Whether or not you are a parent, accept the fact that a child is going to get to your iPhone eventually. Whether you’re rocking a grocery cart full of rugrats or just minding your sister’s 3-year-old for the day, you’ll eventually find yourself face-to-face with a toddler who needs to be entertained. If you want to avoid a toddler-sized temper tantrum, here's a list of iPhone apps that will keep Junior entertained. I’ve organized them according to “Numbers, Letters, Shapes, and Colors,” “Flashcards,” and “Music.”
Numbers, Letters, Shapes, and Colors
While children need to be entertained, there's no rule that states they can't learn their ABCs and 123s while having fun with your iPhone. Here are three iPhone apps that educate while entertaining:
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox (99 cents) is a great place to start. My toddler loves this iPhone app so much, my wife traded in her Blackberry for an iPhone. The iPhone app features six fast-playing games that teach colors, letters, counting, shapes, differences, and matching.
Another great iPhone app is Giraffe’s PreSchool Playground (99 cents). This one is simply a winner. Its six games are super-fun, and toddlers can play them again and again. "Photo Playground" alone is worth the iPhone app’s 99-cent price.
Preschool Adventure (99 cents) has some potential. Its six games are cute and well done, but they wear out fast. Everything but "Numbers" has only one screen, so once your little one gets through the lesson, she won’t see anything new. Too bad.
Flashcard-style iPhone apps aren’t very exciting. Yes, you can drill your tot on ABCs, numbers, and colors, but ... yawn. What were we talking about again? Oh yeah, flashcard iPhone apps. Here are three to buy at the iTunes App Store:
- ABC Animals ($1.99) is a solid flashcard iPhone app with a nice, natural voice. Its ABC animals are cartoony, but recognizable to little ones. Double-tapping flips the cards for a neat handwriting exercise.
- iPlay 'n Learn (99 cents) has three modes: "Flashcards," "Quizzes," and "Tracing." "Flashcards" and "Tracing" are kind of blah, but "Quizzes" is surprisingly good.
- Voice Toddler Cards – The Talking Flashcards (99 cents) does a good job of mixing up the flashcard genre. Your toddler can drill on letters, numbers, shapes, animals, objects, colors, or a mix. I liked the variety of images, and the sound is clear and natural. The Spanish language option is a nice treat.
Got a raging toddler kicking the back of your seat in the car? Try handing him a music game. These three iPhone apps are great when Junior won’t be soothed by what’s on your playlist:
- Baby Piano ($1.99) is an interactive piano iPhone app for toddlers. Its sound is well done, and the iPhone app won’t freak out if tiny fingers prefer to mash a bunch of keys at once. Older kids can tap out tunes by following the iPhone app’s prompts.
- Wheels on the Bus (99 cents) isn’t a music-maker, but it is set to music. The iPhone app features eight games, one for each of the song’s verses. Yes, there’s only one song, but you can access 13 different versions, which is great fun. We’re big fans of “Gibberish” and “German” at my house.
- Another great music iPhone app can be found in Itsy Bitsy Spider (99 cents). I think this is more of an “interactive book” than Wheels on the Bus, which shares the same description, but that’s a good thing. Set to “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” the iPhone app encourages little ones to explore and make discoveries among a familiar story and tune.
Ugh. If you’re looking after a toddler, the last thing you need to worry about is wasting time on boring or half-baked iPhone apps. Here are a few that I think you should avoid:
First up is Toddler Time! (99 cents). This flashcard-style iPhone app has terrible sound. The tinny robot voice (with a British accent!) spazzes out too easily, especially in the "Zoo Animals" game. Also, the pictures are confusing. Sorry, but even the British know that a yak is not a cow.
Also, there’s Baby Apps: All-in-1 ($1.99). This iPhone app is such a disappointment. The sound is great, and I love the “apps” metaphor for all the different icons and pictures. Unfortunately, the iPhone apps have a hair trigger and freak out when pressed too rapidly. Also, while the "Phone," "Note," and "Piano" games are OK, the "Quiz" game is a confusing mess.