Today I am super lucky to have the very delectable Stacey from Veggie Mama guest posting. Stacey is lovable, hilarious and talented… and beautiful. Oh-so-beautiful. As well as one of the best things to happen to the internet. Enjoy. x
As much as I try to ensure my kids are the dirt-under-their-fingernails, good-book-reading types, I have also fully embraced the digital age into which they have been born. Once I realised they were capable of using devices, and keen to know more, I decided I had to harness this power for good instead of evil, and teach them to use them carefully and appropriately.
From around 15 months old, Abby (now 2.5) got a real kick out of tapping pictures of animals on iPad apps and hearing the sounds they make, or shapes to hear what they were. This came in super-handy three months later when her younger sister Pepper was born and I needed her to be safe and sit mostly still while I fed and settled the newborn in those first hectic early months. The iPad was my saviour, as Abby would play at a regular activity for about a minute and a half before eating it, and thought jumping on the sofa right next to me was the best fun ever. Or heading down the hallway to pull all the toilet paper off the roll where I couldn’t get to her. With the iPad, we could read stories, watch video, practice counting, learn animals, shapes, sounds, numbers and colours, all on one device.
I became quite the connoisseur of apps for toddlers in that time, and while we use it less and less now that we’re not chained to the couch, these are the five free apps I found were the most fun and held her attention the longest:
My Zoo Animals – Toddlers Seek and Find
This interactive storybook caught my eye with its whimsical drawings of a typical zoo scene – and when you tap on an animal or image, there is a little animation that follows. Tap the birds and they fly up, circle around and settle back down. Tap the monkeys and they screech and climb the trees. It’s so cute and hides lots of little things in unexpected places. We also paid $3.99 to include the in-app purchase of a farm scene and a forest. We also have the Little Town version and there is now a Tiny Firefighter one. I dig the quiet classical music that plays in the background and the funny little jokes they’ve managed to sneak in. Definitely my favourite.
Note: Unfortunately this App is now 99c which has changed since this article was written.
First Video For YouTube
I remember Abby watching some Peppa Pig videos on YouTube and I could hear something definitely wasn’t quite right – someone had put a whole bunch of non-kid-friendly things in a video, spliced it with the regular Peppa Pig, and added screeching sound effects for good measure. There didn’t seem to be any way to just have kid-appropriate videos to choose from on the YouTube app, we were at the mercy of the recommended video strip at the side of the screen. Well, enter FirstVideo, where only a selection of kid-friendly and parent-approved videos have been pre-loaded and that is all they can choose from. We have watched the Sesame Street and Angelina Ballerina channels ad nauseam, but there is also Disney, Baby Einstein, Dora the Explorer, Cartoon Network, The Muppets and NASA, to name a few. And all our favourites have been starred for her to scroll through later at her leisure.
Fisher-Price Giggle Gang App for Baby
This is a very cute and very simple app where smiling round characters bounce about and giggle. Not much is needed to use except tilting the device (we use it mostly on our phone), or tapping the characters to hear a song about them and their laugh. The second level also features a little piano keyboard which they find a lot of fun. This app is best for littler kids, and I still can’t quite believe my 9-month-old Pepper almost has the hang of it. We actually like all the Fisher-Price apps – Baby Laugh and Learn Shapes, Let’s Count Animals and others.
Toddler Counting Lite
is as basic as they come and looks like a bored 12-year-old developed it, but it was a winner with Abby and is still going strong. They simply tap the images and a voice counts them… and that’s it. We bought the 99c upgrade for her to count more images (i.e. past 10) and I can’t believe how much she likes it. “Count sandwiches, mum?” she asks. It’s pretty cute.
Sesame Street Podcast
Ok not strictly an app, but a free download no i-device-toting parent should be without. Each 6-9 minute video podcast deals with either a letter of the alphabet, or a word (embarrassed, or persistent, for example), and the best part of all is that they include all the awesome segments we watched in the ’80s that they don’t always have on the newer TV episodes. Such a walk down memory lane! There are 61 podcasts to choose from, or you can download them all and watch them one after the other… ahem.
So there you have it – my top 5 picks of free apps for kids. I’d love to hear yours! Feel free to let me know in the comments what your kids use and enjoy.
Stacey is a tea-drinking, cat-loving crochet renegade who masquerades as an academic on weekdays and a mum all the time. She has an unhealthy love for American politics, British comedy and Japanese stationery. Unfortunately hasn’t quite gotten over the devastation of finding out she’s not actually Darlene Conner from Roseanne. Can be found writing at Veggie Mama, tweeting here, pinning like a lunatic here, and generally annoying people on Facebook here.
*disclaimer – I am not affiliated with any of the above products. They have no idea who I am. The end.