Natural world app your fingertips

12th October 2012 at 01:00
Hippo Seasons teaches children about the four seasons and keeps them entertained. Henry Hepburn reports

A new iPad app aims to immerse young children in the natural world.

Hippo Seasons is designed to stimulate learning and self-expression through exploratory play. It was created by an East Lothian couple who have previously produced education films for the London Olympics and collaborated with artists and writers including Michael Rosen, Tilda Swinton and Matthew Fitt.

Simone Bloomfield and Jonathan Charles turned to app development by forming their company Hippotrix, after seeing how enthused their children got with the iPad.

"Only a few companies were turning out really original products at that time," says Mr Charles. "Although there are inevitably many more now, there are not so many people pushing the format."

Hippo Seasons, aimed at children aged two and over, is simple in concept but claims to be different from run-of-the-mill apps.

"We're trying to bring a little of the natural world to life," says Ms Bloomfield. "We want to give children something that is fun, but at the same time will enhance their learning about the cycle of the four seasons.

"We like to call it an experiential toy, because there are no rules, races or scoring systems, plus it's something that works for kids with a variety of needs."

The husband-and-wife team work from a studio at their cottage near North Berwick, where their daughters, aged 4 and 7, were chief testers. They also used professional coding from London-based Conjure, to avoid the "clunky interfaces and poor user experiences" that sink many apps.

"It was essential to delight our users with creative interactions that matched the quality of our ideas, animations and soundscapes," says Mr Charles.

Hippo Seasons is available from the iTunes store.

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