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Injini: Child Development Game Suite by NCsoft (at time of review $29.99 for full version, FREE for Lite version – iPad only)

Reviewed by A. Taylor SLPAs

Injini: Child Development Game Suite was a labor of love from “Project Injini”, a collaborative effort between professional developers and early childhood developmental specialists.  The goal was to “design exceptional learning experiences and assistive applications to improve the lives of children with special needs”.  It is easy to understand why it has such rave reviews from both parents and educators-these are educationally sound, FUN motor and early learning activities! Sadly, Project Injini has drawn to an end, but its spirit remains in Injini: Child Development Game Suite, and its two sister apps, Write My Name by Injini, and My First AAC by Injini.

Injini really shouldn’t be considered just one app but rather a collection of apps. As its full name suggests, it is a suite of apps for early childhood.  There are many quality games/exercises all in one place.  This means the purchase of this one app covers many skill areas, instead of having a bunch of different apps to address the same skills.  At $29.99 Injini is not on the cheap side, but it certainly is of great value.

Features

created by professionals knowledgeable about early childhood development
“watch and learn” tutorials for the user
tasks that adjust to the level of the user
guide/manual for educators or parents
non-competitive “no-fail” system
*multiple skills addressed: fine motor, cause and effect understanding, spatial awareness, memory, differentiation, response inhibition, visual processing, sequencing and more *from injini.net 

My Favorite Injini Features
There are several things I love about this app.  First of all, Injini is just plain FUN, not to mention developmentally sound! Aside from how much the kiddos enjoy them, I am especially excited about several features which make this app WONDERFUL for all young children, especially children with developmental delays. The first is the tutorial feature. Each tutorial takes the user step-by-step through the game through video animations, and a slow, clear voice. This is helpful for any child, but it is crucial for many of the highly visual learners with whom I work. Additionally, in the settings there is a pause feature. The pause button will “freeze” the activity, allowing a child extra processing time, or allowing extra help from an adult. The stages also adjust to the needs of the user too, for example, expanding from a field of two choices to three, or allowing a “hint” with verbal and visual information when more help is needed. Another very helpful feature is the careful use of tones within an activity. The tone for a “correct” answer or motor movement is different from an incorrect one, for example. This is important for auditory learners.

The Games: 

Games Overview (from Guide)
Puzzle – Move the pieces into place to complete the puzzles.

Frog – Help the hungry frog catch beetles, butterflies, spiders and more by dragging your finger from his mouth to the bugs.
Letters – Build the letters by dragging their pieces into place.
Farm – Help take care of plants and animals on the farm. Feed the horses, chickens cats and bunnies. Hatch the eggs, wash the pigs, water the sunflowers, and shear the sheep.
Find It – Find the items the little girl wants in the drawer and move them to her.
Matching – Find and tap the matching picture card to make a pair.
Tracing – Move the ball along the path to trace the shapes.
Balloons – Tap to pop the balloons that fit Jelly’s request.
Squares – Tap the squares in the order that they were highlighted.
Lunch Box – Remember what’s inside the lunchbox, then tap the correct picture card.

There are now 11 games to choose from. The game choices are displayed in one of two ways: either in a toy box layout of 12 boxes (with an empty box in the 12th slot), or as a 4 choice toy box. (See Options). The 4 choice toy box is an excellent choice for a child who needs less visual clutter. All 11 games are still available through this mode too- just press on the arrows on the left or right side of the toy box to scroll through two more screens of game choices.

Each activity has a Tutorial (+ symbol) and a line of numbers ranging anywhere from 1 to 10 along the top of the screen.   These numbers are the “sets” belonging to each activity.  Often these sets progress in skill level as the numbers get higher, but not necessarily, as in the case of the Letters game, which is grouped in to sets in alphabetical order.  To access the sets of tasks in the activity, simply tap on a number. If help is needed, tap the + symbol to watch an animation of what to do. These “watch and learn” tutorials are top notch for all young children in general, but especially for those on the spectrum or with language delays!   If the user has mastered earlier sets of the activity, he/she can jump ahead by tapping on a different number to begin play at that level. A red arrow will flash above the last set completed.

