Back in August, Eric reviewed ABC Wildlife, an interactive iPad app that introduces kids to the world of fauna through beautiful photographs and curated videos. It became an instant favorite in our respective households, and Eric deemed the app the perfect digital equivalent of a zoo.
Well it’s been a while since that review, but today we’re back with a new app by the same developers: ABC Aquarium. As you might expect, this app explores the wonderful wet world of aquatic animals.
Animals at the Aquarium
Like ABC Widlife, ABC Aquarium showcases various animals alongside the letters of the alphabet. On the app’s main screen you will see a gallery of alphabetically-arranged tiles that represent various aquatic animals, such as anemone, clownfish, orca, piranha, sea lion, and many more.
To select an animal, simply tap on a tile and the app will reveal a new screen dedicated to that animal. You can then learn how to spell the animal's name, look at a color photograph, and even read along an interesting fact as it is narrated to you. It is also possible to either watch a video clip or play a simple mini game.
Once you are done exploring the screen, you can move on to the next animal. There are various ways to do this; you can go back to the gallery by tapping on the ABC button on the right side, or you can swipe the screen left or right to navigate to the next or previous animal on the list. One more option is to tap on a letter in the animal's name to see all animals that begin with that letter.
It is worth mentioning that most letters have more than one animal representative, so you get more than 50 unique creatures in one app. Furthermore, each animal also has three tiles, which means there are three sets of photos, facts, and video/mini game to enjoy.
Parents Need to Know
ABC Aquarium is a safe app for kids. It contains no ads and no in-app purchases, although it does feature a small, protected link to the developer’s other apps.
I mentioned previously that the app contains curated YouTube videos for learning more about the included animals. You need an internet connection to watch these videos, but if you don’t want to watch them you can turn them off from the in-app Settings menu. This is especially useful during times when you don’t have internet access, such as on car trips. Just remember to restart the app once you have changed this setting.
From within the in-app settings you can also control the app’s music volume and set whether the animal names should be properly capitalized. Finally, if you happen to have a Spanish or a bilingual household, you should be happy to know that the contents of the app are available in both English and Spanish.
When you go back to the gallery, you may find it interesting that the tiles, which were previously blank, are gradually filled as you reveal more animals. If you observe carefully, these tiles also have small icons on top of them. A small, sideway-triangle denotes that there is a video to watch about that animal, and a pointing hand means that there is a mini game. These icons are also color coded; a gray icon shows that you have not watched a video or played a game.
The app also makes it easy to keep track of all your favorite animals. When you select an animal, the app keeps a tally in the background. It then creates a shortcut for seven of your most viewed animals, and places them on the top of the screen.
Things I Like
ABC Aquarium is excellent and extensive. There is a lot of content to go through, so it may take several hours to complete the app. However, I think that most kids will fully enjoy the process.
Although the app is fairly simple, it is well-made. The developers really paid a lot of attention into the small details, and as a result navigating through the app is a joyful experience. The included photographs are just beautiful, and I really loved going through each one. Some of my favorites are anemone, clownfish, and goldfish. (Psst, here’s a tip - you can tap on an empty area on the screen to clear the menu overlays and view the picture in full. You can then take a screenshot and use it as a wallpaper for your iPad!)
I also love the little facts that are included for each animal. I find them fairly easy to understand and appropriate for kids, although some terms, like extant or terrestrial, may be a bit advanced for early readers. That said, even as an adult I learned a lot from reading these facts (did you know that the seahorse is the slowest fish in the ocean according to Guiness World Records?) and I think they are great for fueling further scientific discussions.
ABC Aquarium is a splendid app for young kids. Like its siblings the app is very polished. It is also extensive and features highly curated contents on over 50 unique animals. If you are looking for an app to introduce your juniors to aquatic animals, I would highly recommend this app.