My kids’ love of electronics is not going away just because the grass is green again, which is why I really like a new educational iPad app that gets kids excited about the great outdoors—and even asks them to put down the iPad and go outside to experience it.

Ranger Rick Tree House for iPad on Cool Mom Tech

{Keep reading for special super limited time discount!}


Chances are, you’ve seen a copy of Ranger Rick magazine which has been around as long as I have. My kids used to get the well-loved copies from a neighbor’s son and enjoyed paging through this National Wildlife Federation magazine to look at the color photos of animals and their habitat, as well as reading interesting tidbits about the natural world.

Ranger Rick Tree House on Cool Mom Tech

Taking cues from the magazine, Ranger Rick’s Tree House app for iPad takes many of the things we’ve loved about the magazine and adds the fun interactive stuff that my kids love about my iPad—all without advertising cluttering the pages. Please keep in mind though that while the interface will download for “free”, you need to purchase the quarterly issues separately in order to see any content (though do check out the great limited-time offer below).

And unfortunately, being a print subscriber does not give you access to the app as they are totally separate properties. Still, this is an app that’s well worth it and here’s why.

The first thing I noted (and loved) about Ranger Rick’s Tree House is that this is a real reader’s app, created for kids between the ages of 7-12. I also appreciate that other than some ambient background music and appropriate sound effects, the audio isn’t cluttered up with goofy cartoon voices. In fact, Ranger Rick himself, the iconic cartoon raccoon, makes no sound at all when he appears.

From the “Tree House” home page, kids can read a couple of articles about animals like dolphins or grizzly bears, and are encouraged to touch the screen to get more information, to hear audio of the animal, or even learn some super-corny jokes that I’m sure I’ll hear repeated at the dinner table.

I also like that tricky words in the text are highlighted so kids only have to click for a short definition.

Ranger Rick Video Room on Cool Mom Tech

There are games here too, like Who am I? where kids try to guess which animal is hiding behind the door, and Ribbit Rodeo which doesn’t have much going for it educationally, but is really challenging and fun. And the Video section is set up to look like you are in the movie theater watching one of three short clips about animals. The quality of the video, like all of the photography, is quite good and compelling on the iPad.

A minor quibble is that I wish the menu bar would hide since we’ve accidentally left a section because we tapped something along the bottom of the screen. And these are pretty big downloads, so make sure your iPad has enough memory to devote to them. It took me a couple of tries to get both issues loaded onto my iPad2 but they run pretty seemlessly now that they are there.

But the best part of all isn’t actually the technology. It’s the fact that the app has a special “Badges” section where kids are asked to record a certain number of outdoor time into a digital backyard journal. (Maybe to look for some of the animals they’ve learned about here?)

You can keep the kids honest by doing the recording yourself, or by promising them iPad play time after their outdoor time.

I think Ranger Rick would approve. -Christina

In honor of Earth Day, Ranger Rick’s Tree House for the iPad is on sale for $1.99 per issue (usually $4.99) TODAY April 29 only! Currently, Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 are available for purchase.

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