Explore Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood app review

When I was a Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood–watching kid, we almost never got to see the insides of the buildings in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. I burned with curiosity about this. What was inside the castle? Or X the Owl’s tree?

I may never know the answers to these questions, but today’s preschoolers can wander around Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood to their hearts’ content. Based on PBS’s animated series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood — starring the son of Neighborhood of Make-Believe resident Daniel Striped Tiger — Explore Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (PBS Kids, 2015; iOS and Android) app is a chance to do just that.

Choose your character (it’s easy to switch later if you want to), pick a building from the neighborhood, and enter. There’s a grocery store where you can choose items to put into your cart. In the music store, you can check out what sounds each instrument makes; there’s also a bathroom complete with tearable toilet paper and a spray bottle of air freshener. The bakery, like the grocery store, has a basket you can fill (there are plenty of healthy bread options, but who can resist the adorable cat cake behind the counter?), as well as an oven and a mixer you can turn on. And the doctor’s office has a waiting room with toys to play with, and an exam room where you can step on a scale and play with the doctor’s equipment (just play — the syringe doesn’t do any poking, etc.).

Much of the experience is a case of poking around and asking, I wonder what this does? But if you explore long enough, you’ll find a little sign in each building that leads to a “Mini Game” — another screen with something more to play with. In the grocery store, it’s a conveyor belt that moves the items you pick onto a scale, and then you can put them into a paper bag. The music store’s mini game lets you make your own music on an instrument of your choice, and the bakery’s lets you decorate your own cake. The doctor’s office has a train set in the waiting room, and the mini game is to guide a train around several different track setups, either by hand or using a crank.

Many of the app’s offerings are simple, but for preschoolers, it’s a chance to play around in a welcoming world with lots of choice. They can wander back and forth in spacious rooms, turn lights and sinks on and off, experiment with grown-up activities like shopping, and explore situations that might make them a little apprehensive in real life, such as doctor visits or even using the potty.

Now, if they could just visit King Friday’s castle, they’d have it made.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 7.0 or later) and Android devices (requires Android 2.3 and up); $2.99. Recommended for preschool users. Also see our reviews of Play at Home with Daniel Tiger and Daniel Tiger's Stop & Go Potty.

Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in writing for children from Simmons University. She has served on the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and Sydney Taylor Book Award committees.

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