MOVES YOUR BRAIN, AND YOUR BODY. For example:

  • Everyone draw their perfect airplane
  • Can you think of five similarities between an airplane and a helicopter?
  • See who can find the word AIR in any magazine. Ready… Go!

What’s in it for me? Have you heard of FREE? That’s what’s in it for you if you download from iTunes on AppFriday, May 21st. If you miss a beat, the deal will be gone. So DOWNLOAD BY FRIDAY MAY 21ST to get your FREE VERSION OF FAMILY MATTERS.

Related apps? Traveling soon? Check out the post our 12 Helpful Apps for Family Travel.

App Friday Link Exchange Our goal at Moms With Apps is to spread the word about family-friendly apps. Do YOU have a favorite app to share? A travel app, or just one your family enjoys? Please participate in our link exchange and post it down below. Include the app name in the Link Title, your email, and a URL to the app. Thanks for your participation!

Thinking About Android: Perspectives from a Parent / iPhone Developer

Our feature this week is from Scott Weiner, Dad developer over at Weiner Family Studios and creator of the hit travel app Family Matters. He and his family worked as a team to create a game-changing app that made ranks on the iTunes App Store. I’m not surprised. His dedication to family values, innovative technology, charitable contributions and team collaboration has topped all of our charts. Enjoy reading his insights on the great Apple vs. Android debate. If you are considering multi-platform support for your mobile apps, Scott’s article is a good place to start.

I started developing iPhone applications about a year ago because of an idea my wife had. She knew I liked to program as a hobby, and that my kids loved the iPod touch. She thought we should combine the two and involve the family in a project. The result was our first commercial iPhone app called Family Matters, which spent a few weeks on top of the iTunes travel chart and was a great overall experience.

In January 2010 it was time to get a new phone. I was considering the iPhone, but my company plan is on Verizon.  I decided to get an Android phone and considered the possibility of porting my app to that platform.

My wife and I decided we would each get an Android phone and evaluate them as both phones and parenting tools.  We spent a week with each of the available Android phones (Motorola Droid, Nexus ONE, HTC Eris, etc.) and ended up with the HTC Eris.  We created evaluation criteria for what we thought was important as both developers and parents (the target audience for our apps).

As developers we were concerned with:

  1. Size of market
  2. Multi-device and OS support issues
  3. Supportive marketplace
  4. Quality and pricing of the applications in the marketplace
  5. Piracy

As parents we were concerned with:

  1. Ease of use of the phone
  2. Variety and cost of family-oriented applications
  3. Ability to assess and find applications good for our family
  4. Ease of upgrading the applications
  5. Parental controls

Our findings on Android from a developer perspective

Size of Market

Every developer wants to make sure they have a large enough market for profitability. Even if you have a free app, you want to be sure that enough people will appreciate your offering. Recent data indicates Android ships 60,000 apps per day and Apple ships 97,000 apps per day. This is really good news (see “Comparing Android Phone Shipments With iPhone, BlackBerry”). Note: I don’t know if this includes iPods and iPads. I suspect it doesn’t but Android’s numbers are still good.

Multi-device and OS Support Issues

One concern we had was that the Android might behave differently on various phones, meaning developers need to support a variety of phone implementations and hardware. From our perspective this is a weakness of the platform. Variety of phones and OS implementations might be good for consumers, but it is troubling and costly for small developers.

Supportive Marketplace

By “supportive marketplace” I mean a shopping experience that allows consumers to find our application, and a platform that encourages people to purchase the applications.  Even though the Android Marketplace may be a tenth of the size of the iPhone App Store, it is still large and growing.  We want to know that people can locate our application and have the information they need to make a purchasing decision quickly and easily.

When we first tried the Android Marketplace it was an awful experience. Searching would often not locate apps even when we typed the exact name. Furthermore, we could search on the same term and actually get different results – bizarre. The categories were almost meaningless and there was no way to filter by paid or free. Since the update to 2.1 on our Eris, the market has improved. The categories are more helpful and the buying process is pretty easy on the phone.

