Dexteria Jr.

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Dexteria Jr. App Poster Image
Strengthen fine motor skills with touch-screen games.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can practice important fine motor skills such as finger control, hand coordination, and pincer grip (the basic skills used in writing and drawing). Kids with special needs, or those simply having trouble with fine motor skills, can learn to develop some finger, hand, and eye coordination, which may help them with daily tasks such as holding pencils or utensils or zipping a zipper. Dexteria Jr. will give kids plenty of practice on a touch screen, though it's not clear how well this learning will transfer to fine motor actions in the real world.

Ease of Play

Game directions are clearly explained, and play involves practicing three types of finger-screen interactions (tapping, tapping and dragging, and pinching).

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

One in-app purchase available, and several links to other apps for sale, all within the parents' section. Access to the parents' section is restricted to those who can answer a simple addition problem.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dexteria Jr. allows very young kids -- or kids with special needs -- to practice fine motor skills on a touch screen. Kids who may be dysgraphic and need the additional guidance will benefit from the the hand and finger exercises to help develop handwriting readiness. Throughout three games kids use three touches -- tap, tap and drag, and pinch -- to interact with fun, lively pictures. Kids or parents can choose the appropriate starting difficulty, and the levels increase automatically as kids play. Progress reports allow parents to track kids' scores. If the sound effects or background music grow tiresome, parents or kids can easily turn them off. Unless parents disable the iPad's camera, it takes a fun, carnival-distorted picture at the end of each Trace and Erase game, but the pictures don't seem to be saved or recorded.

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What's it about?

In DEXTERIA JR., kids "Tap Squashes" until they're squished, "Pinch Peppers" to make them pop, or "Trace and Erase" lines that follow a particular pattern. They can choose their starting difficulty level, which automatically levels up as they play. Kids' performance is recorded in a few ways: levels completed, completion time, and accuracy (or number of peppers pinched/squashes squished). Performance data can be shared via email, although this option is protected by a wall. Performance can help provide parents with their child's handwriting readiness. Keeping a running record of progress helps parents share their child's progress with teachers and/or Occupational Therapist. An in-app purchase is necessary to create multiple accounts so more than one kid can record scores.

Is it any good?

Dexteria Jr. has a cute, appealing design. Though gameplay is relatively simple and game options are limited, kids likely will enjoy squishing the squash or popping the peppers as fast as they can. The tracking feature provides useful information that can help parents see how their kids' accuracy and speed are improving over time. But it would be nice to see some help for parents who want to interpret this data.

Kids will definitely get lots of practice with fine motor movements using their fingers. But as a tablet app, Dexteria Jr. raises an important question: Is this kind of flat-screen practice actually transferrable to the 3-D, physical world? Will pinching a pepper on the screen really prepare kids to hold a pencil? The tracing activity seems to be the most promising -- if, perhaps, the least engaging -- as it mimics letter-tracing workbooks and skills that may be more readily transferred beyond the screen. Parents can try to bridge a kid's experiences by referencing the actions in Dexteria Jr. explicitly as kids perform daily activities.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about skill level-appropriate goals. Challenge your kids to be as accurate, quick, and efficient as possible.

  • Help bring these motor skills into 3-D by having kids transfer what they learn to real-life scenarios, like holding a pencil, stringing items, or pinch-picking up cereal. Explicitly reference the actions they use in Dexteria Jr. by saying things like, "When you hold a pencil, your hand makes the same shape as when you pinch a pepper!"

App details

For kids who love developing fine motor skills

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