Nowadays kids know how to use apps better than some parents. Becoming accustomed to technology early can be a great thing if done in a balanced way because that is the direction that the world is flowing. And, if they are using educational fun apps, it’s even better. We took some time out to chat with the team from Kuato Studios who are the creators of Dino Tales and Safari Tales to find out the inspiration behind the learning app.
Mommynoire: Tell us a little about the app and how it works?
KUATO: In creating Dino Tales and Safari Tales, we set out to design games that would bring a new and engaging experience to reading. The child begins by naming and giving a gender to (in Dino Tales) a baby dinosaur, and (in Safari Tales) a baby elephant. As they enter the world of the each game, children are given a fun challenge to complete, such as reaching the top of the volcano or taking a trip down a river rapid. As they set off, they explore worlds that are rich in facts and fictions, and full of interesting activities; finding fossils, searching for colorful berries, making new friends…
Sounds like a lot of information for kids to handle…
Because children love asking questions, we decided to incorporate a learning buddy called Darwin in each game – a pterosaur in Dino Tales, and a meerkat in Safari Tales. When Darwin appears, children can use playful word wheels to form questions which Darwin answers in the cheery voice of a child. These word wheels are as much about word association and vocabulary enrichment as they are about interesting facts and Darwin’s often funny responses.
At the end of each play session, the length of which can be set by the parent in Parent Corner, the game generates a colorful storybook which is a record of that ‘day’s’ adventures.
Can these experiences be shared?
KUATO: The storybooks are designed to be shared with parents and loved ones, and encourage children to alter the descriptive captions that accompany the pictures. By playing with the adjectives, adverbs and verbs, children make their own language choices. In this way, we are encouraging young readers to see language as something playful, something they can create and change.
We want the child to be so excited by the game that they share and discuss the storybooks with family and friends; that they talk about the questions they posed to Darwin (and his answers); that they are motivated to read and research further.
What are some of the key features?
KUATO: For parents, there’s Parent Corner a secure environment controlled by a pin code, where parents can adjust the length of time children can play the game, set a reading age appropriate to the child, and receive email notifications when their child has created a new Tale.
There is also an option in Parent Corner to toggle the lock on/off, so that your child isn’t locked out the game. In Dino Tales, there are six baby dinosaurs to find and play with, and in Safari Tales, there are six baby safari animals.
As mentioned, Darwin is always on hand to answer pressing questions – sometimes factual, sometimes whimsical, always interesting. Fun features like the Berry Blaster allow children to go a bit wild in creating ‘looks’ for their dinosaurs and safari animals.
Most games are for kids only, but incorporating parents to create a personalized story is next level. What did you find in the research as far as coming up with this idea?
KUATO: Discovering the joy and value of reading is, or should be, an integral aspect of childhood, as oftentimes we see parents reading bedtime stories to their children to not only educate them, but also to foster bonding.
In many games, even educational games, there is little or no parental interaction – the tablet is simply used as an entertainment device with minimal parental or guardian involvement. The ability for parents to be alerted to the completion of a play session and then to sit down and read through the ‘tale’ / storybook together is a perfect way to reconnect and discuss what the child has achieved and learned. In this way, reports such as Family Time with Apps from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center speaks exactly to what Kuato aims to achieve with its games.
The games are also proving popular with schools too. Michelle Baldwin, an elementary school teacher in Boulder worked with her class to create a blog of their experience. “As a teacher, I loved that my students could customize their experience, including a setting for reading age.”
When Michelle asked her pupils what they enjoyed most about Dino Tales, the children responded:
“I like that I can ask Darwin questions.”
“I love finding new eggs and new dinosaur friends!”
“I like the stories we can make with our own dinosaurs.”
Do you have plans for more apps in the future?
KUATO: We do have some exciting collaborations and ideas in the works, but nothing we’re able to share just yet. Stay tuned! We hope that parents use these games as a way to connect with their children as they learn. As our world becomes more digitally focused and children become more tech-centric it’s a wonderful opportunity for parents to get involved in their kid’s learning development from a young age, in a whole new way.