The ocean, like space, is a place filled with mysteries. According to the NOAA, 95 percent of the ocean remains unseen by human eyes. However, the five percent that we know, is enough to amaze those who take time to explore it.
If your child is a fan of all things marine, here’s an app that should be right up their alley: Ocean Forests. Released by Bright World eBooks, it’s an interactive, non-fiction book that combines 3D exploration and mini games with detailed text. The result is a rich learning experience that will delight kids and grown-ups alike.
What Lives in the Kelp Forest?
The app is divided into three sections, namely, Reading, Exploring, and Gaming. You can start anywhere you like, but I recommend reviewing the Reading section first. You might also like to check out the Tutorial, which explains how to navigate the ins and outs of the app.
The Reading section is the heart of the app, and contains a non-fiction storybook about the kelp forest. Some of the things you’ll learn in the book include what animals can be found in the forest, how tall the giant kelp can grow, and what happens to the fronds of giant kelp that break away from their holdfasts.
The book comes with three modes: Storybook, in which you read along with the narrator; Read by Myself, in which you read at your own pace; and Record my Voice, which allows you record your own narration for the story. In Storybook and Read by Myself modes, you can touch each word to hear it said aloud. You can also tap the book icon next to the text, to access the interactive dictionary.
When the interactive dictionary is turned on, you will see some words being underlined. You can tap an underlined word to bring up a pop-up containing the definition of the word. For example, you’ll learn that algae are organisms that grow in water and make food from sunlight.
In the second section of the app, Exploring, you can dive underwater to explore an interactive, 3D kelp forest. You can pan to see more of your surroundings, and tap the animals you see to hear interesting facts about them. If you’re unsure where to touch, you can tap the help button, which will highlight all available hotspots on screen.
Finally, in the Gaming section you can put your knowledge of the kelp forest to the test. There are two games you can play: Retrieve Our Subs and Mind Match. Retrieve Our Subs is a trivia game where you need to catch the sub that contains the correct answer to a question, while Mind Match is a memory matching game. Each game has various levels of difficulty.
Parents Need to Know
Ocean Forests is the first in a planned series of book apps that blend non-fiction reading, 3D exploration, and mini games. The series is focused on introducing kids to natural science topics, and is suitable for ages 5+.
Catering to kids with various reading skills, the book supports narrated and independent reading modes. I can testify that the narrated reading mode is excellent with clear pronunciation and text-highlighting. It’s also easy to repeat the narration if you need to.
The app is safe for kids, as it doesn’t contain advertising or in-app purchases. External links are present, but tucked away in the Credits section and are protected by a security question. No Internet connection is required to use the app.
Things I Like
We’ve reviewed several great ocean exploration apps for kids, but I must admit that this app is by far the most comprehensive. It’s the first to offer a non-fiction storybook while also allowing open-ended exploration. In short, it’s the best of both worlds.
I do love how the storybook is detailed, but still easy to understand. It is full of interesting facts that you don’t find every day, such as how the giant kelp manages to stay upright in the water and what animals can be found on the sea floor. The pop-up dictionary provides additional learning opportunities for inquisitive kids.
Outside the storybook, the 3D exploration mode allows kids to experience what life is like in the unique habitat that is the kelp forest. This feature is simply stunning, with realistic 3D graphics/animations and a soothing background music that takes you underwater with all these beautiful creatures. If this book is just the beginning, I can’t wait to see the rest of the series.
Ocean Forests blends an engaging, non-fiction storybook with open-ended exploration and educational mini games to create an unforgettable learning experience. This stunning app introduces kids (and grown-ups) to a kelp forest and its unique inhabitants. Excellent reading options cater to various reading skills, and set the app apart. I would recommend the app for households that love science and for classrooms.
Get it on the App Store: iPad
App was provided for our honest review.