Over the past few months, we've accumulated several kids' apps themed around gardening. A recent favorite of mine is Shu’s Garden, an open-ended game that shows kids ages 3+ how seeds can grow into trees when given enough nutrition.
Today, I'm going to review an app similar to Shu’s Garden, in that it introduces kids to gardening through gaming. The app is called Garden Lab, and it is a simulation game where kids can grow colorful flowers in their very own garden.
Growing a Garden
To begin the game, kids are asked to create a male or female avatar. The app will then take them to garden filled with empty flowerbeds, and provide them with a seed to get started.
Using the shovel, kids dig a hole in the ground and place the seed inside. They then water it by dragging a rain cloud from the sky and holding it above the planting site for a few seconds until a little green sprout appears. If there are no clouds, kids can tap on the windmill in the background to move them into the scene.
Next, they wait for the sprout to slowly grow and blossom into a flower. Just like in real life, this process may take a few (virtual) days. However, if they are impatient, they can speed up the process by dragging the sun or moon across the sky to make the days and nights change faster.
When the flower finally blooms, kids will learn that their work doesn’t stop there; the flower must be periodically watered to prevent it from wilting. Healthy flowers then produce hearts, which can be used to buy new seeds, decorations for the garden, or clothes for the avatar.
Seeds can also be acquired by crossbreeding two flowers of the same type. To do so, kids tap on a flower until a swarm of bees appear. They then drag the bees to another flower, essentially pollinating it.
This part of the game is interesting because it also teaches kids about color mixing; for example, blue and yellow flowers will produce green seeds, red and yellow flowers produce orange seeds, and so on. Kids can even grow flowers of varying shades (e.g., light to dark blue) by crossing them with a white or black flower. Additionally, kids can plant up to eight types of flowers to liven up their garden.
Parents Need to Know
Garden Lab is an open-ended game with a relaxing atmosphere. Kids are free to design their garden however they like, and can take their time to do so. The app provides interesting challenges (e.g., planting flowers of specific types in the same flower bed, growing flowers that match the colors of a rainbow), but doesn’t pressurize kids to achieve them.
The app is made for ages 6–8, however younger kids should be able to play with an adult supervising them. There is a quick guide that the beginning that shows kids the ropes, and the app should be fairly easy to use once they’ve settled in. Younger kids may require assistance navigating the seed shop and completing the challenges.
The app is also safe for kids. It doesn’t contain in-app purchases or ads. Although kids can buy seeds in the in-app store to grow more flowers, no actual money is involved here; kids use only hearts earned by tending their plants.
The app allows the creation of up to three user profiles on a device, making it ideal for use in families with multiple children or classrooms. It is also made available in English, Catalan, French, German, Spanish.
Things I Like
Despite the app’s laid-back feel, Garden Lab is rich in educational content. Mainly, it introduces kids to the life cycle of plant, including how seeds grow into flowers and how bees help with pollination. Additionally, it teaches kids about natural phenomenons such as rain and wind, and about color theory. As kids buy new seeds in the store and complete challenges, they also learn to manage their spendings.
Speaking of challenges, I think they provide the app with an additional point of interest. There are four categories available, and some challenges are more difficult than others. However, the harder challenges really test kids’ planning and problem solving abilities.
Design-wise, I feel that the app really delivers on their promise for a “space full of small details”. The garden is truly a pleasant place as butterflies flutter and birds chirp in the background. The weather constantly changes; sometimes the skies are clear, other times it’s windy. It keeps the game realistic, although occasionally frustrating when you need to revive a wilting flower but there’s not a single cloud in the sky. Nevertheless, it’s a terrific app that I highly recommend.
Garden Lab is a relaxing gardening game in which kids learn about the life cycle of plants, natural phenomenons such as wind and rain, the color theory, and money management. At the same time, they also get creative by designing their garden any way they like. The open-ended gameplay allows hours of fun. Recommended for kids ages 6 and up.
Garden Lab is available for iPad
Get it on the App Store: iPad
App was provided for our honest review.
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