A few years ago I took the 7yo to his first real theatre experience. He was just four at the time, and I wasn’t sure how it would go. Would he be engaged by it, would he sit still for 40 minutes, would he understand it?
I took him to see White, an award winning production by the Catherine Wheels Theatre Company; aimed at 2-4 year olds.
I had nothing to worry about! He was captivated by it, as was I.
White begins in an all-white, shiny, sparkly world where two friends, Cotton and Wrinkle, look after eggs which live in bird houses. Everything is very, very white! Then, colour starts to appear. At first the two friends try to stop this invasion of colour; to keep their world pristine and white; but slowly the colour makes its mark and by the end of the show there is gorgeous, vibrant colour throughout their world. It is beautiful, clever, funny, accessible and totally absorbing for its target audience (and their parents!).
When I heard that Catherine Wheels, in collaboration with Hippotrix, had developed an app based on the show I was intrigued. How could you translate the magic of the theatre show to a game?
Before you even start the game, the opening sequence is beautiful! Each letter in the word ‘White’ spins and twirls before settling into position. The wee girl tries to play with this, touching the letters to get them to move again (note to developers!).
You navigate from one screen to the other by pressing a button (a real button!) and it only took the wee girl a couple of goes at the game before she had this sussed and could move through it by herself.
The first part of the game has eggs falling through the sky. You can touch them, stop them, move them. The whizzes and giggles from the eggs as you do is entertainment in itself. Every so often a red egg falls, and spreads colour to any eggs it touches. The wee girl loves the red eggs, it would be good if there were a few more of them!
The next screen allows you to play with the eggs. The first task is to fill egg cups with eggs. Again, it only took a couple of demonstrations for the wee girl to understand how to do this. The red egg must be placed last, and it whispers not yet, soon at you when you try to fill its egg cup too early :) This part of the game encourages you to kiss, tickle and water the eggs simply by selecting the appropriate icon at the bottom of the screen. Again, it didn’t take long for the wee girl to get the hang of this! Her favourite activity is to put plasters/band aids on all the eggs… I enjoy making them blow their noses :) You can also give them a drink from colourful, bendy straws. Lastly, you can give them all hats. The sound effects are inspired and it is beautiful to look at. This part of the game alone can engage my (just turned) 2yo for 10-15 minutes at a time, which any mums out there will know is excellent for any game at this age!
Next it’s time for a nap. The nap screen has a selection of birdhouses, including one which opens up into a glitter ball, making the whole screen sparkle. The birdhouses play music, each one giving a different note when touched. It is quiet and relaxing and very pretty.
Then, it’s time to wake up! The final screen has the birdhouse again, this time with a light, bright background. On touching, the birdhouses open, making funny noises set to a background of cheery music.
I showed the app to my (almost) 5yo and he enjoyed playing with the eggs and found the funny noises that they make hilarious. But, I think he’s a little old for it now, and too used to the faster games that his big brother plays.
The wee girl however, loves it. In fact she now brings me the iPad saying I wan eggs! She will happily play with it for a remarkably long time and is clearly engaged by it. It is simple enough that she can navigate through it by herself; the consequences of actions are clear; the sound effects are brilliant.
If you are looking for a visually stunning, appropriate and clever app for young children – no cartoon characters, no violence, no loud noises – then this is the app for you. I would highly recommend it for the 2-4 age range. And, if you ever get the chance to go and see the theatre production, go!
I will leave you with two gorgeous images of Cotton (or Wrinkle!) playing the game with some willing volunteers (sent to me by Catherine Wheels). Just look at the expressions :)