When did you decide to develop this app? How long did it take to develop? When did you first release it?
Last year after Christmas Dave took some time off of work so that we could work on a new app together. I had ideas for several preschool kinds of imaginary play apps and Felt Board was the one we decided to tackle first.
We spent the entire vacation working on it day and night and accomplished a lot. It was pretty addictive once we saw the idea beginning to come together. After that we spent the next three months working on the app every chance we got until it was released in March of 2012.
What is your favorite feature?
I love the open-ended nature of Felt Board, as well as it’s versatility. I wanted to make an app that inspires imaginative play. As a former preschool and drama teacher, I have always really believed in the idea that young children learn through play, and I wanted to combine the element of creativity with tools that could be used to aid in learning. Children can invent stories and also engage in conversation with parents and caregivers while playing with the app. Teachers can use the app not only to encourage storytelling and creative writing, but also as a teaching aid using the letters, numbers and shapes included. I have stumbled upon many wonderful lesson plans and blog posts by teachers and librarians using Felt Board with children. It’s really exciting for me to see that.
What were your goals in creating the app?
Aside from encouraging open-ended creative play, our main objective was to keep the app simple, so that young children can use it with little instruction. We considered a more interactive approach with sound effects and bells and whistles, but eventually decided that in this case less is more. Part of the beauty of real felt boards is that all of the dialogue is happening in the mind of the child. Because children have incredible imaginations, the potential for creativity is endless. We do plan on continuing to improve and update the app in the future, but with each feature we add we will ask ourselves whether it will enhance or detract from this emphasis on imagination and the need for a simple, easily understood interface.
What were the skills you were hoping to develop?
In addition to creative play, children can develop fine motor skills while pinching objects to scale them and placing small articles of clothing on characters. Young children can also practice language skills and vocabulary while using the app with an adult who is willing to interact with the child and discuss what is happening in the story. Images from recognizable songs, stories and rhymes allow for children to re-tell familiar stories and recall the sequence of events. Letters and numbers can be used by the child to practice spelling and number relationships. Teachers can use Felt Board to illustrate number stories and lessons related to letters, numbers, shapes, etc.
What age range is the app most suited to?
The ideal age range for Felt Board is preschool and early elementary school. However, our own teenagers enjoy “playing” with the app as much (if not more) than their younger siblings.
Are there any updates coming soon?
Our most recent update changed the way felt pieces are selected, with a tap rather than a drag. This is much easier for young children to manage. We have received wonderful feedback and suggestions from parents and teachers and plan to periodically improve upon the app in ways that enhance our overall objectives and user experience.
Anything else you would like to share?
Our website offers links to ways some teachers have used Felt Board in the classroom which could in turn help give ideas for you to do with your own child.
Felt Board for the iPad is inspired by actual felt boards used by children, teachers and storytellers worldwide. Create characters by selecting skin color, hair and facial features. Choose from a wide variety of costumes, settings and props for hours of magical make believe play. And because it is an app, the pieces will never get lost.
Whether used by children as a creative play set, or by adults as a storytelling resource and teaching aid, Felt Board offers a variety of benefits for children, including:
-A simple user interface that allows independent exploration
-A wide variety of characters and settings to encourage creativity and imaginative play
-Fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination skills are developed while dragging, placing and pinching objects to scale
-Shapes, Numbers and Letters are included as an educational resource
-Includes animals and settings for popular nursery and preschool songs / rhymes like Itsy Bitsy Spider, Old MacDonald, 5 Little Monkeys, 5 Little Speckled Frogs and more