Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Buzzle

Buzzle is a puzzle app created by Walnut Labs. It has been featured on iTunes and has been voted one of the top apps both in the US and internationally. What caught my attention about this app is that it is recommended for infants as young as 10 months of age (!) to preschool. I know that I say my target age range is 3-8, but I really had to see what an app for such young children would entail. Price: $0.99
Device Requirements: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad; Requires iOS 3.0 or later; 16 MB





Developmental Appropriateness: Overall, this is a nice and simple puzzle activity for preschool-aged children. It features appropriate images like animals - which young children generally like, matches it with corresponding sounds - even better (who has not heard kids making animal sounds?!), and provides a little prompting by highlighting where the puzzle piece should go for those who are having trouble (click on the video to see the demo). Where I struggle with this app is the recommended age. Children under one year of age do not really understand what a picture is. Research has shown that 9-month-olds will try to grasp at or even hit the picture in an attempt to "pick up" the depicted object (imagine the smudges and possible abuse to your device!). In the next year or two, infants begin to understand the relationship between pictures and their real world referents, but their understanding can be easily affected by factors such as the type of picture (i.e. photograph, cartoon drawing, etc.) - the more realistic the picture, the easier it is for toddlers to understand. The pictures here are nice and colorful and fairly realistic, but are still cartoonish. While the idea of this app is similar to when one- or two-year-olds are playing with those crates where you have to fit the triangle or circle in the right cut-out or when a parent reading is a picture-book about animals with cartoon drawings - these activities just seem different than using a finger to match up objects on a screen (and I doubt that a 10-month-old can drag and drop well). It is well known that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting video screen time for children under 2. This app is not quite the same as video screen time - it requires more interaction and thought. Is there a "too young" for educational apps? 


Overall, I think this is a nice app for preschoolers, but I do not see this app being all that beneficial for children under the age of two - certainly not better than live interactions with a parent or an outing to the zoo. Rating: 3/5 (aim for around 3 years of age).  


Balance: Again, this is a pretty simple activity, and in general, I like simple. When considering this for a 3-year-old or older, I think it's a nice puzzle activity. The pictures are colorful and there are a variety of scenes, but the task is always clear - find where the puzzle pieces go. Rating: 5/5 


Sustainability: One suggestion I already see from reviewers is more puzzles. So far, there are only 10 puzzles. Although I know that kids who like puzzles will want to do them repeatedly, more variety would be nice. Kids can then choose their "favorite" or have new scenes to talk about. Also, at the completion of each puzzle, there is a nice congratulations screen. I can see other rewards or incentives provided as more puzzles are completed - which ay lead to kids requesting more puzzles to be downloaded. Rating: 3/5


Parental Involvement: If this app is really meant for infants and toddlers as young as 10-month-olds, then it really screams for parental involvement. However, the app does not really seem to provide a role for parents other than to help match up the pieces. If parents are really using this with their young ones, I'd suggest thinking of it as a picture-book where you would talk about the scenes, relate it to your personal experiences, and highlight the shapes and objects. Rating: 3/5


Total: 14 out of 20 = 3 stars

Disclosure: I received this app for review for free from the developers.

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