With a husband who is an ICT Integrationist in Elementary School, it was bound to happen that any children of ours would be exposed to digital devices from very early on. And so our two year old toddler is already quite proficient in using her iPad Mini. We don’t really limit or reduce screen time, we just make sure there are enough other things on offer to play or craft with. Luckily, she has a vivid imagination that still baffles me and can hold incredibly long conversations between her Playmobil and Duplo figurines.
I was always on the lookout for age appropriate apps and with my interests in app and web design and development, I set myself up to be pretty picky and fickle when it came to choosing which apps would make it onto her device. I first learnt about the Sago Mini apps when I needed something to spark my daughter’s interest while I was about six months pregnant with twins and simple things like getting up from the bed or the couch became incredibly cumbersome.
Sago Mini’s Toolbox happened to be free at that time and I grabbed it to have a look. I was immediately drawn into the graphics, the music and the sounds. Harvey the dog, Jinja the cat, Robin the bird, Jack the rabbit and the few extra characters were simple, cute and very likeable. My daughter loved exploring the app, it is very intuitive and I hardly had to show her how to do any of the 15 projects or use the 8 different tools. Even I had fun trying to hammer a nail. The harder I hit the nail, the bigger the leap between the tones of the scale, so it became a little game of trying to hit it exactly so I would make a diatonic scale. Ah, the fun musicians have…
Next thing I knew, we bought a bundle with eight of Sago Sago’s apps the day after her second birthday and we indulged her to play and explore of all of them during a lazy afternoon while we were trying to recover from the lack of sleep you experience when you have a newborn… Or two. It works miracles during feeding time too, when the terrible twos toddler has to share attention with other human beings. A few weeks ago, Sago Sago’s newest app, Robot Party, hit the App Store. I think I was probably more excited then my daughter was. Ever since Daddy brought home and played with a Lego Mindstorms when she was but one, she has been equally fascinated and terrified by robots. I thought the new app might help her ease up a little on the latter. I’m not sure if it did, but I know that she is having loads of fun with those robots. From creating a robot with heads for hands, to making a robot that slightly resembles Woody from Toy Story, Fred Flintstone or my favourite rainbow themed robot made by unlocking items by just partying with them. And that’s just the start, because after optionally cranking or charging it up, the robot gets to frost and sprinkle different flavoured cupcakes. As my daughter showed me multiple times, there can never be too much frosting, and I’m convinced that enough frosting will even make the odd garlic taste good. The robot uses its complete arsenal of moveable parts to hit, bump and smash the buttons and sometimes gets all jumbled up, which ignites frantic giggles in our couch.
A party isn’t complete with some music of course and no one bothers if it comes from a xylophone or a chicken. We could always use a little more cowbell too and luckily, we have that option. Before we ship our robot off to a new lucky owner, we get to hit piñatas, pop balloons and throw confetti around. Who doesn’t like this, even if the piñata ends up giving us healthy fruit or bolts and nuts? The robot has charming reactions to everything and at the end, you can always take a picture to remember how much fun you had with it. I went through my daughter’s Photos the other day and found dozens of robot pictures. I think it’s safe to say she approves of Robot Party.
After buying the latest Sago Mini app, I splurged and bought all the ones we didn’t own before. I love how clever everything is. From the accordion sound used for blowing up tires, to the many cultural references in Fairy Tales and the brilliantly underlying notions of sharing and learning how to do things in an app like Friends. The attention to detail is astounding and there is always something surprising you haven’t paid attention to before. These apps are ingenious for toddlers close to age 2 and I can’t recommend them enough. I’m already anxious to see what Sago Mini will come up with next and we’ll be the first in the line to get our hands on it.
SagoMini is a Toronto based company and I didn’t realise until now that they are a subsidiary of Toca Boca. Toca Boca apps are omnipresent in the App Store and I am sure when my daughter is a little older, we will have lots of fun with them. Sago Mini has succeeded in providing everything they aim for. My daughter doesn’t need help to play the apps and she enjoys exploring at her own pace. The apps are incredibly beautiful and funny too. They remind me of watching Peppa Pig or Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom; not only are those animation series fun for children, grown-ups enjoy the hidden meaning and irony and or sarcasm that children fail to notice.
There are exploration apps, building apps, adventures and role playing apps and they have no level or time limits. It’s all open-ended play and perfect for toddlers. Every app also has the option in Settings to turn off Sago News and the For Parents section. This is amazingly handy when you have an inquiring toddler who likes to see where every thing you click will take you and then gets stuck. Some of the apps have different themes to choose from and Doodlecast and Pet Cafe come in no less than 16 different languages.
And on top of everything, Sago Mini has toys too! With our twin girls growing up way too quickly, we might have to add some to the big chest of toys we already have. I can’t wait to let them explore the Sago Mini apps. How cute would it be to have them holding Harvey, Jinja, Robin or Jack at the same time?
ETA: This post has been updated in 2018 with new photos and a few links.