Go ahead – judge me for using the iPad as a distraction for my boys. I also use TV, sweets, and all other sorts of bribes, without feeling guilty whatsoever. Call it bad parenting…..and you’re probably right. I’m also that mom that lost her kid in the mall and almost let the stroller roll away from me down a hill (both times, people passing by helped out). But I have to say that I have chosen some pretty awesome apps that my kids love, AND they’re educational. Point for me. So here’s my list – let me know if you enjoy any of these in your guilt-free world. (All tested and approved by the Kid from babyhood to now 2.5 years old)
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox ($0.99)
Even before the Kid understood how to play this app, it was one of his favorites. And I was amazed at how quickly he learned how to really play it. This app teaches counting, letters, colors, matching, and more. All of it championed by a cute monkey mascot.
Zoo Train – by Busy Bee Studios ($1.99)
The Kid developed an obsession with trains, so I found this app and he loves it. It has puzzles and teaches spelling and music. And oh yes….trains everywhere. His favorite game is building train tracks by putting the shapes in the right place on the puzzle. When the puzzle is complete, a train appears and rides around on the tracks. Motivation enough for him!
Look baby! ($0.99)
Ok, so this app isn’t exactly educational, but it did teach the Kid the concept of how the iPad works. This super simple app was the very first one I bought for him as a baby, and it’s gotten an upgrade since I last wrote about it. Just by touching the screen, you can make animals giggle and wiggle, pop bubbles and popcorn, and change the wings of a butterfly. Bonus – the background music would put him to sleep….back then.
My ABC Train ($0.99)
Another app to feed the Kid’s train obsession, this one is your typical alphabet app. Each boxcar has a letter, and you can open the door to reveal an interactive object that starts with that letter (D = drums that actually play). But the genius of this app is that you can personalize it by adding your own objects to the letters, non-interactive of course. So you could load a picture of your pet dog under the letter D, and record yourself saying, “D. D is for dog. Dumb dog.” Or something like that.
Toca House ($1.99)
Want to teach your kid about doing laundry, vacuuming, and mowing the lawn? Of course you do! Free labor is one of the best reasons to have kids, right? With this app, kids help the Toca House friends do chores, all while learning things like sorting, shapes, colors, and more.
Letter School ($2.99)
Remember letter tracing on paper back in school? It’s gotten a tech upgrade, thanks to the iPad. I downloaded several different letter tracing apps, but this one is the clear winner, because it actually teaches you how to trace. Each letter has three turns – (1) you press the button at each starting point of a letter, and the app draws the corresponding line for you to see, (2) you press the button and draw the line yourself, (3) no buttons or lines to guide you. And on top of that, it’s all animated to keep their interest.
Peekaboo Barn ($1.99)
Another app simple enough for babies, this one only requires touching the screen. When you do, the barn doors open to reveal an animal (cute graphics!), along with seeing and hearing the word spoken by an adorable child’s voice. You have the option to change the voice to an adult, speaking English or Spanish. But my favorite part is that you can personalize it, by doing your own recording of the words! I’ll have the Kid do a recording soon for his baby brother. Don’t like barn animals? They have other versions, such as Peekaboo Wild and Peekaboo Forest.
I’m a big believer in puzzles, because it teaches shapes, but also really requires kids to focus. And Tozzle is nothing but puzzles. What I really like about it is that the puzzles become animated after they are completed. So after you put the bunny together, you get to feed it some carrots.
Pure genius is the best way to describe this app. Even I have fun playing this one. This app is like an interactive coloring book (yes, art is educational). Imagine a picture of a bunch of rockets in space. Then, you’re instructed to draw squiggles to make the rocket fly. So you draw a squiggly line coming out of each rocket butt. Press “Go” and watch the rockets fly off! But what if you missed a rocket? It won’t fly…..you HAVE to give it butt squiggles. Lots of different pictures, all requiring some sort of squiggle. Even before the Kid understood how to draw an actual squiggle, he could draw enough to make the actions work. We also have Let’s Color!, which has a similar concept and is equally awesome.
Interactive Alphabet ABCs ($2.99)
This app has gotten tons of play, keeping the Kid’s interest from baby to toddler. It’s exactly what the title says – interactive letters of the alphabet. Choose the letter “B,” and you will see a picture of a beach, the word, and hear it spoken. Press the letter to hear “B,” press the word to hear “beach,” and press different parts of the picture to see a sandcastle get built or make the sun rise or set. Each letter has it’s own fun interactive picture. What make this app really great is that you can play it in baby mode. Hold down the baby icon until it loads, and the letters will transition on their own, while still allowing baby to tap (bang) the screen for interactive play.
Trucks HD – by Duck Duck Moose ($1.99)
Get a car dirty by swiping it through a mud puddle, then take it through the car wash. Help a garbage truck collect trash and sort it into recycling bins. Various scenarios are available to teach kids sequencing, sorting, problem solving, and even being green.