What do you get when you merge an educational story with beautiful animations and engaging interactivity? Leo's Pad, that's what! Designed for kids ages 3 to 5, this interactive animated series for the iPad lets you join an eight-year-old version of Leonardo da Vinci and his friends on their many adventures.
Created by a team of Stanford University educational experts in collaboration with award-winning animators and writers, Leo's Pad is more than just a show where you just sit tight and watch as the story unfolds. Throughout each episode, the app engages you to participate in various educational activities that are integrated seamlessly into the plot. A typical "appisode" is about 15 minutes long, and contains around 5 activities.
As of the time of this writing, two episodes have been released with more promised to come soon. The first episode, Gally's Birthday, is available for free on the App Store while the second episode, Rocket to the Stars, is available as a paid app.
Appisode 1: Gally's Birthday
The pilot episode sees Leo preparing a birthday present for his friend, Gally (Galileo Galilei). But first, he must find his pet dragon, Cinder, who is hiding in the closet. Leo asks for your help to tap on the items that he thinks are hiding Cinder from view.
After finding Cinder, you help Leo assemble a telescope for Gally by fitting together several geometric pieces. Next, you paint a birthday card to go with your gift using a selection of colors and stickers.
Finally, it is time to leave for Gally's party. Leo's choice of transportation is a pair of wings which he built himself. In order to fly, he needs to be catapulted into the air. You work the catapult by dragging the right amount of rocks to use as weight.
As he soars in the sky, Leo plays a quick game with Cinder. The small dragon blows puffs of smoke in the air, and Leo instructs you to fly him into a specific group of puffs by tilting the device.
At Gally's house, Leo presents Gally with the telescope. They go stargazing that night, and Gally invites you to look into the telescope. Amongst the vast array of constellations are letters that you can collect to form three-letter words. Gally expresses his dream to see the stars up close, to which Leo responds, "If you can imagine it, you can do it." The two then breaks into an uplifting song about following one's dreams.
Appisode 2: Rocket to the Stars
The second episode begins with Leo and Gally planning to build a rocket and fly to space. They don't have a design yet, so you help them by tracing the required rocket parts.
Next, you need fuel to power the rocket. As neither Leo nor Gally knows how to make rocket fuel, you visit Leo's friend, Marie (Curie), at her lab for help. Using her mixing machine, you concoct the fuel by mixing two or three colorful liquids.
With the design and the fuel ready, Leo and Gally set off to build their rocket using the rocket builder. Unfortunately, the rocket disintegrates as it comes out of the machine. Always optimistic, Leo tells the frustrated Gally to ask you to help sort the broken parts by color and resubmit them into the rocket builder.
Finally, the rocket is completed. Leo and Gally then blast off into space. After singing a song about how dreams can come true if you work hard for it, Leo asks you to take over the steering wheel while he looks up the best path for sightseeing. As you tilt your iPad to control the spacecraft, Gally informs you of the space objects that you encounter. The episode then ends with the duo thanking you for your help. They also tell you to come back next time to help with Marie's gravity experiment as they shuttle back to Earth.
Parents Need to Know
Leo's Pad is a cheerful animated series that center around the adventures of Leo and his friends. Each episode has its own separate app, hence the term "appisode". Parents may be interested to know that there are no advertisements in the apps, but the home page does link to the other apps in the series.
Designed to be educational, the apps offer various of activities to hone a range of skills. Some of the things that your junior can learn include recognizing shapes and colors, problem solving, spatial reasoning, sorting, tracing, recognizing letters, word building, and motor skills. In addition, the apps also touch on social skills like sharing, taking turns, assisting others in need, and following orders.
It is also notable that the apps have adaptive content to facilitate your progress. The faster you complete an activity, the more challenging it becomes the next time you replay it. However, there is currently no option to override or reset this behavior.
In addition to more episodes, also in the pipeline is a dashboard for parents to monitor their junior's progress through the app. When completed, it promises to deliver "actionable intelligence", which include comprehensive feedback on a the learner’s achievements in the apps and suggestions for supporting their progress in the real world.
This sounds pretty amazing, but seeing as it's not available yet, I won't make any further comments. Still, without all the promised features, Leo's Pad is worth downloading for its engaging storyline and excellent animation.
Things I Like
Having watched both Leo's Pad appisodes, I have to say that I like what I see so far! The animations are just top-notch. Smooth, brightly colored, and (dare I say?) Pixar-esque, it is one of the series' most compelling feature. I honestly wasn't expecting Hollywood-quality animations from a child's app, so it was a really nice surprise.
The characters are also adorable. I like how they keep addressing the learner to participate in each activity. They also act as guides, providing helpful hints to get you on the right track.
Finally, I also like the positive tone of the stories. Each episode always concludes with an encouraging message to never give up on one's dreams, even if it seems difficult at times. It's a meaningful message, and one that I wholeheartedly believe every person should know.
One small flaw that I noticed while using the app on my third generation iPad was that sometimes, it would freeze when you replay an appisode straight after watching it. If you happen to experience this problem, my suggestion is to close the app from the multitasking bar and restart it.
A unique blend of education and entertainment, Leo's Pad is a brilliant series that you should keep under your radar. It has a charming cast of characters, eye-popping animations, stories laced with positive messages, and a handful of educational activities to keep your juniors entertained. If that's not enough to convince you, I don't know what will!
Leo's Pad is available for iPad
Get it on the App Store: iPad
App was provided for our honest review.
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