Admittedly, I can’t honestly swear that there’s any pedagogic or therapeutic value to Talking Tom and Talking Gina, but Peanut sure does love them. He comes up to me fairly frequently to ask “play kitty?” or “play graffe?” when he notices my iPod about and giggles like a mad man as the creatures chirp his words back at him.
Talking Tom is a free downloadable application for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. You can purchase an upgrade for $0.99 that adds some additional actions for the character and deletes advertisements from the app–I recommend paying the extra dollar so your little one doesn’t accidentally hit the advertisements. Tom will repeat any noise he hears in a high, squeaky voice; react to things he “feels,” whether that be you petting him or punching him; and has several set actions from on-screen buttons.
Peanut loves this cat. He likes hitting the on-screen buttons (which are pretty small on an iPod, so he’s definitely learning some manual dexterity there) and gurgling happy noises for the kitty to repeat. There’s a fair amount of contrast on the screen because it’s back-lit, and he’s definitely able to see the kitty’s different actions and actively interact with the animated feline. If you have a child that you’re trying to get started with touch-screen technology or who you would like to vocalize more, in whatever manner, this could be a good program for you. Half the fun is seeing the cat’s reactions and hearing it repeat what you say–and you can’t get either of those things without touching the screen or making some sort of noise.
Gina is Tom’s giraffe friend (pronounced “graffe” in my household). She’s also free, and this app can also be downloaded to iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
Gina is a needier creature than Tom, but you can also interact with her in more ways. She has a “love meter” at the left, for lack of a better term, that helps determine how happy she is with you. Petting her gets her to make happy noises, sets little hearts to floating around her, and makes the meter go up; punching her makes the meter go down. Gina loses her balance and trips a bit when you move the iPod around, which is cute, and she repeats what you say just as Tom does.
Gina is a bit OCD on the Patty Cake (it’s the button at the left that has a hoof surrounded by a pink circle). When you play patty cake with her, you’re trying to hit the little lights around her hooves just right as she puts them up; I have a hard time making her happy with this (it appears that you have to be perfect to “pass”), so there’s no way Peanut’s going to be able to play this game with her. It could be a good tool for older children to get practice spotting/marking things quickly, but I can also see where it would be really, really aggravating.
Peanut has a definite preference for Tom over Gina. Tom’s easier to use and interact with, and he’s great for my toddler. Gina’s more an older person’s electronic pet. She wants you to react to her demands (I have yet to give her a pacifier; she’d rather play patty cake) rather than her reacting to yours (Tom will do whatever the button you push tells him to do–he’s good like that). They’re both fun, cute and free, so if you already have an i-Device, they’re worth checking out.