Based on my observation of toddlers, associating letters with animal names is an easy and effective way to get juniors to learn the alphabet. I think that many developers share this belief, hence the multitude of animal-slash-alphabet apps on the App Store, including ours. Today, I'm going to review one such app by one of my favorite developers, PopAppFactory.
It's a Zoo In Here!
Mini-U: Zoo Alphabet is an app designed to introduce the alphabet by associating each letter with an animal name. Building on this simple premise, the developers delivered an outstanding app with top-notch design and implementation.
The app has two modes: learn mode and quiz mode. In the learn mode, you can move sequentially from A to Z or jump to any letter by tapping on the alphabet button on the top left corner. Much like flashcards, each letter is presented in a scene along with an animal whose name begins with that letter. You can tap, drag or trace the animal and any objects in its surrounding environment to trigger quirky animations. It is interesting to note that each letter/animal has distinct card designs, and no two backgrounds or animations are the same.
In quiz mode, the app shows a randomly selected animal, and asks you to identify the first letter in that animal's name. If you manage to drag a correct letter from the four options, the app lets you advance to the next question. After all the animals have been answered, the app returns to the main menu where you can select a letter to start learning again or start a new round of quizzes.
Because the app really excels in its animation and interaction, text description is not enough to illustrate it. I recommend you to take a look at the gameplay video that the developers have created for this app:
Parents Need to Know
When we developed Akzara, I was the one who decided the animals that would be featured in our app. I have done plenty of researches and have seen plenty of animal names, but I'm still excited to see the animals that PopApp Factory have chosen for Mini-U: Zoo Alphabet. Some of the not-so-common selections include bat, comodo dragon, emu, hedgehog, meerkat, porcupine, shark, viper, and xerus.
In total, there are 29 animal cards in the app. Thus, you will see a couple of letters represented by more than one animal. For instance, the letter P is for Pike, Pelican, and Porcupine. The developers are also planning to add even more animals in the upcoming updates. If these upcoming animals also have unique interactions and animations, my juniors and I would love to replay the app over and over again.
By the way, if you want to see the alternative animals, such as Mouse instead of Meerkats or Dolphin instead of Ducks, you can switch back and forth to the list of letters and select the letter you want. This would trigger the app to randomly select one animal from the available pool.
Things I Like
I think Mini-U: Zoo Alphabet has a great set of interactions and animations designed uniquely for each animal. I enjoyed them so much and would say that Mini-U: Zoo Alphabet is the best app I've seen in the alphabet/animal category. Below, I laid out five things you can find in the app:
- Tracing. Even though the app is not specially for learning to write or draw, you can find tracing activities in Mouse and Viper where you help the animals dig their way out of pre-defined tracks.
- Counting. In Mini-U: Zoo Alphabet, some animals like Ants, Ducks, Jellyfishes, Ladybugs and Meerkats are introduced in groups. This opens up a great opportunity for parents to let their older juniors practice counting skills. I personally like the Quail page, where you can make it lay an egg repeatedly and use it as a counting exercise for your juniors.
- Musical activity. In the Jellyfishes card, you can find a fun musical activity in which you can turn on and off a jellyfish one at a time to slightly change the symphony. The Unicorn page also features a creative use of the rainbow, where you can tap each colorful bow like a xylophone.
- Unique interactions. The Giraffe is so tall that you need to scroll the page up multiple times just to see its face. The Hedgehog allows you to pierce fruits in its spines. The Owl page allows you to place stars by tapping on the sky during the night, and make it rain during the day. These are just three examples that I find interesting. I'm looking forward to new and unique interactions as the developers introduce new animals in upcoming updates.
- Simply fun. Tap the Porcupine three times to see it launch its quills as though they are arrows. Tap the Turtle that rides on a scooter to see it cruise along the beach. Finally, tap the Whale to see the letter W lifted up and beyond the boundaries of the screen. All of these interactions and animations are purely fun to play with. They are also the main reasons that my juniors couldn't get enough of this app.
Mini-U: Zoo Alphabet is a must-have app. With fun interactions and great selection of animals, this app is the best way to introduce your juniors to the letters of the alphabet and animals. Highly recommended!
Get Mini-U: Zoo Alphabet on the App Store.