When it comes to screen time we are really conscious of what we allow the kids to play. We like the apps they’re using to have a purpose – to promote learning, challenge their thinking and problem solving skills or helping them with their reading. App stores are awash with apps aimed at children and let’s face it, some are better than others! Whilst we have a number of trusted apps which we always fall back on, we do like to add new ones in occasionally to keep things fresh.
We’ve recently been introduced to Lipa, claiming to be a “new generation approach to childhood development” and we were keen to try out their latest release Lipa Theater (which is currently only available for Apple)
Lipa Theater offers you a stage with a range of characters and props allowing you to create your own fantastic tales. In theory, the only limit here is your own imagination. In this active storytelling game, you build the perfect Wild West drama, or an out-of-this-world alien comedy set on Mars, while learning all about design and creativity. The teacher in me loves this app. I love that you can set up and act out your own stories. This isn’t just throwing birds around or tapping wildly at a screen to match coloured candies. There’s some thought and imagination required to get the most out of this app.
When you first log into the app you are greeted with a screen telling you a little about the app. This is only seen the first time you log in so I can’t actually tell you what it says now, maybe should have paid more attention to that the first time!
Anyhow, as you open the app the home screen offers up a nice big, green, pulsing “play button” in the middle of the screen making it perfectly clear to your child what they need to do! There’s also a “settings” button which allows you to change the language (Lipa is available in 8 different languages already!) and also volume controls for the sounds and music (a vital option in my opinion!) The bottom of the screen gives you a “For Parents” button which invites you to download the Lipa Gateway app. There’s also a further button offering the option of “more games” taking you to a catalogue of Lipa games which are available – I’m pleased to say that there is a Parental Lock on this option which means your child shouldn’t be able to download apps without your permission – that said it isn’t exactly complicated; “Swipe left with one finger“, so I think Ben would probably manage to break that one but our App Store is password protected anyway.
So onto the game itself. . .
I must admit that at first we had some trouble with the sound, although we could see that the Joker character on screen was speaking we couldn’t hear anything. I made sure the sound was up on both the ipad and the app but nothing made any difference. In the end it just seemed to start working but this has happened once or twice since. I’ve spoken to a couple of other people who have the app and haven’t experienced the same issue but we’ve found that if you go into the “My Story” section and activate the video camera it all seems to wake up so then you can move back out to “Theater School”. Of course, the sound isn’t working – you basically can’t do anything as you need to be able to hear the instructions!
I had a quick scout through the app myself so I could see what it was all about and downloaded the Lipa Gateway app so that I was able to make profiles for each of the children. This is easily done and means their information is carried across Lipa apps.
When I passed the iPad over to Ben I was keen to give him minimal instruction to see if he could just get on with it himself. The home screen shows two options “Theater School” and “My Story” – the idea being that you complete Theatre School first so that you can get a feel for the app and what it does.
As you work your way through Theater School, the Joker character gives instructions for you to follow allowing you to master various features, unlocking new ones as you have got to grips with each one. I encouraged Ben to take his time with Theatre School and explained that if he didn’t understand everything properly then he wouldn’t be able to use the app to its fullest.
Once Ben had completed Theater School and moved on to My Story, I let him play around for a bit before realising he didn’t quite get what he was supposed to do. Once I demonstrated it for him and the fact you could record your own narration over the top of your play he was really excited. He loved choosing different scenery, adding characters and props before pressing the “film” button and acting out his little story with his own voice over the top. Obviously this isn’t the easiest thing in the world and requires a little practise and effort but he was really focused on giving it a good go. He loved being able to play back his performance.
Chloe, at 4, wasn’t quite as adept as Ben at using the app and preferred to just create a tableau with her chosen scenery and characters.
What we love about it:
* This is an app which requires thought and imagination to the get the best out of it
* The characters are bright and appealing
* Everything works smoothly and is easily accessible for young children
* The movement of the characters makes them look like real puppets in a puppet show
* It’s easy to change the scenery with a quick swipe to the left / right
* Details like the curtain rising as you move from section to section of the app make it feel very “theatre like”
* Being able to set up profiles on the Lipa Gateway means each child can save and access their own creations
* The parental controls to avoid accidental additional app downloads
* There’s no advertising (as you would expect from a paid for app)
* There’s no risk of in app purchases
* Theater School teaches you about the features of the app before you leap into playing on your own
* You can save your creation and then download it to your device, email it to someone or upload it to Facebook
* Recording your own voice over your story is great for developing speaking and listening skills, for developing a real “story telling” voice and using expression
* This is a great way of developing story skills without actually having to write things down
* Being able to watch your work back means you can appraise it and think about how you can improve next time!
* You can work as a team to create and tell a story together, using different voices and taking control of different characters
* Ben says he loves that he can find so many different things to do
What we’re not so keen on:
* The issues we’ve had with the sound have been a little frustrating
* This isn’t really an app you can use with the sound off so headphones could be a good plan!
* The American spelling of “theatre” bugs me
* We’d love for it to be available on Google Play too as our children have android tablets.
* The characters have really irritating voices – the kids thought they were great but they drove me crackers.
The more I play with this app the more things there are that I like about it. It has been really well thought out and, with a bit of concentration, Ben is really starting to get to grips with it. I think it would work really well in the classroom as well as at home. I’m looking forward to investigating some more Lipa offerings.
*Disclaimer – I have been compensated for my time in writing this post, however all thoughts and opinions remain my own*