Busy Shapes

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
Busy Shapes App Poster Image
Super-smart playground designed for youngest app users.

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The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn traits of objects and how different objects move, sound, and work together. They'll develop logic and reasoning skills as they explore and manipulate the digital playground, moving objects through different substances, putting them into the correct holes, and using tools to get objects out of places. Kids will work with familiar objects -- sponges, wooden blocks, and shapes -- hearing how they sound and move on different surfaces. Young kids learn about the environment by experiencing it, and Busy Shapes mimics a real-world environment at the same time it gives them a safe, appropriately stimulating way to explore the digital world that will be part of their experience.

Ease of Play

Play is totally toddler-friendly with no menus or options on the screen, intelligent design that distinguishes kids' intentional swipes from the unintentional swipes of their little fingers grasping the device, and automatic memory that lets kids stop playing and return to the same place in the game.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Busy Shapes is an exploring-to-learn activity for toddlers based on Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development. Piaget believed that the youngest children, in the stage of development he called "sensorimotor," learn about their world by exploring and manipulating it. Busy Shapes gives kids a digital playground to explore and has lots of features in place to make it easy for the youngest users to play without crashing or accidentally swiping out of the app. It uses artificial intelligence to automatically adjust to keep kids challenged. Parents can set up different accounts for several kids (up to 40) and review how long kids played and the concepts they explored. Busy Shapes isn't about learning the names of the shapes; rather, it's about developing an awareness of how objects relate to each other and how they can impact the objects and the world around them.

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What's it about?

BUSY SHAPES starts off with one hole and one object. Kids drag the object into the hole, and then, as if they've fallen into another world, a new object and hole appear in a different setting. The challenge increases, with multiple objects and holes of different shapes, moving objects, obstacles to get around or to move, and finally the need to use tools to move the objects. There’s no direction and no help. Kids must explore and discover on their own how to get the objects into the holes. Play continues until kids stop.

Is it any good?

Busy Shapes is smart. The features included that make it toddler-friendly are smart, in particular the use of artificial intelligence to adjust the challenge based on how kids are playing. The design is smart, keeping the screen, the actual "playground," clean and elegant so kids can explore and learn. And the concept is smart: It's not about rote learning such as memorizing shapes or colors or letters; rather, it's about working with the ways kids develop cognitive skills -- for example, exploration -- and letting them discover and manipulate. Even the reports for parents are smart, showing progress for up to 40 users, including how long they played and each concept they explored. Busy Shapes is a refreshing and smart use of technology supported by research.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Playing games such as hide-and-seek and peekaboo with your toddler develops their understanding of object permanence, an important part of sensorimotor development.

  • Beyond the screen, give kids objects to play with and explore: containers and things to put in them; blocks to stack and knock down; textures to feel and explore. Little ones learn through all their senses, including by putting things in their mouths, so allow safe exploration (giving them no objects small enough to go through a toilet-paper tube).

App details

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