KidMode: Kids Games + Videos for Android full review
To get started you need to create a free online account. Then you are asked to create accounts inside the KidMode: Kids Games + Videos app for the children. You can create multiple accounts depending on how many children will be using kidsMode. Each account will cater to that child's age group.
You will need to be connected to Wi-Fi and have Flash installed on your device to use KidMode: Kids Games + Videos as all the games are Flash based. The main menu has tabs at the top of the screen for games and videos, a drawing app, favourites and email.
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The idea is that you can hand over your tablet to your children, confident that they can no longer damage your device, change any settings or access inappropriate material. Once you launch KidMode: Kids Games + Videos, then, the only way to get out of it is to navigate to the main menu, then draw a "Z" in the appropriate space. This is a security feature which should keep any young child from exiting the KidMode environment. You can also set up more security so that the child will not accidentally launch another app or website from within KidMode.
Unfortunately we found that the Android menu bar is still accessible which allows kids to change settings such as volume, Wi-Fi, GPS and so on. Our Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet features quick access shortcuts to apps as well, and these were also accessible and distracting to kids. We would like to see this improved so that no other part of the OS function or setting is accessible from within the app.
The preference panel gives you more options over what the child may access. Here you can block videos from YouTube or even individual kids' characters, such as Barney the Dinosaur, if you don't wish your child to view or play any games or videos with him. (Poor Barney.)
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A nice feature is the option to add in other apps from your Android device to the KidMode environment. Which means your kids can play Angry Birds within the KidMode app and you don't need to worry about them accidentally launching your calendar app and changing that important meeting.
We put this app to the test by giving it to two children: one aged four and a two-year-old. We then observed how they played along with it.
As the kids don't read yet, we had to show them which buttons to press to get to certain sections. It didn't take long for them to memorise how to navigate by themselves. Inside each section the user interface is designed well for small children to use. Large colourful squares represent each game or video and it was easy for both children to pick what they wanted to see and play.
However, due to the app requiring online connectivity to stream content, some games and videos took longer to start then others. This will depend on how good your Wi-Fi is, but in our test we were only a few metres from the Router and games took up to 30 seconds to load. This would be fine for most users. However small children don't understand that they need to wait, and anxiously start tapping all the icons and exit or freeze the app before the game has a chance to load.
Even the free starter account features many familiar educational games that the children can choose from, there is also one read along book available. Once you upgrade your account to Premium for a monthly fee. You get access to many more games and all of the books.
A nice idea in the book section is that a parent can record themselves reading the stories and the videos can be played back by the child at any time. Unfortunately when we tried this option we were shown a web link where we would need to go to to record our reading. We would like to see this feature work from within the app itself.
Kids always enjoy drawing apps on tablet devices as it gives them the freedom to be as creative as they want - and their parents don't need to worry about crayon marks all over the walls! The drawing app within KidMode is simple but it works rather well, with plenty of colour and brush options. It would have been nice to see more features in the premium account however. Or possibly more creative apps for children to play with. For example a stickers or dress-up app, or a simple photo/editing app.
KidMode: Kids Games + Videos for Android: Specs
- Android version 2.1 and higher