“I don’t WANT Playdough;” “I don’t WANT breakfast,” my three-year-old asserts, using every cell in her body to stand her ground. The waitress, distracted with other customers, misses our ‘We’re ready to order’ eye contact, and Ilana kneels and curves her body back to ooze under the table, her familiar escape route to run rampant through the restaurant.
I reach for the biggest temptation we have, that flat little digital rectangular pacifier wedged in the diaper bag pocket. “Hey—do you want to play a game on mommy’s phone?” Instantaneously, she’s thrown off course, crisis averted, and maybe—just maybe—we can enjoy a couple of minutes of small talk while the little boss is occupied.
Below, I share with you some of my family’s favorite kid/child-related applications for your phone and/or tablet. Full disclosure—
- My oldest daughter is three, my baby is three months, and as my only test subjects for the apps, I can only attest to the fact that more than a few times, these apps have been useful tools.
- I download apps that offer some kind of educational value or creative opportunity.
- I generally pay for the full version as the lite one either becomes monotonous due to lack of content, or as another of my mom friends pointed out, the lite versions are so saturated with advertisement, you constantly have to restart the app or close an ad window your child accidentally touched, resulting in frustration for both child and care taker.
- In my research, particularly because I use an iPhone, I tried to mention apps that are also available on Android. Though some are not, I share several bloggers’ lists that are informative and check out against other sources as being great kid apps. Enjoy!
Infant Apps (0-9 months)
White Noise: Equipped with over 40 sounds, like airplane, dishwasher (Miriam’s favorite), rainforest, static, noisy room, even varying levels of falling rain, this app helped calm Ilana and put her to sleep and it does the same for Miriam. With the paid version, the white noise continues even if you lock your phone or navigate to another app.
iBaby Log: This infant log was great the first weeks of Miriam’s life. Among other things, it allows you to track feeding, duration, and from which breast; categorize awake time; log sleep; store diaper change information; and record medication distributions and dosage. All the information is saved and easily accessible, so it was a blessing to have in the hospital when the nurse came by to ask and chart Miriam’s life events the first days in the hospital. Though at 11 weeks out, we are done entering every diaper and feeding, it is still worthwhile to log Miriam’s length and weight at pediatrician visits. Biggest upside to this one… it’s free! **The only downside is that if you install an update, you lose your information.
My Smart Hands (Sign Language): Very friendly app featuring video demonstrations of how to perform common sign words. I relied heavily on this app from the time Ilana was about 8 months until she was almost two years old—sign language saved us from many meltdowns.
Early Toddler Apps (9-18 months)
Shapes Toddler Preschool: An app offering great opportunity to touch things and see movement. While there are ‘rules’ for ‘games,’ it’s clearly an app geared toward experimental touch, and the bright colors entertained Ilana.
Toddler Seek & Find: Any of the scene options (My Little Town and My Animals are the ones we use) operate on the same concept—touch things in the picture, and you see a response. Virtually everything on the screen is touchable. This app is great for reinforcing cause and effect.
Peekaboo HD: This was an exciting game for Ilana to play. The child sees a stack of hay bales move and hears an animal sound. When they touch the hay bales, the animal appears, the word is written on the screen, and the animal makes the sound again.
Kids Doodle: This coloring app has a blank sheet for the child to draw on. You can choose different types and textures of lines that appear. It is easy for a toddler to learn the correct parts to touch to get a clean sheet of paper, so it gets high ratings in my book for user friendliness.
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox: Offering matching; sorting; finding the different object; puzzles; color identification; and counting games, kids ‘level up’ through activities to be able to choose a cute animated sticker to keep on the game’s virtual sticker board. This game was amazing making Ilana an active participant.
PBS KIDS Video: FANTASTICALLY kid-friendly. Ilana is able to open the app, immediately select the segment she wants to see from her show choices along the right side of the screen. If the child taps the screen, options erase, allowing a bigger view of the picture. To return to choices of shows, the child simply has to touch the screen again. Each clip is less than 15 minutes; for our pace, that’s a great amount of time to cool down, earn and enjoy a reward, or make it home where we have snacks (with our hungry, snackless child in car).
First Words Animals: A simple spelling game, the child sees a picture of the animal, the letters of the words to spell that animal in white, and transparent in the background, the child sees the letters of the word in the correct order. This allows her to see the letter, find the matching one, and once the word is completed, each letter of the word is said separately. As the animal name is said, the animal makes the sound and moves.
New Apps Downloaded for Three-Year-Old
Daniel Tiger Day & Night: This allows the child to choose from several ‘Good Morning’ or ‘Good Night’ routines, like bathing; eating breakfast; cleaning up toys; and brushing teeth. Great child interaction opportunities like soaping up Daniel in the tub, brushing his teeth, or helping him set the table and make his own breakfast make this really appealing. It’s interspersed with the cute little songs from the show. I am finding it a great way to link Daniel’s choices to hers—Look, Daniel brushes his teeth, too. The choices of routines remain on the left side of the screen, so the child can choose to repeat the activity or choose another one.
Pango Book 1: This is an adorable interactive book with simple stories that ask children to participate in order to move the plot along. For example, in one story, Pango looks for his friend fox; before Fox is found, the child must move leaves out of the way, look under a boulder, and (gently) shake the iPad to shake the tree and make Fox come down.
Sid the Science Kid Science Fair: Children can choose from sorting, identification, and sequencing activates. The characters from the show are familiar, and the tasks are challenging.
As much as I swore I wouldn’t be one of those parents who used technology as a pacifier, I do. Not to excess (then, it might lose its charm), but in certain moments speeding toward Meltdownville, technology is second to none. Thanks to expansive cyber app stores, plenty of kid-friendly content is available to download onto your tablet or phone (even in the middle of a meltdown). What are YOUR favorite kid-centered apps?
Resources for other Great Kid-Friendly / Kid-Centered Apps: