Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

MyBackpack mobile app

MyBackpack mobile app

Fall 2015 Mobile Apps
Ages: 4 - 7 yrs.
Platform: iPad

Waterford Institute's free app My Backpack is chock-full of educational activities for early learners to enjoy. Broken down into four sections (books, math, music, and nursery rhymes), it covers all the basics of math and language arts for preschoolers and children in the early elementary grades.

The books section offers sixteen illustrated, narrated tales, most well-known, such as "The Gingerbread Man" and "The Little Red Hen." The art styles vary widely, from cute cartoonish pictures to near-realism, but they are generally visually appealing and professionally presented, not mass-produced as one might expect from such a wide offering. Children can choose to listen to the narration and watch as the text is highlighted, or they can read the stories to themselves and tap on individual unfamiliar words to hear them read aloud.

Another other strong component of the app is the math section. Players direct a squirrel down a game path as they tackle one of four activities that provide drill in basic arithmetic: Rock Climb (correct questions move the squirrel higher on the rocks), Balloon Race (correct answers move the hot air balloon higher than others in the sky, but delays result in a loss of altitude), Let's Build (players place numbers to make balanced equations on a see-saw, earning playground equipment after several correct answers), and Frustration (players try to complete 20 problems on a chalkboard before time runs out). When Frustration is completed for a level, players can move on to more challenging problems.

The music section was more of a mixed bag. There was a surprising range of songs in a number of subjects, from science and math (from counting all the way up to fractions and geometry) to language arts. Some of the concepts (such as telling time) were too tricky to cram into a short song and animated video, but others were effective at repeating a basic concept (perimeter sang the definition enough times that it should stick in most children's minds). The graphics of the animations more than adequate for a free app. Of minor concern was the misspelling of "Grammar" (as "Grammer") in the titles; while this would be easily corrected, it does make a parent worry about what other mistakes might have been overlooked.

And finally, the five nursery rhymes are each presented as an e-book that could be either narrated or sung. Unfortunately, this section was not a standout.

Overall, however, this app contained an astounding amount of material; parents will appreciate the range of topics covered and the safe environment in which to explore them. Children will best enjoy all the stories to read and helping the squirrel earn helmets and move across the board in the math games. This app will provide many hours of fun and learning for children in preschool and the primary grades.

Emily Crawford   ©2015 Parents' Choice
Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master's in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Look for this product at:
Waterford Institute
Available on iTunes

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