Star Walk Kids is a version of the astronomy apps Star Walk and Star Walk 2 - the latter of which TUAW's own Mel Martin called "impressively good looking" - designed specifically for educating kids about the wonders of the stars and the universe. It features use of the iPhone and iPad's built-in gyroscopes to label the stars as you pan your device across the sky, plus other information like solar system planets and facts presented in a fun manner for children. It requires iOS 7.0 or later and is available universally for US$2.99.
What I love right off the bat about Star Walk Kids is there's no setup required which is ideal for kids. The app launches with a cartoonish landscape view of the world and stars in contrast to the regular Star Walks apps geared more toward adults. The cartoon-style is far from a bad thing though, it's actually quite attractive. Using your iPhone or iPad's gyroscope, pan the device around to find stars, constellations and planets. Panning down will reveal what's on the other side of Earth that's not currently visible in your night sky - a very nice feature.
The first constellation I happened to glaze by was Andromeda. She appeared as I was panning, but when I tapped it the app said the name out loud. Tapping the name in the bottom left corner brings up a fact sheet including number of stars in the constellation, the brightest star and its latin name.
Most, but not all, constellations come with an audio clip playable by tapping the audio icon in the fact sheet. This will play a short recording with an additional fun fact or two. I wish the audio clips were longer and more detailed, but they're still adequate. A limited number of constellations come with well-designed cartoon clips too, further explaining background information in a playful manner appealing to kids.
Back on the main screen, there's some additional tools to aid in browsing the depths of the universe around us. If at any point you want to focus in on a particular area of the sky without your hand movements affecting the app, tapping the Compass icon will lock your position. Otherwise, it serves as a handy location guide. The Clock icon above that brings up a slider to rotate the view of the sky, essentially moving back or forward throughout the length of a day.
If you want to skip the discovery aspect altogether, the magnifying glass displays a complete library of planets in the Solar System, constellations, individual stars and extras: the Hubble telescope and the ISS. The developers didn't miss a beat.
The vast amount of information in this app is really impressive, especially given that it's a kids' app. Could there be more? Absolutely, but there's plenty here for the app to have serious educational value. Animations are buttery smooth and Star Walk Kids as a whole just makes learning about astronomy that much more fun. For just $2.99 including both iPad and iPhone versions, Star Walk Kids shapes up to be a must-have for kids curious about all that surrounds our planet.