However, the lack of an iTunes Store equivalent has proven to be a big deal for us. In January we were on Apple’s “What’s Hot” list, and through informal surveys we found that large numbers of the parents found us not on their phone but from the larger pictures on their computer via the iTunes App Store “What’s Hot” promotion. iTunes is such a centerpiece of media management for users of any of Apple’s products that it becomes an effective marketing tool as well. Unfortunately, there is no equivalent experience on Android so we have to hope the phone experience is sufficient to encourage people to try new applications.

One other concern is it doesn’t feel like anyone is at the wheel. iTunes App Store has What’s Hot, Staff Picks, New & Noteworthy, and Apps for Kids sections. So as a developer of family apps I feel like there is a chance that if I produce a quality product Apple’s marketing machine may support me. Not only do I have a shot at a front-and-center promotion on the App Store but my app could end up in a television commercial (yeah that’ll happen).

That brings me to a personal gripe – the commercials. Apple advertises their phone and ultimately their OS as a way of getting things done.  Many of their commercials have messages that resonate with my target audience of parents (See Apple’s Family Man Commercial). The only Android commercials I have seen are techie appeals for openness by Google (see Android Commercial) and ones from Motorola/Verizon showing off a giant robot arm taking over the world with a Droid (I couldn’t locate the “Droid Does” commercial online but you know the one).  I don’t have a clue who they are advertising to but I know it isn’t helping me sell an application that promotes family communication or stimulating my audience.

Quality and Pricing

Why should I care about the quality of other applications and their pricing? As a parent I know that if the majority of the apps are garbage then I am going to stop looking for good value and ultimately not bother buying or even downloading free ones.  Overall the quality of the Android marketplace is OK, but the lack of consistency in this “open” platform leaves me uncertain.

I also care about price because if great apps are given away at bargain basement prices, then the market has set a low value on them.  In the Android marketplace there are a lot of free apps so the expectation for FREE is high. I’m hopeful this is just a short-lived issue for developers. There are some really great apps already on this platform so I think this will just get better.


Piracy is a fact of life on every platform. What I want is some level of control so honest people stay honest. I expect some level of piracy and don’t consider this a platform issue. On the iPhone, however, you have to jailbreak to pirate and you need a tool and some level of technical expertise. This restricts the number of pirates to a small fraction of the population. There is no such restriction on the Android platform. I was amazed how easy it is to pirate on the platform and how rampant it is already. You don’t need special versions; you don’t need special software; you don’t need special skills. I can’t see any reason why every developer shouldn’t expect a much larger percentage of their application copied illegally. This is somewhat demoralizing for a small developer.

Our findings from a parent’s perspective

As a parent and owner of two Android phones I’m also interested in how the platform will work for my family. I appreciate the quality, variety, and easy installation of iPhone apps.  I’m hoping to see similar value from Android so it becomes a viable tool for us to entertain, educate and communicate when we are mobile as a family.

Ease of use

The ease of use issue for us matters because if the phone is complicated it won’t get used for anything but making calls.  As developers, we need you to love using the phone and its various capabilities. I’ll start by saying this:  Android is no iPhone. We actually had the same experience on all Android phones, not just Eris. However, if you feel it may be less controversial to focus solely on our phone that is OK with me. There may be a dozen ways you can say that Android is technically better than iPhone, but when it comes to simplicity and comfort and an “it just works” feeling, Android isn’t even close in our experience.  The number of hours we had to spend to customize and configure and research to get this to feel comfortable was astounding. What this means to us is that parents may get this phone and potentially lose interest in downloading apps. For us it just isn’t as addictive as the iPhone experience.

Another weakness we found is ironically one of the most touted strengths of Android: multitasking.  One of the big claims to fame for Android has been the idea you can run multiple apps at once. For us what this means in a practical sense is if you are trying to do one thing there may be something in the background running which can slow down the phone, or pop up unexpectedly, or fail to quit properly. Many times I went to hang up a call and it took several seconds for the call to quit because of something running in the background. For the non-technical user it makes the experience unpredictable and less enjoyable.

