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How Are Things Made?

App review by
Christy Matte, Common Sense Media
How Are Things Made? App Poster Image
Fun product-making process info needs more guidance.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can explore where chocolate, paper, skateboards, t-shirts, and bread come from.

Ease of Play

There's no introduction and it's not always clear what to do next. 

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that How Are Things Made? is an exploration of how things are produced from natural resource to final product. There is a heavy emphasis on recycling and sustainability. Minimal reading is required, although kids will do best if they can identify each of the buildings on screen. Most of the text is read aloud, so early readers can still enjoy the activities but may need some help understanding what is actually going on. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your (or your kids') information is collected, used, and shared and any choices you may have in the matter, and note that privacy policies and terms of service frequently change.

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What's it about?

HOW ARE THINGS MADE? introduces kids to the manufacturing processes for five different products (books, bread, t-shirts, skateboards, and chocolate). Each one begins with the source materials and leads kids through the processing of those materials to the final product. The book chain, for example, starts with recycling, then to the paper mill, publishing house, and printing press before ending up in the bookstore. In each product chain, kids will find information as well as activities that allow them to "help" with the process. They'll pick cacao beans, grind flour, and even design their own t-shirts. 

Is it any good?

This clever approach to teaching kids where things come from is marred by a lack of overall guidance, support, and structure as they navigate the experience. How Are Things Made? answers the sort of questions kids are always asking. It's interesting to see, and even virtually participate in, the various steps. Unfortunately, there's no overarching story on the screen or introduction to the process as kids get started. The "paper" stage expects kids to know that they need to start some in-home recycling before they can do anything else. But there's no prompt encouraging them to do so. Each of the buildings has at least one triangle "play" button, but you can't press them until you meet certain criteria. The app never tells you what the criteria is, though, so it's possible to be stuck tapping everything on the screen as you try to figure out what you're missing. Much of this could be resolved by a quick voice over that explains the steps in order so kids know where to begin. The other challenge is that kids can tap on the name of each building for more in-depth info on that part of the process, but this isn't prompted, nor is it obvious. Kids could miss that information entirely. There's some cool info here and it's fun to design your own t-shirt and "bake" your own bread, but the few flaws have a negative impact on the learning and the fun.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about natural resources in general and in How Are Things Made? What are some natural resources you use in your house on a daily basis? Are those resources able to be renewable or non-renewable? Are there ways you can help renew resources?

  • How are your favorite items made? What are they made from? What are some of the steps that go into those products? Go on a tour of a manufacturing facility, farm, or other site to help kids understand where products come from.

App details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love environmental tips and info

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