When I was in high school I opted to learn how to type as opposed to learning how to use a computer. At the time, computers were big, clunky machines that you needed a working knowledge of HTML and codes to get much out of. “What will I ever need a computer for”, I said. “Now typing, that’s something I will always use”! Ok, ok. I was obviously not one of those people who had much vision about where the world was headed.
It’s strange to think that our children will never know a world without computers. But I suppose many of our parents thought the same thing about us and television. I’m not generally a huge fan of technology for young children and have written before about waiting until after age 3 to introduce television to our kids, but I have let them play with a few iPhone apps and now that I also have an iPad, and the kids are a little older, I’ve broadened my range of what they play with and I have to say, some of the apps out there are pretty terrific.
My Top 10 iPhone and iPad Apps for young children
$1.99 (although there is a very good “lite” version for free as well). This was the first app I ever tried and it was perfect for my kids when they were younger. Even at age 4, they still really enjoy it. Your kids will love opening the door of the barn with a tap and calling out the names of the animals shown (and later, reading the name as well). I also like it because the illustrations are charming. If your kids like this one, they’ll also love the other versions Peekaboo Wild and Peekaboo Forest which both have more exotic animals than the barn version. All are formatted for both iPhone and iPad.
FREE. This app is so simple, but it entertains my children for ages. simply using your finger, you can draw with chalk or glitter, paint with a paint brush, add stamps with sound effects and drop in textured backgrounds. They’re perfectly happy using it on my iPhone, but the iPad gives you a bigger screen on which to create.
FREE. Developed for both the iPhone and iPad. This one I especially love because it was actually invented by a 9-year old boy. Crazy, I know. Each time you move your fingers across the touch-screen you are drawing using randomly sized shapes in a rainbow of colors. Triangles, dots, flowers – each time you place your finger on the screen it changes. Place two fingers and you get a different ombre color as a background on which to draw. Shake the device and the screen clears. What you can create is actually quite beautiful and hypnotizing.
The Velveteen Rabbit
$3.99. iPhone and iPad compatible. My kids and I absolutely love this one. As you may know, we’re huge reading fans in our house and The Velveteen Rabbit is a childhood favorite of mine. It’s unfortunately still a little wordy for my 4-year olds, so I was thrilled to find this app because it made this beautiful story come alive for my kids in a way I hadn’t yet been able to achieve. What’s especially wonderful about this app is that it has three ways to use it: the first is a recording of the terrific Meryl Streep reading while we watch the beautifully rendered animated drawings. The second is simply the illustrated book which you can read aloud to your child as you scroll through the pages. The third, and I thought most inventive, was the ability to record your own voice so that your children can scroll through the book and hear mommy or daddy’s voice. My children were completely captivated, even while watching it on my tiny iPhone screen. I highly recommend this one!
The Adventures of The 7Wonderlicious Girls
$5.99 For iPhone and iPad. This is an app created by a mother whose mission is to empower young girls to think beyond limits, to be self-confident, adventurous and bold, to appreciate the differences in others, to have a passion for learning and so much more. From her website: “Using role models that your daughter can identify herself with is important in early childhood. We selected 7 girls of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds enabling your girl to connect with one or many of our characters. Hopefully they will inspire the next generation of confident women.” The illustrations are sweet and colorful and each page is a stand alone short tale with questions you can ask your children to encourage their thinking process.
Spot The Dot
$3.99 iPad only. This is the newest app I’ve downloaded and it is spectacular. Not surprisingly, since it is created by David A. Carter who is a modern master of pop-up books. This app uses bright colors, geometric shapes and simple hide and seek tasks that gradually get more difficult. Plus, I love that each time you use it the hidden objects are in different places so it doesn’t get boring. My kids love this one and ask for it repeatedly. Your children will learn color identification, build memory skills and exercise their visual tracking and hand eye coordination.
Paper Town Friends
$1.99 for iPhone and iPad. If you liked paper dolls as a kid, you’ll love this charming dress-up app. 6 animal friends all in need of new wardrobes. The best part? Everything looks like it’s made of paper (as you choose an item to wear, each one even has a “paper” sound effect). It’s very simple, but both my son and daughter get a kick out of dressing and re-dressing the figures. You can also save them to your iPhone camera roll if you wish.
FREE. Without having to pay anything, downloading this app gets you 12 classic children’s stories. A recording of each book plays while words are highlighted to allow early readers to follow along. MeeGenius also has many more books which can be purchased for between 99¢ and $2.99. The developer claims to allow you to personalize the books so you can read them with the names and places changed, which I know my kids would get a kick out of. Perhaps I am a dope, but I can’t seem to get this trick to work for me. Regardless, I like the app a lot – it’s a great way to carry a bunch of books along with you if you can’t actually carry any!
Splish Splash Inn
99¢ This is a really sweet, simple app that’s perfect for little ones learning to count. Open this app and you will find a bright, happy and somewhat retro underwater hotel where a tap on each numbered door brings forth a corresponding number of sea creatures (one shark, two turtles etc.).
My First Tangrams
$1.99 (there is also a free “lite” version with 4 puzzles if you want to try that out first). iPad only. I expected my daughter to love this app because she has a real knack for puzzles, patterns and spatial relationships. But it turned out that both my kids loved this one and even whisper encouragement to each other as they try to figure out where the pieces of the puzzle go.
As my children are only 4, they do better with apps that are more about creating, reading and figuring things out as opposed to games that need them to compete with each other. These have been some of their favorites so far. What apps do your kids like? I’d love to learn about new ones!