Several months ago, I asked for recommendations for apps or computer programs that might help my 7 year old (struggling with reading still, but a great auditory learner) improve his davening.
Several mentioned iShtik, so I decided to check it out.
Although I bought iShtik with my soon-to-be second grader in mind, I’ve actually found that it’s my four year old (pre-K) who really enjoys it.
My seven year old was too impatient for the graphics and audio to load – which is a definite downside to the app. For my four year-old, however, it’s perfect. She listens over and over – and has fully memorized not only Adon Olam (which she already knew most of from gan), but also Yigdal and most of the first paragraph of benching!
The app is divided into three parts: Morning Prayers (brachot ha’shachar), Benching and Nighttime Shema. In addition to davening, the app also has a lot of “fluff”. This is meant to be the interactive part – which is right up my four year-old’s alley, but too simplistic for my seven year-old.
During the benching section, for example, Yoni (the app’s starring character) says netilat yadiim and puts on his tzitzit. Kids can move the tzitzit onto his body and help him “get dressed”.
At dinner, his family has a bracha “bee” (“Which bracha do you say on chicken soup?”). You can skip thru these parts — since how many times can you do the same bracha bee? — but there is no master table of contents (other than the three main sections), so you will need to hit that forward arrow button a lot.
Below are more of the pros and cons of this app, as I see it.
One other thing to keep in mind: The app seems to have a MO-orientation, even tho the boy and his dad are wearing black (velvet?) kippot. Yoni talks about Star Wars, football and “rocking out to “dance” music. None of these raised a red flag for me, but I know that KOAB has readers across the religious spectrum, so you’ll need to decide whether this app would be a good fit for your family.
I loved that Yoni had an Israeli accent! His davening was beautiful – and I’d love for my kids to emulate/mimic that accent!
Yoni really seems to be a menschy kid. For example, he refers at one point to his “awesome” sister and his “cutest little brother in the world”. (I wish my kids should say such nice things about each other!)
I also loved that all the content is fully available in both English and Hebrew – and both languages are presented fluently. (This app was obviously developed by an Israeli – see above – but they had some good editing for the English!)
The content was very well suited for a child in the preschool years thru possibly early elementary school (maybe just kindergarten – depending on your child’s familiarity).
The benching section was not the complete benching. This isn’t a big deal for us, as it’s mostly my 4 year-old who uses this and I don’t think she needs to know all of benching at this age! But if you plan to use this for an older child, that’s something to keep in mind.
The app is also heavy on the “shtik” — ironic because initially I couldn’t figure out why a children’s siddur app was called “shtik”. I get it now!
Yoni does a lot of chatting and narrating his life, which makes the app feel rather like a children’s television show at times. Cute the first time, but every day? I thought it would get on my kids’ nerves, although my four year old doesn’t seem bothered by it at all (kids of her age really like repetition).
Each tfila/brach has a “sidur” across the top and the words are highlighted as he sings – this is a great thing. My “beef” is that the words are so small that any kid who is struggling with reading will never be able to follow along. I couldn’t figure out a way to enlarge the text.
The main character is a boy – for my son, this works well, but my daughter has said on several occasions, “I want the sister!” (The big sister pops in briefly for “sh’asani k’ritzono”.) I think it’d be great if there could be a boy & a girl version!
As much as I loved Yoni’s voice, the Aba’s voice really grated on my nerves. Again – my 7 year old didn’t seem to notice or care, but I’d say a new voice-over would be a big improvement.
And there you have – my review of the iShtik App. Have you used it yet? What did you think?
Are there any other apps that you’ve used and recommend for reinforcing davening (or other things)? Let’s talk about it in the comments section below!