We have some hands-down favorite apps that not only are great fun for the kiddies, but educational too. For the record, I have no problem with my kids playing with iTouch or iPad. We have some solid rules regarding use, e.g. never at a playground or play date, or when guests are at the house. Also never at the dinner table. Other than that, they have open use of these tools, and I do call them tools. The kids have learned much more than I would ever have thought them capable.
The other aspect I look out for when selecting an app is how much it costs or whether it has in-app purchases. Simply put, in-app purchases drive me mad. I’d rather fork out the money upfront after reading reviews, than have my toddler yanking at me to buy something more and more and more.
1. My top pick is Bugs and Buttons. This gem has 18 mini-games within it, covering everything from spatial recognition, number sequencing, pattern recognition, categorization, alphabet, writing and so much more. Each mini-game starts out at the most basic level and as the child progresses, it becomes more challenging. The graphics are gorgeous, the content is engaging and fascinating, and the background music is very pleasant. I’ll credit this app with teaching my son to write every letter of the alphabet (upper case and lower case), count to 100 and begin the basics of addition by the time he was two and a half years old. To add to your joy, there are more of these games, made by the same company, Little Bit Studio. Revel in Bugs and Buttons 2, Bugs and Bubbles, and Bugs and Numbers. Each of these four apps have 18 mini-games within them, making their $2.99 price tag a steal. No in-app purchases. Volume level unimportant because the music is wonderful, calming, soothing, relaxing. You won’t mind hearing it at all.
2. Monkey Preschool Lunchbox is another hit for early preschoolers. Counting, matching pairs, color recognition, shapes and more round out this little guy. No in-app purchases. Volume can be middle of the road. After a while, the monkey can grate on your nerves a little but the kids love him. $1.99.
3. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a sweet app that emphasizes empathy and recognizing different emotions. Your child can help Daniel go to bed, play doctor with him or go through bathroom routines. Volume is irrelevant. Daniel has a sweet voice and the background music won’t make you want to hurl yourself through a window. No in-app purchases. $1.99.
4. Toca Boca is an empire of preschool apps that are mildly educational. With over 20 offerings aimed at 2-6 year old children, they have the formula down for popularity. Their apps are slightly ridiculous (perfect for the insanity that is a preschooler’s mind) but the apps can present household tasks such as cleaning in Toca House, introduce the body with Toca Doctor, just be plain silly in Toca Hair Salon, or try some cooking in Toca Kitchen. They have a lot to offer. Each app however is $2.99 so the cost can rack up pretty quickly. Try one or two of their apps to see if your kids enjoy them. If so, go for broke. Sound can be a little irritating after a while so volume level is recommended at medium. No in-app purchases.
5. The Human Body may not be for the early preschooler but it certainly got my four and a half year old interested in the body and how it works. She likes watching the food enter the body and swish around the stomach. It got us talking about the heart, blood, oxygen and how nutrients are needed. At first, it’s not terribly intuitive but given a few minutes, your kid will have figured it out. Sound level is unimportant as there isn’t any constant music streaming out. Costs $2.99 and it looks like they have added an in-app purchase of Urogenital System for $0.99 which didn’t exist when I first purchased the app.
Here are a few of the plain fun apps, and will keep the kids entertained when you need those certain 5 minutes just to take a deep breath.