With the new Baby Touch: Happy Babies app now available, we thought it would be the perfect time to sit down with editor Nicola Bird and put a few questions to her about the development of this app and the ways you can use it with your baby.
When planning this app we knew that we wanted to keep doing what had worked and is working so successfully for Peekaboo – bold, bright colours and images, simple, effective movements and functionality, and an obvious theme to hang it all on that benefits a young child’s development. Although at the heart of the Happy Babies app is a find and reveal game very much like Peekaboo, this time we wanted to make it all about friendly animal mummies, daddies and babies, in particular asking ‘Where’s your baby?” each time of the animals, ready for children to reveal them by pressing the screen.
We’ve kept the structure the same, with four differently themed sections and a ‘play all as movie’ function. We’ve put in a wide variety of ways that the animals move on and off the screen to stimulate and hold a child’s attention. There are also lots of new sound effects and some lovely new music!
How easy is it to transfer a baby book to an app and what does a baby gain from using this new format?
We actually develop the apps in a similar way to the Baby Touch books, which aren’t stories you necessarily read from the beginning to the end, but are more about the experience of exploring themed text, objects and different ‘feels’ on a page. Obviously the main point of difference on an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch is that babies can’t investigate the bumpy, fluffy or smooth patches found in a Baby Touch book! But they can still actively ‘learn through touch’ – in this case, realising that pressing the screen makes things move, or make noises! Their sight, touch and hearing are really being stimulated and they are learning about cause and effect.
How should a mum read and play with the app with their baby?
Feedback from users of the Peekaboo app has been that the Baby Touch apps are great for a variety of purposes. Some parents play the movie function to very young babies to help stimulate their developing vision (one colleague sent us a video of her 2-week-old being transfixed by the moving screen!). Some children play with it as they would a toy or game, so they learn independently about how to use it through repeated practice. However, it is equally if not more valuable to use the app with your child as you would a shared book at bedtime – talking about what you see, asking questions about what you think might happen, making the animal noises and reading the text aloud (you can disable the voiceover if you prefer to read the words to your child yourself).
What advice would you give to parents who are unsure about using digital devices with their children?
We understand that some people might feel uncomfortable letting a child use digital technology at such a young age, but I do think apps can have the same benefits as other more ‘traditional’ learning tools such as games and books. Our educational expert Geraldine Taylor had this to say about getting the most out of using apps with very young children:
“Technology is not going to go away and it's fine for babies to see us use it as part of their world. Babies and children want to do what they see us doing, this is an enormous driver in learning, so we can hardly deny them the use of what we are finding so much fun in family life and the way we communicate. The most important thing about both books and apps though is that they come with a beloved person and that it is a shared experience.”
Are there more Baby Touch apps in the pipeline?
We’re currently developing apps for the stage after Baby Touch, for older toddlers (more news about this later in the year), and we will certainly look at more Baby Touch apps in the future.