One of the best app designers for very young children (for whom short periods of screen time with an interactive adult is always the way to go) are the folks who make the Peekaboo series. They have created a handful of apps (Peekaboo barn, vehicles, fridge, ocean) that use sharp but simple graphics, sound effects that entertain but do not overwhelm, and these apps can be used by very young children or developmentally delayed children with ease. You can select a continuous shuffle, or have the app end when your child has viewed all the pages. I have not downloaded the zoo app, but I just might have to do so. The others are that good!
Each app is designed slightly differently, and I review them below based the level of physical ability needed to activate the screen and the interactive demands of the game.
Peekaboo Vehicles is a strong winner for boys who love cars but have difficulty with accurate hand control (or for very young gear heads). Your child sees a cloudy screen and hears the quiet roar of a vehicle. Tapping once will reveal the hidden vehicle, and another tap with drive it away, bringing back the clouds. That’s it, nothing more. Sometimes you don’t need more activity on the screen to stimulate learning. You can talk about the picture, name all the items and colors, and stimulate language by pairing the reveal and the send-off with target words such as “open, go, bye”,etc. You can chose an American or a UK pronunciation. The sound effects are simple and familiar to most children, and the visual complexity is moderately stimulating. The focus is on the vehicle.
Peekaboo Barn and Peekaboo Fridge show either a red barn or a kitchen, and your child hears the animal or the animated food make a noise to entice them to open the centrally placed doors. Peekaboo Fridge shakes the fridge door slightly, for a nice visual cue. Touching the screen outside of the target will not activate the screen, leading the child to aim carefully and reducing random tapping. When the door(s) open, you see the animal and hear his bark/moo/oink, or see the food with a funny little sound. The app allows a few seconds for the child to identify the item, then speaks the name of the animal or food. Tapping the screen again will close the door. A new sound/movement will entice your child to tap again. The barn animals make realistic sounds, but some children with auditory sensitivity have been startled unless the sound level is low. Peekaboo Fridge sounds are very subtle and quiet. Again, plenty of opportunities to promote language with familiar animals and foods. The graphics are simple and colorful, making it easy for a young child to identify familiar details such as the sun or the clock. Your child cannot close the doors until the app has said the name of the animal or food, which again avoids the overstimulation that occurs when a young child wildly taps the screen without control or focus. During the holiday season, the animals in Peekaboo Barn are wearing colorful hats and the barn has holiday lights and snow.
Peekaboo Ocean is more complex, but also more entertaining. An object is just peeking above the waves, and only a direct tap on that object will reveal it. All of the target items have an interactive component, so touch the full object when it appears. The jellyfish are the least active (if you have met one, then you know that is a good thing!) and the mermaid actually speaks. It is adorable when the child speaks back to her! Not all of the other animals and objects in each screen will respond. The expanding sea star and the spinning octopus and her brood are a delight to young children. Most (but not all) sound effects are subtle but engaging. Children with sensory processing issues or ASD can be startled by sounds that are not familiar, such as the submarine horn or the whale. They may prefer to have the sound muted. Your child progresses to the next page by tapping the arrow at the top right hand corner of the screen. It is not very obvious to the youngest children, so an adult may need to advance it. This can be an advantage if you would like to keep a child focused and interactive for longer periods.
Enjoy the look on your child’s face as they navigate the land of peekaboo!