Kid Apps: Can They Be Brought to (Real) Life?

As you may know, we had originally planned an earlier launch date for our Curious Kingdom playset. During the beta process of sending the playset out to around 300 families, we received mainly positive feedback, but we also realized there were some things that we could make even better, so we made what we believe was the right decision: postpone its launch and make additional enhancements.

One of the biggest aspects we improved on is the way in which the free app that comes with the playset can inspire and direct the kids to offline play in an organic and effortless way. An important goal we’ve had as a company is to make the app and its games, puzzles, and edutainment component not an end, but a beginning of the next opportunity to creatively explore stories with the character IRL (“In Real Life”). Again, I’m turning this column over to the “CEO” of the Knudsen clan who manages our four young kids – my wife, Deanna Knudsen. Take it away, Deanna!

As a parent myself, I know that no matter how creative and even educational an app is, it’s hard for a parent not to worry about the amount of time our young children spend staring at a screen. What’s too much? What's just enough? What are they learning from the app? Is it junk time or is it valuable? It’s all a bit of a struggle. As I’ve been watching the work the Playper team has been doing for the Curious Kingdom playset and accompanying app, it’s made me wonder - what more can we do to turn apps into offline fun?

Recording on Paper

I can’t claim credit for this first example – our Leo (6) came up with it all himself. It involves Loopimal by Yatatoy. It’s fun, charming, and a witty approach of using animation to introduce concepts about making music. Music is a big part of the lives of the creators behind Playper; COO and co-founder, Susy Christian, has a degree in music composition, is a published composer, and creates original music for our product and others. Webb plays guitar, and I have a BFA in Theater Arts and have worked with children’s musical theater groups. The power of music making in young lives is well documented in helping kids with their auditory development, developing social skills, excelling at math and science, and eventually scoring higher on standardized tests.

But back to Leo! He loves creating music on Loopimal by arranging the colorful dancing animals in different patterns to create different songs. Kids can layer in the musical elements in a really creative way and the wizards that put it together designed it so well that you can’t make anything that sounds terrible! But by design, any one “composition” can’t be recorded or saved.

Well, Leo recently created a tune he especially loved and understandably he wanted to keep it – or at least document it in some way. Completely on his own, he got out good old-fashioned paper and five different colored markers representing the colors of the animals and proceeded to “record” his song visually. He transposed the app on paper. Oh, and the bonus? The “transposition” was pretty! It was a separate piece of art in and of itself. Meanwhile, a couple of days later, he did in fact recreate the tune from his “notes” (no pun intended). Appropriately, he was pretty proud of it. And we as his parents were too.

It got me thinking: in what other ways can we have digital content become a valuable tool for offline learning? If there’s a math app your child likes, can you sit down and make a game out it based on it with paper and pencil? If an app focuses on stories and characters (like Curious Kingdom!), at the dinner table you can ask to hear the story retold – and maybe a review. Or better yet, have them act it out. Perhaps we can wonder out loud what other adventures the characters could have, or what other creatures or people might live in that world. Then draw them!

If you have any ideas, we’d love to hear them (info@playper.com) so we can share with other parents out there. Otherwise, I will keep stewing on this too – any effort to make our children’s environment more creative is always worth it.

--Deanna Knudsen
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