Apps: review of “Stella and Sam Story Pack” and giveaway of “Go-There-Square”

The boys attend a multi-activity respite session on Thursday evenings. It’s at the Geneva Centre for Autism which is a long way from our home (about a 60-90 minute journey on public transit involving two subway lines and a streetcar ride!) but it’s 1 on 1 time at a centre where the staff have a lot of expertise in working with ASD kids and the boys certainly seem to enjoy it. Last week we left the centre to walk to the subway station and given the time of year it was already dark. As many of you know Oliver is echolalic and his delayed echolalia usually expresses itself in lines from books, dialogue from television shows or things mentioned in apps. As we were walking along he noticed the moon and said “It’s the Night Giant!” Given that this was actually context-appropriate and not scripted from the app he was referring to (Backyard at Twilight) I’m counting this as a communication success!

It reminded me that I had wanted to write for some time a review of the Stella and Sam Story Pack app by zinc Roe. I bought this app during the recent A4CWSN app party weekend when the price of the app was reduced and 50% of sale proceeds were donated to the Beverley School in Toronto. The Story Pack normally costs C$6.99 and consists of four Stella and Sam apps that are also sold separately: Into the Snow We Go, Rainy Days and Rainbows, Backyard at Twilight and Go-There-Square.

The homepage for the Story Pack app

These iPad-only apps can be enjoyed in both English and French. All four apps follow the same basic structure: Stella and Sam have a little adventure which is broken up by three games within each app. These games are simple ones and are therefore best suited to young first-users or older special needs children. There is one app for each season – Into the Snow We Go finds our dynamic duo looking for their toboggan and the three activities within the app involve matching, building a snowman and finding objects under the snow. Rainy Days and Rainbows is the fall adventure and the three activities are foot/hand painting, finding objects under leaves and guiding a pine cone across Puddle Lake. Backyard at Twilight has the siblings camping in the backyard and the games involve finding bugs with a flashlight, making shapes with fireflies and connecting the dots (stars) to make pictures. Go-There-Square has Stella and Sam exploring a springtime meadow, running up a hill and enjoying a picnic by Puddle Lake. The three activities in this app are “catching” dandelion seeds, popping bubbles and building a bridge of flowers across Puddle Lake.

 
What I like about these apps is:
  • The animation is gorgeous.
  • The only voices used are Stella and Sam’s and the same voices are used in both the activities and the stories. I love it when kid’s voices are used in children’s apps!
  • The sound is great – for example, in Go-There-Square, Stella blows bubbles from the top of the hill which leads into the activity shown in the screenshot below. Popping the bubbles (aided occasionally by a butterfly as you can see) results in really lovely sounds and having the kids comment saying “bubbles sound funny when they pop” or “that sounded wonderful”  is both cute and reinforcing. 

    Popping bubbles makes beautiful sounds

  • The activities are ideal for very young first-users or special needs children because they focus on simple skills and concepts. For example, the bubble-popping activity above utilizes simple cause and effect and in both the snow and leaf activities items are uncovered by just rubbing your finger across the screen. The drag and drop activities are great for those with fine motor challenges – examples of this include the matching game in Into the Snow We Go

    Drag and drop the items in order to build a picture. In this case, a "Snow boat"

 …and building a bridge for the ants to cross Puddle Lake in Go-There-Square:

Grab the flowers as they float down the screen then drag and drop them to build a bridge

  • The use of visual prompts. You can see this in the flower bridge activity but its best used in Backyard at Twilight in the connect the dots (stars) game. In most connect the dots games the dots are numbered. Oliver knows his numbers from 1 to 10 but he still has trouble connecting dots in numerical order and usually gets frustrated with this type of activity quite quickly. However, he took to this game straight away and I think its because of the visual prompts. As you can hopefully see, the star you need to connect to next glows brighter than the rest. Oliver found this activity very intuitive and plays it often. 
    Connect the stars to create a picture
  • Stella and Sam seem to be almost acting as visual models for behaviour and play activities because Oliver can mimic the things they do in these apps that he hasn’t learned from watching people. I’m not sure if its because the app includes both passive components that he’s just watching and active components where he’s doing things that Stella and Sam are commenting on, but Oliver has done things as a result of this app that I found pretty impressive. For this reason I love that the “adventures” Stella and Sam are having involve everyday creative play and that the games within the apps are context-appropriate. For example, I haven’t been able to get Oliver interested in kicking fallen leaves but recently he has started doing it and asking whether there are things that might be hidden under the leaves. I have also never been able to get him interested in throwing things in water (playing Pooh Sticks for example) but in High Park last week he grabbed a pine cone and threw it in the water saying “Go pine cone!” I know he got both of these play ideas from this app.

