Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2015
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Mochu Pop - Language Immersion for Babies and Toddlers

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Bubble game pops, but aims too young with dubious educational benefit

Subjects & skills
  • World Languages

Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Bubble popping can be irresistible for kids of almost any age.

Cons: The target age range aims too low amid disappointingly simple game content and questionable claims about learning potential.

Bottom Line: The app's big promises might seem legit, but a closer critical look at the claims, and the game itself, leaves much to be desired.

First and foremost, despite the title, we do not recommend that teachers or caregivers use this app with babies. Mochu Pop - Language Immersion for Babies and Toddlers could possibly be useful for preschoolers in language immersion school programs, or for kids who are learning some words in one of the languages featured in the app. Alternately, this app could potentially be useful for some ELL students. Listening to native speakers say important language sounds out loud may help help some older kids with their pronunciation. Teachers can play with kids to help them first listen, then try to reproduce the same sounds, and finally identify words that contain those sounds.

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Unlike grown-ups, and even young children, babies can hear all the different sounds of all the world's languages. As babies hear more and more of their native language(s), they begin to specialize, and, for example, English-learning babies can no longer distinguish the different tones in Chinese words. The premise of Mochu Pop - Language Immersion for Babies and Toddlers is that babies who use the app will hear sounds from four different languages, thus enabling them to more easily learn these languages later in life.

In gameplay, choose English, Spanish, French, or Italian. In each round, kids first see the shape and color of one or more target bubbles; when kids pop those bubbles, they hear building-block sounds from the chosen language. Nothing happens if they pop the non-target bubbles. Kids rack up points for popping the correct bubbles, and for catching the occasional bonus bubble. Grown-ups who create an account can see reports detailing what sounds kids have heard and how many points they've earned.

The app's developer makes big claims that seem firmly rooted in science. But, in fact, whether casual exposure to some sounds in a few languages can help kids learn other languages more easily is up for debate. What's more, some research suggests that babies do not learn language sounds from digital sources in the same way that they do from parents and caregivers. Perhaps of greatest concern is that this app is marketed for babies and toddlers, despite the countless organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as Common Sense Media, who strongly suggest that kids under the age of two focus on interactions with their environment and with people.

Take away the educational claims, and the game is a simple way to discriminate shape and/or color while having fun popping digital balloons. Instructions are not read aloud and there's little feedback for kids to distinguish between the target balloons vs. the distractor, so young kids will need help. Teachers should be skeptical about both the breadth of the developer's claims and whether this app actually provides sufficient language exposure.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Popping bubbles is one of those magical activities that seem to delight the vast majority of kids. Many will likely get similar satisfaction from this virtual version. Yet, the fun here is a one-trick pony and might not last long.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

It's up for debate whether early exposure to language sounds facilitates later language learning. Further, teachers should be skeptical about achieving this digitally. The app's target age raises additional screen-time concerns.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Strangely, instructions on which bubbles to pop in each round are not read aloud. Reports and points show progress, though young kids may need help to complete the rounds; scores may not accurately reflect what kids are doing.

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