This week my girls have been trying out Hopster, an app for the iPad which allows them to watch children's TV programmes on-demand. Lara and Holly are definitely of the on-demand generation and they know no different. But since we downgraded our television package 12 months ago, I will admit that we have missed some of our favourite programmes which are available on commercial channels.
Hopster is available on iPad and is designed for 2-6 year olds. The app itself is free but you pay a monthly subscription of £5.99 to access the on-demand content. The subscription is all managed through your iTunes account where you can cancel it, should you want to. The benefit of this is that there are no in-app purchases for your children to go wild with!
The app features LOTS and LOTS of episodes of many of our favourite television programmes such as Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom and Humf. While these are available on terrestrial channels, they aren't at a time of day that works for us. The girls have been so excited to watch these programmes together on the iPad screen.
I really like the fact that Hopster doesn't have any text or instructions that need to be read. Even Holly, at 20 months old, is able to navigate throughout the app because it is all driven by pictures. Each episode is represented by a key image, rather than its title.
While I don't want my girls glued to the screen all the time, I am very relaxed (these days) about their screen time. I'm happy for them to use the app themselves and so far they haven't sat for more than a couple of short episodes of any one programme. I would certainly prefer for them to be watching through Hopster than on commercial channels because there are no adverts in this app so Lara won't be pestering me for expensive pink toys like she used to when we had Sky.
When I first downloaded Hopster, I did wonder about the cost. Even though the subscription price is A LOT LOWER than our old TV subscription with Sky, I worried about the value for money. After all, most of the children's TV programmes can be found online in other places such as the TV channel's own on-demand services but these are all tricky for my girls to navigate; I certainly wouldn't expect my 4 year old to know how to find her favourite programmes to watch through 5OD or iPlayer just yet. And finding television programmes on Youtube is just a recipe for disaster as there are too many opportunities to find "the wrong thing". So actually, I'm pretty impressed with Hopster's value for money here and I can see myself using it quite a bit at home and when we are travelling.
Hopster does have a 'learning' element with a games option available alongside the TV programmes. The games are fine. Lara quite enjoys the spelling and word games but my gut feeling is that it is an after-thought and I can't see the girls using this part that often as we have lots of other apps that focus on learning games. The value of Hopster is definitely in the on-demand programming.
I would expect to see a few bigger names of programmes available through Hopster in the future. Lara was just a little disappointed that there was no Peppa Pig or Dora the Explorer available. But, when she rediscovered Max & Ruby after a very long break she was happy to sit down and enjoy the show.