Is there an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch under your Christmas tree? Whether that shiny new iDevice is for Mom, Dad, or your little boy or girl, as a parent your new iPhone will be commandeered by your toddler. As I’ve stated before in Welcome to Generation i, Apple devices – or any touchscreen device – is a natural way for young children to communicate with the technology around them. Compounded by the increasing number of very well done apps designed for young audiences on the App Store, iPads and iPhones can offer great learning experiences for young minds. But with over a half of a billion apps now available on Apple’s App Store, knowing where to start can be daunting. As a parent of a three-year little girl who made no qualms about telling an Apple Specialist at my local Apple Store “I want a tablet for Christmas!” (after I had to pry her away from an iPad Mini), below are ten great apps for your toddler (click on any of the app names for a direct App Store link).
Balloonimals Lite. Kids love balloons, and love it even more when they take the form of animals. Ballonimals Lite allows your toddler to “blow up” balloons into some of their favorite animals such as a lion, turtle, or even a T-Rex. Simple swipes move your balloon animal through each twist and bend until it is complete. Then with some simple animation, your kids will love to see their newly created balloon animal come to life. There’s even a photo mode where your child can photograph and share their balloon animals into your Camera Roll. The Lite version is free on the App Store, which includes just the T-Rex, and an in-app purchase opens up eight more animals.
The Three Little Pigs and Big Bad Wolf. This app brings the classic story of the Three Little Pigs to life with kid-friendly graphics, and interactivity your toddler will love. Each frame or “page” of the story has animations that bring the story to life for your toddler. There’s also the option of reading the story to your child (something I’d recommend), or having the app read the story to your toddler. Three Little Pigs and Big Bad Wolf can easily become your toddler’s favorite bedtime story for less than the cost of a hard bound paper book.
Hello Kitty Dress Up. Little girls love Hello Kitty, and they love to play dress up. The lovable little cat from Sanrio is everywhere, and seemingly on everything. So it’s no surprise there is no shortage of Hello Kitty apps on the App Store. Hello Kitty Dress Up combines Hello Kitty and playing dress up into a free app that will entertain your little girl for hours. With different scenarios to dress up Hello Kitty for such as a wedding, school, and even as a princess, your little girl will love to put Hello Kitty in her favorite outfits and want to show you how “pretty” her Hello Kitty is.
Disney Faries Fashion Boutique. From Disney, the creators of all the great princess stories our little girls love, comes an app where like Hello Kitty Dress Up, your little girl can create her own fashion boutique and dress up her fairy. Disney Faries Fashion Boutique has over 500 different fashion accessories to keep your little girl’s imagination running wild, and even let’s her share her creations. It’s a no-brainer free app for any parent of a little girl.
Elmo’s Monster Maker. There’s nothing like Elmo that makes a child’s eye and smile go wide. The lovable red Sesame Street character who is a child himself is easily one of the most popular – even arguably the most popular – children’s character ever created. Elmo’s Monster Maker lets your toddler create their very own lovable monster with a variety of features, and then can watch their monster play with Elmo. For $3.99, we’d recommend this app for any child who loves Elmo.
YouTube. Yes, the world’s most popular video site can be a great app for your kids. Although there are plenty of videos parents don’t want their children seeing, there are also plenty of kid-friendly videos, many from trusted networks like Nickelodeon and Disney, for your children to see. The best way to make sure your children are safe is to enable “Strict” mode on the Safe Search option in YouTube, as well as ensuring that your iDevice’s parental controls are set to require a PIN or password to watch videos over a rating you’re comfortable with your child viewing.
Nick Jr Draw and Play. This app helps develop your child’s growing creativity and helps with their fine motor skills. Featuring characters from Nick Jr. shows such as Dora The Explorer, Team Umizoomi, and Bubble Guppies, your toddler will use paintbrushes and stickers to draw and the play in a world they create with their favorite Nick Jr characters. Nick Jr Draw and Play is 99 cents on the App Store now (now 50% off for the holidays).
NORAD Tracks Santa. If you happen to already have an iPhone, or received your a little early, NORAD Tracks Santa is a great app for any parent with a little one. Using the data provided by NORAD to “track Santa”, your child will be able to see exactly where Old Saint Nick is in the world delivering presents to all the good boys and girls. It’s also a great way to introduce your children to geography. Personally, this app has helped me with my kids on more than one Christmas Eve to get them all snuggled in their beds. NORAD Tracks Santa is free on the App Store.
Potty Training Time. For decades parents have used different methods to facilitate one of the biggest steps in your child’s development: toilet training. Potty charts, stickers, candy, or almost anything under the sun has been or will be attempting to get your toddler from going in their diaper and into the potty. Thankfully, Generation i has an app for that! Potty Time Training gives you tools like a potty chart, as well as virtual stickers your toddler gets to place on their potty chart (the chart is also printable for hanging on the back of the bathroom door). You can even share your little one’s success along the way on Facebook if you’re so inclined. Potty Training Time is free on the App Store. Alternatively, your can check out Potty Time with Elmo that offers similar features, but with Elmo, for only $2.99.
Fruit Ninja. Here’s another great game that both parent and toddler can enjoy. This simple mechanics of swiping on the screen the slice the flying fruit is fun for anyone whether they’re three or thirty. However, parents would be better off putting it on “Zen Mode” with no bombs to keep their children’s interest. Fruit Ninja and Fruit Ninja HD for iPad are currently on sale now from Halfbrick for free on the App Store for a limited time. Free versions are available, but do not have all the game modes like “Zen Mode” available.
As adults we all know, or will know soon, just how much our smartphones and tablets have enhanced our digital lives. For many parents, it’s sometimes hard to remember that our kids don’t remember life without these devices, and that their future will be a world where they will be interacting by touch more often than not. Great applications like these can help your child fine tune their mental and physical skills while providing hours of entertainment.
These are just 10 of the potential hundreds of great apps for your little ones. Feel free to share your own suggestions in the comments below.