Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox was developed by THUP Games and is a series of 7 games that cover colors, matching, counting, letters, puzzle, spot the difference, and shape. The premise is that we're trying to pack the monkey's lunchbox, so all the items involve fruit. Sounds cute. Price: $0.99 on iTunes, $1.99 on Android market

Device Requirements: iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad; 
Requires iOS 3.0 or later; Android 2.0 and up

Developmental Appropriateness: Two of the major questions I ask when it comes to developmental appropriateness are "Is it right for the targeted age group?" and" What skill is it trying to target?". At first glance, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox seems to be a solid app for preschoolers - the games cover topics that are appropriate for preschoolers. But the more I played it, the less I thought of the app. With the first question, the app says it targets 2-5 year-olds. This is certainly true. But like I've said before, this is a wide age range and a lot happens during these early years. Some of the games like color and spot the difference are fit for the really young ones, 2 to 3-year-olds, while other games like the puzzles and matching are more for the older kids, like 5-year-olds. You do not have the option of choosing which games to play, it's all part of one game. So 5-year-olds will be bored with some items, and 2-year-olds will find some items too difficult.

For the second question, I really question what the counting and letter tasks are measuring. First with counting - there is a lot to understand about numbers and it is often difficult to assess exactly what a child understands about numbers. Just because they can count to 10 doesn't mean they understand those numbers. In this task, the Monkey asks for x amount of fruit and you have to tap on that amount of fruit. So what is trying to measure? Verbal counting? No. The app counts for you. Enumeration (*see below for definitions) or one-to-one correspondence? Maybe, but not quite. The task only presents the number that is asked for - so when it wants 4 apples, there are only 4 apples on the screen. How do we know the child is not just tapping on everything that's on the screen? Cardinality**? No - again, we really don't know what the child is doing. Does the child really know that he or she just put 4 apples in the basket or did he or she just tap on everything on the screen?

*Enumeration: The process of saying the proper number words in sequence while assigning one and only one number word to each object. 
**Cardinality: Knowing that the last counting word provides the numerical value of the whole set of objects. For example, after a child counts "1 2 3 4 5" he then can say, "There are five apples."
Definitions are from:

With the letter task, you are asked to select the fruit that begins with a certain letter. It shows a picture of the fruit and the word for the fruit. All the options are color coded (see picture in the video above). When it asks for the letter, it also shows the letter, and in the same color as the correct answer. So is it really measuring letter identification, or color and or letter matching? The target letter also never separates or is highlighted from the word. So you might hear A apple, but you never see it. Some of the fruits are also big words - like "cantaloupe." These longer words are hard for kids, especially those just learning their letters.

Numbers and letters may seem like they are easy things to learn, but they are not. They are very complicated symbols. Rating: 2/5 (aim for around 3 years)

Balance: The game is pretty simple. There are no extra hotspots or anything like that. The Monkey will do some flips when you get the right answer or shake it's head when you get it wrong, providing some cute feedback. The Monkey also makes noises, which after while, for me at least, got a little annoying, especially when you do the counting task really fast. But all in all, I think the graphics are cute and nothing too distracting. Rating: 4.5/5

Sustainability: After a few items, you get to pick a sticker. It never ceases to amaze me how much kids like stickers. There's a nice variety of stickers to choose from, but it's a little disappointing because you can't do anything with them. You can't even move them around once you've placed it on your sticker scroll. Furthermore, there's really only one level. The items never get harder - they just repeat over and over. Rating: 2/5

Parental Involvement: Other than to help the younger ones figure out what to do, I don't really see much of a role for parents here. Parents cannot see what progress is being are on the different types of items, and the items are simple enough that there is not much prompting to do in terms of strategy. Rating: 3/5 

Total: 11.5 out of 20 = 2 stars


  1. I think you're being generous giving this game 2 stars.

    My son likes this game quite a bit, but there are only 5 or so different types of games so he starts doing the same things over and over after about a minute. The 'count the fruit' mini-game is awful, as you mentioned, as is the letter mini-game. I'm worried he'll actually learn how to cheat or find shortcuts while playing this game rather than learning anything about counting or the alphabet.

    If I hadn't pick this up when Amazon gave it away for free I'd be looking for a refund.

    I enjoy these reviews - keep it up!

  2. I agree with the review -- my almost-2-year-old loves loves loves this game, but we give it to him more as a "light and sound" toy than anything educational. I also usually have to help him move the puzzle pieces, since his motor skills aren't quite ready for drag-and-drop yet. If they just had *any* sort of "options" screen for parents, to pick which game types to include and/or scale the difficulty a bit, it'd be a totally different experience.


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