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Picture Dots

App review by
Ana Beltran, Common Sense Media
Picture Dots App Poster Image
Fun, free tool ignites curiosity, creativity, and STEAM.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can practice the skill of noticing when looking at pictures or capturing real world images. Interacting with the images helps draw attention to detail and provides a platform for kids to explore language and sounds and implement their ideas.  The open-ended design of the app promotes creativity and empowers kids to use pictures, words, sounds, and music to generate their own content.  

Ease of Play

Step-by-step written directions with accompanying pictures,and Voice Over helps kids navigate some parts of the app. The design of the interface is appealing without it being too busy. Kids are in charge of creating material by following the app's simple steps. 

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Picture Dots is an education app that allows kids to create content by adding interactive dots, representing sounds, music, or words, to pictures. It's one of the "noticing tools" designed by the New York Hall of Science. The app's open-ended design is intended to empower little ones to be at the helm of how to use the app. Kids get to decide whether to use the app's functions to tell stories, look for patterns, practice naming objects, create personalized content, or any other innovative purpose they come up with. To use Picture Dots, kids choose one of the pictures provided or upload one of their own. The app includes some sounds, but little ones also have the option of recording their own to add a personalized touch. Kids can save creations and share them via email, and the app's features are available in English and Spanish. 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?

PICTURE DOTS is an interactive platform that empowers little ones to create content by dragging dots onto images to layer in words, sounds, and music notes. Kids and families are in charge of deciding the purpose and goal of the game and how to use the app's features. Picture Dots includes some images for kids to explore and interact with. Granting the app access to the device's camera and photos allows little ones to explore and work with images from their personal experiences. To navigate, kids drag the colored dots onto the image and choose whether the dots will represent sounds, words, or music notes. The music notes are programed into the app, but kids have the option to type words or record sounds to layer in original content. Families can learn a bit about the New York Hall of Science's mission under the About NYSCI tab. Under settings, families can control sound, voice over, and choose whether the app appear in English or Spanish. The sharing via email feature and uploading pictures from the camera roll are passcode protected; to access users have to solve addition problems. 

Is it any good?

Kids and families will enjoy letting their imagination soar and will feel empowered by this open-ended and interactive experience that taps into STEAM and language learning. Picture Dots is a platform that families can use for a variety of learning opportunities and to nurture a variety of science, math, language, and arts skills. Since the app is open-ended, kids may need some support in coming up with different ways to innovate with the tool. Parents will find this to be an awesome tool helps frame conversations about experiences, to tell stories, build vocabulary, and practice finding patters. The onscreen experience fuels offscreen connections and family bonding. 

In addition to empowering kids to make observations, discuss images, and create content, Picture Dots is a bilingual tool, allowing families to enjoy its features in either English or Spanish. The app reads back the words or phrases kids assign the colored dots, reinforcing vocabulary is either language. Little ones will find the app to be colorful and visually appealing. It's also concise and simple to navigate. The app's functions are centered around layering in interactive dots and personalizing the experience. Another awesome feature is the parent gate required for adding images from the camera roll or for sharing via email. This feature adds a bit more control and oversight regarding how kids use or share material not already embedded in the app.  Overall, Picture Dots is a fun platform that fosters creativity and can be used by families to explore and interact with the world around them. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can use the interactive images as inspiration for storytelling when using Picture Dots. Families can collect a series of pictures from personal experiences. They can then add words or sounds to help them narrate their own story. Sharing ideas and collaborating with family will help kids innovate or refine ideas.  

  • Practice matching pictures and words. For example, when looking at a picture of a farm, ask kids to put a blue do on the lamb; a yellow dot on the cow; a green dot on the dog; and a red dot on the barn. Activities like this with a variety of pictures can help little ones develop language. 

  • Ask kids to verbalize what they notice in images in order to build vocabulary and descriptive language. Help draw attention to detail by prompting them to share more than the obvious. What color is it? What shape? What else do you notice?

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