Most of us moms today are part of the millennial generation. A few of us might be Generation X’ers. This means that we grew up without smartphones, social media, high-speed internet or apps. When we were born, families spent their evenings sitting in front of the television watching The Cosby Show or Full House. But today, families spend their evenings in separate rooms on different devices. This holds true for even the youngest of our family members: toddlers.
Our toddlers today are not millennials. Our toddlers today are members of a group called Generation Alpha (born starting 2010). This means that they know of no other world but the small screen. While we were born into a world that consisted of the radio, television, and dial-up internet, our toddlers know nothing but images that occur on our tiny screens at lightning speed and the ability to watch high definition videos at the click of a button.
There are a dizzying amount of apps geared for children on both the Google Play and App Stores. Browsing through these apps is equivalent to shopping at the toy store. There are a lot, each competing for your attention. Each one silently imploring that you choose them for your child.
So, how do you select the right one for your child? How do you know that the app — any app — will be any good? If it costs money, is it worth the investment? What will your child gain from using the app? Will the app turn them into mindless zombies, mouths gaping and eyes wide open? These are some of the questions that have to be answered when choosing the right app.
My Top Ten Favorite (and FREE) Toddler Apps
Here is a list of ten apps that I chose for their engagement and entertainment. All of these apps are best suited for toddlers ages nine months and up. And best of all, they are free on the Google Play Store!
What I like most about this app is that it is very visual. The app’s homepage features five images representing the apps five themes: animals, vehicles, instruments, music, and puzzles. Your toddler can click on the icon and then there are more images that they can select. For example, clicking on the animal icon brings up a variety of images of animals. The toddler can click on these images and hear animal sounds. This is a great way for toddlers to learn what a pig or a duck says. The same holds true for vehicles, instruments, and music. The older toddlers might enjoy putting the puzzle pieces together. Parents can also encourage critical thinking by asking their older toddlers questions such as “what color is the car” or “what sound does this animal make.”
Bubbles and monsters are two of any toddlers’ favorite things. This app is certainly a hit with my little one. Toddlers can pick the monsters (up to seven free ones) and then pop all of the bubbles that come up. Once they finish popping the bubbles, they can choose another monster. This app is very colorful and has lots of auditory output. This can encourage critical thinking by getting your older toddler to talk about “their” monster. This is a fun game that can entertain toddlers during that quick car ride to the grocery store.
It is never too early to learn your ABCs. While the younger toddlers might need an adult to help them, this is an amusing and educational app for toddlers. Toddlers can choose the letter on the home screen. Once clicking on the app, they can listen and then draw the outline of the letter with their finger. What I like most about the app is that it focuses on the phonics (that is, the sounds of the letters) as well as what the letter is called. For the older toddler, there are games in which they have to identify the right letter. This is a great find that will help your toddler learn the alphabet.
This is a very simple game that has a short learning curve. It is essentially a virtual version of those classic shape sorter games. Toddlers are presented with three objects and then they must fit these shapes and objects into the right one. Younger toddlers might need a bit of help from an adult moving these objects to the correct outline. Older toddlers can move and match these objects like a pro. Parents can encourage critical thinking by asking older toddlers to describe these objects by color and shape.
This is a particularly fun app that makes learning the alphabet fun. This app is more for the older toddler but the younger toddler can no doubt watch and be fascinated by the colors and noises. The older toddler can click on the letters, which will then reveal a corresponding word that it begins with, as well as a brief verbal description of what it does and sounds like. The Endless app series also offers the Endless Number and Endless Reader apps too for toddlers to learn, respectively, their numbers and recognize sight words for early reading.
This app is perfect for any toddlers who like instruments and animals. My toddler loves to play the drums and the piano so this app is perfect for her. On the home page, there are three icons: xylophone, piano, and drum. This app manages to make playing instruments fun by incorporating cute, lovable animals. When playing with the piano, toddlers can press the penguin and watch it dance or watch the polar bear lift its front legs up in the air. The xylophone features chickens who squawk and apes who play the drums.
This app is more suited for the older toddler as it requires fine motor skills. Toddlers can make cars or helicopters out of virtual Legos. They can even drive these lego vehicles. They can collect coins, which they can use to build these vehicles and lego figures. This app encourages toddlers to stimulate and enhance their creativity. It can also help them strengthen their fine motor skills.
This app will always have a special place in my heart merely because it is the first app that my toddler loved. This app is perfect for the younger toddler. Featuring colors, numbers, and animal noises, this app can provide several minutes of entertainment and laughter to the little ones. Toddlers can also learn their music alphabet. Plus, what toddler wouldn’t want their own phone just like mom and dad?
This app is perfect for any toddler who loves fish and aquariums. Parents can quickly set the parameters, such as the number of fish and the color of the water. They can then watch as toddlers are amazed at the endlessly amusing fish. Toddlers can swipe at the phone and watch as magical stars appear out of nowhere. This is truly a magical app that is sure to delight almost every toddler. What parents will also like is that there is an option to lock the app so that toddlers cannot access anything else on the phone.
No list is complete without adding YouTube Kids to this list. But parents, please beware this app is addicting so please let your kids consume in small quantities. YouTube Kids is basically YouTube but without the inappropriate adult content. Using the handy search box, parents can type in something — anything at all — and come across a dizzying level of content. Toddlers can then click on the short TV show or skit. They can hit pause or stop anytime during the usually three or four-minute clip and watch something else instead.
Of course, these apps are great but nothing replaces the value of ditching the phones and playing outside. These ten apps are only a sampling of the dizzying array of apps available on the Google Play Store or the App Store. There are much, much more out there. But it can be tough to weed out the bad from the good.
So, go ahead and download these apps for your toddlers. In the comments below, let me know what you think. Also, please suggest any apps that your toddlers love. I would love to hear about other wonderful apps that are out there.