Khan Academy Kids is now available for FREE in the App Store!
Our team is thrilled to announce the launch of Khan Academy Kids, our new educational program with thousands of activities and books designed to inspire young children to become learners for life. Our team has been developing this comprehensive, interactive curriculum since joining Khan Academy two years ago, and we are excited to see it become available, for free, for kids and families around the world.
Khan Academy Kids is designed for children ages 2 – 5, and provides a complete educational experience that delves deep into topics ranging from math and literacy to logic, motor skills, social-emotional development and creative play. We worked with experts from the Stanford Graduate School of Education to create high quality, standards-aligned resources.
We can’t wait for you to open Khan Academy Kids and let the learning begin! Head to the Home screen to explore the personalized Learning Path, the extensive learning Library, or the whimsical play rooms of our colorful and original characters. Tap Kodi, our guide character, to hear her helpful hints and encouraging feedback as children start their learning journey.
Khan Academy Kids is free and accessible for everyone to enjoy. If you have questions about the app, please contact us at email@example.com. We’d love to hear what you think!
Duck Duck Moose Joins Khan Academy!
We have exciting news! Our company has joined Khan Academy, a nonprofit with a mission to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.
In 2008, we founded Duck Duck Moose because we were inspired by our then-two-year-old daughter and the potential to deliver rich educational experiences for young children with mobile technology. We created our first app, the Wheels on the Bus, an interactive musical storybook, because it was our daughter’s favorite song. Since then, we have grown into a team of designers, engineers, and educators who have created over 21 award-winning apps for children.
We’ve always been a mission-driven team, and decided to join Khan Academy because it gives us the greatest opportunity to impact children globally and provide universal access to education. We couldn’t imagine working with a more mission-aligned organization, and are thrilled to be leading a new initiative at Khan Academy to develop early learning products for kids.
This partnership adds preschool learning to Khan Academy’s K-12 and higher education digital learning offerings, and is made possible by an initial philanthropic grant from Omidyar Network.
As part of the Khan Academy nonprofit organization, we’re now able to make all 21 of our award-winning apps FREE for families around the world. Join our effort to support kids everywhere by sharing this exciting news with teachers, parents and friends.
Caroline & the Duck Duck Moose team
Let’s Dress Up and Eat Candy!
It’s Halloween! So we thought we’d share a little peak into what we’re wearing today (and tonight) in honor of everyone’s favorite candy and costumes holiday!
This year each team dressed up around a theme and competed to win the coveted Halloween prize. Who do you think should win? Let us know in the comments below!
Play Testing at Duck Duck Moose
What’s the ooey, gooey icing on the cake for our design process here at Duck Duck Moose? Play Testing! We specifically design our apps to educate and entertain kids, so each play testing session is a super important step in sharing our ideas and creations with our users (KIDS!). They help us figure out what works and what needs a little tweaking. We make sure each app has engaging, imaginative, and educational material that kids ENJOY playing with.
We’ve compiled some of our favorite play testing clips from our newest app, Moose Math. A huge thank you to all who participated and visited our office in San Mateo, California; this app could not have been completed without you!
If you are interested in bringing your child to our office to test future apps, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now, let’s roll the footage…
Meet Dave Mottram: Illustrator
Today we are debuting a new feature called “Duck Behind the Scenes” where we will share a behind-the-scenes look into the people, culture and happenings of Duck Duck Moose. For our first feature we sat down with one of our many talented illustrators, Dave Mottram, who joined the Duck Duck Moose team in October 2012.
From a very young age all Dave wanted to do was draw. It didn’t matter what, although, if you inspected the countless piles of drawings accumulated by his parents you’d quickly notice a Spiderman theme. It didn’t matter where. But, it did matter how much – as a little boy, and even now as an adult, Dave just couldn’t draw enough. By the age of five, drawing became his passion so much that when his Kindergarten teacher sent an assessment letter home to his parents, informing them that his obsession was interfering with learning, Dave turned the letter over and drew his favorite scene, Spiderman roping a monster.
