The Australian National Maritime Museum’s first children’s app has been unleashed. Lucy’s Adventures is a puzzle infused version of fuzzy-felts for the digital generation. Instead of pastel coloured boards children choose form a selection of richly illustrated backgrounds and their own photos. They can drag-and-drop imaginary characters, museum and fantasy objects on to the different backgrounds, change the weather and time of day to create a scene.
The adventure really starts when kids opt to animate and record the goings on in their fantasy world. The best bit for me is the weather. Snow storm on a desert island, no problem just dial it up. However, I’ve been quite intrigued to see how children in the target age range will respond.
The app is intended to be educational. Introducing children to museum objects and fantasycharacters in a fun way and giving them opportunities to improve their fine motor skills and boost their confidence and creativity. Educational milestones for children under 7 are vague, focusing on overall skill acquisition instead of defining specific skills for each age group. This makes sense as children develop skills in different areas at different rates.
Lucy’s Adventures is aimed at children between 3 and 8 and works on different levels allowing children to be immersed in and delighted by different aspects of the app. Children can dress the main character, Lucy, in her Viking costume or as many variants of the Viking costume as they can dream up.
There is no right way to dress Lucy- though it is impossible to put trousers on her torso or a blouse on her legs. Each costume change is reflected in the representation of Lucy in the main game, boosting children’s confidence by allowing them to make changes to the way Lucy looks. Children can use their own photos and images as backgrounds and to include themselves as characters in the (soon-to-be-released) insert your face element.
I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to test Lucy’s Adventures on my daughter. She’s 3 ¾, so in the target age range. I’ve been actively trying to keep her away from screen-based media because I know how easy it is to become addicted. I’ve been trying to follow the ambitious American Association of Paediatrician’s guidelines: 10 minutes screen time a day for under 5s. Admittedly we only manage that 3 days out of 7 but my daughter’s exposure to apps has been intentionally limited to grunting animal flashcards and what I consider to be educational *learn mandarin* games – I don’t speak Mandarin myself so there’s a bit of guess work involved with judging these. Despite my careful regulations she has worked out and shown her 2 year old brother how to play Sega’s Super Monkey Ball, one of my earlier addictions and in fact the reason that I caved in a bought an iPhone in the first place.
So how did Lucy’s Adventures go? Well, she was intensely excited by the graphics and music. Initially reticent to press anything on the screen she needed a bit of encouragement to click on the words “Lucy’s Adventures”. The scrolling menu posed no problems, she choose backgrounds – favouring the underwater one most and placing the “stickers” her word for the objects and characters on to the background. She squealed with delight when she discovered the arrow that revealed extra stickers. She made sure that each of the characters had an object to play with so they didn’t have to share or feel left out.
She loved the ‘dress Lucy’ puzzle, though bizarrely she was convinced that the necklace was a watch. She squealed with delight when ‘the girl’ spoke to her. All in all she played with the app for 20 minutes until I said it was nearly time to finish. We were in a cafe so I got up to pay our bill. I was amazed when I returned 2 minutes later to find that she had managed to go back to the iPad’s desktop and open one of the other children’s apps I had installed back when we were scoping Lucy’s Adventures. “Oh look mummy, I found more things for me.”