Solar Family is an interactive ebook and video app that tells a pleasant story about the planets of the solar system, our sun, and Halley’s Comet. Users can choose to watch a video or to use the narrated ebook, which includes interactions on most pages.
Learn facts about the planets and solar system
Play mini-games on many pages
Learn to spell the planet names
Move at an individualized pace
See and hear words of the story at the same time
Solar Family is a high-quality app, but could use clearer directions for adults guiding young children. The app is not as intuitive as one might expect for having no information about usage and features in its parents section. On one trial, the spelling game did not load correctly for the outer planets for some reason, which was a little frustrating. It’s also not really clear when there’s a challenge on a page that prevents moving on with the story. Users need to press the page turn arrow several times to get a clue that something else is needed, and it’s not always clear what the necessary action is.
This app presents a nice story about how the planets came to be in their respective orbits and how Halley’s Comet visits the solar system. Developers did a nice job of embedding interesting facts about the planets and the sun in the interactions of the story.
That being said, some may have a concern that some of the information is not particularly accurate in a few ways. The planets are shown to be various sizes, but the relationship between them is not accurate. For example, Neptune is depicted as being smaller than Mercury, which is not truly the case.
Most pages of the story have interactive hot spots that cause the planets to share one of two to four little tidbits of information. There are a few pages that have activities, as well, such as a page where users need to draw a circular orbit for a planet around the sun.
There is a video version of the story and the ebook version. Both include narration, and there seems to be no way to turn that off for older children in the ebook. The main page of the app also includes a spelling game activated by tapping each planet. Letters in bubbles appear, and users are challenged to spell the name of each planet. Though the app’s description in the App Store indicates 8 levels of spelling games, each planet had the same activity as far as I could see.
Solar Family is engaging for younger users, especially if they are already interested in planets and space. The referencing to Halley’s Comet may be somewhat confusing to children in this age group, since it is not currently visible and won’t be seen again for decades yet. The games included are simple, and will be enjoyable for younger children, but likely will not provide any lasting challenge for anyone past preschool.
This app is fun to use, but I’m not sure it will have much replay value for kids past preschool age. It seems like once a child has completed the story and spelled the planet names, they are likely to put it aside in favor of more interactive and challenging activities. It is also a concern that some of the information in the app does not seem to be as accurate as it might be.
This app is child friendly.
Protected parent area (contains only rating system)