Nov 29, 2014

The Supper Club Presents: Apps that build relationships

Depending on how you use them, apps can put up barriers between people or foster connection.  This month, we looked at a few apps that help to build relationships by encouraging intergenerational interactions.

First, we read (gasp!) a BOOK!  The kind made with paper and ink! Tea with Grandpa by Barney Saltzberg is a totally charming book about a little girl who has tea with her grandpa every afternoon.  The twist at the end? They're visiting with each other on-screen!  This book is a great reminder about one of my very favorite ways to use digital devices to build relationships -- video calls.  Two of the most well-known video call apps are FaceTime (for iOS devices) and Skype (for Android or iOS).  They are both free to use and are just a fantastic way for kids to connect with faraway loved ones.  One of the parents at the Supper Club pointed out that their family struggled with these video calls at first because the grandparents wanted the kids to lead the conversation and the kids weren't sure what to talk about, so if you're finding the process awkward, suggest some sort of cooperative play (like a tea party) that everyone can engage in together.  (My son loves to "hide his grandma" (i.e. hide the phone which grandma is talking on) inside his toy ambulance while she either makes siren noises or exclaims about how dark it is inside the ambulance or pretends to be a patient being whisked to the hospital.)

We next read I Love You Too, an app (that was originally a song that was turned into a book that was turned into an app) by Oceanhouse Media.  Lots of great sing-along possibilities in this book filled with sweet sentiments.

And while we're on the subject of singing, we next tried out Little Fox Music Box.  This app features three songs that you can listen to or sing along, karaoke-style and cute animated illustrations that will make you giggle.  You can also record your own voice singing the songs so that your child can listen to you (or to himself) singing any time he wants to.  I also love the creative possibilities in the "Fox Studio" where you can create your own music!

Big Bird's Words is a fun app to help kids recognize "environmental print" (or "words that are all around us, every day") by identifying certain foods at the grocery store. You'll want to play this one together because the "word-o-scope" can be a little finicky, but it's still lots of fun. (iOS/Apple version, Google Play)

The next app is a bit unusual because the play doesn't actually happen on a screen.  Tiny Adventures provides prompts for real-world play.  I don't know about you, but sometimes when I've had a long day, I struggle to come up with ideas for fun interactions with my kids.  This app helps spark new ideas.  The link above also includes the option to print out paper cards with ideas!  If you love this concept, be sure to also check out Sesame Street Family Play and PBS Parents Play and Learn.

One of my very favorite apps for building connections between adults and kids is one put out by the Fred Rogers Center called Alien Assignment.  It's a scavenger hunt app that will get your kids up and moving all over the house searching for items to photograph.  You can read my review of that app on the library's website here.

Another HUGE favorite (and a very new) app is Inventioneers by Filimundus.  I'm hoping to write a longer blog post review of the app soon, so I won't say much here other than it's free (with in-app purchases, but the free portion is fairly generous and a great way to try out the app) and you should go download it now.

And if all you really want to do is host a tea party, you should definitely check out Toca Boca's Tea Party app.  Set your device flat on a table and invite two friends to your tea party where you can all enjoy virtual food and drink.  Be careful not to spill! (pssst.... actually, tea spilling in this app is the best part!)

If you'd prefer a printable list of these apps, click here to download the pdf.

After playing with the apps, the group made cardboard teacups.

 aaaaaand binoculars!
We're taking a break during December, but be sure to join us on Thursday, January 15 at 6:00 when we'll be exploring more fun apps while eating our suppers.

p.s. Found this great (short!) article recently with some really refreshing perspective.  Give it a quick read and tell me what you think in the comment section!

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