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Marianna's Favourite Apps

Marianna's Favourite Apps

If there's one thing lockdown has done, it's cemented Marianna's love of her Amazon tablet. At this point I think she's tried just about every game she could download for free - and some that she couldn't - but there are a handful which have stood the test of time.

They need to be fun, they need to be colourful, and, perhaps most importantly of all, they need to be easily understandable. Marianna can read, after a fashion, but certainly not well enough to understand instructions. From my point of view, they need to be safe, age appropriate, and not cost a fortune. 

With that in mind, here are Marianna's winners...

Byd Cyw App

Byd Cyw | Cyw's World

This brilliant - and 100% free - app was developed by Thud Media for S4C. (Cyw is their pre-school programming strand.) It's in Welsh but is self-explanatory enough that you don't need to speak any for most elements. Marianna worked it all out for herself without needing to ask for help. 

There are mini-games, songs, stories, and a free world element that Marianna particularly enjoyed. This was one of the first apps I downloaded for her, alongside CBeebies Playtime Island, but it is the only one from my own selection of 'edutainment' apps to still be used with any regularity.

My Town App

My Town

This is a whole series of games - My Town, My City, My Little Princess - that aim to provide a digital doll house environment for children. Created by Daniel Sonnenfeld and Mark Tulchinski, the idea is that kids let their imaginations run free and make up their own games to play within the app. 

I was kind of dubious about the concept, to be honest, but Marianna has had hours of fun with it. She loves playing with her real life dolls and doll house, but this bypasses the frustration of dolls not sitting, teacups not standing, and all the rest of it. Plus it can be played with on the go!

The thing that really strikes me is how involved and detailed her storylines are. Her favourite of the games she owns (some are free, some cost around £2.50) is #3, My Hospital, and if you listened to her description of it you'd think it was some kind of post-apocalyptic horror rather than a smiley faced playhouse.

Toca Boca

Toca Life

To my eyes this is much the same as My Town but, so Marianna tells me, it is entirely different. It's more character based and, from what I gather, the play is a little more structured with things to do rather than complete open-world wandering. 

The aesthetics are super cute, either way, and they have definitely had a big impact on the way Marinna wants to dress and the kind of people she wants to draw. Toca Boca are based in Sweden and, according to their company page, are all about celebrating quirkiness and diversity. The games are a little more expensive at £3.99 a pop but do seem to be more engrossing.

Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures

Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures

As the daughter of a doll collector I guess Marianna was always destined to love Barbie. She watches the TV series over and over, and even the free version of the app could keep her entertained for hours. 

Developed by Budge Studios, the app has Barbie verbally explain instructions which might be grating on the nerves, but does mean Marianna can play independently. The big issue is that the 'VIP' version operates on a subscription basis of £3.99 a month; this needs to be paid for with card details rather than Amazon coins which is how Marianna usually has her pocket money so she can spend it as she pleases. (She gets £5 a week.)

Eventually I gave in and put my card details in to sign up, then removed the card immediately afterwards from Marianna's Amazon account. It's a bit of a faff but worth it for how much she adores the game. There is plenty to keep her occupied and, in terms of play value, it usually ends up being the best £4 I spend in any given month!

For more like this, please see...
Bringing Up Baby


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