Yes, we know the pediatrician cult says 0 screen time for anyone under 2. I never wanted to push an iPad at my son, who is now 4. But with the ubiquity of screens in this world, it’s better that he interact with one than be a passive consumer, in my view. Keep it responsible and limited, and it’s all good.
A friend with a 16-month old asked for recommendations of age-appropriate apps. This is my response to him.
I highly recommend – if you haven’t done it already – making an account on appshopper.com and adding everything mentioned here and anything you find yourself to your wish list. Many of the paid apps drop in price regularly, so you can get notifications and snag them when they are free or cheap. Note that some of these linked below have separate iPhone versions. And some have free lite versions. I’ve linked to full iPad versions here.
For the youngest infants-to-toddlers just starting to use an iDevice, anything pleasant with simple interactions is ideal. One of the most basic is “Draw with Stars” – you just trace your finger on the screen and get animated stars and sounds. “Koi Pond” – though clearly made for adults – is pretty and fun at that age.
On an iPhone (rather than iPad), consider a fake cell phone, like “iBabyPhone”. They look like dialers but have animations and sounds, etc, and so she gets to do what mommy and daddy do all day when not wiping up after her.
There are tons of other simple toddler “games” with animals that pop up, make animal noises, do something when you interact with them, etc. Our hands-down fave in that category is “Tiny Ocean.” Other basic ones to check out: “Activity Farm,” “Goodnight Safari,” “BabySafari.” Also see below on the “language” apps.
Then, there’s the whole “painting” category. Invocore has a bunch of paint-by-section coloring books. Look also at “Paint My Wings:” paint a butterfly and it flies away. I never did find a good app to teach colors and mixing primary colors, etc. They are out there (“2 Colors” and “Colorpillar” are both cool) but are too advanced for the stage (around 2-3) when it would be a fun concept. However, I found a good painting app for adults, “Paper by Fifty Three”, which has a reasonably simple color mixing palette. (Most other painting apps don’t let you blend colors the same way).
There are a lot of apps that are both good for the youngest ages and support multiple languages. “Nighty Night” is beautiful and was an early fave for Kai. Most of the apps by the same dev (Fox and Sheep) do the same, including Nighty Night Circus. Fox and Sheep also has a bundle I notice for $10, includes Nighty Night, Hat Monkey, Little Fox Music Box (all popular with Kai for a minute).
Several other good titles also support multiple languages. Another she may like now is “Peek-A-Boo Barn.” Apps4Kids has a whole set of wonderfully illustrated animal apps by location (Africa, Asia, North Pole, etc.), each of which does the same with language settings. Also there’s a series (seperate apps by language) called “Feed Me” by Edutainment. Since they involve the challenge of feeding a monster what it wants, these are for when she’s a little bit older.
Going forward, there are several other outstanding devs with multiple titles. Any of the apps by Originator – Endless Alphabet, etc. – are beyond awesome; a must for alphabet and reading and numbers. Then check out all the apps by Toca Boca. And also by Sago Mini. And also by Spinlight Studio, esp. the Swapsies and Gappy Learns apps.
For superlative science apps, keep an eye out for “The Human Body” by Tiny Bop. That’s great for a toddler with adult help. Others: Star Walk Kids, Brittanica Kids Dinosaurs, Scholastic First Dinosaurs, Earth 3D (easily confused with similar titles), and Crazy Gears.
Don’t overlook the “books” category; many books for young kids are interactive. Dr. Seuss books by Oceanhouse Media are stand-outs. Check out “Moon Secrets”. Another fave was this Three Little Pigs book. If you haven’t discovered Mo Willems‘ (print) books by now, check them out, because they’re hilarious. The associated apps that Kai loves are “Don’t Let the Pigeon Run this App!” and “Pigeon Presents: Mo on the Go”.
If you ever are silly enough to let her get into the whole “Frozen” craze, “Disney Karaoke: Frozen” is fun for a minute.