Playing the Games


Puzzle
Sets: Tutorial,  1. 1 piece 2. 2 pieces 3. 3 pieces 4. 2 to 3 similar objects 5. 2 to 3 parts of a whole 6. 4 to 5 objects in a scene 7. 5 to 7 parts of a whole 8. 9 pieces- grid 9. 9 pieces- jigsaw

Verbal directions given: Put the puzzle together.
The sets get progressively harder in this game. The first set has one puzzle piece to drag into place, for example a rabbit is dragged into an empty rabbit shaped slot.  When it is dragged into place, the piece sparkles, its name is voiced, “Rabbit”, and a short animation/sound byte of the rabbit eating his carrot ensues.  Next, an illustration of an animal will have two shapes cut out of it, and the child must place (for example) the square and rectangle cut outs in their place to activate the animation/sounds. As the sets progress, there are scenes with several objects to drag in to place, then one object that has been cut into many different parts, then an entire scene or “grid” divided into 9 puzzle pieces.  When a child drags a piece into an incorrect spot that is near (i.e. in the same row), a tone will sound and it will flash blue, along with its correct spot.  The child gets auditory and visual feedback each time a correct puzzle piece is placed- the image sparkles and makes a reassuring click.

Pattern
Sets: Tutorial,  1. AAAA? 2. AAAA? 3. ABAB? 4. AABBA? 5. AABBC? 6.  AAABB? 7. ABBAB? & AABAA? 8. ABCAB? & ABABA? 9. ABCAB?

Verbal directions given: What comes next?
The Pattern game uses a unique tone for each image.  This means the child not only has the visual information from the images to help him form a correct pattern, he/she also has auditory information to help him. If the child touches the incorrect image, the entire sequence of tones will play- each image “jumping” as its unique tone is played. When it gets to the image the user has chosen it will sound the tone, then remove the image and display a red frowny face to show it is incorrect.  Play continues until the child is successful- the sequence will play through to the end with the image card in place, and a yellow smily face will be shown.  When the user is correct, he/she will automatically be advanced to the next task in the activity.

Frog
Sets: Tutorial1. Catch the bugs

Verbal directions given: To feed the frog, touch its mouth, then move your finger to an insect.  
Bugs to catch range from butterflies to water beetles to ladybugs and caterpillars.  At the end it will display the types of bugs you collected and award you points for your collection, then show a yellow smiley face on the screen. “Great!”.  Then a large yellow triangle button will appear- the child can tap this to go Home (Toy Box screen), or you can tap the small white arrow in the top left hand corner to repeat the game.

Tip: you can make this task harder by asking your child to draw different designs – curly Q’s, letter shapes etc.- any shape that you can make without lifting your finger while still touching the bug should work.  I have my own son draw straight lines out to the bugs, then practice a different shape or a squiggly line before lifting his finger to capture the bug.  You can also have the child do this with a stylus for pre-handwriting skills. 

Letters
Sets: Tutorial, 1. ABCDE 2. FGHIJ 3. KLMNO 4. PQRST 5. UVWXYZ 6. abcde 7. fghij 8. klmno 9. pqrst 10. uvwxyz

Verbal directions given: Build the letters.
Drag the letter parts into an empty letter form.  The sound of the letter (the phoneme) is announced as you drag each part to the puzzle form.  When the form is complete, the letter name will be announced, “A”.  Next, a screen will be pulled up to reveal the letter and a picture representing that sound: A/ apple, along with a verbal model “A is for apple.”     Tap the blue arrow button in the bottom right of the screen to continue to the next letter.

