Squishing Squash, Pinching Peppers!

Dexteria, Jr. averted a cupcake meltdown this morning!  This new app by Binary Labs was a lifesaver with my 4 1/2 year old grandson. He was immediately fascinated by the games and stayed engaged for nearly an hour.  His favorite comment, “Awesome!!!”  His next favorite comment? “This is Awesome!”

According to an email from the developer:

We developed it in response to the OTs, parents, and teachers who love Dexteria but say that sometimes the activities are too hard for the younger kids.  So we designed new activities for smaller hands and younger minds. We added music, characters, sprite animations, and some surprises to make it fun and engaging for preschoolers and toddlers.

The Science Behind Dexteria Jr. – The Motor-Cognitive Link

It’s common knowledge that fine motor skills help a child succeed in school with tasks like handwriting, using scissors, manipulating objects, etc.  However, recent research shows that fine motor skills also develop the same brain function as used in reading, mathematics, and science.  Research shows there is a strong relationship between the development of fine motor skills in early childhood and later success in math, reading, and science.

Dexteria Jr. targets the sweet-spot age group for developing fine motor skills and associated cognitive function. It’s important to master fine motor skills by age 6 to help ensure later academic success.

After playing with my grandson, I can say that Dexteria, Jr., meets its goals.  In Squish the Squash, the child taps a cute little squash, which goes flat and makes a satisfying ‘splat’ sound.  The app tracks how many squash are tapped and how long it takes for each level.  The goal is to tap all of the squash as quickly as you can. The game helps develop fine motor control, finger isolation, and finger strength.

Trace & Erase is similar to what the child will do in handwriting activities and works on perceptual skills as well. It starts simply with straight lines, then curved lines, then angular lines, and finally, a combination of all three.  The child simply traces a line from the green arrow to the yellow star.  If he deviates from the path, there’s a voice prompt to start at the green dot (which is the end point of where he got off track) and go back to the star.

After completing each level, the child is prompted to erase the line, following the same path. The fun comes as the lines are erased and an image appears (it comes from the iPad camera forward facing option), which you can save to the camera roll.  Some of the effects are quite amusing, as you can see:

Pinch the Pepper held my grandson’s interest the longest.  The app works on thumb and pointer finger control, which is important for handwriting. The object is to pinch all of the peppers as fast as you can.  When you pinch a yellow pepper, more red peppers are created. My grandson pinched as many as 26 peppers in one level.  Now he wants to pinch the peppers in the fridge, too.

It’s possible to email reports after every session, continue sessions where the child left off, or begin new sessions.  It would be great if the app would save sessions for different children.

Dexteria, Jr. goes live in the app store on April 4th.  The introductory price is $2.99, well worth the addition to any parent’s or educator’s toolbox. 

*I received a free copy of the app for purposes of this review.

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