As people who are new to this world, children are naturally curious. As they learn how the world works, one question that you probably will hear a lot from them is where things come from. It is important to address all these questions matter-of-factly as they encourage children to learn and grow.
While we, as parents, may be willing to facilitate our children's inquisitiveness, occasionally it can be difficult to explain things in a way that they can easily absorb. Thankfully, though, we now have access to a well of knowledge in our hands in the form of educational apps.
Today, I have a great find to show you -- introducing Happy Little Farmer, a lovely little app that tries to teach kids how things grow.
Happy Little Farmer
Happy Little Farmer is a simulation app that introduces children to the concept of gardening. Using simple activities and engaging animation, the app tries to explain the steps required for growing crops from preparing the soil for planting to harvesting the produce.
As hinted by the name, the setting of the app is a happy little farm owned by a cute little rabbit, which I shall call "Bunny" from now on. There are three kinds of activities that your juniors can do on the farm: planting a Fruit Pot, working on the Veggie Patch and helping out on the Wheat Field. While all activities revolve around gardening, the steps involved in each one differ slightly depending on the planting medium.
In Fruit Pot, your juniors help Bunny plant berries in a pot on a windowsill. First, they fill the pot with soil and plant the seedling there. Then, they fertilize the soil and water the seedling so that it can grow big and strong. There is also some maintenance work required to keep insect pests from feeding on the plant by dragging and dropping them into a jar. Then, they need to to trim the leaves that were eaten and collect the berries in a basket.
Veggie Patch takes place on (what else?) the farm's own vegetable patch. To prepare the patch for planting, your juniors first need to pick up sticks, fallen leaves and rocks that litter the ground and sort them into dedicated trash bins. Afterwards, they rake in the soil to create planting beds.
Using a shovel, your juniors dig holes in the ground for laying the seeds. After watering the seeds, they put up signs to indicate which plant is which and wait for them to grow. Meanwhile, they must also keep their precious plants safe from hungry insects pests by tapping to squish them. When the plants finally produce, it is time to pick the ripe vegetables and send them off to the market.
In the last activity, Wheat Field, your juniors are introduced to vehicles that are used to maintain fields. By tilting the device, they can push Bunny's tractor forward to clear out junk and make room for seeds. Then, they ride on his helicopter to irrigate the fields from the sky. Once the wheat grows and turns gold, your juniors once again must tilt the device to control Bunny's combine harvester to gather the crops.
A highlight of the app is the way it portrays the planting process as realistically as possible. Between each step, the app shows a short animation of the night changing to day to let your junior know that growing plants takes time and hard work. While harvesting the Veggie Patch, your juniors must be nimble, otherwise the vegetables will rot.
In total, there are 12 different fruits and vegetables that your juniors can plant on the farm. In addition to common garden varieties such as tomatoes, strawberries, peas and blackberries, the app also includes a special "monster" fruit that grows from a blue seed. Unlike other plants, this fruit feeds a silly-looking blue monster that lurks around the farm.
Other than the special "monster" fruit, the app also hides 15 easter eggs and rewards your juniors with stickers for every one found. These stickers are accessible from the small Door menu at the bottom of the screen.
What parents need to know
Happy Little Farmer is a great app for explaining to children where fruits and vegetables come from. With colorful graphics and soothing background music, the app engages juniors aged 4+ to play and learn.
A unique feature of the app is that it does not show any help text or play audio narration to guide your juniors as they play. Instead, it shows subtle visual cues -- such as a soft glow around an object that must be picked up -- that make it easy to complete each activity. On the plus side, the lack of audio or text guide makes this app suitable for children of various native tongues. I would, however, advise parents to accompany their children while playing to guide them as they go through the activities in the app.
Parents also need to know that while trying to complete the activities included in the app, juniors can also practice their motor skills. The app has a high level of interactivity that requires your juniors to tap, tilt, pinch and drag and drop things on screen. It is also worth noting that if your junior has trouble tilting the device to move objects, they can do a swipe motion with their fingers instead.
Lastly, this app contains a Settings menu for turning off the background music and clearing out stickers that have been collected. There is also a menu that leads to a screen promoting the developer's other apps. Based on my experience in using the app, this has not been an issue but I will leave it to your judgement.
What I like about the app
Happy Little Farmer is a cute app that engages kids to learn about gardening. The app is wonderfully interactive, using various taps and gestures to exercise juniors' motoric skills. In addition to the "required" activities, every screen also contains additional interactive elements that can be tapped to reveal a fun animation. A favorite of mine is in the one in the Veggie Patch where you can tap on Bunny who is hiding in the bushes and he will blow soap bubbles at you.
Another thing that I like is how the developers decided to portray the planting process as close to the real world as possible. Instead of simply letting the plants grow instantly after planted, the developers wisely inserts a short animation between each step to illustrate the passing days. Not only is this realistic, it is also a great way to teach your children about the value of patience. For example, to properly harvest the Veggie Patch, you need to go through about seven steps (seven days in the app).
Last but not least, I also like the cute, colorful graphics and animation. The background songs, which are adapted from classical nursery rhymes such as If You're Happy and You Know It and Itsy Bitsy Spider, are relaxing to listen to and can even be turned off if you want.
My only gripe with the app is perhaps that the easter eggs are hidden a bit too well -- I have played through the app a handful of times and I am still missing a few eggs. That and maybe the developer could implement a security measure to prevent kids from accidentally tapping on either the Settings or More menu.
Happy Little Farmer is a wonderful app that I think successfully achieves its purpose of explaining how plants grow through fun and realistic interactions. In addition to the brightly colored illustrations and lovely soundtracks, the app also delivers a great message that with hard work comes great results.
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