Farm
Sets: Tutorial, 1. Feeding the animals

The Farm game is actually a collection of 8 different mini-games:

Feed the animalshorse, chicken, cat or bunny

Verbal directions given: Feed the horses. 
In Feed the Horses, a row of four horses will appear on the screen.  They will blow air through their nostrils to get the child’s attention, but the child can choose to feed any of the horses.  Simply touch below their mouths to make hay appear.  When hay appears in the horse’s trough, its eyes will light up with hearts and it will whinny.  A  bar at the top will show how much time is left in the game.  If a horse already has hay in its trough it will simply toss his head from side to side. At the end of the game, a bell will ring, the horses will grin and the child will be praised i.e. “A yellow smiley face will appear on the screen as well.

Verbal directions given: Feed the chickens. 
In Feed the chickens, the idea is to feed each chick until it grows into an adult chicken.  The chicken’s eyes will get watery and call out to get the child’s attention.  When you tap a chick, a pile of feed will appear and he will peck at it. After he has eaten his feed, he will grow taller and a silly sound effect will play. He will continue to grow taller, change color, grow more feathers etc. each time he is fed until he is an adult chicken. When a chicken is a grown adult, it will rub his tummy and crow when tapped to show that it has eaten enough.  The game ends when all chicks have grown into adults. A bell will ring and praise will be given, “Hurray”, along with a yellow smiley face shown on the screen.

Verbal directions given: Feed the cats. 
In Feed the cats, tap the cats to feed them fish. They will meow to get your attention. When you tap them they will open their mouth, a fish will appear, and a tone will sound.  Like in Feed the horses, there is a timer bar at the top indicating how much time is left.  There is a counter keeping track of points for fish fed.  A bell will ring and praise will be given, “Hurray”, along with a yellow smiley face shown on the screen.

Verbal directions given: Feed the bunnies. 
In Feed the bunnies, the bunnies pop in and out of holes in the ground.  As they pop up a silly sound effect will play.  Tap a bunny and it will hold up its paws to catch a carrot, then munch on it and giggle, Then he will rub his tummy and hearts will appear in its eyes to show it is satisfied.  If you ignore a bunny he will frown and cross his arms/paws impatiently.  Like in Feed the horses and Feed the cats, there is a timer bar at the top indicating how much time is left.  There is a counter keeping track of points for carrots given.  A bell will ring and praise will be given, “Great”, along with a yellow smiley face shown on the screen.

Water the Sunflowers
Verbal directions given: Water the sunflowers. 
In Water the sunflowers, a scene with four seeds will appear.  The four seeds hover above already dug holes, making bouncing sounds to get the child’s attention.  Tap a seed and it will drop into its hole, causing a watering can to appear in a thought bubble above the hole. Tap the watering can to see and hear it water the seed.  Each time you tap the new seedling the watering can will appear and the seedling will grow a little bigger after watering. Finally a bud will appear, then a full sunflower (some will have  sunglasses, of course).  Tap on the completed sunflowers to hear them sing!  A bell will sound when all four sunflowers have been grown, signaling the end of the game. Like the other games, verbal praise will be given and a smiley face displayed on the screen.

Hatch the eggs– chicken
Verbal directions given: Hatch the chicks.
A screen of white and tan eggs will appear. Tap one and a crack will appear. Tap it again and a larger crack will appear, then tap it once more for a chick to pop out of the egg.  As the chick pops out it will peep.  Most are yellow, but occasionally a white chick will be revealed- it will peep with a slightly different tone.  As with some of the other games, when all the eggs have been hatched, a bell will ring and praise will be given, “Great”, along with a yellow smiley face shown on the screen. 
Shear the Sheep
Verbal directions given: Shear the sheep.
Three sheep will appear on the screen, one in the forefront. The sheep is panting from the heat, his tongue hanging out.  Touch the sheep, and clippers will appear.  Hold it down to shear the sheep- it will buzz as the child moves it around over the sheep, removing the wool.  As the wool is sheared, the sheep becomes happier and smiles.  When all the wool has been removed, the sheep will baa and walk off happily and a new overheated sheep will appear in its place. Like the other games, when all 3 animals have been sheared, verbal praise will be given and a smiley face displayed on the screen.

