Friday, April 27, 2018

Children’s iPad App, Play School Art Maker

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

Play School is a much loved educational TV show in Australia, aimed at younger audiences. The Play School Art Maker app is associated with the show, and developer is the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

From the developer:


* create pictures with Big Ted, Little Ted, Humpty, Jemima and their friends
* decorate scenes with a large range of art and craft items
* animate pictures to create movies with your own songs or narration
* choose from 6 Play School craft backgrounds (Beach, Bedroom, Farm, Kitchen, Moon, Underwater) or choose from 1 of 16 plain coloured paper backgrounds
* use a photo from your own album as a background to bring Play School into your world
* save pictures and animations to share with friends and family – you can even come back and edit them later
* make a story slideshow using up to 8 of your pictures and animations
* you don’t need to be connected to the internet to make pictures, animated movies or slideshows
* watch episodes of Play School (this feature requires a web connection and can be disabled)

What I liked:

This app is free, and navigation is simple. Kids will recognize their favourites from the TV, and there are art and craft items that can be manipulated as well. I liked that children can add Humpty, Jemima or one of the Teds to their own scenes/photos, the way I did in my image above. (Kudos to anyone who recognises the beach!) I particularly liked that this app is a way for young children, perhaps with help, to create a digital story. Kids could go on to create “real life” art with elements like the ones shown in the app - patty cake cases, pegs and paper scraps.

Some kids will find manipulating the digital image elements difficult - pinching out and in to enlarge or rotate is not always easy for youngsters' small hands. But like all apps, kids will benefit the most if parents participate in the creation process, discuss, and be there as back-up.

Where do I get it?

I’ll be adding this app to my list of iPad apps that kids can create with, and my list of tools that involve kids in digital storytelling.

Check out all of my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page.

Next week here at The Book Chook I have a treasure trove of goodies for you - all related to Children's Book Week 2018!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Let’s Celebrate Screen-Free Week

by Susan Stephenson,

Are you looking forward to Screen-Free Week? It will be April 30 to May 6 in 2018.  I enjoy this annual reminder that life can be wonderful without screens, although if I’m honest, I feel a bit jittery too. Like most things in life, I think it’s about balance. It can be useful to check whether we have a balance of screen and non-screen time that keeps us healthy and happy. To help get into the zone, I’ve made a list of 50 fun screen-free activities. I hope you’ll try some or all of them with your children/students!

50 Fun Screen-Free Activities:

build a tower from blocks
race toy cars down a slope
give someone you know a face massage
design a mask
paint the back fence with coloured water
build cubbies and forts
read by torchlight
climb a tree
have a cardboard box-a-thon
lie on the grass and watch clouds

play dress-ups
write, and put on a play
create your own code
make paper boats and float them
play cards
cook damper over a campfire
make a picture using natural materials
play or learn to play chess
build a sand castle or a snowman
bake a cake

make a scarecrow
borrow some library books
ride a bike
sing a song
invent your own currency with natural materials
play a board game like monopoly as a family
make and fly a kite
discuss, research and plan your next holiday
tell stories around a campfire (marshmallows for dessert?)
draw treasure maps

read a book in or near a tree
make mud pies
invent your own dance
find a grassy hill and slide down it on cardboard
learn to weave
make music
invent your own boardgames
make paper aeroplanes and fly them
go for a walk
play in the park

make and walk on tin can stilts
plan and plant a garden
find an old toy and make it into something different
play with a pet
paddle a canoe
invent a game with a balloon and a rolled up newspaper
draw a comic strip
hold a walk backwards competition with your friends
create your own portrait
make clothes for a toy

Find more fun activities that encourage kids to create and express themselves in my Creative Prompts for Kids Series. You might also be interested in checking out my List of Book Related Special Days for Kids, Fun Special Days for Kids, and Important Special Days for Kids

Friday, April 20, 2018

Children’s iPad App, Puzzle Pop HD by Duck Duck Moose

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

Puzzle Pop HD by Duck Duck Moose is a new puzzle app for kids I discovered recently. I have previously reviewed Draw and Tell HD by Duck Duck Moose, Superhero Comic Book Maker by Duck Duck Moose, and Chatterpix Kids by Duck Duck Moose.

