Disney’s new app with Mickey and friends makes learning magical

It's the first of many from Disney – a new iPad app called Mickey’s Magical Math World focuses on activities such as counting, shapes, logic and sorting.

Mickey is getting into maths – and science, art, reading and even teaching social skills.

The Walt Disney Company is launching a new line of learning tools designed to help parents encourage children between the ages of 3 and 8 to learn outside of school. Disney Imagicademy will start with a series of mobile apps but plans to expand into other products such as books and interactive toys. Over time, the target age will also grow to include older kids. On Thursday, December 11, Disney is launching an iPad app called Mickey’s Magical Math World that focuses on maths-based activities such as counting, shapes, logic and sorting. Within the app, there are five add-on activities such as Minnie’s Robot Count-Along and Goofy’s Silly Sorting. The basic app is free to use, but the enhanced activities cost US$4.99 (Dh18) each or $19.99 for all five.

Future apps, on subjects ranging from life science, using characters from Disney's Frozen, to creative arts, will be similarly priced. The apps are ad-free.

A companion app for parents lets grown-ups follow along with what their kids are doing even if they are using a separate mobile device. It also suggests a bevy of offline activities, such as creating “rocket racers” using toilet paper tubes, duct tape and balloons, or making a colourful quilt out of tissue paper to learn shapes.

Disney’s entry into the learning-app market comes at a popular time for educational apps, thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices and parents who are growing more comfortable with letting their children use them, at least within limits.

The American Association of Pediatrics estimates that children spend an average of seven hours a day on “entertainment media”, which includes televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. It recommends no more than two hours a day spent consuming and engaging with “high-quality content”.

Disney Publishing Worldwide, the creator of Imagicademy and also the world’s largest publisher of children’s books, hopes that its content will be entertaining as well as educational. Disney is betting that its brand recognition and the quality of its apps will help it stand out from a crowd of more than 100,000 learning apps aimed at kids. That said, there are other big-name brands in the learning app space, including Sesame Street.

Bob Chapek, the president of Disney Consumer Products, says parents were telling the company that it was difficult to find high-quality apps among the thousands out there. And when parents did find an app they liked, “there was no logical progression” to other levels and subjects.

“What really makes Imagicademy different is that it’s done with a very compelling, curriculum-based approach,” he says. “And the fact that it’s based on characters and mythologies that kids love.”

Shortly after the maths app, Chapek says Disney will launch a creative-arts portfolio, then science, reading and social skills. The latter, he says, is “the outgrowth of our work with experts” who specialise in early-childhood education.

Kara Norman, a mother of two and founder of Empower Her, which focuses on supporting women and girls, says she likes that the apps show Minnie Mouse building a robot. She also appreciates the parenting portal of the apps. “It’s helpful, especially for younger parents,” she says. “It’s hard to manage what your kids are doing but not take the iPad from them.”