My favorite apps for toddlers/kids

I was at lunch with a couple girlfriends from work yesterday, and A had to tag along because John is out of town. She is normally relatively good at restaurants, but because she is a toddler, she got bored with what I brought to entertain her. To keep her from grabbing at everything on the table she shouldn’t have, I did what any parent of the 21st century would do.

I pulled out my iPhone, loaded up one of her apps, and handed it over. And she happily played for 20 more minutes.

It’s amazing to me how my one year old can operate my phone and iPad.  She knows how to press the home button and unlock the screen. She understands that hitting the screen makes things change. She gets cause and effect, basically: She knows that when she does A on my phone or iPad, B happens and it makes her happy.

I don’t normally just fork over my electronics to her, but when we’re at a restaurant, waiting in the doctor’s office, on a plane, or anywhere else where it is generally frowned upon to run around like a crazy person (which she would prefer to do) or scream because she is being held against her will (which would happen without some distraction), having the capability to pull out my phone and keep her occupied for a while is a godsend.

There’s a lot of these lists floating around on the Internet, and my major problem with most of them is they are filled with apps that cost money. I hate hate HATE spending money on apps. It annoys me. And it seems more and more apps are becoming more expensive (does anyone remember when most apps were free or $0.99 at most?).

What I like about these apps is most of them are free. The only ones I paid for were Elmo Calls ($0.99) and Peekaboo Sesame Street ($0.99 for now, will go up shortly though!). The great thing about apps is you can change them out a lot, so your toddler has different games to play, which will keep them occupied longer, and keep everyone happy.

amelia's apps

1. Any Fisher Price app (Free): Fisher Price has a ton of FREE apps. Are they a wealth of education and game play? No, but they are basic fun, and great for older infants and young toddlers learning cause and effect.

2. Phone4Kids (Free with in app purchases): This basically makes your iPhone into a toy iPhone. The “screen” is loaded with different “apps” like weather, texting, a number pad to make “calls”, a doodle pad, etc.

3. PBS Kids (Free): We haven’t introduced A to much TV, but this app let’s A enjoy short videos from PBS shows, like her favorite, Sesame Street.

4. Elmo Calls ($0.99): What toddler DOESN’T want to call/facetime with Elmo?

5. Peekaboo Sesame Street ($0.99): Along the same lines of Peekaboo Barn or Peek-a-zoo, but with Sesame Street characters. You can either loop it for endless play or play in story mode, which ends with Elmo and Abby going to bed. This was on “sale” for it’s launch week for $0.99, but will probably be $2-3 or more here shortly. Get it while it’s cheap, people.

6. Xylophone (Free): What’s not to love about banging on something and making a lot of noise? You can either just hit the notes randomly, or it will guide you to play different songs, like Do Rei Mi, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Jingle Bells, Rudolph, etc, etc. You can guess what A prefers to do, I’m sure.

7. Shapes (Free): Games, quizzes, flash cards, and puzzles to help toddlers learn shapes. I really like the flash cards. Basic, fun learning.

8. Reading Rainbow (Free with a subscription option): I used to love Reading Rainbow. For free you can download five books per family, or you can pay a flat rate per month and “subscribe” to get unlimited options. At one, five e-books is plenty. There are different “islands” (genres) to explore with books on them. Also great for older kids. Parents, it records your kid’s reading (how much, what, etc), so you can keep tabs on it.

9. Letter Sounds by Rosetta Stone (Free): This is an app I have to participate it because it involves repeating Spanish words into the microphone on the iPad to make the character do whatever you tell it to (like dance, dance fast, dance to the left, etc). There’s a lot of research that says the earlier you introduce kids to foreign languages the easier they will pick it up. While I don’t think this will make her fluent, it’s a start and it’s fun.

10. Learn with Homer (Free): This is supposed to be for preschool/kindergarten aged kids, but it’s another good parent/toddler app. It has phonics, stories, science lessons, and art and recording tools. Plus it’s just a beautiful app with a lot of colors, which makes it very engaging for her and me both.

11. GazzilliWords (Free with in app purchases): You get three free words, fingerprint, rainbow, and balance (with the option to buy “booster packs” of more words). It reads you a short “story” explaining what the word means, and then has games to help “bring the word to life.” What I really like about this app is that it introduces words that are challenging to little kids, not just “dog, cat, ball” like other word books/games have.

What apps do you have that really hit a home run with your toddlers/kids?

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