Monsters and witches can be both scary and delightful for kids. Here are three apps that lean to the side of delight, and create ghoulish fun as kids interact with monsters and witches.
By Jinny Gudmundsen
Make Me Smile!
From Third Bird Party!, best for age 2-4, Free, iPad
Rating 4 stars (out of 4)
This newly released app is one of those rare finds in the app store, where a publisher is giving you a unusual gift for free. In this app, your toddler will meet five distraught little monsters. By touching the screen, your child instantly soothes a monster's distress and makes it happy. More taps on the screen make the monster giggle and dance. When happy, these monsters are cute and adorable.
This app provides young children with exercises in compassion. It can serve as a wonderful stepping stone to discuss emotions. But the gold in this app is what it does in the background, unbeknownst to your child. Parents have the option of setting up the app to take 10 or 20 photos of your child empathizing with these cute monsters. After they play the app, you can see a series of photos showing your child's sympathetic face with the sad monster face superimposed next to it. The next photo shows the look on your child's face when he or she makes the monster happy. This series of photos are precious, and can be easily shared over the parents' email and Facebook.
The Witch With No Name HD
From SlimCricket, best for ages 5-10, $4.99, for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
Rating: 4 stars
This book app opens with an interactive animated movie showing an annoyed witch turning people into funny-looking animals. The witch, who has lost her name, doesn't like hearing the nicknames her neighbors are using to greet her. When the witch's pet bat points out that having no name is causing her to be unnecessarily ornery, the Witch With No Name decides to create a potion to reveal her lost name.
With the little bat's guidance, kids help the witch to gather the necessary potion ingredients, including a giant's nose hair, an elf's smelly sock, firefly juice and a concert of flatulence. To find each ingredient, the witch and bat travel to fascinating places. For example, to gather the nose hair of a giant, the witch flies to his home, but doesn't realize that she has found him because he looks like an ecosystem. Plants and animals are growing out of his socks and his beard.
At each location, kids find the ingredients for the witch by playing mini-games. These games can be played on three levels of difficulty. For the giant's nose hair, you must time the throwing of sneezing powder into the giant's snoring mouth, which is opening and closing in rhythm. When you get enough sneezing powder into his mouth, he will sneeze out the nose hair. This activity is delightfully gross.
Throughout this book app's 25 pages, kids will experience top-quality animation and amazing bits of interactivity by touching the glowing objects on a page. The story can be read aloud by professional voice talent in English or French, accompanied by a unique musical score; or kids can read it by themselves.
This engaging story about a goofy witch and her wise pet bat contains the right blend of disgusting magic and silliness. And the story ends with a charming twist that requires your child to use the iPad's microphone to name the witch. Then, with an impressive use of technology, the app magically turns your child's voice into the varied voices of the characters in the book, all saying the name your child created for the witch. This is a magical romp, full of witchy fun.
A Monster Ate My Homework
From Geek Beach, best for ages 7-up, $.99 for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Free on Android.
Rating: 4 stars
In this 3D puzzler, kids throw balls at block structures in hope of knocking off homework-stealing monsters. The monsters, who look like animated blocks, have purloined three piles of your homework (groups of books). They guard it as it sits on top of a cardboard box, floating in the middle of a pond. The monsters have made formations around and among your three homework piles. The only way to get your homework back is to strategically throw balls at the monsters to knock them off the box, while being careful to not knock off your homework.
This app creates projectile pandemonium as kids throw unlimited balls at the monsters. The monsters get harder and harder to knock off the box as their numbers increase.They hide in precarious ways, they change the environment and they reveal tricks that hinder your success, including bomb monsters who explode when hit.
This is an "earn-three-stars" type puzzle, where the goal is to win 3 stars for not losing any of your homework into the water. You can unlock the next puzzle with just one star, and restart any puzzle as many times as you want. You start with the easy puzzles in "First Grade," progress to "Second Grade," and then unlock additional sets.
Part of the charm is the monsters' cheeky attitude. As you rotate the box around in 360 degrees, the monsters' eyes morph to the side facing you. And they frequently taunt you by sticking out their tongues and growling. It's hilarious monster fun.
Gudmundsen is the editor of Computing With Kids magazine (www.ComputingwithKids.com). Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.