A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this app.
Kids can learn vocabulary, practice reading, and learn about social-emotional skills. The stories inspire creativity and problem solving, and the activities can help develop critical-thinking and fine motor skills. Hearing the stories read aloud can help boost reading comprehension, and kids can read along or read to themselves as well. They also can tap on specific words to hear them pronounced. Toontales - Caillou, Busytown Mysteries is a fun way for preschoolers to get practice with early literacy skills.
Ease of Play
The interactive stories are very customizable -- kids can read to themselves, tap to turn the page, or have the book read to them. The games are mixed in difficulty, with some being more challenging than others.
Products & Purchases
The freemium model can add up quickly with each episode running $2.99. Kids see all the content available as they scroll through the options. A logo ad for apps, including several book apps that will be familiar to most preschoolers, is on the start page but is protected by a kid-lock screen requiring setting an analog clock to a specified time.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Toontales - Caillou, Busytown Mysteries is a freemium app, which means a bit of content is available for free but most of it is offered as in-app purchases. Kids will see all the available episodes and games -- both those that are free and those that require an in-app purchase. Each episode costs $2.99, and parents must set an analog clock to the given time to access the app store to purchase it. A few games are included for free in the Toy Box. The episodes combine an interactive book and show with the actual voices from the TV shows Caillou and Busytown Mysteries and include mini-games as part of each story.
Is It Any Good?
Enough content is included for free to make this a worthy download, but parents will need to be prepared to set limits on the in-app purchases or spend a bit of money. Kids can color pages from the extensive coloring book, play a few puzzle games, and play an increasingly challenging memory game from the free Toy Box. In the episodes, the narration is spot on with the same voices kids will recognize from the show, and the activities within each episode are educational and fun.
Disappointingly, the free episodes and paid episodes appear together in a carousel display, so it's very likely that kids will tap on an episode expecting it to play but instead be told they'll need a parent to buy the episode. When you select an episode from the carousel, you'll see the price, a summary, and icons indicating the skills covered (such as reading and fine motor skills) and the age recommendation. Some features can take a while to load or fail to load at all, requiring users to try again.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.