As the ecosystem for educational apps grows mature, I’m starting to feel that the market for apps designed to suit juniors ages 4+ is not as well served as the their younger counterpart. There are simply not enough apps to cater to a wider range of interests as our juniors become more intrigued to learn about their surroundings.
With a four-year-old at home, I really appreciate when I found out that Inkology, the publisher of Jetpack Journeys, is releasing a brand new space exploration app for juniors ages 4–7. Entitled Astronaut Trainer, the app offers five mini games that will train juniors to become better astronaut candidates by learning more about our solar system.
Welcome to Space School
As an astronaut cadet, players need to train themselves in the Space School. Upon entering the school, players will be greeted with five icons - each representing the mini games that will train the skills and unlock the knowledge required to navigate our solar system.
The first game is called Astro Navigation. Players need to pick up their iPads, and tilt them in such a way to let the small marble roll through the maze. The game asks players to navigate their way to the destined planet, collecting all the knowledge tokens while avoiding the asteroids that may block their ways.
The second game has a similar goal, but with a different mechanic. Called Pilot Training, players use their fingers to guide where their spaceships would move, avoiding asteroids until they reach their destinations.
Next up is a simple matching game called Astro Match Up. In this game, players are required to find identical matches from five pairs of space-related objects. Players need to drag one object on top of its pair in order to clear both objects.
The fourth game is called Planetary Order. It’s probably the most difficult one to play, because players need to identify a planet from its visual appearance and relative size. Players drag the planets to their corresponding locations according to their orbit diameters from the sun.
In Rocket Building 101, players can build their own rockets using various building materials. The game will guide the players one step at a time, starting from the bottom part of the rocket. For each rocket element, players can choose from nine different shapes, sizes and colors.
Each time a game is completed, new space facts will be unveiled. They can be about the Sun, the Earth, other planets in our system, and other fun facts about space exploration. To give you an idea, here are some of the facts that juniors can learn from the app:
The first person in space was Yuri Gagarin.
Saturn has 150 moons!
Two dogs, Gypsy and Dezik, went to space and returned.
Parents Need to Know
Except for the Planetary Order game, the mini games are relatively easy to play for juniors ages 4+. On the other hand, younger juniors may not be able to read the simple facts included within the app. Fortunately, the developer has included a narrated version for all the facts, enabling younger juniors to enjoy the facts without having to read them.
After playing for a few hours, I believe Astronaut Trainer is a fun way to learn about the sun, the earth, planets, asteroids, and other fun facts about our solar system. I also believe it has successfully satisfied the developer’s objective when he was looking for an app for his six-year-old son:
“I wanted something that would be fun but could also teach him about Space and our Solar System. Inspire him even. I found nothing. So I decided to make one myself.“
Things I Like
Two mini games that I really enjoyed playing are Astro Navigation and Planetary Order. Tilting the iPad to steer a small marble through the space maze is fun to play, whereas trying to find the appropriate location for each planet in the solar system can be quite challenging.
The games also have nice replay values. Each time you unlock a space fact, it can come from any of the space objects. Because each space object has several facts that you can unlock, the total number of facts to unlock is quite high. You can basically play for many times before you run out of facts to unlock. I also believe that it’s relatively easy for the developer to add new facts into the game, making it a more comprehensive learning tool for as long as your juniors are willing to play with it.
Astronaut Trainer is a nice activity app with space exploration as its theme. It’s suitable for juniors ages 4-7 who want to learn more about our solar system while having fun playing the mini games.
App was provided for our honest review.