Name Play: a name reading and writing practice kit

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Name Play: a name reading and writing practice kit App Poster Image
Games cleverly use familiar names as early reading practice.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn letters and practice reading and writing by playing with the letters in the most familiar word to them -- their own name. Sorting games help kids recognize and match full names, and fine motor skills get tested with the vintage video games, which require some sophisticated and quick coordinated movements. 

Ease of Play

Navigation is easy, though in some games it's not immediately clear what kids are supposed to do.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

A small icon on the home page advertises another app from the same developer. A parent gate stands in the way of purchasing.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Name Play: a name reading and writing practice kit lets kids play a variety of games using the letters in their own and others' names. To begin, a parent must enter their kid's name, though an introductory message assures them that this information is not shared in any way. There are no explanations and minimal guidance on what to do in each activity, so some kids might need a bit of help getting started. One activity asks for permission to access the device's camera roll so kids can take pictures of what they've created. Parents can create an account to track their kids' progress by providing an email address and creating a password. There's no language involved in what kids experience, but the parent information is available in 16 languages including Spanish, Japanese, German, and Chinese. The developer's privacy policy clearly outlines how information is collected and shared.

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What's it about?

The title, NAME PLAY: A NAME READING AND WRITING PRACTICE KIT, aptly describes what this app is all about. Kids open their locker to choose from a variety of games that all involve playing with and/or spelling their name. Add lockers with the names of classmates, friends, or family. Activities include a magnetic letter board, vintage video games, writing practice, and more. Swipe from side to side to explore the hallway and find more name-based activities, such as handing out lunch boxes according to named labels. Each completed activity earns a new way to customize or decorate the lockers.

Is it any good?

What fun it is for kids to see their own names -- and those of people they know -- front and center in this collection of simple but cleverly effective activities. Because kids see familiar names as the protagonists, they get to feel a great sense of ownership over what might otherwise be relatively standard letter-play games. It's also harder for these simple games to feel repetitive because kids will likely delight in repeating each game with the names of all their classmates, friends, and/or family. One downside is that it's not always obvious what to do, and some games might get missed -- such as the gnomes that scale the lockers when the lights are turned off -- because there are few instructions. The parent dashboard is a nice touch to help parents feel involved, but it doesn't give any particularly useful information. Overall, Name Play: a name reading and writing practice kit nicely personalizes kids' experience with early literacy games.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about learning with technology. What can they learn while using this app? What support does your kid need to take what they've learned offscreen?

  • Talk about what makes your kids' names special. Help your kids own their names by writing them, reading them, spelling them, and more. Tell your kids why you chose that name, or that particular spelling, for them.

  • Use the letters in your names to make other words. Use felt or paper letters to create as many words as possible.

App details

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