Road Test: Fun English
Your child sees you playing games for relaxation on your smartphone, but when his turn comes, what does he get? Motion Math or some mind-numbing video that he can't really interact with.
Why can't he play games for fun? Because we want to make sure he maximises any opportunity to develop his mind. We get to tune out, but he has to spend his time giving his brain a workout. But what if there were games that are both fun and educational?
Fun English is what it says it is - fun. There isn't any explicit teaching in Fun English. That's reserved for Pumkin.com's other range of videos from parts of sentences to vocabulary, which are also sold on iTunes. The app introduces words and ideas using game-playing techniques and increases engagement with each higher level.
Fun English presents each "lesson" using six games that centre on target words. Some games, like Ten Fish in the Numbers lesson pack that my four-year-old godson tried, required him to set bubbles on a catapult to shoot at fish. It was as if Angry Birds was set in the sea.
The games get more difficult, some requiring critical thinking skills to succeed. It took me a while to figure how much red and white make pink when I tried the Colours lesson. And the jumps from matching to manipulation will need parental guidance for the very young.
I would have liked to see more explicit use of phonetic sounds in the spelling games even if not required for memorising how to spell words. That would help make sense of why red is spelled R-E-D and would create good habits when increasing vocabulary and acquiring more sophisticated language skills.
That's a great reason to use the tablet and the app as a medium to spend time with mum and dad instead of a babysitter. But the well-packaged game sets do a fine job of getting the kids out of your hair for a little while.
The free download comes with a lesson on colours. Others - on animals, numbers, food, vehicles, body parts, fruits, clothing and home - are HK$15 each or HK$78 for seven.
Verdict: this is constructive downtime; bite-sized games for kids to unwind from everything their young minds get at school. Don't worry, they're still practising what they learned. They just might not realise it.
Fun English - language learning games for kids. Free, from iTunes App Hong Kong Store