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Sema Run

App review by
Ana Beltran, Common Sense Media
Sema Run App Poster Image
"A" is for "Africa" in engaging letter-sound game.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Encourages kids to identify letters and their sounds. They'll consistently see letters and hear the sound they make as they navigate through the game. 

Ease of Play

Intended to be intuitive with verbal directions throughout. 

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

The app is completely free and there aren't any in-app ads interrupting kids' experience. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sema Run is an education app that promotes letter and letter sound recognition through gameplay. The game offers 26 levels, each level focusing on a specific letter sound. Sema's mission is to recover the letters that have been scattered about the village by troublemaking creatures called Bongolalas. Kids will help her run and jump across different landscapes, collecting letters that represent specific sounds. For instance, the letter P will appear on screen and kids will hear the sound the letter makes. They'll then collect all the P's that appear in the game. Tap on the screen for Sema to jump and collect the letters up high or continue running to collect the letters that appear at ground level. Thry'll get a star for every correct letter they collect. At the end of each level, kids earn a new sticker and get to take a selfie directly through the app. They can use the stickers they earn to decorate their selfie. At the end of every third level, kids will encounter a mini-quiz where they'll have to distinguish between three different letter sounds and identify the matching letter. The app is completely free and there aren't any in-app ads interrupting kids' experience. Note: The privacy policy mostly addresses cookie use on the site and doesn't address how the app stores or uses kids' selfies. 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?

SEMA RUN helps kids learn and practice letter sounds. The app captivates them with a special mission to recover all the letters that have been taken and scattered by the troublemaking and playful Bongolalas. Without letters, people in the village can't read or enjoy books. Sema provides clear and concise verbal directions on how to play and provides reminders along the way. Kids will see a letter and hear a letter sound. They'll then encounter a landscape full of different letters, obstacles, and special rocket boots. Sema automatically runs across the screen, and it's up to kids to tap the screen to help her jump to collect or avoid letters. Little animals and objects appear as obstacles to slow Sema down, so they'll have to help her dodge these, too. Grabbing a pair of rocket boots helps Sema speed across her path. There are 26 levels, representing specific letters, which follow a specific sequence. Completing a level unlocks the following round. Kids can revisit any of the unlocked levels at any point. At the end of each level, kids can use the app to take a selfie and decorate it with stickers. Access to the device's camera is necessary. Tapping on the thumbs-up icon saves the picture to the app's library and to the device's camera roll, allowing kids to scroll through their digital creations at any time. At the end of every third level, kids will encounter a mini-quiz where they'll have to distinguish between three different letter sounds and identify the matching letter.

Is it any good?

Kids will be tasked with a special mission in this interactive and engaging gameplay experience that is simple enough for little ones to play on their own while they practice phonics in a playful way. Kids will feel empowered as they help Sema recover each letter scattered across the village. The opening story gives kids some context and helps them relate to Sema and the important mission. At each level, the game follows the same format, making it predictable and easy for little ones to navigate on their own. Sema Run focuses on letter sounds rather than letter names, which is developmentally appropriate for little ones beginning to understand phonics. Grounded in best practice, there's a clear emphasis on sound recognition and associating the sound with the symbol. The pace and structure of the game is super kid-friendly. There are tons of affirmations too. Sema exclaims "brilliant!" when kids correctly match a letter sound with its symbol. Also, kids will love the selfie feature, especially since they can interact with their pictures by using stickers to spruce them up. It's a fun way to take a little brain break before jumping into the next level and the next letter. However, it would be great if there were an available privacy policy that addresses how kids' selfies are used and stored. Overall, Sema Run is a fun educational journey appropriate for preschoolers learning and practicing letter sounds. Best of all, the app is completely free and there are no ads interrupting the experience. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about naming letters when playing Sema Run. The game requires that kids match the letter sound to the letter symbol. An added layer would be to ask kids to match the letter name to the letter symbol or the letter name to the letter sound. 

  • Talk about beginning letter sounds. What sound do you hear at the beginning of the word "apple"What sound do you hear at the beginning of the word "bat"What letter sound do you hear at the beginning of the word "lime"Activities like these will help little ones make connections between letter sounds and words. 

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