Numerous Spiderman’s and assessment letters later Dave went on to study Graphic Design and Illustration at Youngstown State University. His first job out of college was working for Mill Creek Park in Youngstown, Ohio where he drew trail maps and designed event posters. Later he went on to work for a variety of design agencies where he illustrated several projects including one of his favorites, a website for then-Cleveland Cavaliers star basketball player, LeBron James, based on his tattoos.
Seeking inspiration from a variety of sources, Dave is often drawn to classic Disney artists like Mary Blair and Eyvind Earle and Maurice Noble, artist and designer for early Warner Brothers cartoons. He feels an immense appreciation for their ability to create highly complex designs using only the simplest of tools. A lover of all forms of art, Dave also looks to classic authors such as Mark Twain and old-school comedians, Bill Murray and Steve Martin, who share traits of subtle wit and smart humor all of which he strives to weave into the characters he creates.
Dave’s inspiration doesn’t stop there. As a father to three-year-old, Sara, he has started seeing the world of art from a child’s perspective. Full of energy and life, Sara has taught him a simple lesson: take a step back and examine the larger picture. This is something he appreciates and feels has helped him grow as an illustrator of children’s art. One of his biggest fans, Sara offers him solicited and unsolicited feedback on his drawings telling him what she likes and doesn’t and why – all of which he finds invaluable. Dave, his wife, Sonya, and Sara enjoy movie nights, with Lilo & Stitch a current favorite, drawing together (of course) and reading books, especially Where the Wild Things Are which was the design inspiration for Sara’s bedroom.
Now that you have had a chance to learn about Dave we thought it would be appropriate to share even more about him through his various pieces of work. You can also visit his blog http://www.monkeyworks.org.
Congratulations, Apple! 50 Billion App Store Downloads!
Today marked a historic day for our friends over at Apple. The App Store reached 50 billion unique downloads. We were honored to be included in the company’s official Press Release announcing the milestone:
“We started our company in 2008 as three friends focused on creating great educational apps for our children,” said Caroline Hu Flexer, co-founder of Duck Duck Moose. “The App Store brought ‘Wheels on the Bus’ to the world in a big way. Sixteen apps later, a fan base of millions of parents, children and educators and a growing company with 20 full-time employees, we couldn’t be happier with our success.”
According to Apple, customers are downloading more than 800 apps per second at a rate of over two billion apps per month on the App Store. We can’t wait to add more Duck Duck Moose educational apps to the App Store and look forward to being a part of Apple’s 100 billionth app download celebration!
Google Makes a Play for EducationYesterday, Wheels on the Bus was featured at Google I/O during the unveiling of a new platform, Google Play for Education. According to TechCrunch.com, Google Play for Education will extend Google Play, its application and content marketplace for Android, into the classroom in hopes of simplifying the content discovery process for schools. It will allow schools to search for content by subject matter and grade level and provide content that has been recommended by other educators.With education being one of the founding pillars for all Duck Duck Moose mobile apps, we were thrilled to learn of Google’s efforts to assist schools and teachers. We are excited to be included in their efforts and look forward to the official launch of Google Play for Education in the fall.
Happy 3rd Birthday, Fish School!
Today, we are celebrating the birthday of one of our favorite creations, Fish School! After discovering how much kids enjoyed playing with the fish in Baa Baa Black Sheep we knew they would love an experience dedicated to our underwater friends. From colorful fish and curious crabs to swimming seahorses and wiggly octopus we had a blast designing activities to teach letters and ABCs, numbers and counting, colors, shapes, matching and more!
To help commemorate Fish School’s birthday we created a cupcake fish cake. Inspired by one of our favorite cupcake sites, Cupcakes Take the Cake, we put our decorating skills to the test and assembled these adorable gummy guppies using peach rings, pink grapefruit slices, lemon slices, a dollop of frosting and mini-M&Ms. And, yes, they were just as delicious to eat as they were fun to make! For all you bakers out there download our delicious and easy cupcake recipe so you can make your own cupcake fish cake at home. Perfect for an under-the-sea themed birthday party or summer pool party. Visit our Pinterest board to see other sea-life inspiration.
