I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Captain McFinn. I received a complimentary subscription to facilitate my review as well as a promotional item to thank me for my participation.
There is no question that the popularity of smartphones and tablets has increased tremendously over the years and that kids younger and younger are becoming pros at tapping and swiping their way through apps, games, books and more.
However, simply because children have access to a screen doesn't mean that parents are going to put any sort of content or activities on it. Why have them spend time only being entertained when they could also be practicing important skills, challenging their minds, boosting their imagination, stimulating their creativity and more?
Instead, it makes sense that parents of preschoolers would give their children a head start on successful learning with apps that are engaging, unique, interactive and more. A perfect example? Captain McFinn's Swim & Play!
Captain McFinn's Swim & Play is the first-ever children's app, aimed at kids ages 3-5, that
allows the users to truly interact and communicate back with a live host*, who can suggest activities, praise the child's accomplishments in the game, and even call players out by name.
Unlike traditional children's apps in which a child is simply tapping and swiping to follow static directions, Captain McFinn transforms the gaming experience by providing a guide to help extend the fun and learning. The result is not only an immersive experience, but the hosts also help to teach important pro-social proficiencies, like kindness and sharing, in a completely engaging way!
Even though both of my children are slightly old for a preschool level app, I had no doubt that they would have a great time swimming and exploring under the sea and couldn't wait to see their reaction to this innovative iPad app.
Right away both Big Sister E and Little Sister B liked that they were able to choose the color of their fish character (hopefully there will be more than three options for customization in the future) and had no problem typing in a nickname.
Kids are able to use just about any name — my girls got a kick out of using Swimmy quite often — which not only makes the game personalized but adds to the overall safety of having no personally identifiable information collected. At the same time, if the nickname space is left blank, then the app will pick a silly fun one for you!
Once your fish is selected and named, it's time to explore and play!
Based on the popular Captain McFinn storybook character who lives in the undersea world of Sand Dusty Reef with his friends, Captain McFinn's Swim & Play is a colorful place filled with friends, places and activities galore.
Explore up, down and all around as you discover shipwrecks, buried treasure, pop-up princesses, friendly characters that are always good for a laugh...
But along with simply swimming around, children are able to perform a variety of tasks to perform. From recycling garbage and putting away toys to help keep the underwater environment clean to demonstrating good hygiene by brushing their teeth to brightening a friend's mood by building them a sand castle or giving them balloons, I love that this app encourages and rewards social responsibility and good deeds!
In fact, at any time a user can check the number of badges that they have received that show off exactly what a great job they are doing being a part of this underwater community.
|When a user finds items to recycle, they magically summon GEM to come zap them away!|
But while Captain McFinn's Swim & Play would likely be a fun app with these features alone, the inclusion of the live Explorer guide really takes things to an entirely new level in terms of the experience as well as the social skills and lessons taught.
Just about every time we have opened this app (suggested times are between 7am-7pm PST), within a minute or two the gold submarine containing the Explorer appears and a new, extremely friendly host is there floating around. He or she happily chats, welcomes new players, points out great actions that have been completed, emphasizes positive messages, and much more.
The first time that Big Sister E and Little Sister B realized that the Explorer was truly referring to them, their jaws dropped! From that moment, they were instantly in love with playing along, listening to the instructions, participating in the group activities and more! The children even have the option of sharing creations that they make (e.g. songs, drawings and sand castles) and the Explorer just might show them off to the entire group of children that are playing!
As a parent, I was thrilled to see that all of the participants are encouraged to clap for creations that their fellow preschoolers created, a message that the Explorer hosts push strongly as well as subtly. I can't think of a single other app that manages to bring children together from all across the globe, yet keep them 100% safe while online.
As an additional bonus to having a live Explorer guiding the children through the app, Captain McFinn's Swim & Play also includes a pop-up chat box that is accessed with a single click.
While this aspect can be used by children to say hello to the Explorers or share a friendly thought, I also found that it was convenient for parents in times of wanting to ask a direct question. For example, we had an instance when we suddenly could not hear the words the Explorer was saying, so I sent a message indicating such and she was able to quickly fix her microphone without causing a disruption to the game.
All in all, Captain McFinn's Swim & Play really does allow children and their parents to touch content in a way never before done – and all in a secure setting alongside their friends. All of the topics and lessons have a positive message such as friendship, caring for others, helping others, etc, and the entire experience is different every time depending on the suggestions and direction of the Explorer guide.
The main aspect that we have had issues with is the way that, at times, the app moves from Sand Dusty Reef to short McFinn episodes and music videos that also promote messages about things like teamwork and believing in yourself. We have not yet found a way to exit the episodes to return back to exploring and my kids complain that they are "stuck" watching until they are over.
Instead, we would prefer to have the option of watching the videos or continuing to swim around underwater on our own. Similarly, users also cannot get to features like coloring and dress up on their own, instead having to wait for the Explorer to make them accessible. Hopefully there will be more options in future versions of this app!
The Captain McFinn's Swim & Play app is available from the Apple iTunes Store using a subscription model. The freemium subscription model offers 10 minutes of free play at the start of the game, with subscription tiers of 1-month, 3-month and 6-month periods for $4.59, $3.59 and $2.59 per month, respectively.
If you are looking for a way for your preschool-aged child to get "tablet time" that is well-spent and different from other games, apps and shows, then I recommend you check out this one! Everything from the happy hosts to the catchy (but not annoying) music to the interactive learning, development, and encouragement of skills and values are items that all parents are sure to appreciate!
*The app complies with all COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) safety standards, so although parents/children can see the host, the host cannot see them. Through proprietary technology, the host reacts to prompts, responses and creations by the child and texts from the parent (through a secure chat box) to make the interactive experience truly customized.