App review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2013
Dexteria Jr.
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Dexteria Jr.

Tablet app helps young kids develop and practice fine motor skills

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Grades
Pre-K–K
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Health & Wellness, Character & SEL

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Pros: The fun games give kids lots of practice using their little fingers in a variety of ways.

Cons: The connections to real-world fine motor skills are unclear and unsupported.

Bottom Line: It's a great way for kids to gain use and control of their finger movements, but it's also worth asking how well skills will transfer beyond the touchscreen.

Teachers can add Dexteria Jr to their toolbox of activities for fine motor practice. The tracing game may be especially useful for kids who need help learning to write letters, whether they're just starting out or are struggling to pick it up. Naturally, Dexteria Jr. may be especially helpful for kids with special needs.

With an in-app purchase, teachers can add multiple accounts on a single device to keep track of individual kids’ progress. Teachers will want to make connections between kids' practice on the app and the real-world movements they simulate. For example, after kids play the tracing game, have them practice writing letters. Each game includes some information on the motor skills it addresses, which can help teachers connect the in-app skills with kids' real-world experiences.

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In Dexteria Jr., kids choose from three games that each require and teach different kinds of fine motor control. Kids control their finger and isolate their finger strength as they tap squashes; they practice thumb and pointer finger manipulation as they pinch peppers; and they coordinate motion among fingers, hands, wrists, and eyes as they trace and then erase lines by following a pattern. Each game has multiple levels that become more complex as kids progress.

Kids can choose their starting level, and the games automatically level up as they play. Progress is recorded in reports that show data on levels completed, number of squashes squished, and time elapsed. If multiple students use the same device, teachers can add multiple accounts with an in-app purchase to record progress separately.

There are only three simple games in Dexteria Jr., but kids are likely to find them fun -- it's quite satisfying to pop peppers and squish squashes. And, in the midst of all this fun, kids will definitely get lots of fine motor practice as they move their little fingers around the screen, learning to tap, drag, and pinch.

However, while the app's overall concept is quite novel, Dexteria Jr. begs an important question: Can this kind of practice transfer to real-world skills, beyond the touchscreen? Is pinching a pepper on the screen really the same thing as the pincer grip necessary for holding a pencil? Each game lists the skills it claims to address, but doesn't mention how well the skills can really be learned through tablet-screen practice. The tracing activity seems the most promising -- though perhaps the least engaging of the three -- as its letter-tracing skills may make for the easiest off-the-screen transfer.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Kids can tap, drag, and pinch to their hearts' content as they interact with cute animated vegetables and fun shapes. Although there are only three of them, the games are simple and quite fun.

Pedagogy

Kids can get lots of practice with several kinds of fine motor movements. Levels increase in difficulty as control improves. How and how much this practice will transfer beyond the touch screen isn't totally clear.

Support

Games are clearly explained, as is the theory behind each. Data collection helps keep track of kids' progress. Suggestions to help parents move motor-control practice beyond the screen would be a nice addition.


Common Sense reviewer
Mieke VanderBorght Researcher

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