The individual VIRRY IVODs [approximately five per animal] present young children with fun and engaging interactions with wild animals, such as lions, giraffes, meerkats, and rhinos. With the fun, however, the goal is that children experience cognitive, emotional, and social benefits, designed to meet the educational and developmental needs of young children. For example, children are learning to self-regulate arousal (i.e., getting excited and then quieting themselves down), to pay attention to details, and to master concepts of comparison and contrast (i.e., more versus less; bigger versus smaller; faster versus slower). Importantly, they are learning how they, as humans, are different from and sometimes similar to specific animals. These exercises in comparing themselves to other species train perspective taking and empathy, two related foundational skills underlying emotional and social understanding. Along with these skills, VIRRY IVODs communicate many facts about these wild animals, and emphasise animal welfare and conservation needs. The virtual ability to help animals by, for example, feeding them or giving them water, help develop in children a sense of self-efficacy and competence, while emphasising ideas of appropriate helping and nurturing.

You will notice that throughout the various VIRRY IVOD activities, the general themes we have noted reappear and are reinforced. Repetition, practise, and positive reinforcement – all within a game like, friendly social exchange – have been shown to be the most optimal pedagogical context for young children. In addition, young children learn best by engaging the senses. We have built in visual, auditory, and motor, and even haptic sensory experiences. Finally, the best educational and developmental outcomes for children occur when they can actively engage in mastery experiences. In each IVOD activity, the child makes choices, gets feedback, and acts to make things happen. For example, a child can shake the ipad up or down to “feed” an animal. In another example, the child can shout to the animal to come over and have a drink, or can skip the shout. In general, the app draws on best practises in teaching methods for young children to structure the themes incorporated within the IVODs. In the following sections, each IVOD is described, and the specific educational and developmental benefits of each component of the IVOD are identified.


Activity or component
Educational/developmental objectives
How tall is giraffe?
Understanding size comparisons; comparing across species; animal fact
What do giraffes eat?
Animal fact
Give giraffe plants to eat
Nurturing through appropriate care; following directions
Shake ipad once up
Coordination and impulse inhibition (just shake once)
How much time eating?
Understanding time concepts; contrast with humans; perspective taking
“They need a lot of food because they’re so big”
Inferential reasoning
Shake UP to feed
Coordination and impulse control
Compare what salt people vs. giraffes eat
Animal fact; contrast human (self) and other animal; perspective taking
Shout: Giraffes! Salt time!
Self-efficacy (making things happen); follow instructions; impulse control
Giraffes are tall
Reasoning: being tall has positive function, but negative as well. Problem solving skills
Put water in pond; switch on pump
2-step process, with if-then problem solving.
Shake ipad 5 times
Counting and impulse control (just 5 times no more)
Wait until water is full
Delay gratification by waiting for outcome
Shout: “Water’s ready”
Feeling of communication with animal; nurturing by giving drink; self-efficacy; self-regulation by inhibiting shouting once animal starts drinking
“They’re having a nice drink because you filled the pond”
Speaker reinforces efficacy and nurturance
How do giraffes pick off leaves?
Animal fact; contrast to humans; perspective taking
Shake ipad to give leaves
Efficacy; virtual feeding as caregiving experience
How long a tongue?
Animal fact; size comparison
In zoos or out?
More vs. less reasoning; animal welfare and conservation issue


Activity or component
Educational/developmental objectives
What do you like to eat?
What does Limun like to eat?
Perspective taking; human-animal contrast
Give her raw meat
Nurturing by feeding; following specific instructions; self-efficacy; multi-sensory experience through haptic feedback
How much meat does lion eat?
Number comparison
Shake ipad to feed again
Repeats and reinforces nurturing, self-efficacy and sensory feedback
How do people play with a ball?
How does Limun play?
Perspective-taking; human-animal contrast
Shake ipad and chicken drops down
Nurturing by feeding; sense of communication with animal
If Lulu has a race who wins?
Person vs. lion comparison
Who can climb tree faster?
Inferential reasoning; faster climbing because sharp claws
Shake ipad to hang chicken
from post; see Limun climb
Nurturing through feeding; sense of efficacy
Repeat activity
Reinforcing experience
Shout: Limun! More chicken!
Self-regulation (shout and then subside); sense of communication with animal
“Pride” is family. Boy lion has mane
Animal facts. Noticing differences
How many hours sleep/rest
Amount comparison (more vs. less)
Shake and shout; then hold still
Self-regulation of arousal. Increasing from 15 secs.
To 30 secs
Where do lions live?
Animal facts; more vs. less distinction; conservation and animal protection issues


Activity or component
Educational/developmental objectives
Family of animals
Understanding social relations; animal-human comparisons
Child’s preference then meerkat preference
Perspective taking; Empathy (worms can be yummy for others)
Give them worms; tilt ipad down
Nurturing through feeding; motor control; following specific directions; engaging the senses through haptic feedback
Understand animal habitat
Learning about animals
Why is meerkat standing up?
Understanding functions of animal behaviour
Where does the hole go to?
Reasoning about animal habitat
How many meerkats in a family?
Family size and number comparisons; animal-human contrast
What do people eat?
What does meerkat eat?
Perspective taking; here, animal-human similarity
Feed an egg by shaking ipad
Motor control; nurturing through feeding; sense of animal communication
How do they know how to eat a scorpion?
Idea of parent teaching child; similarity to self and humans
People get a present vs. meerkats get a present
Animal-human comparison
Meerkats sniff and retreat; child shouts “There’s insects inside egg!”
Theory of mind; sense of animal communication; self-efficacy
Good idea or no?
Meerkat not a pet
Teaching difference between wild and pet animals; animal welfare and protection themes


Activity or component
Educational/developmental objectives
Introduce baby rhino
Teaching developmental change from baby to adult
How long inside mom
Animal-human contrast; time comparison
Shake ipad to start water pump; then make mud bath; then shout “Mud time”
Planning skill through 2-step process; helping and nurturing animal; sense of animal communication
How heavy is Ra’s mom?
People vs animal comparison; understanding weight differences
“If Ra’s mom is so big, she must eat a lot of food”
Inferential reasoning (if-then)
What kind of food?
Animal fact
Give them grass by shaking ipad down
Follow directions; motor control; nurturing animal by feeding
Give grass pellets by shaking ipad down
Reinforcing and practising directions, motor control and nurturing behaviours
Are rhinos fast?
Person vs. rhino contrast
Help rhino run; shake ipad 5x
Helping animal; specific instructions; motor control
Hold still ipad so rhino can rest (10 secs.)
Inhibit motor activity to enhance self-regulation; follow specific instructions; self-efficacy
Repeat: shake to run; still to rest
Reinforcement through practise
Repeat again: shake to run; still to rest
Added practise
Ra has no horn; mom has horn
Notice differences; understand idea of developmental change (i.e., Ra will have horn)
What is horn made of?
Animal fact; understand animal-human similarity
Some people try to steal horns
Idea of animal welfare and protection
They are hot, to cool off…
Inferential reasoning
Use pump to fill pond, then tell Ra
Executive planning through 2-step process; helping animal
How many rhinos?
More vs less comparison; animal conservation issue