Android is alright for ease of use, but not great. We know the best thing we can do is make sure our app is considerate of the multitasking environment. We expect iPhone 4.0 multitasking support may introduce some of the same issues.  The possible difference, I suspect, is that Apple will require a certain amount of compliance with what they consider good practices, and Android will most likely stay the “Wild West” for some time.

Variety and Cost

As a parent I want a variety of applications to choose from.  Competition is great for me and encourages me to see “what’s new”.  Although Android is increasing its volume of apps, trying to find quality apps for my family is still difficult.  Many apps don’t have pictures on the marketplace so you don’t even know what it looks like before you buy it. The family categories don’t seem well organized, so I found it a little difficult to find the apps. This is great news for MomsWithApps and other websites that help people discover those gems that the marketplace doesn’t highlight.

Cost of apps is on the low side which is great for parents but I did feel like there is still a lot of experimentation going on.  I would find two apps for first grade math and one was .99 and one was 2.99 and I couldn’t see any difference in the quality.  I think the market will sort these price issues out over time as it has on the App Store.

Ability to Assess Apps

One of the most difficult things for a parent to do is figure out which apps are really good for their family before purchasing them. Personally I do the following:

  1. Read reviews
  2. Look at screenshots
  3. See what other apps parents purchased
  4. Check out review sites if it is an expensive app

All of these are possible with the Android market, but many of the apps don’t have screenshots, which can deter a purchase.

Ease of upgrade

One thing we have learned from the iPhone is that upgrading is key.  Apps that upgrade often are considered “better value” assuming the upgrades include features and not just bug fixes. If the upgrade process isn’t smooth, a user will view upgrades as a burden, which could cause support headaches for developers too.

The general flow of upgrading an Android app is similar to the iPhone: a user views the app in the marketplace, sees which ones have upgrades available, and clicks the upgrade button. But from my experience the updates didn’t always happen, and there was no indicator of a problem.

If I had multiple apps to update it was much worse. First, there is no “update all”, so updating each individual app was necessary. One time I had 15 apps that had updates. That was not fun. It almost turned me off to the platform altogether – it was that frustrating.

As an aside, the whole install process needs some work. Once you install an app it does not appear in your workspace, so you have to locate it in the list and then manually place it.  This adds a lot of steps and reduces overall usability. Deleting an app also lacks refinement. To delete an app you have to locate it in the settings and then delete it. This might add about 4-6 additional steps based on our typical usage patterns. I am much less likely to try an app if it is going to be a hassle to get rid of if I don’t like it. This means as a developer I believe I will get fewer casual users. Small things like this add up. They really need to improve the install/upgrade/delete process so updates are seen as a good thing and not something to dread.

Parental controls

Parental control is currently a very weak area on Android. On the iPhone I can control what content is downloadable, what major apps are allowed to run, even what type of music can be loaded. In addition, Apple restricts a ton of inappropriate content so I don’t have to worry as much. As far as I can tell there is nothing like this built into Android. I feel like I have to scrutinize every single app and can never let my kids make an impulse download or purchase.  This will drastically restrict my family buying habits.


Writing an article like this is bound to rile some people who are advocates or invested in one platform or another. My goal was to evaluate if this platform was right for me and then share my observations in the hopes they may prove useful to others. I would love to hear about the exeriences of others. I also realize that the Android platform keeps evolving and new phones are coming out all the time. Even while writing this article we saw some better phones appear like the HTC Incredible (and of course iPhone 4.0 is coming).

Overall the Android developer outlook is good. It’s a growing market and a powerful platform. I don’t think the market support for small developers is great right now and I am hoping they will improve this. It doesn’t mean it isn’t a good opportunity, but it seems there is less chance of getting noticed right now.

As a parent I’m less optimistic. I think for the time being I will stick to using my iPod for kids’ games and educational tools, while using my Eris for calls, business needs and occasional entertainment.  I’m put off some by the lack of parental controls but mainly I just find the app management to be too cumbersome and don’t want to waste time customizing the phone. Obviously this is a personal choice, but I know that most parents don’t have time to play with their phone. They just need it to work.

I’ll keep an eye on how the market progresses. Multi-platform competition is great news for developers. I suspect for people like me, developing on Android may only be a matter of time.

App Friday: My Pictures Talk

Welcome to App Friday, our weekly link exchange of family-friendly apps. Today we are featuring an app called My Pictures Talk by Grembe. This husband-wife team started their iPhone careeers with a series of lifestyle apps, and created My Pictures Talk to bring digital photos to life by linking them with personalized audio clips. After familiarizing myself with the menus and functions, our family spent time together taking pictures, recording messages, and playing back the results. Photo Albums beware, the competition has arrived.


What is your app about? My Pictures Talk is a photo utility for the iPhone and iPod touch that associates pictures with your own recorded sounds.  Use it with your family, at school, for projects, or on your next trip. We realized the power of this app when we grabbed a picture of an owl from the web and showed it to our two year old and he started saying “Owl…Owl…Hoot…Hoot” while we recorded, played it back to him, and mailed it to friends and family. He laughed and laughed hearing himself. It was priceless.

Why is it special?

  • Take a picture. Record a note, memory, someone speaking, or ambient noise.
  • Mail to friends or yourself. Post the picture to Facebook.
  • Our kids love it (non-stop giggles and pointing). They touch the pictures to hear themselves laugh and talk, then ask to take more pictures.
  • Take snapshots and record a travel log on your next trip.
  • Record a lecture and listen later.
  • Work on flashcards with your kids. Record them saying a word for the first time.
  • Record a loved one to hear when you are away from home
  • Motivate someone to talk
  • Categorize and organize your existing photos
  • The uses will change depending on what is going on in your life: home improvement pictures, vacations, lectures, fun with family…

What’s in it for me? For our May 14th App Friday, Grembe is offering FREE DOWNLOADS of MY PICTURES TALK. If you are curious about the app and have ideas for blending words and pictures, this App Friday is the perfect time to give it a try. TIP: If you are using this in a family setting, take time to learn the interface before handing it over to the kids. It has a lot of functionality, and requires both a category and name for each photo. By investing a little time upfront, you’ll begin to see how much potential is available in this app, especially when kids are happily listening to their own voices.

Related apps? If you like the idea of personalized apps, Grembe has more to offer. iCommunicate (also available for the iPad) provides a way to make customized storyboards and visual schedules for children, and is highly acclaimed in the education and special needs communities.

App Friday Link Exchange Our goal at Moms With Apps is to spread the word about family-friendly apps. Do YOU have a favorite app to share? A useful tool, or just one your family enjoys? Please participate in our link exchange and post it down below. Include the app name in the Link Title, your email, and a URL to the app. Thanks for your participation!

Why I Love My iPhone

Our feature this week is from Lisa Brandolo Johnson, co-founder of Grembe iPhone Apps and mother to three growing children. Lisa and her husband created a series of applications to help families march forward together. Their apps cover interactive communication, special needs, motivation, and record keeping. You name it, they are making it! Filled with creative energy and tremendous inspiration, this “Mom With Many Apps” shares why she values technology and how she uses it in her own own home.

I recently read a post on Twitter that asked “How do you know if someone you meet has an iPhone? Just wait a minute and they’ll probably tell you.”  It rang true for me since the iPhone did change my life. It sounds kind of silly since that is what people say about having kids too, but it is true.

Kids do change your life. They bring you lots of wonder but they also take up a lot of your time. As they grow up a little and become a little less dependent on you for their every need, moms need to find balance between the many parts of life that demand time. Kids, husbands, jobs, family, friends, hobbies, and our health. The balance can be elusive. That is why I love my iPhone. I’m not saying it equates to my mother-in-law watching the kids twice a week so I can still have a career, or the friend who will take my kids at the last minute if I need a break, but the iPhone does make my life easier.

Some nights I might get very little sleep if one of the kids is sick. I may have very little energy to care for my 3 young children. Instead of sitting them in front of the TV, I can lie in bed with them and my iPhone can read to us. We love the quality children’s literature by PicPocket Books, Storyboy, and Touchoo. We can all cuddle up together and no one knows if I close my eyes for a few minutes.

