‘Busy Shapes’ for Busy Minds: Learning Through Explorative Digital Play!

Aug 18, 2017   //   by   //   Community Blog  //  Comments Off on ‘Busy Shapes’ for Busy Minds: Learning Through Explorative Digital Play!

Busy Shapes app icon

Busy Shapes by Edoki Academy is hands down, one of the coolest kid’s games I have played to date!  I LOVE everything to do with Children’s Media and will often find myself just browsing kid’s games, books, apps, and tv shows.  The other day, I came across this little game that didn’t look too exciting or familiar but I decided to check it out.

Hands Down, One of “The Greats”

What did I find?!  One of THE best apps for kids that I’ve ever stumbled across; even enjoyed playing this game.  Not only was it incredibly fun, adorable and unique, but it is SO EDUCATIONAL.  Busy Shapes has a Montessori approach to learning and is being called “The First Digital Playground” by one educational app review site.

Since playing this game, exploring the features, and doing my research, I have become passionate about all that this mobile application has to offer and I am excited to share what I’ve learned!  I will explain how this game fits into the section of the Ontario Kindergarten Curriculum that highlights innovation and problem solving.  Through examples, I will demonstrate how Busy Shapes inspires innovation, how it explores problem solving and why every parent or adult who is working with children, will love it!

Learning through DIGITAL play: If Jean Piaget had an iPad

So many people think that for children, screen time is “bad”, that games are “addictive”, that digital media is “unsafe”.  While it’s been proven that learning through play is the best way for young children to learn, why wouldn’t that include the digital playground?  I wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of children’s media, when it is used as intended.  There is so much for children to learn through the increasing use of technology.

Don’t believe me?  The recently edition of the  Ontario curriculum for Kindergarten (updated  January 2016) emphasizes the importance of new-aged thinking and learning.  It discuss how the most recently designed Kindergarten program outlines a pedagogy that requires a more complex approach to theories, practices, mindsets and habits (page 10).

From Section 2.4 of the Ontario Kindergarten curriculum (pg 87-88):

Thinking About Problem Solving and Innovating

“Researchers acknowledge that the need to engage in problem solving and critical and creative thinking has “always been at the core of learning and innovation” (Trilling & Fadel, 2009, p. 50). Children in Kindergarten are growing up in a competitiveglobally connected, and technologically intensive world. Educators need to provide opportunities, explicitly and intentionally, for children to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they will need for solving a wide variety of problems. It is therefore essential for children to develop the skills required for problem solving, creative and critical thinking, and innovating; con dence, curiosity, and the willingness to take risks and to see mistakes as opportunities for learning; and the ability to collaborate and to build and maintain relationships. Through the exploration and inquiry that are part of play, young children develop these skills…

“Children entering Kindergarten bring with them the capacity to wonder and imagine and the ability to discover and experiment as means of nding answers. When children are able to explore the world around them with their natural curiosity and exuberance, they are fully engaged and see themselves as contributing members of their world. This creative approach is a central aspect of both problem solving and innovating.”

In this section of the curriculum (Section 2.4), innovation centres around children in Kindergarten asking questions about why things happen and how they happen; what would happen if things happened a different way?   It is about exploring creativity.  It is about thought, test, and design.  It is about identification and connection and perspective.  It teaches these young minds to be open and flexible but also to think critically (Ontario kindergarten curriculum, pages 88-89).

Problem solving in the curriculum (Section 2.4) encourages children to collaborate and engage with others in an attempt to find many ways to solve the same problem.  It stimulates the concept of identifying problems as they occur and it communicates encouragement around a diversity of theories.  It teaches children to persevere and push forward when the first solution isn’t the best solution.  Children are inspired to create their own solutions through exploration and this type of approach builds confidence around problem-solving abilities (Ontario kindergarten curriculum, pages 88-89).

Take a look at the following chart from the Kindergarten curriculum and keep these objectives in mind as you read more about this application and how it functions.  Does Busy Shapes meet the curriculum expectations?

screengrab of part of Ontario kindergarten curriculum

Ontario Curriculum Reflection on Section 2.4 (Ontario kindergarten curriculum, page 93).

What exactly IS Busy Shapes?

Busy Shapes is a matching-type game where the player is able to drag and drop shapes into the matching hole.  I know what you’re thinking… booooring.  We’ve all played a million different games where we’ve matched shapes and colours etc.  It’s nothing new.

BUT IT IS NEW!!!

Yes, sure, it’s a matching game… but it’s a matching game with a twist; so many twists!  Twists that are simple for a child to discover, yet complex in nature and innovative in design. As the levels progress, so do the opportunities for problem solving.  There are several ways to solve different levels and different methods have different outcomes.  This is exactly what the Kindergarten curriculum is all about!

How Busy Shapes Makes For Busy Minds

Through incredible graphics, bright colours, unique shapes, and creative sound effects, Busy Shapes encompasses all of the processes around innovation AND the concepts intended for problem solving. The following images show simple problems  that have children asking questions, which is what section 2.4 of the curriculum aims to achieve.