Wash the Pigs

Verbal directions given: Wash the pigs.
In Wash the Pigs, the child must wash the dirty, muddy pigs.  In the beginning scene, there are 9 pigs waiting behind a gate. The gate opens automatically and a few pigs go inside a grassy area, waiting for the child to wash them. Tap a pig and he will squeal as a brush appears.  Each time the child taps or drags his finger across the pig, soap bubbles will cover more of the pig.  When the pig has been entirely covered with soap bubbles, water will magically start raining down on the pig.  When the water has cleaned off the soap, a sound will tone, and the pig will happily trot behind a new gate where the clean pigs stay.  After all 3 pigs have been cleaned, three more muddy pigs will come in to the washing area.  This process will repeat once more, until all 9 pigs are together.  Like the other games, when all the animals have been cleaned, verbal praise will be given and a smiley face displayed on the screen.

Find It

Sets: Tutorial, 1. Find an object 2. Find an object, one of two 3. Find an object, one of three 4. Find by color, one of two 5. Find by color, one of three 6. Find by type, two of four 7. Find by color, many  8. Find by type, many 9. Find two different objects

Verbal directions given: Find the items.

In Find It, the child has to give objects that are requested. The screen has a little girl with angel wings standing in the lower left hand corner of the screen.  There is a big drawer with objects to give her that opens to the right of the little girl.  The child must drag the object or objects requested over to the little girl.  When the child is correct verbal praise will be given, a tone will sound and a yellow smiley face will show on the screen. The drawer will close and then reopen with a new item/items, and a new verbal instruction.  Throughout the game, the language used varies so that the child learns to respond to many different types of requests: Give me theHelp me find thePlease give me theI am looking for the …  Her responses are also varied:  Thank you. You found it.  That’s it. Awesome. Great. You did it. You got it. That’s right. or Try again, Not that one. Nope. No thank you. Try another one. That wasn’t it.  Try again please.

If a verbal direction is not enough, a red question mark in the upper right hand corner can be tapped.  A thought cloud above the little girl will appear, with the object she is looking for, and the written instruction Give me the [OBJECT] will show at the top of the screen.  Also if a child chooses the wrong object, a thought cloud with the correct object will appear above the girl’s head, and a verbal instruction will be given “I am looking for the (mittens). Look for the (mittens).” This language is varied too.  The girl might say “Help me find the (blue clip)”, “That’s not all” or “Can you bring me more?” to indicate there are more correct images for the child to pick.  This is so helpful in the higher sets with multiple correct answers. A direction like “Give me all the food” requires the child to pick from  paperclip, Lego, banana, and kiwi. If just banana is chosen, a prompt to choose additional items will be given.

Matching
Sets: Tutorial, 1. Vehicles, Animals & Fruits 2. Everyday Objects 3. Faces, Shapes & Objects 4. Spot the Difference- 2 choices 5. Spot the Difference – 3 choices 6.Spot the Subtle Differences 7. Subtle Differences- Complex Images 8. Subtle Differences (Advanced Images)