Introducing More Trucks!
More Trucks was born during one intense brainstorming session fueled by the consumption of more mochi than any three people should reasonably eat. We were discussing the exciting interactive possibilities that our newly integrated physics engine afforded us when we came up with the idea for the Monster Trucks Scene. We were really interested in the idea of programmatically generating terrain, and what could be more fun to drive over programmatically generated terrain than monster trucks! As per our usual, we stumbled out of our sugar-induced haze with far more ideas than could ever be squeezed into one development cycle, so the most challenging part was figuring out what not to build.
Drive, Roll and Bounce
The physics engine allowed us to incorporate a kind of interactivity and dynamism that we didn’t have available to us in the first Trucks app. For example, objects in More Trucks have mass and are subject to friction, obstacles in the Monster Trucks Scene are outlined so cars drive over them the way they would in the real world, and things bounce, roll and scatter in a way they haven’t in past Duck Duck Moose apps.
One of the most exciting things we did in More Trucks is to programmatically generate the hills in the monster truck scene. The graphics were segmented into 3 parts to allow for a parallax scrolling effect and then the hill graphics were generated with variable color and height. The outline of the dynamically generated hills define the physics properties of the ground and thus, how a monster truck will move over it.
We try and keep our design process very open and fluid which allows a lot of room for last minute creativity and revisions based on kid testing. In typical fashion, details like the Godzilla leg (used to crush stacks of cars in the junk yard scene) and the egg-laying pterodactyl were added during the final weeks.
More Trucks is the sequel to Trucks so we wanted the app to feel stylistically similar. The artists created all the vector artwork and then hand painted the scenes with a suite of custom Photoshop brushes to give the artwork texture and depth. A few of the original Trucks characters (the shark and the monkey) make a cameo appearance, but there are also lots of newcomers like Scraps the junk yard dog.
All the music for More Trucks was composed in house, however we brought in multiple musicians and ensembles to lend their sensibilities to classic tunes like “Do your ears hang low”, “The Wheels on the bus”, Hurry, Hurry Drive the Firetruck” and “Farmer in the Dell”. (We even snuck in a jazzy version of the Brandenburg Concerto by Bach.)
More Trucks also broke some new ground for us musically with the introduction of genre-specific based compositions designed just for our audience. (And by audience, I mean, keeping kids entertained while not driving parents insane. :) There are surf, blues, latin, and jazz pieces in the app which we feel is a healthy introduction for kids to the wide world of music and hopefully will expose them to something that they may not normally hear.
The voice in the app is 12 year old Shane Turner, a local pianist, who brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the production.
More Trucks was tested by a bevy of enthusiastic kids throughout the design process. Some of the bigger revisions to come out of testing had to do with speed of gameplay and introduction of new audio prompts. We took for granted that our younger users would have already been introduced to the game of Tic Tac Toe, but after testing with 5 or 6 kids we went back to the drawing table to redesign the interaction in order to make it enjoyable for younger players as well.
Our favorite kid testing quote came from a 4.5 year old boy who exclaimed, “This is better than Angry Birds!”
Draw & Tell in the Classroom
e are thrilled to read about all the different ways that teachers are using Draw & Tell in their classrooms. When we set out to create our series of open-ended creativity apps, we never could have imagined all the creative ways in which they are being used.
One of the most interesting things teachers are doing with Draw & Tell is empowering children to teach others by using the record feature. If you’re like me, you probably remember late night study sessions fueled by an IV drip filled with coffee and some kind of “food” (and I am using that word generously). In some sessions, you would huddle with your study mates in the glow of unflattering lighting and try and work out some problem. If you were, by chance, the first to have a breakthrough, you would explain it to your study mates. Those problems were the ones you likely aced on the test later in the semester. Research tells us that teaching someone else, is a powerful way of learning.