From the developer:

- EXPLORE 27 levels of puzzles for different ages and skills
- PLAY with colorful puzzle pieces featuring dancing animals, flying birds and more
- LISTEN to lively jazz versions of popular children’s songs made exclusively for Puzzle Pop

- Parents' Choice Silver Award - Parents’ Choice Foundation
- Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice Award

What I liked:

Free always appeals to me. And I love apps that encourage kids to think and solve problems. Puzzle Pop HD has spatial puzzles that start out easy - a picture is split into two pieces and kids need to slide a piece into its correct place. Difficulty increases slowly up to Level 27. I loved the colourful artwork, and gentle animations. The background tunes of familiar nursery rhymes are bright and catchy.

Where do I get it?

I’ll be adding Puzzle Pop to my list of Children’s iPad Puzzle Apps.

Check out all of my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Children’s Book Review, A Lion is a Lion

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

A Lion is a Lion is a children’s picture book by Polly Dunbar, published by Walker Books (2018.) RRP: $Au 24.99 HB

From the publisher:

All lions are fierce, right? Well, maybe, just maybe, this Lion – so well dressed and polite and charming – isn't too fierce for you...

From the creator of Penguin and the Tilly and Friends series comes a wicked, rollicking read-aloud which asks the question: Is a lion still a lion if he … wears a hat? And carries an umbrella? Is a lion still a lion if he … arrives at your door and invites himself in with a “How do you do?” (Isn’t he polite!) And is a lion still a lion if he asks for a dance? What about when he licks his lips and says, “Oh yes, lunch would be lovely, thank you...” Is a lion still a lion then?

Children love books about the traditional villains like wolves and lions. I suspect they like the tiny thrill of fear about the bad guy, and also the wisdom of identifying his ulterior motives. I have a little brother so I just loved the way Big Sister grabbed her sibling’s hand and took control of the lion’s seeming agenda. Children will love to join in the great dialogue parts, especially “No! No! No! NO!” In fact, A Lion is a Lion would make a fine text to begin a discussion with kids about being able to say “NO!” to things and situations that make them feel uncomfortable. It’s a fun book to read aloud or share with others. I also see it making a great choice for a discussion with older kids - after all, is a lion still a lion even if she or he changes appearance and mannerisms? What other characters do we know who have done this?

This is a perfect picture book to bring to life with kids as a performance! The actual text is short enough to be memorised so it could readily become a choral piece. I can also see it as reader’s theatre with additions - the lion singing “Hoobie-doobie-doo” could be developed into a short song for a chorus behind one child as a lion, and two kids as big sister and brother. The wonderful think about children is that they will have so many creative ideas about how to use A Lion is a Lion as a springboard for something else.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

A Lion is a Lion has inspired me to create a new list: Perfect Picture Books for Performance which you’ll find embedded below. I’ll be adding to it over time, so do let me know if you have recommendations for this list.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Activities for Hickory Hickory Dash

by Susan Stephenson,

The Australian Library and Information Association has chosen Hickory Hickory Dash as the children’s picture book for National Simultaneous Storytime this year. (Catch up with my review HERE.) At 11.00am on Wednesday 23 May, 2018, everyone who wants to will stop what they’re otherwise involved in and share the sheer magic of this funny read-aloud. 2018 sees LIANZA, the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa, joining in. Last year’s book was The Cow Tripped Over the Moon, also by Tony Wilson and Laura Wood. You can check out my suggested activities for last year here.

ALIA have lots of ideas you can use specifically for NSS. And here are mine:

* What well-known nursery rhyme is Hickory Hickory Dash based on? Find multiple verses of Hickory Dickory Dock and printables at DLTK.

* What rhyming words do kids know that will rhyme with dash? Collaboratively make a two line rhyme according to the model from the text:

“Hickory dickory DASH!
She fell in the bath with a splash!”
For example, you could make:

Hickory Dickory DASH!
The dog and the cow had a crash.

