CBeebies Magazine (iPhone / iPad review)

Our children’s love of all things CBeebies (well, most things – sorry Numberjacks) is already well-documented on this site – see our Best CBeebies Apps feature for the proof.

They watch the shows, play with the website, and are keen on any apps starring their favourite programmes and characters. So the release of CBeebies Magazine is big news in our household.

It’s a digital version of the printed magazines that find their way into our real-world shopping trolley on a regular basis, usually due to whatever’s stuck to the cover. This being digital, the app will stand or fall on its mixture of games, learning and stories rather than plastic toys, crayons and googly eyes.

The app is a free download, but when you install it, don’t expect to see its icon on your homescreen. This being a digital magazine, it gets filed into Apple’s Newsstand folder. That also means it will offer multiple issues as time goes on: you pay £2.99 per issue via in-app purchase, or can sign up for a year’s subscription (four issues) for £9.99.

We’re reviewing the first issue, obviously. It has six sections: Stickering, Let’s Move, Colouring, Workbook, Story and Reward Chart. Even at this early stage, it’s found a good hybrid design: it looks like an app rather than a scanned-in print magazine, happily, but you can choose to work your way through the six sections in order by tapping arrows rather than turning virtual pages. A main menu and pop-up bar of ‘pages’ provide faster access, though.

The magazine is aimed at the typical CBeebies viewer: 3-6 year-olds. The designers have clearly thought about the implications of this, just as they do on the CBeebies website, so there are spoken instructions throughout, rather than the expectation that whoever’s using the app can read words.

A range of shows and characters feature, although strangely there is no sign of the main CBeebies presenters Alex, Andy, Cerrie and Sid, despite them being prominent presences in the print magazines. Instead, the spotlight is on the likes of Mister Maker, Small Potatoes, Alphablocks, Waybuloo and Bob the Builder, among others. We’re guessing the lineup will change from issue to issue.

The activities are certainly varied. Stickering involves dragging virtual stickers from the top of the screen onto backgrounds (or faces in the case of Mister Maker’s section), then tapping a camera icon to save the results to your iPhone or iPad’s photo gallery.

Let’s Move sees you tapping clouds, searching through snowballs for Pingu, tapping instruments and tracing paths for Waybuloo’s characters. Colouring offers house-building from Bob the Builder as well as tapping on Scruffty and Pilchard from the same show to colour them in – again, saving the pics when you’re done.

The Workbook was our favourite section in this first issue, since it features the Alphablocks – currently the CBeebies show that’s highest on our ‘needs its own amazing app’ wishlist – with simple but fun phonics quizzes to drag letters into gaps to complete words. There’s also a Numberjacks bit for maths, where your children have to tap the biggest hat, flower with most bees, flower with three bees and so on.

The first issue’s story is Everything Rosie. Each digital page has 2-3 sentences and a prominent Play button to hear them read out, as well as ‘Touch’ arrows highlighting characters that, when tapped, will speak or make a noise.

Animation is confined to characters sliding onto the screen, so it’s fairly static compared to the best standalone book-apps – but it’ll still hold your children’s attention. Well, if they like this particular show, of course.

Finally, there’s the Reward Chart, which has a page for every day of the week, and more virtual stickers to drag and drop into place. In this case, that’s tasks: wash my face, share nicely share please, try a new food, stay in my bed all night and so on. The idea is that you or your child sets three tasks a day, then taps on the star below it when they’re done.

In truth, we tend to prefer reward charts that exist in the real world on the wall, viewable at a glance rather than hidden on the iPad or iPhone – we’re not so sure they’re at the front of our sons’ minds in the latter case.

Anyway, there’s plenty to see and do in the first digital issue of CBeebies Magazine, although since each issue has to last three months, we’ll be interested to see whether our children are still coming back to it in, say, early November. Perhaps if it’s a success, the four-issues-a-year schedule will be upped.

The app’s roots in print rather than TV or web are clear. We’d like to see a few of the more-animated games make the leap from the CBeebies website in future issues, for example, and we also wonder whether there’s scope to tie in the BBC’s iPlayer so that the app can become a launchpad for watching the actual shows too.

CBeebies Magazine is well worth a look, anyway, although we have to be honest and say that those covermounted toys mean it’s unlikely to cut your expenditure on the print mags! Even so, it’s £2.99 well spent.

Rating: 4/5

CBeebies Magazine is a free download from the App Store.

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