Draw & Tell was originally designed as a platform on which kids could express themselves creatively both visually and verbally. It contains a robust digital art set, the ability to record audio, stickers, patterns and coloring pages. The UI was designed with the youngest users in mind (See How We Made a Few Kids Cry, So We Could Make a Million Smile). To our surprise, teachers have been using it to teach word problems, pattern matching, telling time, sentence construction, counting money, and much more.
Check out some of the interesting lesson plans teachers have cooked up using Draw & Tell below. A big thank you to the all the creative teachers who have shared their work!
• Pattern composition with stickers
• Subtraction word problems with stickers and drawing
• Measuring different lengths
• Telling Time using Draw & Tell (#4) in Mrs Wideens classroom
• Making a Dollar
• Counting money in French
Draw & Tell
Easy-to-use use tools for kids to draw, animate, and record audio simultaneously
Enables kids to share and teach with each other
★ Selected by Apple as “New and Noteworthy” on the AppStore Homepage
★ Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice Award for Excellence in Design
” I can’t tell you how valuable it is, as a teacher to be able to use an app that allows me to listen to a child’s thought process…”
— First Grade Teacher
If you are a teacher that is using Draw and Tell in your classroom or has ideas about how it can be used, we’d love to hear from you!
Please email us at email@example.com
Writing stories on lined paper
Wheels on the Bus Turns 4!
We can hardly believe it has been 4 years since we launched our very first app! Rewind back 4 years when the app store was in its nascency (you know, back when we spent inordinate amounts of time polishing fingerprints off our coveted iPhones) and you’ll surely find the three of us in Michael and Caroline’s basement having a healthy debate about product design for toddlers.
A lot has changed since those early days — we are now a team of 16, we raised a Series A round of funding, have two incredible partners/mentors at Sequoia and Lightspeed and we have sold more than 2.6 million copies of our apps. Our small company is growing and we have you to thank for it! Your support, letters and suggestions have helped us to grow and innovate beyond what we ever could have imagined. As a token of our appreciation to you (and your little product managers and QA engineers) we are making Wheels on the Bus free until January 27th!
Caroline, Michael, & Nicci
Superheroes vs. Monsters Comic Book Maker
he only thing better than a superheroes app is a superheroes AND monsters app. Superheroes vs Monsters Comic Book Maker for iPhone and iPad allows you to create individual recordings from pre-composed animated scenes, your original drawings, photos or coloring pages using animated, talking stickers. In the past, these recordings were stand-alone scenes, but in Superheroes vs Monsters we added the ability to join scenes together to make a full comic strip story!
The creative team had a blast with this app (I can’t think of anything better than a job in which I can draw monsters all day long). We spent a day in Michael and Caroline’s basement “recording” studio recording all the sound effects for the app and making each other laugh. We also made a little video using some of the characters with the help of the very talented Joe Hall. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out on YouTube.
Our crowning achievement, however, was convincing the engineers to dress up in superhero outfits. Check out some of the photos from our shoot below (I am starting to think purple might be my color).
Here is a little beautiful superhero inspiration from around the web. When in doubt, keep calm and call Batman.
Incredible Batman Returns and The Invaders tribute posters by Tom Whalen.
Minimal comic book destination posters by Justin Van Genderen. Which would you rather travel to? See more here.
Officially-licensed poster by Olly Moss for The Dark Knight Rises.
Four awesome minimal and vintage DC superhero posters by Michael Blane Myers, Jr.
Who says superheroes weren’t an inspiration during the Art Deco movement? Not French illustrator Gregoire Guillemin. See more inspired posters here.
How We Made a Few Kids Cry, So We Could Make a Million Smile (Designing for Children)
Caroline was on the road this past week presenting at App Camp in Asilomar where she gave demos of some of our newer creative play apps including Trucks, Draw and Tell and Princess Fairy Tale Maker. She talked about the design of Draw and Tell, our full-featured creativity suite, and more specifically, how we made our app testers cry out of sheer frustration.
