ZooPAL-A Gift: Learning Games for Preschool Kids by SmartyPAL. Reading, Math & Cognitive Skills through Personalized Stories & Puzzles
ZooPal –A Gift is an interactive story that will take your child’s character on a journey where he will have to solve tasks in order to discover different animals. Pre-schoolers will like that the storyline is changing each time and this is done by using learning algorithms to adapt the content for each child. The app will help your children develop skills like literacy, math, hand-eye-coordination and visual-spatial skills. The app receives a 5 star EAS Certification and the EAS Recommended status.
Like other sophisticated story books, please note that downloading ZooPal-A Gift will take a bit of time due to the large collection of stories (the app is more than 500mb so make sure you download over a Wi-Fi connection and have enough space on your device). SmartyPAL’s interactive app is built around three concepts: Play, Apply and Learn. The app is fun, has been developed with the help of childhood development experts and easily adapts to each child’s individual learning pace.
Parents need to create an account, add their child/children information and then pick a character: boy or girl. The information provided about the child will help personalize learning content. The ParentPortal is a feature that we hope will be available soon because we think parents will want to see their child’s progress and how the app will develop skills covering understanding feelings, observing, shape matching, memory, comparison, classification and others.
There are two modes to play: either the child is reading alone or is accompanied by the parent, who receives tips to extend the learning experiences. The main story is attractive but fairly simple. The child’s character will meet new friends in a zoo setting where they will all discover a gift box with an animal in it. In order to release the animal the child has to finish a series of tasks. I found the voice over and the other animal voices help the story and also help develop listening skills - our favourite was the crocodile’s voice.
The main characters are Hati the elephant, Matty the zookeeper, Nanook the polar bear, the crocodile and the owl. They all need your child’s help to release whatever animal is in the boxes they find. Characters and objects flash on the screen and once you tap on them they will deliver a message or make a sound. Throughout the journey, your child will have to find solutions for problems: what tools or object can you use to get the box out of the water (a trampoline, shovel or a bridge) or how do you get a box out of the ice (use a ladder, snowplough or a boat). You are told what each tool is called and what it is for, and after you make your decision you will learn how to use it. Once the child’s character reaches the box everyone thanks him and the animal comes out. Another task follows and includes choosing the right amount of food the animal needs. It is a very smart way of learning about animals and children will remember what they eat and what their habitat is.
After one story finishes the voice over suggests different activities: to label habitats for zoo visitors, build a home for the new animal, look in the kitchen to find something to eat for each of the animal found in the story, step outside and see what season it is, what season is the warmest, etc. We really liked that the app tries to extend the learning in the physical world.
Every time you start another story a new animal is hidden in the box that it is stuck in different places. The tasks and tools vary and we were pleasantly surprised to find there are 160 possible scenarios. One critique is that the app lets you press ‘next’ to continue with the story, even if the child made a mistake (did not choose the right tool) or didn’t know the answer – we tried it until we got to the last screen when the story was completed. We are sure it’s just a bug that will need to be fixed with the next update.
ZooPal – A Gift will feel different every time your little ones play with it. We would recommend one or two stories a day, as it might get too repetitive and the attention span for this age category -2 to 5 year olds- during play is short. The design of the app is nicely hand-drawn and might even inspire kids to do some drawing. Overall, ZooPal – A Gift app will provide an exciting and entertaining experience for children and it receives a 5 star EAS Certification and the EAS Recommended status.
From the Developer
A personalized, interactive story where your child is the hero and the adventure changes each time you open the book! Your child solves a series of tasks to help Hati, Matty and their zoo animal friends retrieve a mysterious box and rescue a new animal. Developed with early childhood development experts, each task helps pre-schoolers build critical skills. Adaptive algorithms tailor tasks to your child's learning trajectory, so they are always learning something new. With 160 different storylines possible, there's always a new adventure for your child.
- Instead of passively watching the story, the child actively moves the narrative forward by solving tasks which influence the outcome of the story
- A sophisticated adaptive learning engine personalizes app content to match each child’s level and preferences
- Hand-drawn, original artwork
- The entire storyline changes each time, e.g. the box is stuck in a different place, the tools vary & you meet different animals
- Developed with early childhood development experts, the app helps pre-schoolers build skills ranging from literacy and math, to executive functioning and spatial skills
- Parent mode allows parents to read with their child and receive tips to extend their child’s learning
- Parents can create an account and learn about the child’s learning progress through an upcoming parent portal
- Bridges the digital and physical worlds - The app recommends real-world activities for children to reinforce the learning that occurs in the app
SmartyPAL is built on three pillars: Play, Apply, and Learn:
Play: All of the apps are fun and provide an option for parents to co-play with their child!
Apply: Our apps work on skills drawn from a framework of over 80 skills, developed by our early childhood development experts.
Learn: The app adapts to each child’s individual learning trajectory.
“What makes it more engaging is that it's actually not a single story, but an algorithmically driven program that can take.....different paths depending on how the child responds at each turn of the tale.” -Philadelphia Inquirer