Choose some other couplets from the book to play with. Some very simple examples: Hickory dickory splat, I can see a cat; Hickory dickory dook, I can see a book. (With quite young kids, you will need to help. Look for something in the environment that is an easy word to rhyme with, have kids identify it, make an “I can see” statement, and work backwards to the rhyming word after hickory dickory.)

* Help children to see the rhythm and rhyme patterns in Hickory Dickory Dock.
Line 1: 1 x 3-syllable word + 1 x 3-syllable word + 1-syllable word. Lots of hard “ck” sounds. Final word rhymes with final word in Line 2.
Line 2: 6 x 1-syllable words. One hard “ck” sound. Final word rhymes with final word in Line 1.
Line 3: 4 x 1-syllable words. Final word rhymes with final word in Line 4.
Line 4: 4 x 1-syllable words. Final word rhymes with final word in Line 3.
Line 5: Repeats Line 1

* Another similar (but slightly different pattern) rhyme to Hickory Hickory Dock is:

Higgledy piggledy pop
The dog has eaten a mop
The pig’s in a hurry,
The cat’s in a flurry,
Higgledy piggledy pop.

Help kids to see the rhythm and rhyme pattern and work together to create a new rhyme based on it.

* Have fun with word play and experiment with creating more rhymes like this. Children could use a simple five or four-panel template to illustrate the rhyme. Here’s mine:

Fiddledy diddledy dee
A cat sat on a flea
The flea took a bite,
The cat got a fright,
Don’t mess around with a flea!

I have a basic five panel template you can download for printing at my website. All my PDFs are available for free to parents, teachers and librarians who want to use them with kids. Discuss with children what each line means and what sort of drawings could go in each panel. Remind them that it's their interpretation that counts!

* What other stories or songs or rhymes about cats or mice do we know?

*Why would a cat chase a mouse? What might happen if the cat met a giant mouse? Draw it then act it out!

* Piggybacking on a story or rhyme to create a new one is fascinating to explore, and lots of fun to try our own hand at. Share other books and rhymes with kids that build on something else. Fractured fairytales fall into this category. After the Fall by Dan Santat tells us about a Humpty with a fear of heights - can he conquer his fear?

* If you had a pet mouse, what would you call it? Where would it live? What would you do together? Design a mouse house on paper or create a mouse house from junk craft. My PDF, My Mouse, encourages kids to imagine a four panel comic story about a mouse, a cat, a mouse house and a problem that might ensue. Children read the simple sentences and then draw a mouse, a cat, a mouse house and the resulting problem in each of four panels.

* Use the theme in Hickory Dickory Dash to adapt a game that can be played in a group.

1. Consider changing Duck Duck Goose to Mouse, Mouse, Cat. Have children sit in a circle. One child(A) walks around the outside of the circle, tapping each child on the head and repeating “Mouse”, until A suddenly says “Cat”. The Cat jumps up and chases A around the circle with A trying to get back to his place before the Cat tags him. If the Cat tags A, A either sits in the middle of the circle, or rejoins the circle while the Cat is in and the game starts again.

2. You could also adapt What’s the Time, Mr Wolf? to What’s the Time, Madam/Mister Cat? Have the child who is Mister/Madam Cat stand with her back to the other children who are several metres away. They chant “What’s the time, Madam Cat?” and the Cat swings around ferociously, declaring a time eg 3 o’clock, and sending anyone she sees moving back to the start to begin again. The remaining group of kids take three steps forward. The game proceeds with careful kids getting closer to the Cat until she declares “Dinner Time!” and chases them back to the start, trying to tag one who becomes the new cat.

(When playing running games inside, it’s a good idea to discuss some sensible and respectful rules first to avoid any problems. Small groups are probably best for active games.)

3. Try hide-and-seek with an object from the story like a cat or mouse toy or finger puppets. Any of these would be good for an indoor game of hide-and-seek. (Some preschool kids don’t like to close their eyes or hide their faces. I find it helps to have Mum stay with and help them. Plus it stops older kids getting vocal about “cheating”.)

* Artists Helping Children have lots of mouse crafts.

* Krokotak have some very cute paper mice.

* ABC Education has lots of resources on rhyme that might interest teachers.

Find Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.
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