What’s the best way to get kids to draw? Well, you can start by having them draw butts. Yep, that’s the premise behind a new iPad (s aapl) app from New York start-up Madbrook that is launching its Butt Art – Kids Learn to Draw Zoo Animals Step-by-Step app today, joining two Everything Butt Art physical children’s books the company already has in bookstores.
The hook behind the free app might sound a little gimmicky but the company has some interesting ideas about how to make drawing more interactive and engaging not only for kids but their parents. The app starts with the idea that kids can learn by drawing the shape of a butt, which can become the basis for a lot of pictures and objects. The app is equipped with a lot of the simple arts tools you would expect in a drawing app, like paintbrushes, pencils, erasers, colors and stickers. But it also has some nice touches like a smart centering feature when zooming out and multiple layers.
The idea is that kids ages 4-11 will pick different animals and learn to draw them using animations and step-by-step lessons, which can be turned off. And all of the finished products can be saved to a gallery.
What’s interesting about Butt Art is that it’s connected to a backend (Get it? backend) so parents can get notification emails every time their children finishes a new piece. So that means they can check out the new work online and they can also share it via Twitter and Facebook. The artwork can also be posted to an online activity feed that notes the child’s profile, date, and the colors used in the image. Children also earn badges for achievements while drawing. That’s helpful because it means parents are able to encourage their children on their progress and feel like they’re involved in what their children are doing. There isn’t a real-time feedback system so parents can comment from the web on their kid’s work but that’s coming soon, founder Brian Snyder tells me.
“If your kids are drawing on a device and the parents are not engaged, that’s not a sustainable approach. There’s no substitution for an engaged parent,” Snyder told me. “We’re trying to bring in parents in a way that’s low friction.”
The fact that Snyder has already put out two books is interesting as well. The company started out with the idea of making an iPad app but decided to first publish children’s books last year to help draw people into the concept and appeal to children who may not have an iPad. The first two books, Everything Butt Art at the Zoo and Everything Butt Art on the Farm, published by Independent Publishers Group, have been picked up by Barnes & Noble (s bks) and other booksellers. The books also provide more content for the iPad app, which includes a full ebook inside with audio and animated page turning.
There’s also a Butt Hunt game inside the app, similar to a Where’s Waldo game. Snyder said he plans on putting out two more physical books in May and doesn’t expect to stop anytime soon because children’s books will be the last books to go under, he believes. Butt Art monetizes by offering three characters for free and selling packs of six additional characters to draw for 99 cents.
Snyder came up with the idea after teaching his daughter how to draw using the butt technique, something he learned as a kid himself. Since he didn’t see anyone else pursuing the concept, he decided to push ahead with his own start-up, recruiting a couple people to help him. Ultimately, he left his job at IBM (s ibm), where he was handling sales for the UBS account.
I think the Everything Butt Art franchise has a good chance to succeed. Parents love being able to keep up with their children’s artwork and show it off. This is a simple way to get kids to be creative while keeping parents in the loop. And it doesn’t hurt to have a, ahem, cheeky way to market the app.