From my perspective there is one huge thing missing from these apps and that is labelling, both visual and aural. If that were added to these apps then I think they may be perfect – it would be amazing if this could be incorporated in a future update 🙂

Let me give you a few examples of where labelling is quite striking by its absence. As mentioned, I love the visual prompting in the connect the dots (stars) game and the little comments from the kids are adorable (“I think its an animal!”) but when the dots are all connected and the underlying picture is revealed, nothing happens in terms of labelling. Given that these activities seem focused on very young children I’m fairly certain that the kids playing the app may not know the picture below is of a deer and even if they do they probably don’t know how to spell ‘deer’. When the child touches any object in these interactive games in my opinion the object should be labelled and ideally the label would be both heard and seen on the screen.  

I know this is a deer, but the kids playing with this app might not. No labelling = lost opportunity.
 
In one iTunes review a parent said they felt the snowman building activity was too easy – but for children with limited motor skills its great. Although I love Stella and Sam’s commentary while the snowman is being built many kids would have trouble processing that much aural input whereas one-word labels would actually teach them something. Wouldn’t it be great if, as the child touched the different parts of the snowman below those parts were labelled – hat, eyes, nose, mouth, tie, arms – especially for those kids who have difficulties with imaginative or creative play who would otherwise have trouble seeing a boomerang as a mouth.
 

I love that this snowman is easy to build. I wish items were labelled though!

In Backyard at Twilight there is a game that requires you to ‘catch’ fireflies that is good for hand-eye co-ordination. Once ‘caught’ (touched), the fireflies move into a stationary position. This game could be great for teaching shapes if only the shapes were named!

Why aren't we told that we just made a triangle...?

Oliver is starting to get into art apps – he likes ‘real’ arts and crafts but until recently he has struggled to see the point of creating anything on the iPad. Both boys like to uncover items though and there are two activities in this app that let you do this by just wiping your finger across the screen. I think a real opportunity is missed however, by not labelling the objects that are uncovered.

Why don't I hear and see "duck", "hat" etc. when these objects are uncovered?

 

All-in-all, these are very cute apps that Oliver goes back to frequently, but if labelling were incorporated they would be great apps and in my opinion this would also make them much better value for money.

If you would like to buy the Story Pack app, here’s the link to it in iTunes: http://bit.ly/mOwkI5  Using this link will result in 5% of the sale proceeds being donated to A4CWSN, an organization that provides iOS tech and apps to children with special needs. If you would like to try one of the Stella and Sam apps for free I have four copies of Go-There-Square to give away! In order to enter the giveaway:

1. Comment on this blog post and confirm how I should contact you if you win a copy of the app.

For additional entries:

2. ‘Like’ zinc Roe’s Facebook page and tell them that I sent you. http://www.facebook.com/zincroegames

3. ‘Like’ my blog’s Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Small-But-Kinda-Mighty/265221686839625

I will announce the four winners on Monday, October 31st. Good luck!

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32 Comments on “Apps: review of “Stella and Sam Story Pack” and giveaway of “Go-There-Square””

  1. Veronika October 24, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Great blog. I like the suggestions and ideas for making this app better. Well thought about. If I win a code – email or Facebook pls

    • OMum22 October 24, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

      Thanks Veronika – you have 3 entries – good luck! 🙂

  2. Jennifer Boyd October 24, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    Hi! I am part of the A4cwsn family! I would love to have this pack of apps for my kids! My daughter is in love w/ Stella!! 🙂 They must be a lot alike! 🙂 Thank you for giving this out, even if we don’t get it, I know the kids who do get it will love it! 🙂

    • Jennifer Boyd October 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

      Oh! You can reach me thru my facebook, or email. I have now liked your page, so hopefully I’ll get more updates on your blog, too!

    • OMum22 October 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

      Jennifer – thanks for entering, I believe you currently have one entry. I should make it clear that I’m not giving away the whole Story Pack, just one of the apps in it called “Go There Square”. Good luck in the giveaway!

      • Jennifer Boyd October 24, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

        😀 Ha ha! Thank you!! Sorry about that! We would be just as happy with one of the Stella & Sam books!! She has watched “Rainy Days and Rainbows” sooo many times!! There are 2 other ladies in the A4cwsn community who have little girls with curly red hair, and I have recommended the Stella book to them. I don’t remember which page I was on when I found this – I’m new to blogs – so if you haven’t already posted this on the A4 page, I would be happy to share the link for you! 🙂

      • OMum22 October 24, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

        No problem Jennifer – I see you’ve liked the FB page for my blog so you now have two entries 🙂

  3. Mandy Nite October 24, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    Looks great and if I win you can contact me on facebook 🙂

    • OMum22 October 24, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

      Thanks Mandy! You have two entries into the giveaway – good luck!