For the first iterations of Draw and Tell, the three of us brainstormed a list of features and then designed an interface which was perfectly aligned with the conventional UI paradigms. It was so beautiful and clean that even my grandmother couldn’t object. Fortunately, as it turns out, my grandmother very rarely cries when her computer doesn’t do what she wants it to (she mostly just shakes her head at it and goes to invent a new kind of food containing mayonnaise (I’m from the Midwest after all). Kids, on the other hand, rarely show such restraint and they really let us have it.
We were so traumatized by the crying that we scheduled a late night brainstorming session to regroup and in doing so realized we basically needed to throw out all our assumptions and start with a clean slate. After several rounds of testing, here are some things we learned as well as a few others we picked up along the way:
1. Say “no” to button overload
This one applies to all good UI design whether for kids or adults. Eliminate the excess. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Take the minimalist approach. Believe me, you’ll be happier and there will be considerably less crying.
2. Design for those who can’t read
Turns out the common icon for an undo button looks suspiciously like a back button on a bender.
3. Hidden = Nonexistent
Right. Forget about burying those less commonly used items. When in doubt, refer to #1.
4. Large targets for little fingers
Make targets larger than you think you need to accommodate for users with varying motor skills
5. Overstate the obvious
Highlight calls to action and navigational elements. Subtlety is not your friend. Affordance is key here.
6. Include spoken instructions, but make them pithy
We found children stop listening after a few words, so imagine that your spoken instructions need to be given in Willy Wonka’s glass elevator — you get approximately 2 seconds before they are up and out.
7. Design, iterate, test, refine, repeat.
Children have remarkably different ways of looking at the world and often pick up on things that we, as adults, take for granted. You can easily find out whether a design is working by testing with just a few children. If they cry, you know it’s time to go back to the design phase.
8. Have a sense of humor
Find out what makes kids laugh. They are funnier than we are and they have a better sense of humor about almost everything (except for maybe nap time and shots).
Read more about the Duck Duck Moose design process
A Big Week for Duck Duck Moose!
The team has been especially excited about this title since it was in beta and is over the moon to see that our Trucks HD iPad app is outselling many popular casual games in the US, including Angry Birds HD, Cut the Rope HD, and Fruit Ninjia HD. Trucks is currently ranked as the #12 Top Paid App Overall on the iPad and is the #1 Top Kids Game for the iPhone and the iPad.
Trucks includes 5 interactive activities: Soap and rinse a car in a carwash, drive a garbage truck, tow a car with a tow truck and fix a flat tire, dump dirt with a dump truck, and play with a car and truck parade. This app includes an ice cream truck, fire truck, cement truck, police car, mail truck, ambulance, and much more!
Trucks is an educational app that will teach children about sequencing, sorting, and problem solving. The activities encourage experimentation and will stimulate their imaginations.
To learn more about Trucks, check our our product video
This little company is all grownz up* (well, almost!)
e are excited to welcome two new members to our creative team!
Queeny: Digital Illustrator & Designer
Queeny is our resident science fiction nerd who is convinced that her acceptance letter to Hogwarts somehow managed to get lost in transit. In her spare time, Queeny likes to take catnaps, discover new music, and go on adventures in her green bug. She often likes to doodle silly animals and is delighted that some have managed to find a great home in Duck Duck Moose mobile applications.
Sally: Digital Animator & Concept Artist
Sally has been drawing and loving it since she was able to pick up a pencil on anything from paper to the walls of her house. She works mostly using charcoal pencil, watercolor, and digital, but is never afraid to venture into other media. Creating illustrations, especially for kids, is Sally’s true passion, and she feels blessed to find a spot at Duck Duck Moose. In her spare time, she enjoys playing guitar and singing off-tune.
*(and growns up and growns up)