There are times when we have to wait in long lines, on bleachers while another child participates in a sport, or at a doctors office. Sure, we love talking together, but sometimes an educational diversion really comes in handy. I may have forgotten paper and crayons, but I can hand my child my iPhone and they can let their imagination soar with My Little Suitcase, or practice sorting, counting, or writing with TickleTapApps bundle pack.
Today was not only Mother’s Day, but also my daughter’s 6th birthday.  There was a lot to do. Her favorite breakfast was being made, preparations for a visit with family were underway, new toys were waiting to be taken out of their packaging, and all the while I wanted to capture her, the essence of her, on her birthday. Six years have gone by fast. My Pictures Talk allowed me to snap her photo and record her voice telling me what six years old meant to her. She wanted a porcelain plate and mug this am, not a plastic one from IKEA, because she was six. She is smart, she is tall, she knows how to take care of her brothers. She is six and I’ve got it all recorded with her picture on my iPhone.

My iPhone is fast becoming that object I’d try and rescue in a fire. It has memories on it that I don’t want to lose.  Sure I could grab a camcorder, but in the bustle of my home life, grabbing my iPhone and using apps is much easier.  In my attempts to balance all the pieces of motherhood, I love the things that help me parent more effectively.  Of course that list includes family and friends, but it also includes my iPhone.

Just Got Your iPhone for Mother’s Day? We’ve Got Apps for That!

Aaaahhh, your shiny new iPhone – a gift from the family – arrives clean and unfettered on Mother’s Day morning. After a tasty breakfast in bed, you dream of spending time loading apps, personalizing the wallpaper, syncing the calendar and customizing the settings to suit your particular needs. However, the gift of free time didn’t seem to get the memo. Here, hand it over, and let us help a mother out…

FOR STORYTIME  Mommy’s High Heel Shoes – A sweet story about a working mom and her daughter “Cakes”

FOR FUN  Rescue of Ginger – a fun and hilarious interactive storybook for kids (FREE for Mother’s Day)

FOR REFERENCE  Baby MedBasics – A quick reference guide for parents on basic baby medical care

FOR TRAVEL  My Little Suitcase kids travel app (FREE for Mother’s Day), Mom Maps FREE app for kid spots on the go, and Global Roos for translating basic phrases in different languages.

FOR MEMORY MAKING   Emmbook, a baby book for your iPhone

FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR   Motivational apps such as iEarnedThat, iReward, and iRewardChart

FOR MORE KIDS   Baby Bump Pregnancy App

FOR ANDROID Didn’t get that iPhone for Mother’s Day, but you did get a hungry baby to feed? Try Newborn for Android.

FOR MORE IDEAS  Visit our sidebar on the right to view the websites of our member developers, who are mostly parents creating apps for their own children. There are also some hot tips from Appolicious, and you can never fail at the one and only iPhoneMom.

Happy Mother’s Day and best wishes from Moms With Apps!

App Friday: 1 Little Boy

Welcome to App Friday, our weekly link exchange of family-friendly apps. Today we are featuring an interactive storybook from Touchoo. The Touchoo team along with their contributors publish quality interactive book apps for toddlers and children. Their aim is to combine the beauty in traditional children’s books with the intuitiveness and flexibility of touch screen technology. All of Touchoo’s books go through careful inspection by a child development expert, so what you end up with is much more than meets the eye. Let’s take a closer look!

What is your app about? 1 Little Boy is an interactive StoryBook app your kids would love. The story is about  a boy’s imaginary journey before bed time. One by one, animal characters you’d recognize from children’s fairytales and rhymes join the little guy on his journey.  Together they visit all kinds of places, even the moon (!), and arrive safely back in the little boy’s room – just in time for bed. The story encourages children to practice reciting numbers and counting, as they “paste” each character onto the screen, one after the other, and make them go skipping down the road together. Best for ages 2-5.

Why is it special?

