Friday, November 23, 2012

For the Tech Savvy Child: The Beginner's Bible App

My husband owns a first generation I-pad, a gift from a friend who was trading up.

To date, the only apps we've bought have been two 99 cent Angry Birds games.  My two boys love them, and there's just something about using a slingshot to propel a willing bird at a thieving green piggie.  Then again, their love of the game could be that they're only allowed to play on weekends or Thursday nights with daddy on the way back from ESL class.

While I love the angry eyebrowed flock, I've wanted to expand the apps for my children by offering them an app that focuses on their interaction with the Bible without making it seem like school.  The problem is there are not many Christian based apps out there for children who can't read thus far.  And honestly, I can't see my kindergartner enjoying MacArthur or any other commentary.

Recently, Zondervan released a Beginner's Bible App based on for I-phone and I-pad. 

Our household purchased Zondervan's The Beginner's Bible long ago for our children who quickly fell in love with the quirky looking people in the illustrations.So, this interested us.

The app uses those same stories, same illustrations while a narrator reads them aloud.  I liked that the words lit up on the screen as they were being read so the children could follow along and begin to correlate the written word to the spoken word.  While I was ambivalent about the very basic 2D animation on each page, my children liked that some of the illustrations moved a little bit.

The bad news is you can't just pay once and download the entire app.  You can purchase the Bible app in $1.99 packets that include six stories at a time.  Along with the six stories, there are also three coloring pictures, two puzzles, and one game, one activity corresponding to each story.

The coloring pictures seem to be the favorite, but only because of the "magic paintbrush," which reveals the artist's coloring of the image.  They truly love this.  But, none of my children has bothered with the other paint colors because the app doesn't give them the ability to change the width of their paintbrush strokes, and even my kindergartner easily grew frustrated at his inability to stay in the lines.  The coloring pictures would also be better if they did not stretch to the edge of the I-pad screen, which causes my children to inadvertently exit the program all too often.

The one game that comes with each packet is also simple enough for my four year olds but not really challenging enough to keep their attention for long since there is no way to "level up" and work towards a higher end goal.  For instance, in one game, you fling apples away from the serpent in the tree.  In another, you throw flies out the window.  Fun, but for only so long.  The "instructions" for each game remind me a lot of Angry Birds, with just a simple screen showing an image of what to do with your finger.  The problem? None of my children could figure out what to do even with the image instructions.  A simple sentence would have helped mom figure it out easier.

The puzzles are simple nine-piece drag and drop puzzles.  My four year olds have been putting together 24-piece puzzles for over a year now, so a 9 piece puzzle isn't too much of a challenge.  All three children do enjoy them, but it would be more challenging if they could have levels of difficulty, where they could choose to put a 9-piece of 24-piece puzzle together.

When you download the first six stories for free, it shows the other packets available for purchase to entice you to buy them (and to let your children know there are more stories available that you haven't purchased--sigh).  I know the whole point of an app is to make money, but I would rather Zondervan just charge $4-$5 for the entire Bible versus making me keep go back and pay $2 for each six stories.

After a month, all three of my children (ages four and six) are still using the app, mostly for the puzzles and magic paintbrushes. I enjoy that they have a Bible-based option on the I-pad.

I do recommend this app for very young children (ages six and under).  It's fun. It's Biblically sound.

I simply think it's a little pricey at $2 per six stories and that the Zonderkidz team could make the app even better if it made the activities have different levels of difficulty so there was a challenge and not mere repetition of the same activity over and over.  I would also like to see them add some sort of "quiz" feature to test children's knowledge of the information of the story.

**I have not been paid for this review by Zondervan.

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