Do you allow your kids to use an iPad? We are not a technology shy family. I think technology is here to stay so instead of fighting or avoiding it, we do our best to help the children learn how to limit and balance screen time and use technology to our advantage.
My kids love games. Just being real here. Educational apps are great, however I find they oftentimes don’t hold Zachary’s attention as much as I’d like them to. Most educational apps that I’ve downloaded get abandoned as being “too boring”.
On the other hand, the games that hold their attention much longer are far too noisy and distracting. Totally over-stimulating. It’s holding their attention in the wrong way, in a way that I really dislike.
It’s been extremely difficult to find an app that’s not a zero-sum game: either overly stimulating, or overly dry.
So when we discovered Hale’s Tale: A Learn To Read app, I was very impressed. Hale’s Tale is an app that supports beginner readers in their reading journey. When I asked the team who created this app, I discovered that their mission from the beginning was to create a low-stress and peaceful virtual learning space that does not over-stimulate kids. They also wanted to provide children with the freedom and autonomy that they need in order to support the learning in the game.
Finally here is a Goldilocks educational app that fits both the child’s and parent’s needs — not dry, not over-stimulating … just right in the middle of playful fun and peaceful learning.
Check out the gameplay video here and you’ll know what I’m talking about when I tell you the following six things that I like about this app:
- It uses calming sounds. This game sounds like you’ve gone for a virtual walk in nature. The music is soft and serene. It is not loud or annoying in the least bit. The sound effects are nature – birds chirping, water flowing. Very zen.
- It has a realistic, clean and clutter-free interface. Even though it’s animated, the animations are realistic. Houses, trees, archaeological dig sites, animals, human characters, biomes. Also, there is no busy-ness, time pressure, or just plain too much “stuff”. There is plenty of virtual space for a child to concentrate, think, react and learn at his own pace. There are no ads or overwhelming gimmicks all competing for his attention.
- There is a child-directed component. Thank you for not constantly barking or flashing instructions at my child when they need more time to think or react. While the mini-games require children to do specific tasks while learning how to read, the remainder of the game provide kids with loads of autonomy over where to go and what to do.
- The games are levelled appropriately. No matter which mini-game the child chooses, it starts off with the basics of phonetic reading. It begins with single sounds, specifically s/a/t/i/p/n which incidentally is the beginning sequence that the very popular Jolly Phonics uses. This is the sequence that I used with Zach as well when he was younger. I like it because it allows you to blend sounds to make words very quickly. Shortly after practising single sounds, the app moves on to blending two letters (at, in). Followed by three-letter cvc words (sat, tin, pan, etc). Meanwhile more new sounds and blends are introduced, with random revisions of what they’ve learned previously sprinkled in amidst more difficult words. Very systematic and intentional.
- Delayed gratification. More mini games get unlocked once the child has practised sufficiently. This was particularly rewarding for Zachary – I remember he was playing one evening while I was in the shower, and he came in exclaiming how he is now in the 2-stars level and has unlocked the tower game but now he needs to collect enough coins to purchase a wand before he can play in it.
- It is playful. The game is playful and engaging enough to hold the attention of the child. There are seemingly unrelated bonus mini-games that peak a child’s interest, it’s not always just learning letter sounds or reading words. Sprinkled in between are pure fun stuff (but still mild by any means!) — for instance, when a couple of additional characters show up and they go on a hunt for flowers, or when a character in the game asks the child to deliver something to another character, or when a mini-game randomly allows for a child to play cannon-blasters just for the fun of it. These feel like a very natural reward for the child and keeps them motivated and engaged. Pavlov’s principle of random reinforcement used brilliantly here!
So if you’re looking for a learn-to-read app that incorporates playful fun and peaceful learning, this is one of the best apps I’ve seen. I wouldn’t go so far as to use this app as an exclusive teacher for learning to read, and I don’t believe it’s created for that purpose. This app is a great companion tool for the child’s learning process. For me, this is the perfect app to keep Zachary engaged with “reading revisions” while I’m occupied with cooking or work. I can trust that my child’s mind and senses are protected while he learns independently using technology.
I am very impressed with the thoughtfulness that went into the creation of this learning app. Thanks to Berry Tale Studios for putting the children first as we navigate parenting, education and business in this age of technology. I encourage everyone with beginner readers to give it a go — the app is free to download and try, and it is very inexpensive to purchase the full version, our copy was provided courtesy of Berry Tale Studios. You can download it from the Apple App Store or Google Play.