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Gracie & Friends Map Adventures
Pros: Clear visuals make map reading fun and help guide kids in their task.
Cons: The two-player feature isn't well integrated into the game design.
Bottom Line: Games offer a quick, accessible way for young kids to start to build fluency with spatial reasoning vocabulary and map reading.
With no leveling or increase in challenge within the activities, Gracie & Friends Map Adventures is most useful as a simple exploration tool for kids to pick up during downtimes or a quick learning center station. The two-player option invites kids to play with a friend. Teachers could encourage kids to work out the navigation games together and talk about where they're going on the map using key spatial orientation vocabulary. With its narrow focus and limited activity set, Gracie & Friends Map Adventures is best used as a small piece of a larger curriculum. Other pieces could include the other Gracie & Friends apps, or the many offline activity suggestions from the teacher's guide or in-app Family Fun Guide.
Gracie & Friends Map Adventures is part of a suite of free apps that each focus on a different early math concept. The theme here is spatial thinking: Games use maps, diagrams, and spatial-relations vocabulary to give kids practice navigating around the screen. It's meant to be used by two kids together and asks the two players to pose for a picture. Their faces are then used to distinguish between two player icons on the screen.
Two kinds of activities use maze-like maps. In one, kids follow directions, such as "let's meet at the swing set" to navigate along paths on the map. In the other, kids collect animals and make their way to a target location while avoiding goats moving around the map. Eight other mini-activities use spatial concepts and vocabulary, such as swiping left or right, or moving around a landmark. A Family Fun Guide suggests related activities to encourage spatial reasoning through books and other everyday activities.
Gracie & Friends Map Adventures nicely integrates spatial reasoning concepts into accessible games that are easy for young kids to grasp. Kids explore vocabulary like "up," "down," "between," "left," and "right" as they navigate around maps and play mini-games. Audio instructions pair well with clear visuals to give kids input in a variety of modalities. As with the other apps in the Gracie & Friends series, though, the learning focus is -- perhaps purposefully -- narrow, and games can get repetitive. And though it's nice to be able to play with a friend, and the social element could allow kids to work together, the two-player feature doesn't fit with the learning theme, nor do the games really require two players. That said, kids could certainly just play on their own and ignore the two-player setup. Plus, the off-screen extension activities add to the app's learning potential. Overall, Gracie & Friends Map Adventures is a helpful introduction to early spatial reasoning concepts.