The general premise of the app is that Dr. Panda (a lovable, fluffy cartoony-kind of Panda) visits four different lands (Meadow, Jungle, Farm and the Arctic) where he meets different animals that live in those areas. There are animal sounds and ways to interact with the animals. The target age range for this app is 2-5 years old.
My son is 2.5 so he is on the younger side for this app. Whenever I review an app with an age range like this, I always look for ‘game growth’. That is, he may be interested in something about the app now, but when he is 4 or 5, a good app will have ‘grown with him’ so he will still be interested in the activity, but just in a different way. Even if an app is free, I like to see that interactive ability over months and not just minutes.
So one afternoon, after nap time, I sat him down with a snack, and the new app, to see how long he would play with it, and what would draw his interest.
We tried it on the iPhone first, but he was a bit frustrated and I could see why. The image is really dense so it is hard for a younger child to hit a little object – including the arrow that would take him to the next screen. (Even when I tried pressing the arrow to advance, it didn’t work for me until I realized, despite the fact the arrow urges you to push it, in actuality, you swipe the screen to advance.)
We faired a bit better on the iPad. The lands are where he spent most of his time as each object he would touch would activate in some way: touch the frog and it would jump in the pond, touch the birds and they would tweet, touch the barn doors and chickens would run out. (He would laugh as you can see from this video.)
So he really liked this part of the app. I liked it because we could play together. I would ask him to touch the elephant, the giraffe, the sheep so it was a good educational opportunity. Though I wish the app would also identify the animals on its own.
He figured out how to get into the educational aspect of the the app – numbers and puzzles for example. He liked the numbers, as butterflies would fly and the Panda would count, but the most of these ‘teach me’ sections were too advanced for him. In a year, it could be something in which he would engage though.
I did find the music to be a bit annoying after awhile. It never changed. Since my son can’t exactly comment on his thoughts on the matter, it may not bother kids under five. As a parent, I feel like I have a pretty high tolerance these days, but in this case, I wished I could mute it. But as Moms, we often deal with worse things.
The one thing I did really like was that it was easy to change to a different language. For example, when the butterflies were forming numbers, I could switch to Dutch, and Dr. Panda start counting numbers in that language. Yet, it was really limited in selection. For example, I was surprised not to see Spanish as an option.
The Dr. Panda app is certified by the KidSAFE® seal program, which is a new “seal of approval“ program that independently reviews and certifies the safety practices of children-friendly websites and applications. They don’t review the quality or age-appropriateness of the application, but they do review and certify these products for “interactive” and “online” safety. So, the Dr. Panda app passes this test!
The full version is available on iTunes for $1.99 at the time of this publication. Despite the fact that underneath the title of the app it states ‘for iPad 2 and iPhone 4′, this app does work on older models of the iPhone, iPad and iTouch, but you definitely need to have the latest Apple OS. Otherwise, the apps will crash.
I purchased the app on my own. However, I did receive compensation for my time, but all thoughts and opinions (of my son and me) are our own.