Saturday, August 16, 2014

Review: Dexteria Jr by BinaryLabs - Fine Motor Skill Development for Preschoolers

Purpose of App: This app addresses several areas of fine motor development. The easy to use and interactive games allow children (ages 2-6) to work on fine motor skills in a fun and interesting way.

Strengths: Many levels with no in-app purchases. The games also allow the user to return to the first level with ease, allowing mastery of skills and extra practice.

Weaknesses: Some of the levels are difficult to accurately engage (i.e. Pinch the Pepper doesn't always register the pinching motion). Once mastery of levels is complete, the app does not allow for additional levels to be added. On the iPhone, you cannot have different profiles for different children.

Suggested Audience: Children ages 2-6 who need fine motor practice. Also older children who may need basic training or have emerging skills that can be refined.

Star Rating Breakdown:

 Meets intended goal
 Worth the price
 Educational Value
 Level of Customization

If you would like to download Dexteria, Jr. (iPad/iPhone, $2.99), please support Smart Apps for Special Needs by using the following link:


External links are under the "For Grown-Ups" option, behind a passcode (simple math question), and includes other BinaryLabs apps, featured blogs, and a link to their Facebook page.

Dexteria, Jr. is a fun and interactive app designed for children aged 2-6 to work on fine motor skills. Even on first glance, it is clear and easy to use, with user (children) friendly pictures and distinct areas to tap to engage in the three games.The apps continues to be user friendly throughout, encouraging independence from the user. Following the completion of each level, a report is able to be accessed and emailed, allowing others to be involved in the progress of each user and track the success.

Dexteria, Jr. is also user friendly with verbal instructions for each game. The instructions are repeated for the first and second level of each game and can be repeated at any time by choosing the first level again. On the third level of each game, the instructions are not stated, which is both good and bad for some users. It would benefit children with poor memory skills for the instructions to be repeated, however for those children (and adults who are near by) that have good memory skills, this allows them to continue without hearing the instructions in excess. On the main screen, there is also the option of turning off the music and the audio instructions, adding to the customization of the app.

"Squish the Squash" is the first game to choose on the left side of the screen--squish the squash by tapping on it. This game has 15 levels, starting with a single squash presented at one time, and ending with several squashes moving around and requiring two taps to move on. There is auditory reinforcement with each squash, allowing the user to know that they have successfully tapped the correct spot. Initially, one tap will squish the squash, but starting at level six, two taps are required. The squashes are cute and engaging for the user, and when squished, look like a squashed bug. Following each level a screen is presented with how many squashes were squished and the time it took to squish them all. The user can then chose to return the the menu, restart the level, or move onto the next level. This level would address several fine motor skills, including (pointer) finger isolation, hand-eye coordination, and visual tracking.

The second game available, "Trace and Erase," allows children to practice 29 different prewriting skills. It starts with simple vertical and horizontal lines and finishes with a complex horizontal diamond. The user is instructed to, "drag the arrow to the star." There is an auditory signal when the user taps on the arrow, along with a signal when the line deviates and when the star is reached. These auditory cues allow the user to understand when they are having difficulties. Following the completion of the lines, the user is then instructed to erase the lines. When erasing, the screen reveals that it is a camera and a picture is taken of the user following completion of these tasks. This camera option can be opted out of under the options menu on the opening screen. The camera function can be frustrating, with a count down to the picture after each level. In addition, the pictures are not saved onto the device, which may frustrate some children who enjoy the positive reinforcement of the picture.The response screen shows the accuracy in tracing and the time it took to complete the task. Again the user can chose to return the the menu, restart the level, or move onto the next level. This level is particularly beneficial for practicing prewriting skills. Before learning letters, children should learn and master prewriting lines and shapes, which Dexteria, Jr. presents thoroughly and interactively.

The last game is "Pinch the Pepper," which includes ten levels. Users are instructed, "with your thumb and index finger, pinch the pepper." As seen with "Squish the Squash," the initial level starts with peppers that are not moving and only a few on the screen, and the last presented many moving peppers to pinch. The higher levels present a yellow pepper, in addition to the regular red, which pops and reveals several other red peppers increasing the difficulty. An auditory signal sounds when the pepper is popped, along with the auditory instructions for navigating through the menu. At the end of the level the number of peppers popped and time taken are presented.When pinching the peppers, accurate and precise pinching is needed. If the user is not directly on top of the pepper, or may not press the whole fingertip onto the screen, the pepper is not pinched. This may cause some frustration, specifically in the higher levels, when the yellow pepper appears. The fine motor skills addressed by this game include pinch, hand-eye coordination and visual tracking.

This app also allows tracking of progress from the initial screen. When the "Report" button is clicked an activity log appears, showing the information from each game in addition to the dates played. There are options to email the results or clear the results at the bottom of this screen. The email screen has a passcode screen, preventing young children from emailing the results randomly.
Under the "Options" menu, there are several options including sending feedback and share the app with friends, again protected by a passcode for adults to use.

Overall, this app is easy to use and very child friendly. The areas where children are not allowed are blocked by a passcode screen, allowing parents to know their children will not be sending random emails with results, or accessing the internet with the external links. With many levels and ease of access to previous levels, fine motor and prewriting skills can be mastered using this app. Dexteria, Jr. is worth the $2.99 and both parents and therapist will enjoy adding this app to their toolbox.


Shelly did not enjoy doing home visits with flooded streets yesterday, but is so happy it was cool outside today!

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