You'd think it was New Year's or something, since I am posting my second "top 5" list in a row! However, since we introduced the iPad more regularly in Little L's life (at 20 months), I've had more than one person ask me questions about the types of apps we like or approve of. When Little L was younger, my preferences were different. However, for her present age (almost 2.5), a few stand out right now.
This one is fairly new to us, but is so worth the few bucks we paid. Premise is that Monster is frustrated with something, so Little L has to touch his tummy to help him take deep breaths, then she has to touch his thinking bubbles to come up with three possible "plans" to solve his problem, and finally she has to pick one of the three plans to see what happens. There are five different scenarios to choose from, and all of them are totally relatable situations. I love that it's trying to teach self-regulation and problem-solving to a 2-year-old, plus it's so easy to play! Animation quality is pretty good too, and my tot totally went through a phase when this was the only app she wanted to play!
Okay, so technically that's three apps, but all by the same maker so I'm counting it as one! These apps are crazy-well animated and require Little L to drag letters or numbers across the screen to build words or make numbers. As she moves the letters into their spots, the animated googly-eyed letters chant out their phonetic sounds (phonics!), and then the completed words are animated to show their meanings. In the numbers version, there's an element of "skip-counting" before the number values are animated. The Reader app places finished words in the context of a sentence prior to the animation sequence. The various packages cost $ to unlock, but I've bought every one and find them worth the expense, particularly since Little L is pretty much able to tell me which of the letters make any given sound, and I've not done phonics awareness stuff with her yet!
Love-hate relationship with this one. The hate is because some of the interactive activities are too hard for Little L to do on her own (hand-eye fine motor skills to connect dots on circular letters that she's supposed to trace, or to draw squares to "advance" to the next screen). The love is because Little L has memorized, and loves to sing, one particular song from the app. It's just a short ditty with the following lyrics:
It feels so good to get the gift
that Christmas time can bring,
but when I give a Christmas gift
it's better than anything.
Complete with actions (mimicking the animated bear from the app), Little L will perform this melody over and over and over again, often demanding that we sing along with her. Sometimes I see her singing it with her stuffies and manipulating their plush arms to do the actions as well. It is soooo adorable, plus the message is a good one.
These folks obviously know toddlers. The apps are simple to play, requiring tots to either drag items into the proper sorted categories (size, shape, colour, season...) or to drag items from largest to smallest, or match items that should be paired or matched. It took Little L no time to figure out what to do, and it's a great way to practice learning how to categorize objects. I've enjoyed playing this with Little L at the beginning, showing her which items to match or place, but once she got the hang of it, she ditched me. ;)
When we were in-between churches, we used to log in on Sunday mornings from home to watch Pastor Craig Groeschel from LifeChurch.tv preach. This man is solid (at least, from what we've heard him preach), Jesus-loving, and has a pretty good self-deprecating sense of humour. His ministry spans several campuses throughout the Oklahoma area, and has a very tech-savvy approach to spreading the Gospel.
His church recently launched this free app, which I love, not only because it has quality animation and breaks the Bible down to simple stories for little kids, but because it is interactive and lets kids answer questions, find "jewels," and touch different parts of the pictures to hear sound effects. Little L will sometimes randomly announce that she is reading the Bible, and will load this app to listen to her favourite stories: It Is Finished (the crucifixion story), A Forever Promise (Revelation), and In the Beginning (Genesis 1).
I wouldn't say that this app is suitable for 10 year olds, since it's pretty simple and older kids might find it "boring," but for my toddler, it's a perfect way to marry the visual and the text so that she can get an intro to the most central stories of our faith. I am so impressed with LifeChurch's app that I am near tempted to start downloading their sermons again! :)
Anyway, those are our top 5 for now. I'm sure if you asked me again 6 months from now, I might have a slightly different list. There are tons of apps marketed as being "for toddlers" or "young kids" right now, but I am finding that so many lack quality animation or content, and have little value in terms of being educational or intentional. The ones I've listed up here are productive and actually address age-relevant skills and learning.
What are your favourite apps for your littles? What kinds of things do you look for in a good toddler app?