Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wheels on the Bus

Wheels on the Bus is an app from Duck Duck Moose and has received "best app" awards and high marks from folks ranging from Parent's Choice Foundation to the New York Times. It's based on the "Wheels on the Bus" song that almost every kid learns at some point, and that is now stuck in my head. Price: iPhone - $0.99, iPad - $1.99, Android - $1.99

Device Requirements: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad; Requires iOS 3.0 or later; Android 2.1 and up

Developmental Appropriateness: This well-known preschool song is definitely appropriate for little kids, especially those who ride a school bus. For each verse, there are interactive features that illustrate the new phrase (wheels go round and round; wipers go swish... etc.) It's pretty fun. OK, this app may not be the most "educational" in the sense that it's not trying to drill a specific skill and I almost did not write this review. However, I thought that this app is a great example of how to use animation in an effective manner. Research has shown that at least with adults and older kids, animation can be more effective for learning than static pictures. This is of course if the animation is directly related to the to-be-learned information. Picture trying to teach verbs and adverbs like "gallop", it would be easier to show a video of someone or an animal galloping than to try to describe it with or without pictures. However, we often see animation used in frivolous ways, and not directly linked to teaching anything. While it may be only a handful of words or phrases, this app could be a good tool for teaching those specific vocabulary. Rating: 5/5 (aim for around 3 years of age)

Balance: For the most part, the animation is directly related to the lyrics. There are a few instances where 
they are not. Rating: 4.5/5

Sustainability: Some cool features are that the song can be heard in five different languages and played in a variety of instruments ranging from the violin to kazoo - a nice way to expose your child to different languages and instruments. You can also record you and or your child singing along. So if you don't mind hearing this song over and over again and having it stuck in your head, I can see playing with this app for more than just a few times. Rating: 4/5

Parental Involvement: The extra features (recording, languages, and instruments) is a nice way to involve the parents. The recording feature encourages parents to sing along and then allows them to share the recording with other loved ones who may have missed it. It would be nice to see a "blank" verse so parents can add on other verses and also so they won't OD on the same ones over and over again. Rating: 4.5/5

Total: 18 out of 20 = 5 stars 


  1. I love this app for my 19 month old. We look at it almost every night on the iPad and his favorite part is opening and closing the bus door. We talk about all the humans and animals, the bus parts, etc. I give it 2 thumbs up!

  2. My 2.5 year old already sings wheels on the bus all the time, so I thought this app would be great for him. It lasted about 30 mins, even with me beside him. There's just not enough to explore. At a mere 9 pages/verses, I can see why it might get old quickly.
    The developers also put an ad for their software on one of the pages. The ad, with it's picture of cute animals, begs out: "tap me". This of course quits the game/book/app and takes you to the app store. About 5 mins of the 30 mins were having to explain "tap and touch anything you want, except that!" Which of course made it all the more interesting to touch the ad. Dumb design for a kids book.

    1. True - it is a short game and there will always be some individually differences. I'm just curious though - how long would you say you and your child spend or expect to spend on an app on average for each session? So far, the surveys I've seen (and of course more are needed) have shown that kids spend only a short amount of time (i.e. less than 20 minutes) for each session. So for my sustainability rating, I'm really thinking of whether a child might ask for it again and again for short exposures.

      As for the ads - that is a great point. For this blog, I'm focusing on the content, but Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.org) does a great job pointing out these safety issues.

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