A Roundup of Kids Apps for the Lunar New Year
Whenever I ask my six year old daughter which country in the world she would most like to visit, her consistent answer is China. “I want to see the Great Wall of China,” she says. A fan of the Reggio Emilia approach to learning, which creates inspired learning experiences based on kids’ deep interests, I’ve been thinking about how to use the Lunar New Year to find some fun opportunities to tap into her fascination with all things Chinese. There are many roundups of picture books like this and an ongoing month-long blog series like this which highlights food, arts and crafts, literature, and more. Not so much out there, however, when it comes to digital kids’ content.
As an independent app producer who spends a large part of my days creating children’s content and as a founding member of the coalition Diversity in Apps, I ended up scouring the AppStore for some good quality kids apps that showcase Chinese language and culture without being too didactic and that, put simply, could provide fun tie-ins to the themes that surround the lunar new year — fortune, prosperity, Year of the Monkey, curiosity … A curator’s mind is not always linear, it turns out! Also turns out that there’s no roundup like this out there (at least I couldn’t find one), so I’m sharing my finds here.
Chinese Fortune Cookie Maker — Free
My daughter is very proud to call herself a “reader” this year and she loves Chinese food, so this seems like it would be a quick and fun game to play. You can create your own fortune cookies and practice reading them aloud. You can also cook your own Chinese meal, although quite frankly if you’re going to spend time doing this with your kid, which I might just for a few kicks and giggles, I’d better justify it by getting into the kitchen with her and cooking our favorite recipe for Long Life Noodles from Plated.
Round is a Mooncake — $2.99
Based on the picture book by Roseanne Thong and illustrated by Grace Lin, this read-aloud app with interactive hotspots invites children to explore shapes through the eyes of a Chinese-American girl and the objects that surround her: round rice bowls and a round pebble, square dim sum and the boxes that pizza comes in, rectangular Chinese lace and a very special pencil case. I especially like how the app allows kids to take in the lovely and lyrical language and draws connections between everyday “American” and “Chinese” objects.
The Great Dumpling Adventure $2.99
No Chinese New Year celebration would be complete without dumplings. Miaomiao is a cute character and you can join her and her friends on a little adventure in this interactive story app as they set off to find some missing dumplings and save the village new year celebration. It has some simple pre-school Mandarin vocabulary which could be fun to new learners.
Learn Chinese with Miao Miao $2.99
Miaomiao is really adorable and in this brand new app, she and her dog Doudou use play to teach kids meaning, form, and how to write a few dozen Chinese words. The app promises fun animations — eg: you tap on a character to see it transform into an animation of what it describes.
Dragon Brush — $2.99
This interactive story app has won a few awards, including a Cybils Award for best book app in 2012. It’s based on a Chinese folktale and follows the adventures of Bing-Wen, a young boy who, when given a magical brush that makes his drawings come to life, must use his art and his wits to outsmart the greedy Emperor. The art is really gorgeous and I’m a sucker for beautiful art, so this makes my cut.
The Three Pandas — $1.99
I’m also a sucker for pandas. Don’t ask me how many times I watched the recent video of Tian Tian frolicking in the snow at the National Zoo last month! This is a “ delightful interpretation” of Goldilocks and the Three Bears which combines photographs and animated graphics and features a twist on the original story. After she breaks the pandas’ chairs, Mei Mei runs off into the forest, then sends them an apology and returns to their home to fix the chair. into the forest. I always like stories that show manners in action!
The Emperor’s Race $1.99
This picture book app is not so new and the UX seems a bit outdated, but it tells the story of 13 animals who are in a race to cross a river and get picked to be the signs of the Chinese zodiac calendar. Seems a fun way to learn about the animals who made the cut. Speaking of which, Happy Year of the Monkey and for those of you who love graphic novels, if you haven’t read it yet, it’s a perfect time to read Young Adult Lit Ambassador Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, which features the Monkey King.
MonkeySpot Scavenger Hunts — Free with in-app purchases
The Year of the Monkey calls for a spirit of curiosity and sociability — and in the spirit of Chinese mythology, some shapeshifting. MonkeySpot is a new app that lets kids shapeshift from consumers of digital content to curious explorers by going on scavenger hunts such as“Out to Eat” or “I Can See A to Z.” They take pictures and videos on this simple and fun app and best of all, while on a digital device, engage in critical and curious ways with the world outside of their screens.
If you find some other fun apps, please add a comment to this list.
Jīnglíng huópō — Wishing you a bright and lively spirit this new year!