Verbal directions given: Find the exact match.
In the Matching game the purpose is to find the two identical cards and put them side by side.   The target card to match is displayed right side up at the top of the page, inside a white box.  Another empty box is next to it.  Below the two boxes are a row of cards, also shown face up.  At first there are two cards, then three or four.  The child can touch or drag the item that is identical to the image in the top left box to make a match.  If the child is correct, a tone will sound and a yellow smiley face will be displayed in the middle of the screen. If the child is incorrect, a different tone will be heard and a red frowny face is shown on the screen.  If the child needs help, he/she can press the red question mark button in the top right hand corner.  The correct match will remain face up, while the other(s) are turned face down until the child selects the correct card either with a tap or a drag.  There are several “Find the difference” activities.  Sets 4 & 5 have a  more obvious difference- for example a toaster has bread in it for one image, and no bread in the other; a bunny is holding a carrot in one image, and holding nothing in the other.  Sets 6, 7, & 8 have more complicated differences.  For example in Set 6 there is a boy playing baseball as the target match.  3 choices below show similar images- one has blue shoes instead of black, and different colored striping on his uniform.  Another has the same color shoes but different striping.  The third card is identical.  In Set 8 there is a fan, table, TV and chair all on one card.  The child must find the card depicting these items in the same exact location as the target card.  If the child taps the red question mark for help at this level, one of the three choices will be turned over, leaving two choices face up.  When all the matches in a set have been completed verbal praise will be given and the child will be returned to the toy box game screen.

Tracing
Sets: Tutorial, 1. Vertical Lines 2. Horizontal Lines 3. Mixed Vertical & Horizontal Lines 4.Diagonals 5. Zigzags & X’s 6. Curves 7. Circles & Curved Shapes 8. Waves & Spirals 9. Polygons

Verbal directions given: Trace the shapes.
A shape or shapes on a plain black background will appear for the child to trace.  A tone sounds, and the motion the child should copy is shown with blue ink, with a spinning yellow and orange circle at the top of the shape, and an empty circle at the bottom of the shape. As the child drags the circle across the shape, it changes color and makes sounds.  If the child goes off the path or stops, the sounds will stop.  When the shape is completed, the shape sparkles.  The shape then morphs into part of a picture, and the picture is voiced.  For example three simple lines become “candles” atop a cake, and the word “candles” is announced.


Tip: use a stylus for this activity to practice pre-handwriting skills. 

Balloons
Sets: Tutorial, 1. Colors: Practice level 2. Colors: Pop 1 balloon 3.Colors: Pop 2 balloons 4.Colors: Pop 3 balloons 5. Shapes: Practice level 6. Shapes: Pop 1 balloon 7. Shapes: Pop 2 balloons 8. Shapes: Pop 3 balloons

Verbal directions given: Tap the balloons.
The practice level in Balloons is one of my favorite Injini games to use with my young pre-verbal students who are working on simple cause and effect relationships.  What can only be best described as a “clear  blob with a face” sits at the bottom of the screen while a balloon rises.  Interestingly enough the blob really has a name, Jelly.  A thought bubble coming from Jelly shows the color he wants, along with a written label i.e. YELLOW and a voice narrates “Touch the yellow balloon” etc.  When the child touches the balloon, it first inflates, then pops and drops onto the paint drop, transforming it into the same color as the popped balloon.  Jelly announces his new color. “YELLOW” At first there is only one balloon on the screen.  Next there are two shown and the child must differentiate. If the child taps on the wrong balloon only a soft click sound will be heard. Also, there is a Help feature- the red question mark in the upper right hand corner.   When touched, the verbal instruction will be repeated, and a written instruction will be delayed on the screen, “Touch the BLUE balloon!” Also the screen will pause momentarily- a ticking sound will play for a few seconds, then the balloons will continue moving.  In other sets, Jelly takes on other forms, such as the shapes the child must identify.

Squares
Sets: Tutorial, 1. Tap 1 Square 2. Tap 1 of 2 Squares 3. Tap 2 of 2 Squares  4.Tap 2 of 4 Squares 5. Tap 2 of 6 (In a Row) 6. Tap 2 of 6 (Random) 7. Tap 3 of 9 (In a Row) 8. Tap 3 of 5 (Random) 9. Tap 3 of 9 (Random)

Verbal directions given: Tap the balloons.
This is another favorite cause and effect game of mine.  Watch the sample, then tap the square(s) in the same way. At first there will be just one square to tap.  Then two squares will be presented, and the child will have to watch carefully to see whether the square on the left or right (or top/bottom) lights up, then touch the correct square to imitate the pattern.  In the sets with two or more squares, an incorrect square will wiggle and make a soft sound when selected.  A correct square will do the same action that the sample did- for example change from blue to orange, or change from paw prints to a cat, along with its sound.   When a correct square is tapped, the sequence of light/sound is repeated, a tone is heard, and a yellow smiley face is shown.  Then a new set of squares will appear.  The sets become progressively more difficult.  For example Set 6 has 2 rows of 3 squares, and the child must tap two squares in the correct sequence.  

