Shape-O ABC's was created by Bellamon and has been positively featured on many app blogs. The app combines shapes, words, colors and sounds into one puzzle activity. It contains over 100 beautiful puzzles. Price - $1.99
Device Requirements: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad; Requires iOS 3.0 or later
Developmental Appropriateness: The goal of these puzzles is for children to match shapes to form an image and to learn the name of those images. There are three settings for the words and letters, and then also for the puzzle. For the words and letters, the easy setting is where the word already appears at the bottom of the screen. For medium, you have to match the letters to form the word, and for hard, you have to arrange the letters to spell the word. This seems appropriate and can target a range of learners from those just learning the names of objects to those just learning their letters and to those who are learning to spell. For the puzzles, the easy setting limits the puzzle to 20 pieces, medium to 30, and hard to over 30. Some of these puzzles, though they are all beautiful, seem complicated for the younger children, even when limited to 20 or 30 pieces. Traditional puzzles for very young children only have several pieces. However, puzzles in this app may be easier in that the pieces come set at the angle/rotation it needs to be to fit the space and you also only need to drag the piece to the general area of the space. Still, younger children may need a little help with the puzzle, especially with the smaller pieces.
A couple of suggestions that may help the younger children - Research has shown that young children have a hard time seeing one thing in two ways. In other words, they might have a hard time thinking about the puzzle as all the various pieces (triangles, arcs, lines, etc.) and then also as the whole (i.e. a cat). When the puzzle is completed, it does not connect the pieces to make the image obvious. Perhaps connecting the puzzles pieces together and then maybe even animating them (i.e. making the cat come together and walk across the screen) would make the image more obvious and probably more rewarding (i.e "Oh look! I made a cat!). Also, after the completion of the puzzle, there is a voiceover that says and spells the word. It would be helpful to highlight the letters as they are said and or to highlight the syllables as they are said. This would help a child learning to recognize letters and to read to track the letters and letter-sounds. Rating: 3/5 (depending on the setting, aim for 3-6 years of age)
Balance: This features in this app are pretty straightforward. However, at least on the iPhone, the puzzle pieces and letters are presented a few at a time as you complete the puzzle. Having the letters presented mixed in with all the puzzle pieces (remember there are a lot), may take away from the spelling or letter-recognition task. It may be better to present all the puzzle pieces and then all the letter pieces. Rating: 4/5
Sustainability: There are over 100 puzzles. For one who really likes puzzles, these are some beautiful puzzles. You can also change the colors of the puzzles. Otherwise, there are no other incentive features. Rating: 3.5/5
Parental Involvement: Parents will enjoy the images and could help guide their child with the puzzle and reinforce the letters and letter-sounds of the labels. Rating 3/5
Total: 13.5 out of 20