Some educational apps are rather predictable. Lars and Friends, a new combination story and puzzle app, is anything but predictable. From the opening screen, in which Lars, the red horse, has a knot of frogs perched atop his head, to the end, there are plenty of surprises. This wonderfully creative approach to learning about the animal kingdom makes it a Top Pick at Fun Educational Apps.
Lars and Friends is the creation Carla Susanto, a mom with an artist's soul. It is available for iPad and Kindle devices. The story can be enjoyed in two ways, with a Read by Myself and a Read to Me option. Instructions on how to use the app are intuitive and simple enough that even a young child can understand them. The arrows at the bottom indicate “Go to the next page” (right arrow) or “Go back” (left arrow). Animations are often identified by the word "TAP."
The main character is a horse named Lars. Three words that might describe him are adventuresome, energetic, and curious. If that sounds like any children you might know, I think the connection is intentional. This is a story that appeals to children who see possibilities that others might miss. When his fellow horses are too tired to run with him, Lars sets out on his own adventure. His encounters with elephants, kangaroos, and giraffes fill the rest of the story.
Also included in Lars and Friends is a separate puzzle activity that uses "drag and drop" to reconnect the tops and bottoms of a variety of animals. A third activity introduces 47 different collective nouns for groups of animals. Parents, I guarantee you'll learn some new phrases, including a "parliament of owls" and a "fever of stingrays."
Lars and Friends is an imaginative "day in the life" story about a young horse who is able to transport himself across continents and under oceans in the blink of an eye. While some parents may object to the physical impossibility of some of Lars' adventures, I put this story in the same category as talking spiders and curious monkeys flying over the city hanging onto a balloon.
The artwork reminds me of Eric Carle's distinctive watercolor images, and the minimal background gives the animals necessary context, without calling attention to itself. The animations in Lars and Friends are plentiful and well-executed. My favorite is the one in which the reader shakes apples loose from the tree and feeds them to Lars. Little touches throughout the app, whether it be the handwritten text or the soothing acoustic guitar, enrich the reading experience for parents and children alike.
As a speech/language pathologist, I encourage parents to find ways to enrich their children's vocabulary. With Lars and Friends, your job is made easier, because they've done the work for you. I like Lars and Friends- its concept, its design, and its technical quality are all top-notch. These are the reasons why it is the latest Top Pick for Fun Educational Apps.
At the time of this review, Lars and Friends provides a safe, secure environment, with no ads and no in-app purchases. There are links to the web and social media, accessible only from a protected parent portal. Parents can be confident that their children’s privacy is protected when using this app.
This app has been thoroughly evaluated by our staff. Please click on the 'star ratings' tab above, to see how it fared in all nine of our rating categories. See synopsis tab for more details about the storyline.
This review was originally published by FunEducationalApps.com on September 1, 2014. Nathalie is a mom of three, always looking for top fun educational apps to support kids learning the fun way! She is the founder of Fun Educational Apps and Co-funder of AppStar Picks, a free app listing top reviews for kids, from trusted websites. She created Fun Educational Apps as a way to help parents, educators and teachers discover great apps. Together with her kids, they try new apps on an ongoing basis.
This app was reviewed by Julie Peterson, a speech/language pathologist (SLP) currently working in a school setting, serving children with special needs ages 6-14.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
6 - 8 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: No
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 2 - 6 +
Lars and Friends is loaded with linguistically-advancing activities that also will hold children’s attention for a good amount of time. It has 3 fleshed-out features: A fully animated and narrated storybook, 12 pages of chunky puzzles and a visual learning tool that introduces 54 entertaining terms for animal groups, such as “the ostentation of peacocks” and “an unkindness of ravens” (a big hit with the parents!).
The artwork in this app started with watercolor and gouache paint on paper and wood that was scanned and brought to life digitally.
THE WRITER, ILLUSTRATOR AND DEVELOPER
Carla Susanto is a mother and an award-winning Brooklyn-based artist. Among Carla's recent works, her animated shorts: Tsunami, Horses and Civilization (2010) and L'Aubade (2012) were official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival, Sguardi Altrove Milan film festival and Nuit Blanche art festival.
In effort to nurture a brand that parents can trust, we are genuinely committed to do best practices in the kids app department. We strive to be respectful and mindful about kids' privacy and safe environment.
No in-app purchase, no ads in the app, and we do not collect personal information or analytics. We do not allow advertising companies to collect data through our service.
Lars and Friends is a proud member of Moms with Apps.