I have just a wonderfully gruelling two days at Websummit 2013 in Dublin. I felt very privileged to get a free ticket (someone told me that last minute tickets were going for a ludicrous 2.5k) in exchange for tweeting incessantly for 48 hours about the speakers and startups on show. It was totally worth it 🙂

There was a staggering number of startups exhibiting at the Websummit, and I felt “zoo” didn’t quite convey the chaos. It was more like a huge battery chicken barn with over 500 (and it seemed like more) startup stands vying for attention. I felt a little sorry for them all squished in there desperately trying to catch your eye.

But there was some wonderful ideas to behold though too many to list of course. The ones I was drawn to were the few apps for kids. Here are four standouts for me. Please bear in mind that although I didn’t have much time to play with the apps I’ll definitely be seeking them out on the app store.

Ubooly

My favourite of the lot because this app actually discourages screentime! Brilliant idea nicely executed. You launch the iPhone or iPadMini app and drop into the pouch on the toy. This activates the “face” of the toy and it begins to interact by speaking, listening and responding to your child. For instance, the child can say “tell me a story” and off Ubooly goes, or Ubooly starts a drawing activity: “get your paper and pencils and tap my face when your ready”. I love Ubooly because it is a properly interactive toy with limitless potential for new games and activities based not around the screen but around talking and real physical action.

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It’s expensive at around $30 for toy and app. That doesn’t bother me too much because it means, hopefully, the company will generate enough revenue to continue to provide high quality new stories, activities, games and updates.

Check it out: Ubooly

Chore Monster

My second favourite concept – Chore Monster instills a good work ethic in our young ‘uns; work hard, be rewarded. Essentially you create a set of chores for your kids assigning points to each one and then you create a set of rewards that “cost” a number of points. For instance for my 5 year old I’d put in “tidy up toys at the end of the day” and assign 10 points. Rewards can and should range in size – watching an episode of her favourite cartoon might be 10 points or a new scooter might be 500 points.

chore-monsterAnother simple concept but what sets Chore Monster apart is that it looks damn good! They’ve taken a lot of care with the design and animation of the monsters and the visual design of the interface.

The app is free for all features barring a fun spin board lottery where you can win “monsters” and them to your collection. Sounded fairly mundane to me but apparently the kids go crazy for it and convince their parents to pay $5 per month for it. Wow.

Available from the App Store but check out details here: Chore Monster

Keepy

These guys did well in the WebSummit start up competition I think. And it is a good idea, again nicely executed and with a great video introduction. It’s a social app centered around your child and their creations. You create an account for yourselves and for the people you want to share their stuff with – think grandparents. You upload a drawing for your child and they can record an accompanying video or sound clip to go with the piece. Then the child’s inner circle can respond with clips of their own. It’s nice to think of how you could build up a collection of your child’s creations, mementos and more stuff in one place.

keepymeFor me, the obvious disadvantage is that it’s another social platform to login and attend to. But in a way that’s essential because no one wants to share their kids stuff on Facebook – none of your Facebook friends want to look at that stuff anyway. Another downside is that it’s an app. My parents are only just comfortable enough with websites to use them when they need to (they get on to Facebook about once every 6 months) so I might have been able to convince them to setup with Keepy with the promise of regular kid’s updates. But Keepy is smartphone or tablet only and my parents have neither. I wouldn’t have thought this was uncommon either.

If you have tech savvy parents check out: Keepy.me

Hopster

hopsterHopster caught my eye because it provides kids tv shows with no ads and with complimentary activities or games attached to each episode. I prefer this model of tv, as opposed to the “turn on the tv” variety. There’s choice and and incentive do a quick activity to get the next episode. This sort of model is probably the future of kids TV in the same way Netflix is revolutionising how us big kids watch tv – we’d rather pay a subscription fee for ad free tv, a huge range of choice all on demand.

Hopster.tv