Some research has shown that today’s children are less creative than previous generations, and many point their fingers at the digital era. It makes sense, to an extent. For example, a child who would have once been engaging in imaginative play with action figures and Beanie Babies is now playing with apps and video games. In a large majority of these digital games, imagination is not required; the goal is to win or earn points, and there are only a set number of ways to do so. Thankfully, I don’t think this shift is quite as terrible as some make it out to be. First, common sense parenting (and teaching and therapy) includes knowing how to provide balance–not letting kids play with an iPad every waking minute but realizing that the digital world provides some great opportunities, too. Second, that digital world is actually starting to allow more creativity on the part of the user. My PlayHome is a perfect example.
What It Is: A digital doll house by Shimon Young.
How It Works: The basis of the app is quite simple: it’s a dollhouse. Nearly anything you could do with a physical dollhouse (and much more) can be done here. There are currently four rooms (living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom) and a yard. You get to each room by touching the appropriate arrow (e.g. the bedroom is above the living room and the living room is next to the kitchen). There are five “dolls” to play with (Mom, Dad, baby, sister, brother). They sit in a little cloud in the upper right corner until you choose to drag them into the scene (or put them away). The details in each room (or the yard) allow for hundreds of interactive opportunities. For example, in the bathroom you could take the girl, put her in the tub, put shampoo on her head, turn the shower on to rinse off the bubbles, close the curtain, open the curtain back up, get her out of the tub, grab the towel from the rack to dry her off, and more. Pretty much everything and anything in each room is interactive.
My Therapy Applications: I do believe I have used this app with every one of my preschool clients, regardless of their goals. We have used it to work on articulation and phonological processes. We have also use it for wh-questions (“Where is the watermelon?”). I personally love using it for problem solving and reasoning skills (“Uh-oh, you left the water on. What could happen?” or “Oops, we forgot to dry the boy off when he got out of the tub. He’s still dripping wet. What can we do to fix that?”). Many expressive language goals can be addressed here, too (e.g. vocabulary, describing function of objects, explaining what the dolls are doing). I enjoy working on concepts and following directions, too (“Go upstairs and put the boy on the bottom bunk.”). Other receptive goals may also be addressed (“Find the…”). The app is great for working on sequencing (“First, we get out the toothbrush and toothpaste. Then, …”). I could easily see it being used for social story-type scenarios/schedule planning (“What I do when I wake up”).
Pros: 1. Price. I originally bought it for even less, but I would still buy it for $3.99.
2. Interactive details. As I mentioned before, nearly every object on each page is interactive. You can pour cereal and milk and orange juice and coffee, switch around CDs in the living room, water and pick carrots in the garden outside (and then feed them to the dolls), drive around the toy racecar in the bedroom, and so much more. I’ve owned this app for a couple of months, and I’m still finding new interactive parts to it. (Oh, and the sound-effects are true-to-life, as well.)
3. Imaginative play opportunities. There is no goal or point system or way to win–it’s not really a game; it’s just play.
4. Goals and objectives. As described above, it can be used for a vast number of therapy purposes with children of a variety of ages. I have also heard SLPs say they use it with adults. I would use great caution with this–you don’t want to be patronizing or demeaning. However, I can understand using it in some cases. For example, one SLP suggested using it with adults who own iPads so they can then use it with their kids or grandkids–therapy could focus on the appropriate language and skills to utilize when playing with children with this app. Another SLP suggested working on some functional skills with it and explaining that, yes, it is a children’s app, but it can be a valuable tool for getting started. I’m interested to hear other SLPs’ opinions on this.
5. Ease of use. I almost put this in the “cons” section! The kids I work with have become so accustomed to the natural feel of this app that they get irritated when another app is trickier to navigate.
Cons: 1. Not everything is exactly true to real life. For example, once a doll eats an apple, it magically reappears in its original spot. However, this can be a “pro” in a way, as it promotes imagination.
The Take-Away: This is an amazing app. If you work with children, it’s a MUST DOWNLOAD NOW. 🙂 If you work with adults, I would consider if it can be used functionally in an age-appropriate way.
My Questions for You: What goals do/could you address using this app? What age levels do you use it with? Do you think it could be appropriate for using with adults?
Looking for expert reviews of this app? Check it out on YappGuru.com!