  • When you let your child be exposed to new content, you want to make sure it’s educational and age-appropriate. All of Touchoo’s book-apps, including 1 Little Boy undergo scrutiny by a child development expert, verifying that they conform with the latest child development research-based guidelines and know-how.
  • With 1 Little Boy, your child will get to practice reciting numbers (pre-counting age) and counting from  1-10 in a learn-by-action manner. This type of learning is agreed by experts to be the most efficient.
  • Educational merits aside, the beautiful illustrations, the dynamic page turning, and the (real) animal sounds that you can tap-to-play again and again and a-a-a-ag-ag-ag-ag-agin make this app really fun!
  • Some other cool features include a ‘record yourself’ option for narrating the story and counting the animal characters. It’s most fun if you use funny voices for that ( to record, choose “you” under narration options in the ‘settings’ page). You could also choose the narrated version or no narration at all – to tell it yourself.
  • Looking into the very near future – the next version update of this StoryBook app (will be free and automatic) will offer text in additional languages.

What’s in it for me? Reading is fun, but reading for FREE is even better! This App Friday, Touchoo is offering FREE DOWNLOADS OF 1 LITTLE BOY. You can download for FREE, right now, just by CLICKING THIS LINK.  Don’t you just LOVE #appfridays?

Related apps? Touchoo’s library will soon be growing. No need to stop at 1 Little Boy. Add to your collection Thumbelina and Benny the Cat – coming very soon to the iTunes Store!

App Friday Link Exchange: Our goal at Moms With Apps is to spread the word about family-friendly apps. Do YOU have a favorite app to share? One for reading, or just one your family enjoys? Please participate in our link exchange and post it down below. Include the app name in the Link Title, your email, and a URL to the app. Thanks for your participation!

Revolution in Storytime

Our feature this week is from Omer Ginor, CEO of Touchoo, a publishing house for quality interactive book apps for toddlers and children. As you will read from his post, Omer is an advocate for the quality time spent between parents and children reading books. We are delighted to have him share these insights on Moms With Apps. The more Moms, Dads, caregivers and kids we have reading together, the better!

Sitting down with your preschooler to read a book (I’ll call this storytime) is an all important ritual: it influences the child’s emotional and social development, promotes literacy, forms reading habits and a love for books, and even – so I’ve learned – increases the child’s chances for success in school and subsequent success as an adult.  Storytime is one of those rare quality moments when the parent-child magic happens.

In recent years, two processes have been working in opposite directions. The first is a very welcome process, which is the proliferation of reading to children by adults. The second, however, has a rather negative influence on reading habits and storytime. With digital media becoming more dominant in our lives, preschoolers are increasingly bombarded from all sides by fast and gripping stimuli which can be superficial and devoid of real value. Research shows that these stimuli cause kids to have shorter attention spans.

Storytime is in danger. The attention span of children is constantly shrinking and those precious quality moments are becoming scarce.

A few years back, touchscreens entered our lives.  Touchscreens offer a very convenient and intuitive way to consume media. What my partners and I saw a couple of years ago  is how intuitive and compelling this medium is for the very young ones. My son, 9 months old today, can already flip through pictures on my iPhone with great joy and satisfaction (device in airplane mode, safely held by me, of course). Touchscreens are, undoubtedly, amazingly intuitive.

Personal touchscreen devices brought with them e-books, interactive e-books and magazines, and interactive storybooks. Those are, in fact, a 3-in-1 combination: (1) a children’s storybook, (2) an e-book, (3) a place of reader-story interaction: manipulating the characters and what they do, getting positive and negative feedback for actions, playing games, creating, and actively learning  (i.e. learning through doing and not through being taught). Having this type of interactive storybook around is very exciting since this is exactly the kind of book that can attract today’s toddlers and preschoolers to enjoy storytime once again. This type of of book also has added layers of educational benefits.

Our company, Touchoo, founded by four book-loving parents, creates such interactive story books for touchscreens. Each of the storybooks is created for a specific age group, and each has a different educational edge. For example, 1 Little Boy uses an active approach in teaching counting skills. Thumbelina, which will be released for the iPad and the iPhone in a few weeks, actively teaches kids to offer help when needed.

