Spot the red dot.
As a mom of a preschooler and a kindergartener, I’m always on the lookout for cool, fun, and interactive apps to add to the armamentarium of entertainment on the iPhone and iPad for the kids should the need arises. Apps with an interactive learning component are more appealing than simple time-passing games. What makes an app a winner for kids, especially preschoolers? For us, we like a lot of colors, a pleasant voice for narration, and cool music. The kids like being told that they did a good job, too. Spot the Dot, the newest iPad-only app from Ruckus Media with David A. Carter, master paper illusionist, mostly fits my criteria as a good app for toddlers and preschoolers (target population for app).
I actually tested Spot the Dot Lite before trying the full version with my three year-old son. I liked that while the instructions are simple (Spot the red Dot. Spot the blue Dot.), the game is full of visual challenges in the form of puzzles consisting of colorful shapes and patterns, moving targets, and increasingly difficult levels. Some of the puzzles reminded me of games like Memory, hide-and-seek, Asteroids, and Where’s Waldo?
My preschooler was happy until he was asked to find the brown spot. Each of the color puzzles begins with a screen that instructs the player to spot the specific colored dot. Then the screen slides and the puzzle appears. Some puzzles have stationary pieces, some have moving pieces, requiring more hand-eye coordination to complete the puzzle. Fortunately, there is no time limit to solve each of the puzzles (although that might be a neat addition should there be an upgrade to entice the older siblings and adults). The levels do get more and more challenging as the next colored dot is sought after, and my 3 year-old tends to want to walk away if he can’t spot the colored dot while it is in rapid motion. This is where my intervention comes in. We talk about other aspects of the game like what other colors there are on the screen and what some of the other shapes are. Clicking on the question mark on the upper right hand corner of each of the ten screens provides written instructions and teaching tips for that particular puzzle. Yes, that means this game allows for the parent to sit down with the child and spend some quality time together. “I like this game, but I don’t like this game,” he just informed me as I am writing this review.
My five and a half year-old, who is in kindergarten, was able to zip through the puzzles with a little more patience and enthusiasm. This is the girl who has enjoyed the I Spy show and books since she was a toddler, always finds Waldo, and likes drawing rainbows. When asked if she liked the game, she said, “Yes, it’s very colorful. I already know my shapes. It’s easy for me.” When playing the game “with” her brother, she takes pride in beating him to find the colored dot at hand. “I’m the fastest at finding the dot.” That’s when I tell her to slow down, give her brother a turn, and perhaps ask him some questions about what’s on the screen. This is also why a timer might make it more challenging for the older siblings and the young at heart.
Once all of the colored dots are found, the game can be restarted by touching one of the colored dots across the top. The colored dots reposition to different locations for the player to spot to switch things up a bit. The puzzles can also be completed out-of-order; just touch the colored dot of choice in the top row. Aside from a timer, it might be worthwhile for Ruckus Media Group to explore the possibility of challenging the player to find additional shapes to really make this an educational app. Perhaps a final puzzle that asks the player to spot all of the colored dots on that screen to wrap up the game would add more fun, as well.
We have not been exposed to David A. Carter’s masterpieces, but will physically look for them in our libraries and bookstores. This app was not intended to be three-dimensional like his pop-up books, but it appears to have captured the essence of Mr. Carter’s use of colors and puzzles to engage the players.
Overall, Spot the Dot is a visually appealing app that will awe children of all ages, but may be too difficult for a toddler or preschooler to solve some of the puzzles alone because of their minimal level of patience. With time, repetition, and parental guidance, however, the youngster will be able to enjoy the app thoroughly as intended over and over. Visit the iTunes store for Spot the Dot (Lite), which is available free, and Spot the Dot (full version) at $3.99.
Disclosure: Moms in Weston, CT was offered the full version of the Spot the Dot app for free in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed in this review was not influenced by the gift. Thank you, Ruckus Media Group, for the opportunity to experience and to review this iPad-only app.