  1. Here is a red button and a red hole, along with a green flower and a purple hole.  What happens if I drop the red button in the red hole?  Can the green flower fit in the circle holes?  Is the flower the same shape as the button?  What is the difference between a flower and a button?  What matters here?  Shape?  Colour?  Context?
    Busy Shapes app on an iPhone
  2. As I move the red button towards the red hole, a purple button pops up.  Why does it pop up?  Should I keep moving the red button?  What will happen if I stop and move the purple button?  Can I move the flower?  What has changed?  Has the goal changed?  Have the potential outcomes changed?
    Busy Shapes app on an iPhone
  3. Now I’ve dropped the red button in the red hole.  Should I try putting the purple button in the purple hole? What about the flower?  Why is the red hole still there?  Is there a special place for the flower to go?  What will happen next?
    Busy Shapes app on an iPhone
  4. Oh wow!  I dropped the purple button in the purple hole and now I’m in a different room.  There is a sticky mess on the floor that slows my button down.  What is that mess?  Will it stop me from sliding the button?  Now where do I put the purple button?  Maybe I should try matching the square sponge with it’s hole.
    Busy Shapes app on an iPhone

This is just a very brief introduction to the series of levels that the player encounters.  As they move forward in the game, different challenges present themselves, encouraging both innovation and problem solving techniques.  The game play is automatically being saved at every turn, so the player can quit and come back without ever losing progress (unless an adult resets it).

Not only does each level inspire innovation and creativity, but this game is beautifully designed and creates a 3 dimensional experience for the player.  The different “rooms” have different textural backgrounds including rough wood, squeaky tiles, gritty sand, smooth grass, scratchy metal and more; each with their own sound as the shapes are moved around on them.  The sound effects of both the changing objects and the changing backgrounds (ie. a wet sponge on a squeaky tile) adds a whole new sensory experience for the player.

Why Will Adults Love It?

Developers are always trying to ensure that the Adult section of a kid’s app is for adults only.  They achieve this by making the icon for the adult section look bland, which will not inspire the child to click on it. Busy Shapes takes it one step further: To access the adult section you have to double tap the icon and then answer a skill testing question!  A child would have to be able to read the instructions that say to double tap and then they would have to answer a mathematical question.  Now, while I appreciate the purpose of these extra steps, I have to admit… it sometimes takes me a few tries to get the math question right and prove I’m an adult, which gives me a good chuckle!

In Busy Shapes, the adult section is highly informative and functional.  It offers the adult the opportunity to create up to 40 student profiles, allowing educators to use this app as a classroom tool.  The benefit of bringing this app into the classroom is that the educator can track the player’s progress live, as it’s happening.

There is a fantastic ‘About’ section (image 2.0) that highlights the target audience and the benefits of the application.  It discusses the developers decision making being based on the workings of Jean Piaget, referencing Piaget’s books that were specifically used in the making of this application.  The Walkthrough section is simply a visual answer key to each level.  This is unique, as most children’s apps don’t have in-app walkthroughs. The walkthroughs give the adult a visual idea of what the game looks like and what it is about, without them having to play each level.

Busy Shapes app on an iPhone

image 2.0

In the ‘Account’ section (image 2.1), it summarizes the benefits and features of signing up for an account, where you will have the option to create many player profiles and monitor the progress live… best of all??  IT’S FREE!!  No need to worry about in-app advertisements or in-app purchases.  What you see is what you get.

Busy Shapes app on an iPhone

image 2.1

Under ‘Progress’ (image 2.2), you can see the child’s individual progress, including the level they’re currently on and the levels they’ve already achieved.  Levels are uniquely identifiable by descriptions, rather than numbers.  This is just so wonderful because it enforces the concept that progress isn’t quantitative but qualitative.  I love it!!!

Busy Shapes app on an iPhone

image 2.2

In Conclusion…

As I’m sure you can tell, I absolutely love this game.  To be honest, there isn’t much I would change about it!  The only thing I’m not a big fan of?  The icon, believe it or not.  This game creates a wonderful world of textures, sounds, colours, shapes, and objects… all found in everyday life but brought together to create a magical learning experience for kids 2-5 years old.  Yet the icon?  Boooooooring.  I think the little buttons and metal blocks and square sponges are all so adorable and appealing, so I’m not quite sure why Edoki went with such a ‘blah’ first impression.  That being said, I think that the choice could be attributed to maintaining the academic integrity of the game, making it appealing to educators; remember… learning isn’t supposed to be fun or cool… right??  WRONG!

Hopefully, as more parents and educators come to realize the benefits and the importance that games like these have on a child’s development, the more open minded they will become.  By offering a fair balance of education that pleases the educator and super cool fun stuff that excites the child, Busy Shapes is one-of-a-kind mobile application.

I’m excited to hear about YOUR experiences with this app and whether or not the kids in your life enjoy it.  Please leave questions or comments below to get the conversation started!

Get it for your iOS device here!

I’ll leave you with this fabulous quote from the Edoki Academy that really sums up their values and deliverables as both educators and developers:

“A child’s environment is what peaks their passion and curiosity for the world around them.  Educators Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert carried out Maria Montessori’s vision by creating settings that encourage children to manipulate objects.  On the same note, Edoki Academy offers stimulating and enchanting worlds that serve as a platform for discovery to take place in.”

— Edoki Academy

Happy Learning!

About the Author |

Caitlin Hanley

Caitlin Hanley graduated with an H. B. Sc. from the University of Toronto and is currently attending a post-grad program in Children’s Media at Centennial College, which she is extremely passionate about.

Caitlin is combining her love of geology, animals and media to work on a stop motion series (that features her pet bunny AND her pet rock), that teaches kids the importance of empathy, mindfulness and self-care.”

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