App review: Counting Bear for iPad and iPhone

Consumer Reports News: August 22, 2011 08:08 AM

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My son's newest favorite app is Counting Bear for iPad and iPhone, by Grasshopper Apps (99 cents in the iTunes store). This is one of the cuter apps I've seen in a while, and it's perfect for toddlers who are learning object recognition and numbers. 

Counting Bear teaches children to count objects by allowing them to touch things such as apples, clocks, and pumpkins. It does this by presenting a simple page with, say, a few turtles on it. A nice lady's voice will say, "Count the turtles." When the child touches each turtle, the nice lady counts them and the number appears over the object. When the child is finished touching all turtles on the screen, they progress to the next page where they are advanced to the next number with different objects. 

Your child will learn to count up to 20 with this app, and there are over 60 different items in the app to count. You can add more items, too, which is really neat. You can take a photo of something with your iPad's camera or choose a photo from your iPad's photo library. You can also add your own audio track for this item. 

Say you are trying to teach your child about eggs, which are not an option in the app. You can take a photo of eggs, and then in your own voice say, "Count the eggs!" or "Can you count the number of eggs?" The app will then work your own photo and voice into the game randomly. 

You can also customize the voice on the pre-set images. This would be nice if you wanted to give your child personal instructions on each page. For instance, I could say, "Count the donkeys, Miles." 

You can also customize the numbers so that the counting is in your voice or a different language, as well as the admonishment that happens when the child completes counting for each page. The preset audio has the nice lady saying something like, "Great job!" when the counting on each page is complete. I could change it to say, "Great job, Miles!" 

I did try to customize the audio in my app, but I ended up going back to the preset. I probably went wrong when I tried to do this with my son in the room. It ended up sounding something like this: 

"Can you count the…no, no, honey don't touch that." 

"How many alligat….Miles, sweetheart, not now." 

So, note to other parents: Do this when your child is in another room. 

Another thing I like about Counting Bear is that the items are real images instead of cartoons or caricatures. I often wonder if the drawn animals on other apps can really help my son learn what an actual dog or chicken looks like, since they are so cartoonish. (The dinosaur shown in the app is an image of the Pleo robotic dinosaur, though. I guess it's hard to find real images of dinosaurs these days.) 

As fun as this app is, it is pretty buggy. It seems to crash out pretty regularly between 8 and 11. I have a few friends who had the same experience. Hopefully, updates will improve stability so my son can learn to count above 11—although, admittedly, he does lose interest around 7 and wants to start over. So the crashing isn't as much as an inconvenience, for now. 

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Natali Morris

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