Favorite Toddler Apps


In case you missed it, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recently modified its recomendations for screen time. Previously, they had suggested a bright line rule that screen time be prevented entirely for children under 2 years of age, and then after 2, screen time be limited to 2 hours a day.

However, this September, they recognized some important qualifications to the "no screen time" and have now seemed to take a more nuanced approach to screens. The article itself is worth a read, but some takeaways that I liked is that they admit "Media is just another environment. Children do the same things they have always done, only virtually. Like any environment, media can have positive and negative effects" and "Content matters. The quality of content is more important than the platform or time spent with media. Prioritize how your child spends his time rather than just setting a timer."

Until Chewie was a year and a half I pretty adamantly limited screen time. And then he got the flu for 2 weeks combined with a lot of traveling and I folded faster than Superman on laundry day. But after using the apps with him (which the AAP also recommends for toddlers), I realized that tons of them are incredibly educational. Plus, Chewie's godmother, who is a superstar educator (like, teaches English as a second language for 1st and 2nd graders type of superstar) made a great point that has stuck with me ever since. She pointed out that when schools conduct standardized testing, they're often on the computer. So for a lot of her low-income students, she has to teach them how to use a computer ONTOP of the substantive material. So she encouraged computer usage just for the basics anyways so Chewie would know how to use a mouse, and hit the back button and use tabs-- things we largely take for granted. So, I try to tell myself that when he's facetiming with Elmo, I'm preparing him for standardized testing.

But, not all apps are created equal. Here are some of our favorites, as well as a list I've solicitied from some of my mom-friends that I will be trying in the near future with holiday travel in our future....

  • Endless 123 and Wordplay: These are great to teach counting and words, and I'm constantly amazed and how well Chewie can manipulate the numbers into the puzzle shapes. Plus it keeps his attention forever.

  • Peakaboo Barn (and the whole peakaboo suite): This was our gateway drug into the app world. But it's easy enough for younger toddlers to use, and it really has increased Chewie's vocabulary. They also have Peakaboo Forest, Halloween, Presents, and Fridge...which explains why Chewie knows the words weasle, wearwolf, elf, and lettuce.

  • PBS Kids: This is essentially a weekly-updated set of PBS' shows, so this is more like traditional "tv". However, on the whole, I find PBS shows to be mostly educational (except for Calliou who is sooo annoying). We try to limit this one, although I find it really hard when Chewie asks for "Dinosaur Traaaaaaain" and sings it just like the theme song.

  • Wheels on the Bus: This has a whole suite of puzzles related to trucks, cars, trains, and busses. It teaches words and numbers, although I sometimes wonder if I should limit Chewie's car/truck consumption as it's reaching epic proportions.

  • Elmo Calls: Ah, Elmo. The crack cocaine of toddlers. I don't know what it is about this red monster, but nearly ever toddler I know is obssessed with him. This app I actually paid for, but it's pretty great. It has pre-recorded Facetime Elmo calls where Elmo talks to your toddler. I have to admit, it's pretty stinking cute. And Chewie's face lights up every time Elmo calls him.

Those are our favorites, and here's some other ones that are on my radar that friend's have told me about, although I can't vouch for them yet:

  • Breathe, Think, Do by Seasame Street

  • Talking Paul

  • Petting Zoo

  • Sago Mini Monsters

  • Little Town

  • My Animals

So, tell me in the comments. What are your favorite toddler apps?


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