Lunch Box
Sets: Tutorial, 1. One Item 2. 1 Food & 1 Drink  3. 1 Food & 1 Treat 4. 2 Random Items 5. 3 Items, 1 Repeat 6. 2 Food & 1 Other 7. 3 Random Items  8. 4 Items, 1 Repeat 9. 4 Random Items

Verbal directions given: Remember what’s in the lunchbox.
 A lunchbox will open for a brief period of time with an item/items in it. After the lunchbox shuts, a friendly-sounding monster says, “What’s in the lunchbox?”. Then two cards are displayed- one matching the item/s in the lunchbox.  The child must pick the card showing the item/items in the lunch box.  If the child taps on the correct answer, a tone will sound and the item will be displayed on a feeding tray. The monster comments on the object and sound effects are heard. i.e. “Milk, goody!” (slurping sounds) or “Candy, wow!” (wrapper being opened).  Then the tray shakes and the item disappears as if it had been eaten. A yellow smiley face appears on the screen.
The sets get more complicated as they go up in number. For example, Set 7, which is 3 Random items, requires that the child remember three items in a lunchbox, and choose one of three cards displayed instead of two.  Just as in the easier sets, the monster will comment on the objects before they disappear and a yellow smiley face is awarded: “Sandwich. Crackers and flower, wow!” (Munching sound effects for the food; silly sound effect for the flower)

If the child chooses an incorrect answer, a red frowny face appears until the child picks the correct card. This is one of only two activities in Injini that uses the red frowny face, actually.

If the child needs help, a red question mark in the upper right hand corner can be tapped as many times as needed to view what is inside the lunchbox again. 

Settings

Options are accessible from the Toy Box game screen in the upper left hand corner. There is an Information tab in the upper right hand corner of the toy box screen. The Information tab is a great place to start- you will find background information in the News section, an overview of the games in the Guide section here, and information on more Injini games as well as Contact information under the Contact section.

Options Page


The Options page contains the following settings: Toy Box Layout, Voice, Pause Button, 3-2-1- Start, Sight Words.  There is also a back button to return to the game screen in the upper left hand corner, and an information tab in the upper right hand screen (also accessible through the Toy Box game screen). The Toy Box Layout button can be set to 4 game choices shown, or all 11 game choices shown.  If the Pause Button is set to On, game play can be paused at any time. If 3-2-1 Start is set to On,  the narrator will give oral directions, then a paddle will pop up and flash the written prompts 3-2-1-Go.   Sight Words can be set to uppercase or lowercase.  You can also select the Voice for narration- either Female or Male.

Wish List
(I always have one!)

 Injini truly is close to App Perfection. My biggest wish would be for data tracking.  I would also prefer to replace the red frowny face that comes up when an item is incorrect in the Lunchbox and Matching games.  It is not the end of the world, and there is no penalizing sound accompanying it, so it really is quite tame.  I think a yellow “try again” face with a neutral expression could have easily been used instead.   I would also really love to see a button in settings for turning game music On/Off.  The music starts when you open the app and doesn’t stop until you exit it.  While it is pleasant enough, there is currently no way to control it- If I use the master volume button on my iPad to turn it down or mute it, any narration will also be reduced in volume or muted.  For the Letters Activity, I would love to have the option to jump to specific letters or group them according to shape, not their alphabetical position.


Price at time of review $49.99



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