Practical Fun: Spelling Apps For New Spellers

Spelling Apps © Artgig Apps/KeyStageFun (Fair Use)
Spelling apps © Artgig Apps/KeyStageFun.

In the last few months, my 5-year-old son is now being taught spelling at school. As a result, I have been on the lookout for anything that will help him. One of the solutions I settled on quickly was using iPad apps.

Since we began using the iPad for spelling practice, his spelling has improved greatly, but much more importantly, his eagerness and enthusiasm about practicing spelling has improved too. Rather than battling to get a single practice in each night, not to mention the constant battle to find a scrap of paper and a single working pen despite the fact I had 50 of the darned things overflowing from a drawer last week, now I find him practicing spelling without even being asked—or choosing to go back over a few previous tests after completing his current one.

I wanted to share two great spelling apps with other parents who are in the same boat.

Continue reading Practical Fun: Spelling Apps For New Spellers

Transport Tycoon Pulls Into Your Mobile Device

Transport Tycoon © Chris Sawyer
Transport Tycoon © Chris Sawyer

I grew up playing the classic Sim games from Maxis. We had Sim Life on our Amiga 1200 and I later grew so obsessed with my Sim Ant game on our first PC that I did an elementary school science project using the game manual as a resource (hey, the back of the book was basically a biology textbook about real ants; it was legitimate research).

Since those days, sim games have grown far more sophisticated just as I have grown away from them, but when I was offered the chance to play with the latest edition of Transport Tycoon I was interested to see how the game would compare to my memories.

Transport Tycoon is a classic in its own right and was originally released in 1994 (I can clearly remember seeing that box on the shelves of my local games store when I was a kid). The game allows players to build up a transport empire of road, rail, sea, and air transportation, beginning in the 1900s and progressing through time to the modern day. The iPad app features a number of different scenarios to be played through at different levels of difficulty. Easy scenarios can be as “simple” as carrying 1000 passengers within ten years, expert challenges include attaining monthly profits of £1 million, and finishing the game as the top company against up to 14 rivals.

I actually found the game quite hard to get into. Setting up bus routes in existing towns was simple enough but the process of laying out railway track between towns felt tedious and overly complicated compared with games I’ve played in the past. The grainy “retro” feel to the graphics combined with the slightly clumsy touch screen interaction made the game more difficult than it should have been simply because of the visuals. At one point I struggled to understand why a bus route wasn’t working. It took some considerable effort to spot that a section of road was pointing the wrong way so the bus couldn’t travel along it. Rather than giving me a warning error to explain that the route was impossible, the bus just trundled around in an endless loop visiting the same single stop over and over.

My Transport Tycoon game (yes I named my company after Twin Peaks) © Sophie Brown
My Transport Tycoon game (yes I named my company after Twin Peaks) © Sophie Brown

That being said, I still found myself playing for longer than I intended, getting sucked into watching the little profit counter steadily increasing as I expanded my bus empire into more and more cities (I’d given up on trains at this point—the track seemed too expensive to invest in). My four-year-old son would happily sit beside me wanting to watch the little vehicles zooming about on their errands. He found it fascinating and I even found him attempting to play the game on more than one occasion, despite it being far too complex for his age.

I wouldn’t be rushing out to purchase Transport Tycoon if this had just been a demo. For me these games have become too complex. I enjoyed the basic gameplay of the early sim games (my last copy of Sim City was nothing more than a grid) rather than the constant micro-management required of modern variants. Interestingly, my husband feels the same way about current football manager games.

But there’s no doubt that Transport Tycoon is a well-built game with a lot packed into its meager $7 (£5) price tag. If you’re prepared to invest the time then you will definitely reap what you sow.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Verso Offers The Coolest Cases Ever

Verso Kindle Fire and iPad cases
Photo: Marziah Karch

When I pre-ordered my Kindle Fire, I also pre-ordered the Verso Prologue case cover pictured in the center of this photo. When it arrived, my husband immediately wanted a Kindle Fire, not because he was a huge Fire fan, but because the case was so cool. It instantly turns your Fire into a steampunk costume accessory. What’s not to love about that?

The Verso Prologue is a simple leather case that opens just like a book, and the Kindle Fire or Touch is held in place with elastic on the corners. The positon of the elastic means it works with a lot of devices. It won’t work with every device, so be sure to check the specifics on your device. It works great with the old Galaxy Tab, but the new Galaxy Tab 7+ does not work. I’ve tried. The elastic hits the volume button.

I visited with Lightwedge, the company that makes the Verso covers at a recent press event, and I got to preview their new line. It should be out by “back to school” time, so sometime probably in the summer. I can’t wait. They’ve added larger sizes, so iPad and larger Android tablet fans should jump for joy here. I know I am.

They’ve also added this very cool Victorian marbled paper look, one of which is pictured above in iPad size. I really wanted to just buy one on the spot, but apparently they’re sending them back to the manufacturer to get a better texture on them before they start mass production.

The whole idea of book-like covers for tablets is just super appealing. If you can’t wait for Verso, there’s the Twelve South BookBook series of cases, which also have side protection. Even more fun, you can follow these instructions to make your own iPad case. I think I may have to do that for a few of my tablets. They deserve some geeky cover love.