DNA Play

App review by
Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Media
DNA Play App Poster Image
Adorable open-ended genetics app gives kids mutation power.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about how different body traits can be advantages or disadvantages in certain situations. They can also learn how one kind of creature can be scared of the dark while another, with a different set of physical traits, might not. Through experimentation, kids will figure out which pieces of the puzzle change the creatures in particular ways, and they'll have a lot of fun manipulating their creations. Though the actual concepts of DNA aren't taught, DNA Play is a fantastic launching point for broader and deeper discussions on genetics and what makes up people and animals.

Ease of Play

This app is very intuitive to play, and minimal to no direction is needed. Kids of all ages will know how to make it work.

Violence & Scariness

There is occasional cartoon excitement, such as an elephant chasing after the creature or a spider startling it.

Sexy Stuff

Small icon on home screen for other apps by same developer.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that DNA Play is an educational, open-ended app that allows young kids to play with the very basics of genetic code to change and mutate creatures. Along the way, kids learn how different physical features are advantages or disadvantages when the creatures have various experiences such as being chased by an elephant, eating certain foods, or skateboarding through the city. Kids will be able to dive in without any outside help and will quickly be making and playing with their creatures, though the DNA connection will be lost on most kids. Once they've tried out several of the combinations, older kids may be left wanting for more. The app doesn't collect any personal information; to find out more about the types of information the app may collect or share, read the privacy policy.

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What's it about?

DNA PLAY introduces young kids to the concept of genes and how they affect what our bodies look like and can do. Kids begin by completing the genetic combinations for creatures that dictate the color, size, and type of body, legs, arms, mouth, head, and eyes: There are over 200 billion combinations of traits. Once set, kids can change the genes around to mutate the traits until they are satisfied with their creature. The app rotates through some interactions for the creature such as eating food, skateboarding, dancing to music, being in the dark, or encountering a spider or elephant; then, kids can learn how different creatures will react to those experiences. Depending on settings, an autosave will capture each creature, or kids can take a photo to save to the library. Parents can also opt for all vegetarian food for the creatures in the settings.

Is it any good?

Though kids may not really understand the significance, the open-ended play for genetically designing creatures is on target for early elementary school-age kids and encourages experimentation and observation. Kids can change a creature's genes in the middle of a play sequence to see what difference that change will bring, such as what having more eyes would do while the creature is near a spider. It's a great introduction to genetics for kids, and the experiences they have with this app can form the basis for more involved conversations later. It's up to parents to really introduce the idea of DNA, but there are resources on the developer's website to help parents start the conversation. Though this is great for younger kids, older kids may tire of the simple gameplay options and want to do more with their creatures.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how humans and animals are put together, describing how different genetic combinations result in various outward and inward features. Explain how genetic contributions can combine to make a related but different-looking creature.

  • Relate the lessons in the game to those in real life; for instance, longer legs make some tasks easier and some harder, and being startled is funny to some and scary to others. Discuss how this kind of diversity is part of what makes our lives interesting.

App details

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