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At first glance, Zen Studio is a finger painting app for children that teaches them how to draw a range of creatures, shapes and patterns using triangles and a palette of 14 colours, but dig a little deeper and it’s also an educational tool for teaching little ones about colour, shapes, space and symmetry, all while using a generative soundtrack to ensure a relaxing and soothing experience that’s never the same twice.

A generative what now? As you draw in Zen Studio you simultaneously create music. Each swipe of the finger generates a melody that varies depending on the length of the swipe and the colour selected. And therein lies the 'zen' part.

Swipe to learn

Upon opening the app you’re presented with two options; the first lets you choose one of four blank canvases of different dimensions and draw anything your heart desires. The second lets you pick a tutorial of a predefined creature or shape, and it’s probably the best place to start.

Choose the ghost, spider or car, for example, and you’ll be prompted to fill in the white portions of the image with a specific colour. Once you’ve done so, other portions of the image will turn white and you’ll need to fill them in. With each swipe the image becomes a little clearer, and once you’ve completed it you’re given free rein to further customise it with any of the 14 colours on offer.

Head back to the home screen and your creation is automatically saved to your library. You can continue to edit it, or save it to your camera roll for sharing. While some of the tutorials are free, to unlock all of them you’ll need to pay, but don’t worry, there won’t be any accidental purchases – to access the app’s setting or buy content you’ll need to solve a basic bit of mental arithmetic to prove you’re old enough to be controlling the purse strings – just be careful if your child is also a mathematical prodigy.

The upside of this approach to the in-app purchases is that there aren’t any advertisements or other distractions from the task at hand. Under the setting menu you can also create multiple accounts, which is handy if you and your child both want to have a go, or if you’ve got more than one youngster wanting to play.

Zen Studio also includes an excellent Parent’s Guide that explains how the app works and provides a selection of suggested talking points and exercises you can complete with your child to help them understand concepts like colour theory and symmetry.

Not just for kids

Educational aspects aside, we spent an hour with Zen Studio and were left with a greater understanding of the appeal of adult colouring books. The playfulness it encourages could probably do a lot of adults an awful lot of good.

It certainly left us feeling calmer and happier, though how much of that is thanks to the gestures and how much thanks to the soothing accompanying music our gestures initiated we can’t be sure. Either way, this is one app that’s best enjoyed with headphones.

Get Zen Studio

Download it for Android or iOS.

Note: While the app is free to purchase in the app store, you will need data to download and use the app. You can buy data bundles from Vodacom Online by logging in to My Vodacom » 

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