Magic Town is gorgeously designed virtual world designed to encourage and inspire young children to read using interactive stories on an iPad.
The team at design studio Mindshapes worked with Dr Paul Harris, a child development professor at Harvard University to create Magic Town. The app aims to inspire children to read, but instead of just consuming content like other reading apps the emphasis is on interaction.
Sign up for an account and set up a profile for your child, including his or her age and name, this helps ensure stories are age appropriate. Signing up to a paid subscription lets you set up profiles for multiple children.
Magic Town is a beautifully designed colourful world full of houses, a boy and girl guide act as a guides and Louis the lion sits under the big tree introducing a free book each day. Each house is interactive (below), which children tap on to read a story or launch activities, including jigsaws. Every time you buy or download a book a new house appears, or access them via the library.
Mindshapes has deals with a host of top publishers, including Simon & Schuster, Oxford University Press, Hachette Children's Books, Egmont, and Penguin Group, including exclusives like Superfairies by Janey Louise Jones. There’s a real mix of stories, from classics like The Emperors New Clothes to new titles like Winnie the Witch, books to suit girls and boys of all ages.
Depending on the childs age and reading ability there are four ways to read a story. Explore, Read Together, Watch and Play. Actors tell them in an engaging way, and of course you can read them yourself.
We've been using Magic Town with a three year-old boy, he loved the visiting new houses and interacting with them, although some of the puzzles were a bit tricky and he was a bit young for some of the story's.
Magic Town has a few quirks. You used to be able to download books by tapping characters within the three house, the characters are now greyed out and instead you need to download them via the bookstore, which was a little confusing. It's also available for PC, with an iPhone apps coming later.
Mindshapes is continually updating the app though, over the weeks we've used it, it feels quicker to use and downloads are dramatically quicker taking minutes to load.
If you are a parent with an iPad then Magic Town is well worth download. It’s a more suitcase friendly than taking books for holiday and it’s great for those occasions when you need to entertain your child. It’s fantastic that so many books are free too.
60 titles are available from launch with an average of 15 new titles released each month. Additional books cost a rather pricey £4.99 each so it’s better value to spend £7.99 a month £39.99 a year for unlimited downloads.