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Beautiful New App Shows Kids How People Around The World Live

This new app is like a Sesame Street sketch come to life.

When Tinybop founder Raul Gutierrez was a kid, he used to press his ear to the walls of his house, listening to the mysterious sound of the pipes creaking behind the drywall and imagining the worlds hidden inside. A year ago, Gutierrez came home to discover his own son pressing his ear against the radiator, wide-eyed with curiosity about the strange sounds he was hearing. Realizing that what happens in people’s houses is a source of deep mystery and wonder to kids everywhere, Gutierrez was inspired to create Tinybop’s third app, Homes, a colorful interactive tour of domiciles around the world.

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Right now, there are four different houses for kids to explore in Homes: a Brooklyn brownstone, a Guatemalan cottage, a Mongolian yurt, and a Yemeni tower house. Each home has as many as five rooms, each of which is fully interactive: kids can open drawers, bang pots, flick on switches, even peel back walls to look at the wiring and tubing inside. Kids can drag a record to a record player to play music, pick up a crayon to draw on the sidewalk, or even wield a pair of buzzers to shear a Yemeni sheep, while captions teach them the names of common household objects in over 50 different languages. More homes are coming, too. Gutierrez says a future update will add a traditional Thai house, a Bavarian-style German home, a Brazilian apartment block, and more. “We really want kids to have an understanding that there are people who actually live in these houses: kids who have toys, eat dinner, and go to sleep, just like they do,” Gutierrez says.

Brooklyn-based Tinybop is an app developer and a design-focused company that is trying to bring the ideals of the golden age of children’s book publishing to the iPhone era. “We really take our lead from companies like Golden Books and Wonder Books, who published a lot of different books by amazingly different illustrators like Charlie Harper and Cornelius DeWitt, but tied their work together into a cohesive whole with their branding,” Gutierrez says.

So while Homes features many of the design hallmarks of the previous entries in Tinybop’s Explorer Library series–the same fonts, avatars, and rainbow gearbox that mark all of Tinybop’s apps–the art is very different from the likes of the DeWitt-inspired Human Body, or the Hergé-like style of Plants. Children’s artist Tuesday Bassen provides the illustrations in Homes, giving the app something of the feel of an interactive Sesame Street sketch.

That Sesame Street parallel is important, because just as much as Homes is about letting kids figure out what’s going on within their own homes, it’s also about diversity and teaching acceptance. For Homes, Gutierrez was inspired by the way his kids reacted to Where Children Sleep, a book of photographs by James Mollison that shows kids at bedtime all around the world.

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“When I showed this to my kids, I saw that first flicker of empathy in them, as they suddenly realized that not every kid lived the same way they did, or had the same sense of space,” Gutierrez tells me. “With Homes, we hope that we can help create that same spark of empathy in children of all ages around the world.”

Homes is available for $3.99 on the iOS App Store here.