An iPad App For The Under Six Crowd

| Quick Look Review

Designed by a champion surfer, the Surf Creatures HD iPad app features 26 unusual underwater creatures to delight and intrigue younger children. The creatures are hand drawn, the words rhyme, and up to four different people can record the book for playback.

Surf Creatures HD iTunes store icon

The app was designed by champion surfer Shaun Tomson who has an abiding interest in educating others about the sea and sea creatures. All of the creatures covered in this app live in surfing zones. There are 80 pages in the book and 26 creatures are featured. Information about each one is in rhyme. Shaun Tomson narrates the book, but up to four others can record and save their own voices, including the child if they are old enough. In that case they can then read along with their own prerecorded tracks.

The creatures are more like cartoon drawings and each page is very colorful. 

Sample pages from Surf Creatures HD iPad app

Surf Creatures HD iPad app was released December 16, 2010. It sells for US$3.99 on the iTunes store.  It is available in English only and requires iOS 3.2 or later. 

Using the app 

I tested this app on a very rambunctious 4 year old boy who nevertheless loves books. Like many kids his age he loves to have his books read to him over and over. He has played with apps on my iPad a couple of times, but does not have access to one on a regular basis. At first he just wanted to flip the pages, but once we got that out of the way he started asking about the individual creatures. At that point we started at the beginning and I turned on the sound. I had previously recorded both my own voice and that of his mother reading the rhyming text. 

He was truly enchanted and kept looking from me to the iPad, not quite sure why he could hear my voice when he could see that I was not speaking. In the way of 4 year old boys, he kept interrupting and asking questions, but the app presents the ability to pause so that was not really a problem. He sat through the entire book and asked to “read” it again before his attention wandered to something else.

I did not have access to children of any other ages to test the app with.

For any child that you can trust to use an iPad with respect, you can allow them to simply play the app over and over to their heart’s content, choosing from among the voice options.  

Do I recommend it?

I do. It is clever and colorful. It is not too long, but has good information. Some parents might prefer that the images be real rather than drawn, but I did not have any real problem with that. I felt that simply introducing the child to the whole concept of different kinds of creatures was a good place to start. And anything that holds the attention of an active 4 year old for any length of time is a good thing.  

Product: Surf Creatures HD

Company: Surf Creatures LLC

List Price: US$3.99



Well designed educational app for children under age 6.


None noted.

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iPad for children. Here is another “Who would have thought?” example of the genius of this tablet from Apple. The big questions being, was this in Apple’s scheme by chance or by design.

While visiting a friend during the holidays I saw his four year old pick up the iPad and begin playing with it, turning it this way and that. I don’t know how he got to it, the steps or his thinking. He just turn the iPad on and began playing with it. I thought so little of it, expecting he would get bored and put it down. I engaged with others of my age and only later when I looked over at the boy and saw that he was still centre focused, well into some cartoon coloured game that my interest registered.

His mum told me he had four favourite games, all educational. Hubby had helped him learn the first game; the rest were self-taught. (Mum has a 2 month old who takes up most of her time. Dad has his own iPad and is just as engaged as his son.)

I thought little of my New Year’s Day experience until now.

Now I am thinking about the Android tablets that have come and will be coming and I wonder if little people will be doing the same on these iPad copies and will the free and add sponsored games for children make the mark. Will there be similar market value apps available for sale on the Android products?

If they do, great. If they don’t and Dads and Mums see other children mesmerized by their iPads?or a parent’s iPad, let’s keep real?will they be able to resist the urge to buy Apple?

The question I can’t figure the answer out to is: is the little guy’s interest due to Apple’s intent in its design, or is it just happenstance. It may be the deference between intent and happenstance that points to the continued success of Apple’s iPad. Apple has been working on the iPad well before it introduced the iPhone. I think the other sectors became interested about a year ago. No matter how you shake it, they’ve got a long way to go and Apple probably has the next generation ready to reset the bar.


iPad is ideal 4 kids. My 6 year old picked one up at the local apple cafe and was whizzing around it intuitively in 10 minutes.

It is a great device for kids with learning disabilities, autism, aspergers, etc. There have been a number of stories in the mainstream press about their utility.

I just don’t quit see the Android tablets and developers really getting this small part of the market. I suppose when they are selling 40-50 million Android tablets that could become a motivator. But for now, I don’t believe it is really an emphasis.

The iPads intuitive nature is why I think it will become dominant in schools and education. I have already read of several large scale deployments across schools and am thinking of trying to do the same kind of thing for my kids school in the next few years.

The primary benefit for Apple in designing things which are simple enough for kids to use is that when kids get bigger, they will want to buy cool products from the company that they remember so fondly as a kid. I would still be buying Atari stuff if they were still around because of all of my fond memories as a kid working on my Atari 800.

Will Apple be around in 10 years or so for the next wave? I think they definately show serious signs of staying around.

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