Big Emoji

So I made an app for my kids.

19 days ago - 3 min read

I genuinely think that one day, my kids will bypass my iPhone's lock screen by relentlessly tapping and swiping with their tiny banana-covered fingers. A rare security vulnerability that would be worth a聽huge bounty聽if only I'd actually seen what they did (maybe the banana grease is the key).

My kids often steal my phone from my pocket, then clumsily bash the screen until they get the emoji keyboard (through the pull-down search). They huddle together and laugh at the silly 馃挬 and 馃懡 and make up stories with the 馃 and the 馃悶.

I don't mind, they're having fun. It would be nice for them to play with them at a bigger size, though. After all, there is some nice artwork in there...

After a quick scan of the App Store (nothing appropriate for them), I spent an evening making a bigger emoji thing for them. It was simply an input box with a font set to massive.

It went down a treat.

I decided to use ElevenLabs to generate an audio narration of each emoji (a process which took an hour and generated over 1750 audio files) so that each time they tapped, it would read the emoji's name aloud.

This went down a treat too, and to my joy, my youngest (2陆 years) was repeating the words he was hearing. Was I making a learning app? Umm, maybe.

I tidied it up, keeping the design simple and removed the native emoji keyboard in favour of a custom selector.

I kept it in my pocket for a month or so and, every now and again, they would ask to play it.

Treasure hunt

I hesitated to release it, as I didn't consider it a "game" - just a look, listen and learn thing. I decided to add a treasure hunt, a simple game that is easy to code.

I nailed it. My kids would work together to find the hidden emoji or take turns. I didn't notice these behaviours until I made a two-player version with a split screen - each child competing to find their emoji first. This brought tears to the younger one as he couldn't keep up.

I learned that two kids playing a one-player game is actually a great way to teach them to share and work as a team, so I kept it single-player.


Lastly, I wanted to explore adding a game of bingo. I thought it would be easy, but the logic of choosing emojis for each card is actually more complex than I thought. If you've played a kids' bingo game, even with 25 items on each card, you'll notice that it usually comes down to the last few draws to decide who wins. The spread of items on a card is not as random as you think, making it more tolerable for kids.

I studied a few of my kids' bingo games and codified a pattern I'd spotted that could be randomized with all 1700 or so emojis.

Wrapping it up

I've released this app on the App Store as Big Emoji. I don't consider this a profitable app, but I wanted it to be safe and suitable for children. Therefore, there are no ads, in-app purchases, tracking, subscriptions, or internet required.

I have charged the smallest fee to cover my development costs and keep it in the store. I hope that doesn't deter you.



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