  4. my2dancers October 24, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

    Thanks for thinking of Angelina and letting me know about this app. if I win one of the codes, you can email me or let me know through Facebook.

    I appreciate the attention to detail that you put into your review. We own 4 other Stella and Sam apps that Angelina really enjoys. Your suggestions could only enhance the app, as it sounds like a lot of time was spent on paying attention to other details to make it fun for our kids.

    I had already liked your FB page and zincroegames awhile ago. I tweeted and shared on FB a few moments ago. I think you are my official first tweet (Joydanceshere) as I have no clue what to do with a Twitter account and have no idea how to keep my thoughts to 140 characters or less. ❤

    • OMum22 October 24, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

      Thanks Michelle – So excited to be the subject of your first tweet! 🙂 You have three entries in the giveaway – good luck!

  5. Amanda Blackburn October 25, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    Looks awesome u can contact me on facebook 🙂

    • OMum22 October 25, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  6. Grace Shirley October 25, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    Thanks for introducing Stella and Sam apps. They look great. You can contact via Facebook if I win a copy of ‘Go-There-Square’. Thanks!

    • OMum22 October 25, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

      They really are cute Grace – if you’re not lucky enough to win one then consider putting the Story Pack on your wishlist. Confirming that you’ve got three entries in the giveaway!

  7. Sheila Noble October 25, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    The app looks like a lot of fun for the little ones. I think my daughter would really love it. Your review and ideas were very helpful! You should let the developers know your ideas!!
    Thanks for the chance to win 🙂

    • OMum22 October 25, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

      Glad you liked the review Sheila – the developer has seen the review – its on their FB page and I posted it to iTunes 🙂 I believe you have two entries in the giveaway – one for your comment, and one for liking my blog’s FB page. Best of luck!

  8. Tricia Carter Smith October 25, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful personal story and amazing accomplishment son. Great review of the app pack.

    I just liked your facebook page (can’t believe I hadn’t already done that), I left a comment on Zinc Roe’s page as I liked their page a while ago.

    If I were to win I would like you to contact me by either fb message or email.

    • OMum22 October 25, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

      Tricia – thanks for stopping by! Its great to see you here 🙂 I can confirm you have three entries into the giveaway.

  9. Brenda Pedersen October 25, 2011 at 9:27 pm #

    Hi;
    We have two globally developmentally delayed adult sons with autistic tendencies, motor difficulties, epilepsy and communication issues. They are of the developmental age for these books and games. We’d love to be able to win! Thanks so much for offering them. Brenda Pedersen

    • OMum22 October 25, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by my blog Brenda. Hope you stay and read some of the posts – you’ve been entered for the giveaway so good luck 🙂

  10. Sherri Burgan October 25, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    We would love the Stella and Sam pack!!

  11. Sherri Richardson Burgan October 25, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    2. Said hi on zinc Roe’s Facebook page and told them that you sent me

    3. followed your Facebook page 🙂

    • OMum22 October 25, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

      Thanks Sherri – confirming you have three entries – good luck with the giveaway!

  12. Starla Johnson October 25, 2011 at 11:42 pm #

    I would love to win this app! Fingers crossed! (Did all three things!) You can contact me through facebook or e-mail…

    • OMum22 October 25, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

      Awesome! Good luck – you have three entries 🙂

  13. Amy Vinson Taylor October 29, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    Ok, I’ve already liked you, and IZinc Roe but I told them you sent me again. I will share this giveaway on my Facebook page too, https://www.facebook.com/SpecialAppsSpecialKids . I would love this app to gift to a little girl, Julia who is 7, and who will be recovering from a bone marrow transplant soon. She will not be able to go outside and interact with others for a full year. This looks like a perfect app for a girl her age! Please contact me through Facebook if I win and I will make sure it gets to her.

    • OMum22 October 29, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

      Awww Amy, that’s awesome! This is the little girl that Gary is giving the iPad to correct? You’ve got three entries in the giveaway 🙂

  14. Pam Howard October 29, 2011 at 8:16 pm #

    Hi!
    Appreciate the descriptiveness of your review!
    My son is older, but developmentally at the appropriate age for these apps.
    Already had liked your blog’s FB page, bu I did go over to zincroe, liked them, and let them know you sent me!
    Thanks for the opportunity.
    Pam

    • OMum22 October 29, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

      Hi there Pam! Confirming that you have three entries – good luck with the giveaway!

  15. OMum22 November 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    The winners of the four copies of “Go There Square”, chosen by a random generator are: Veronika, Grace Shirley, Tricia Carter Smith and Sherri Burgan! Congratulations and I hope you enjoy the app!

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