Have you ever been on an extended overnight trip from home and wish that you could tuck your kids into bed with a story? It’s a heart-aching experience but a clever new storybook app for iPad aims to help.
Nursery Ryhmes with StoryTime is a beautiful new interactive iPad storybook app that features classic nursery rhymes such as Jack & Jill, Three Blind Mice, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Your kids can jump right in to the app as each page comes to life in a playful way. Nearly all of the beautifully drawn picture elements come to life with a tap or a swipe.
Watch this heart-warming video:
I tested this app with my 10 month old daughter in my lap as I clung to the iPad with a white knuckle grip. She loved the rich sound effects and playful animations as she tapped and swiped through each story, giggling and bouncing frantically.
Nursery Ryhmes brings each story to life and turns it into a game. You can wind the bucket up Jack & Jill’s well, shear the wool from Baa Baa Black Sheep, and even cut off the tails of the Three Blind Mice with a carving knife, eek! Don’t worry though, they are easily reattached.
The most unique feature, however, is the optional StoryTime mode. If you enable this feature, you can read the rhymes to your child on your device (it works for iPhone and iPad) whether you’re across town or across an ocean, as she interacts with the playful pages on her iPad. To try this, I managed to gift a copy of the app to my cousin in America so that her 4 year old daughter could be my test subject.
The gifting process in iTunes was seamless. I selected “Gift This App” in iTunes and filled in my cousin’s email address with a brief message attached. I rang her up to walk her through the installation and at first she was a bit worried because after clicking the redeem link in her email, iTunes stated that the code had already been redeemed. Fortunately, the App Store on her iPad was already downloading the story book in the background since the email address I used to gift it was the same as her iTunes account. Well done for a nearly seamless gift process, Apple, but your worrisome message about the code being used already could have come with a quick explanation that the app was already posted to the user’s account.
So far, so good. Now here’s where we ran into problems. The StoryTime feature requires both users to have a unique Game Center account, the feature in iOS that allows for multiplayer online gaming. The sign up process for Game Center wasn’t too complicated but adding a friend in order to play was a bit of a pain. My cousin tried to add my Game Center username to her friends list several times to no avail. Likewise, I tried to add her to my account with no luck. We eventually got an error message in one of those notoriously bad iOS pop-up windows to change some privacy setting. Now, why on earth doesn’t Apple just give you the option to be taken to those settings directly from the dialog box? Instead, you must search through Settings > yada yada > yada yada > etc. It was so complicated that I can’t even remember how I found it in order to describe it here. Imagine this scenario: your non-techie mother in America has an iPad and wants to read her granddaughter a story. How would you explain to her to sign up for a Game Center account and ensure the privacy settings are enabled to allow friend requests?
This is no fault of the game developer, but unfortunately will reflect poorly on them – as is evident in some of the brutal App Store reviews. Apple needs to work their UI magic and seriously reduce the myriad settings options for Game Center and privacy. Do I go to the app settings? Privacy settings? Game Center app itself? Fortunately, it seems as though once your Game Center account is setup and you’ve allowed friend requests that it should be smooth sailing for future apps that use the multiplayer gaming service. My advice? Setup your loved one’s iDevice and Game Center account when you are both in the same room.
I digress. Once everything was setup, the StoryTime feature worked brilliantly. In fact, I was helping my cousin get everyhting configured by chatting via FaceTime – she on her iPhone and I on my MacBook – the audio and video were very good, by the way. However, once I invited my cousin to StoryTime mode the audio was fantastic. It basically utilizes voice over IP calling to chat with your story partner. The app prompts you to use a a headset with mic for best results, but my cousin was just using the built-in mic and speaker on her iPad 1 and still had clear audio. This is important, because most toddlers aren’t going to wear a headset for very long. As I read the story to my cousin’s daughter, she was able to interact with the elements but not turn the page – a good design decision since the reader should be in control of the page turning. When you’re finished, just close the app and the ‘game’ will end, dropping the audio call as well.
Overall, this is a beautifully designed app that promises to vastly improve children’s story time, even if you’re not at opposite corners of the earth. However, it is a game changer when you factor in the StoryTime functionality. I imagine ustwo have a few more ideas about integrating this feature into other iPad apps. Let me offer a few of my own. Imagine a language learning app for older kids, interactive textbooks for distance learning, tutorials for software. The possibilities are endless.
And for you whining reviewers on the App Store complaining about the brevity of this app, there are at least half a dozen rhymes and it’s cheaper than a mocha at Starbucks or most toddler board books.
Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime makes the iPad shine. It is easily an pp that, alone, could convince someone to drop $500 for an iPad 2. Despite the hiccups I encountered with Game Center (that was Apple’s fault) I give this app 5 out of 5 stars. Buy it.
Nursery Rhymes with StoryTime [App Store, $2.99]