iconIt is no wonder My First App – Vol. 1 Vehicles, by appp media UG,  received the 2013 Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award as a top Mobil App. The thing that sets this puzzler app apart from all the other puzzler apps is that on every level, it was created with a preschooler’s capabilities and development in mind. The graphics are original, cheerful and bright without extraneous visual clutter, and you are able to control auditory input – limiting the music for more distractible or sensitive kids. My First App – Vol. 1 Vehicles incorporates beginning spatial and bilateral awareness, which is so important in how we perceive space and our abilities to navigate through space in a confident manner, and that translates into being able to sit in your seat, and learn to read and write. The app is divided into three modes of play: The Puzzles that connect in terms of pieces and spatial orientation, The Turning Game, which promotes laterality and discrimination of our right and left sides, and The Pinball Game that integrates using both sides of our bodies together. Let’s take a closer look at these three modes:

The Puzzles – Choose between 2, 4, 6, or 9 piece puzzles. You are first given the choice of selecting 8 different puzzles, and each piece is formed as an equal unit… meaning it is not interlocking. This mode is very adaptable for beginners to older preschoolers. The choice of correct orientation or having to turn the pieces with your forefinger and thumb is a great way to learn the sequence of adjusting manipulatives and learn about orientation. I would love to hear an audible click for proper placement, however when the pieces are moved close to the target, they snap into place easily. As our clinic is beside a construction company…to the delight of all preschoolers who attend there, here is a snapshot of the “Digger” with 9 pieces as an example:

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The Turning Game –
In this mini game mode, you not only need to recognize each3 part of the puzzle as half of a whole, but also begin to coordinate or be able to predict what should come next. And that is how C, CA, or CA-T becomes a CAT! Being able to cross midline and keep things coherent and coordinated are a major milestone for kids as they then begin to see the world as something larger than themselves. Looking at this example – “Why that’s crazy, a tractor and princess coach don’t match” teaches us about synchronicity and how pieces of the world fit together.

4The Pinball Wizard – By tilting the iPad, the goal is to land the pinball in specific holes. The third mode of play integrates the content of the other two games, by being able to shift your gaze, listen to auditory cues, and move your body to sink the pinballs. It promotes smooth sequential flow from left to right and up to down without any hesitation or bumps. If a child is unable to shift or disassociate left from right, you can place the balls in the holes by dragging and dropping them. Gravity does take precedence when you drag and drop, so the iPad needs to be flat. Adding this component to a puzzle app is very thoughtful on part of the developer, as it shows how deeply she cares about the children’s proficiency of the given materials. You can upgrade the challenge as a full body response when the child is able to do so later.

Benefits:
• Promotes a sense of perceptual and spatial relationships
• Challenges problem solving skills
• Refines visual motor coordination and precision
• Teaches about synchronicity and looking at our world as parts to a whole
• Can help kids with motor planning issues learn to sequence the act of putting puzzles together without the added stress of manipulating items
• Fosters persistence
• Promotes Independent play and exploration

In summary, this is one fantastic puzzle app that you can adapt for different skill levels for preschoolers. It helps refine visual motor skills as well as spatial relationships of objects. It is highly reinforcing, and could be used for teaching as well as independent play.

About the Author

Picture - JoJo Booth has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years, and currently works in Pediatrics with early intervention. She sees kids newly diagnosed on the spectrum as well as medically fragile kids. She loves to move, explore and play everyday; so that “her kids” grow up to be healthy independent learners.

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