The Menagerie

The dictionary defines a menagerie as ‘a collection of wild animals kept in captivity for exhibition’, so it seemed to be an appropriate name for this logic game where the object is to get all the critters on a 6 x 6 grid into locked cages.

title When you tap a critter all the available moves are shown with green lights.  Critters can only be moved once and the number of spaces that each can be moved is indicated.  The critters in each puzzle are randomly picked so each puzzle provides a unique experience.  Enjoy hours of fun solving these challenging puzzles.

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The critters range from bears to butterflies and will hopefully be appealing to children.  There are 11 puzzles.  Critters can be moved 1, 2, 3 or 4 spaces but only once.  It’s a challenge to find a way to get all the critters safely locked in the menagerie.

Thinking logically is such an important skill for kids to develop.  Puzzles and games offer an opportunity to develop logical thinking skills.  I think it would be good for kids to work in small groups to try to solve The Menagerie puzzles which is why I developed it for both iPad and Apple TV.

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The Apple TV version of The Menagerie works with both the Siri Remote and compatible bluetooth game controllers.  Hopefully teachers and parents will encourage the players to discuss possible moves and explain the logic that they used to decide on a move.

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Each puzzle has about 20 to 30 critters.  With more critters the puzzle gets a little more challenging.  If you like word or number games that are played on a grid, you will also like The Menagerie.

It has always been interesting to me that grids just seem to be a natural way to organize information.  Are our brains predisposed to information arranged in rows and columns? Spreadsheets, for example, use a grid where rows and columns are labelled with letters and numbers to identify cells. When the streets of a town are numbered in one direction and labelled alphabetically in the perpendicular direction , it always seems easier for me to find my way around.  Recently, brain researchers  studied a group of human participants.  The experiment used a virtual reality environment with the subjects lying in a fMRI brain scanner.  The research showed that specialized grid cells in the brain have a spatially-organized firing pattern.  These grid cells function to create a spatial map in the brain.  The research suggests that internal grids or maps are created in our brains to help organize and understand new environments.

Scientists at the University College of London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience have shown that specialized neurons play a role in spatial memory.  Specialized neurons that are being called ‘grid cells’ have been identified through rat and mice studies and seem to represent a mechanism for how animals locate themselves in their environment.  It is almost like having a brain cell based GPS mechanism.  In animals, and now possibly humans, neuron firing patterns show up as geometrically regular grids.

So it seems obvious that the critters in The Menageries should be arranged in a 6 x 6 grid and it just seems to be an appropriate way to layout a logic puzzle.  I guess after millions of years of evolution our brains just like it that way!

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For more information about The Menagerie app for iOS and tvOS please visit our website.  The app is available at iTunes for $0.99

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Kid’s Xylophone Deluxe

An eight note xylophone is a great way to introduce children to note reading and basic music concepts.  Just using eight notes limits the complexity of the learning activity and makes it more inviting for young children.   When I designed the Kid’s Xylophone Deluxe app I wanted to make it colorful and fun for kids to use.  I also wanted to have a part of the app that would let kids be creative.  With the app kids can compose, record and playback their own songs.  When the app first opens on an iPad a blank treble staff is shown and the title for the composition is My Song.  In this mode children make up melodies and discover combinations and patterns of notes that are pleasing.  The songs can be recorded by hitting the record icon (red dot) and played back by hitting the playback icon (green triangle).

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After getting some time to explore, play and make up songs, it’s time to practice playing familiar songs.  By tapping songbook icon at the top left section of the screen, a song appears on the treble staff.  Below, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star is shown.  A variety of songs can be selected by continuing to tap the songbook icon.

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I hope this app will inspire kids to continue to learn about music.  Music can bring so much joy into a person’s life.  Just about everybody enjoys listening to music, but being able to play and create it is truly a wonderfully rewarding gift.

Kid’s Xylophone Deluxe is available at iTunes for only $1.99.

Visit our website for more information.

Leave comment to let me know what you think.

 

Kid’s Piano Deluxe

One of the great gifts that parents and teachers can give to children is the love and appreciation of music.  Enjoying and learning music can begin at any age, and even some would  say in utero.  Kid’s Piano Deluxe is designed to introduce music concepts for kids about age 5 and up.  Anyone who is new to music, the piano and music notation can learn the basics with Kid’s Piano Deluxe.

When I was designing this app I had quite a few challenges.  First, I needed to make it work on an iPad screen which is quite a bit smaller than a full-size 88 key piano keyboard.  I decided that the best solution was to limit the number of keys to about 2 octaves.  Since the purpose of the app is to introduce music concepts it didn’t seem necessary to have a full keyboard.  Second, displaying notes is tricky.  Different notes are needed, quarter notes, half notes and whole notes, for example.  Depending on where a note is to be displayed on the staff, the stem needs to go up or down.  Rest are needed to show that there is a pause in the music.  So as you can see, lots of logic needed to be employed in the programming methods in order to display the music correctly, but fortunately I love a challenge.

I wanted to have some interesting graphics in the app and I remembered a neat film that I used to show my students.  In the film birds would assemble themselves on five telephone wires representing the treble staff while a character danced on a crosswalk representing the piano keys.  It was a British film and so the crosswalk was striped like they are in England.  (Remember the Abbey Road album cover.)  In the film the birds would rearrange themselves on the staff (telephone wires) to tell the character which ‘keys’ to play on the crosswalk.  Great imagery! And it inspired me to use birds in the app.

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In the Kid’s Piano Deluxe app there are ten lessons and each lesson is graphically illustrated.  After the lesson is read, the student is given some practice exercises.  After all, the way to Carnegie Hall is practice, practice, practice…

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For the practice activity, students are presented with a short piece of music and challenged to play it accurately.  Proper fingering is explained with a graphic and the keys on the piano labeled.

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There are ten lessons.  Accuracy is recorded and displayed in a scoreboard.  Particular lessons can be selected by sliding the selector to a specific lesson.

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I hope ‘kids’ of all ages will have fun learning music with this app.  It’s available at iTunes and is only $1.99.

For more information visit our website.

Leave a comment to let me know what you think.