Reading an interactive story book is nothing short of revolutionary, and has the capacity to explore many developmental aspects and forms of engagement beyond the printed form.

The question is whether these books will, one day, replace the printed kind completely. Will we see only electronic devices used in storytime? Is it a fad that will soon vanish, leaving the tried-and-tested print book to fend for itself alone, or will a different future altogether take place?

I’ll leave this open to discussion. Personally, I believe the two media will end up living side by side. Interactive storybooks have the potential to bridge the widening gap between kids and reading. The interactive book will not replace the excitement kids have about their own books they can see on the shelf  because real world objects are easier to connect with. Kids will keep asking for the print books. As parents, we grew up with real books and love them. Naturally we will try to pass that love on to our kids. Last but not least, the reading experience in the two media is quite different: young kids like to sometimes take the back seat and be lead by their parent through a story. This is where print books are suited to do the job just well as their e-counterparts.

Would love to know what you think of this and how you see these worlds evolve.

Omer Ginor, Touchoo

Making Magic at AppCamp

Hosted by the editor of the Children’s Technology Review, The Dust or Magic App Camp is a three day conference about Children’s App Design. Right now on the Monterey Peninsula, 50+ participants are brainstorming about what it takes to produce a state-of-the-art-app for mobile platforms such as the iPad, iPod Touch, and Android.

We were lucky enough to get a heads-up about the camp from kid app gurus Duck Duck Moose of Wheels on the Bus fame, and figured that living only 1.5 hours away merited a family day trip to attend the first portion of AppCamp. My girls enjoyed the AppFest session, where kids were encouraged to test as many iPad and iPod touch apps as they liked from the various developers.  Fish School, KidCalc, 123 Color, SpinArt, Stickboy Piano, Stickboy Learns Chinese and all of the MobiStories selections were big hits! Towards the end, as you can see, they were getting a little tuckered out!

From industry veterans to budding innovators, if your business is apps, then the next AppCamp is the place to be. Follow Dust or Magic on Twitter to find out what they are up to next.

Written by Lorraine Akemann, creator of My Little Suitcase and one of the founding members of Moms With Apps.

App Friday: Mom Maps

Welcome to App Friday, our weekly link exchange of family-friendly apps. Today we are featuring a navigation app called Mom Maps. Creator Jill Seman designed a directory of kid-friendly locations that parents can access straight from their iPhones. Her database is powered by a community of mom-mappers, i.e.,  well-traveled parents who recommend their favorite kid-friendly spots.  Are YOU ready to be a mom-mapper too?


What is your app about? Mom Maps is an interactive iPhone app and website full of kid-friendly locations. Created by parents for parents, Mom Maps features over 19,000 locations in 18 metro areas that lets you to find, rate and review kid-friendly spots straight from your iPhone.  Out and about? Let the Mom Maps GPS find parks, playgrounds, restaurants, museums and indoor play areas near you.

Why is it special?  You choose ==> 1) The easy to use interface that gives you the information you need, right when you need it, and finds you automatically with GPS? 2) The community of parents who can mommap their favorite kid spots straight from an iPhone, or from the web? 3) The reality that summer is right around the corner, and you can use Mom Maps to plan your vacation or stay-cation itinerary?  4)  The fact that it’s FREEEEEEE?

What’s in it for me?  Did you know that Mom Maps is FREE TO DOWNLOAD, anytime, straight from iTunes? Once you DOWNLOAD MOM MAPS, register, and submit your family’s favorite hot spots, you’ve also just entered to WIN a $50.00 Amazon Gift Card. Mommapping has never been better!

Related Apps? Traveling with kids has its moments. Our complete line-up of family travel apps, courtesy of our Moms With Apps developers, awaits you HERE

App Friday Link Exchange: Our goal at Moms With Apps is to spread the word about family-friendly apps. Do YOU have a favorite app to share? One about travel, or just one your family enjoys? Please participate in our link exchange and post it down below. Include the app name in the Link Title, your email, and a URL to the app. Thanks for your participation!