I know that the use of tablets/iPads/smart phones with young kids can be a bit of a…heated topic, but I will come out as pro-technology. I’m not advocating ignoring your children for hours at a time while they play Grand Theft Auto 1432, or whatever. We have let our three year old play with an old model iPad for a while, now. We have it loaded with educational games and apps, set boundaries for when and how long he can play and, more for our wallet’s sake than anything else, we disable the WiFi while he’s playing.
Xander stopped napping shortly after his second birthday, but still needs an hour or so of quiet time every day. Not only does he need the calm and quiet, but it helps to maintain a structure to his days. For this hour, we let him play with the iPad, and then we put it away when quiet time is done. Exceptions are made when he’s sick and needs the extra rest, and when we travel.
That second reason is why I decided to write this post now, before the holidays. Having a go-to list of fun and educational apps can be a lifesaver for long plane rides, layovers, or road trips.
Here are the apps he has loved from about age 2 on.
- ABC Alphabet Phonics: this is best for kids who are just learning their letters. Xander has somewhat outgrown it, but still plays it sometimes.
- Sandra Boynton Apps: These are interactive versions of her (wonderful) board books. Xander loves Barnyard Dance and Blue Hat, Green Hat.
- Tally Tots: An interactive counting game. This is one that’s fun even after they know how to count.
- Elmo Loves ABCs: Another literacy app. This has letter recognition, sounds, and writing.
- Endless Alphabet: This is one of my personal favorites. Obviously, a literacy app (I’m big on these). This game has short animations with great vocabulary words. It teaches the letters/sounds and also definitions. Xander started using the word “hilarious” and “gargantuan” after a few rounds on this one.
- Interactive Alphabet: This is a bit more fundamental than Endless Alphabet; it teaches letter recognition and sounds with cute animations for each letter.
- Logic: This game is a matching/puzzle game that has a very “natural” look. The colors are muted and the sound effects are minimal – it sounds like wood puzzle pieces being sorted.
- Intro to Math: This one teaches counting, number recognition, number writing, and sequencing. Some of the games are pretty challenging, but I like that he has to work at it.
- Monkey Preschool Lunchbox: There are a few of the Monkey School games (math and words, among others). In these games the child earns rewards for completing problems (like identifying a particular shape, or completing a pattern).
- TocaBoca: there are TONS of TocaBoca apps. Some are more educational than others, but they are all interactive and very fun.
- Sago Mini Doodlecast: This game offers prompts to let your child draw a picture. This is a fun intro to art one that will grow with your kid. Right now Xander mostly just doodles whatever he feels like, but once he understands the prompts, he’ll be able to follow those (if he wants to.)
In my experience, it has been best not to get too many new apps at once. When I want to change things up, I’ll put one or two new ones on, and take a few off. That way I can rotate them and not always need to purchase new ones. And when traveling, I always buy a few new ones, but I give them to him a few days in advance so that he recognizes them and has some familiarity with how the game works. Early on I “sprung” some new games on him and he had an epic meltdown on the plane because it was hard and confusing. Learning from my mistakes!