The cow says mooooo! Zoowawa, an app for toddlers and their parents

David Winograd
D. Winograd|11.23.09

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David Winograd
November 23rd, 2009
The cow says mooooo! Zoowawa, an app for toddlers and their parents
Zoowawa [US$0.99, iTunes Link] is a cute app targeted for toddlers between the ages of two and three. Your child is presented with a split screen displaying two animals. Tapping on one of the animals plays the sound that the animal makes.

Each half of the screen can be swiped individually to reveal 14 animal pictures per half, or 24 animal pictures in all. The pictures are brightly colored and the app has a very clean look to it. Zoowawa runs on any iPhone or iPod touch using OS 3.1.2 or better.

My daughter is finishing a masters in education and has familiarity with very small children, so I asked her about the appropriateness of this app. My first impression was that along with the sound, the printed name of the animal should be shown. My daughter told me that for most kids in the targeted age range, adding the text would be too complex since reading often doesn't start until a child is three years old or older.

She did have few problems with the size of the pictures, saying that they may not hold a child's interest for very long. Kids like big things and dividing the screen to make each animal half of the screen size was probably not the best idea. Even at full size, a picture may not attract the attention of a toddler for too long.

I also had a bit of a problem with the quality of the animal sounds. Most are not digitized animal sounds, but rather a recording of someone making the sound with his voice. Since for many kids this app might be their first introduction to animals, I think that sound accuracy should be important.
Parents shouldn't buy a toddler app like this thinking that they can just hand the child the iPhone and get some respite while the toddler plays with the animals. The reality check my daughter gave me is that the most likely course of events is that the iPhone will be dropped, tossed, or put into the child's mouth in a minute or less. We all know that the iPhone and iPod touch have moisture sensors which, if triggered, invalidate a warranty faster than you can say Moo.

The best way to use this app is to sit with your child and make sure your device is safe, while little fingers tap the buttons to hear the sounds or swipe to see all of the animals. Parents need to teach their children about the animals and talk to their children about them.

I can see this being a wonderful opportunity to help you occupy your child when you're stuck in an airport or in some situation where you forgot to bring along others toys and coloring books. Zoowawa is always in your pocket. I recommend this app to parents who will use it as an educational and interactive experience they can enjoy with their child. I liked Zoowawa, and it wouldn't take much for the developers to make it even better.

I'm sure there are some parents of toddlers out there reading this -- what other apps do you recommend for keeping the little ones entertained? Leave your feedback in the comments.

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