Bottom Line: An app to help children celebrate the season in style with some familiar faces. It has more to see and do than the million watt light display causing a traffic jam at the end of my street.
If you would like to purchase Wubbzy's The Night Before Christmas ($1.99 iPad/iPhone), please support Smart Apps for Kids and use the following link:
For kids living in Florida, getting in the spirit of Christmas can be difficult. It snows Calgon soap flakes from 6-10 p.m. every night in Celebration, FL. There's ice skating on sheets of polyurethane in Winter Park, and Santa arrives on water skies at the local outlet center. Disney still serves up its own special brand of holiday magic, but otherwise joy of the season can be in short supply unless it's on your TV screen.
This year I'm finding myself turning to my iPad more and more for a good old fashioned dose of merriness. For once, apps can be totally lacking in educational content and still be a Top Pick if they bring a smile to a child's face. That is the magic of Christmas.
Cupcake Digital has tapped into some of that magic with its app Wubbzy's The Night Before Christmas. Kids familiar with the Nick Jr. headliner and his sidekicks Daizy, Walden and Widget will certainly gravitate towards this title, but even those new to Wow! Wow! Wubb-speak will enjoy it. Wubb-speak, by the way, is use of terms like "clattery clatter" and "flashity flash."
The heart of the app is a Wubbzified version of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. The story begins as always with stockings hung by the chimney, only these fireplace decorations reveal our star Wubbzy and his friends when tapped. Each page of the book has similar surprise interactions. Strings of lights blink, doodleberries bounce and Rudolph's big red nose blinks. It's all lighthearted fun.
Reading is a pleasure since the app features three distinct options. There is read to me for those who enjoy the ease of an artificial tree, read and play for fans of multicolored blinking lights and just a book for the Douglas fir traditionalists. The narrated version has word by word highlighting and read and play includes the ability to tap individual words for help when reading independently. The reading mode can be changed midway through as there is a page index. If the app is closed in the middle of the book, it asks if you want to resume or start over when it's next opened.
In addition to the hidden animations, there are a number of activities incorporated into the story itself. Whether they've been naughty or nice, kids can drive Santa's sleigh through a minefield of snowballs to collect presents, decorate a tree by fitting in puzzle pieces shaped like ornaments and presents and dress a snowman. My favorite is the snowman with his crazy bent carrot nose. Kids who can't get enough of Wubbzy also have coloring pages to paint with digital ink and share. All the games are rather easy and won't frustrate even toddlers.
The highlight of the app and a natural to showcase a TV character is the inclusion of three short music videos. The words to the songs are printed on screen so kids can sing along. I did experience some formatting problems with the videos which is unfortunate since they really make the app. An email to Cupcake Digital's feedback link was answered within two hours, on a Sunday no less, so hopefully a fix is on the way.
These clips really bring home kids' anticipation of Christmas. They make Wubbzy's The Night Before Christmas much more than just another reworking of a Holiday classic.
The final page of the app is the Grown-Up's Corner. This page has some basic comprehension questions to make sure kids were listening as well as some more thought provoking questions to perhaps open a dialogue with your children or students to encourage sharing about holiday traditions. I'd keep it on the lighter side and just let Wubbzy do all the talking in this one.
Video hang-ups notwithstanding, Wubbzy's The Night Before Christmas is a well-designed app. The ability to customize nearly every aspect of the app makes for an enjoyable reading experience and helps parents keep the presentation age appropriate. Readers can read, tots can listen and parents can dial down the annoyance factor with a sliding bar to adjust music, sounds and the narrator's voice. This is pretty nifty and is a much better option than a mere on/off switch.
Parents should be aware that there is a pop-up to rate the book once reading is finished as well as links to Twitter and Facebook accessible from the Help page. But Christmas is the season of forgiveness so with any luckity luck your kids will enjoy spending their holiday with Wubbzy and mine will stop complaining about their very modest presents.
Jill Goodman is waiting to meet her ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.