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Yes, I know. I have a whole store filled with toys, so why is my toddler playing with my iPhone? It’s worse than that. When I upgraded last year to the new iPhone 3Gs, my son actually inherited a (deactivated) iPhone of his own. But that thing has been a life saver, and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. I’ve searched and searched for a round-up of the best iPhone apps for babies and toddlers, and I couldn’t find anything good. So I took it upon myself to invest some time and money, and I downloaded a whole bunch of apps. Here are my 10 favorite for kids age 2 and under.
Peek a Boo Barn/Peek a Boo Wild Peek a Boo Barn has been a favorite from very early on. When my son was just 9 months old, he figured out the cause and effect – touch the barn and the animals appear. Peek a Boo Wild is a similar concept, but with wild animals. The kids’ voices saying the names of the animals makes me smile every time. $1.99 each (Peek a Boo Barn also comes in a free lite edition).
Balloonimals This is just a beautiful app. Blow into the microphone on your phone to inflate the balloon, then shake the phone to form luminous, complex balloon animals. Once complete, they come to life when you poke them. All three of my kids love this one. $1.99 (also comes in a free lite edition).
Elmo’s Monster Maker Another app with broad appeal and incredible graphics. Choose a monster, add eyes, nose and a hat, then introduce your monster to Elmo. The monsters aren’t simple cartoons – they look just as real as anything your kids see on Sesame Street every day, and they’re funny too. In other words, this app will delight everyone in the family. $3.99 (and worth every penny).
Tiny Tunes Toy Piano Choose a set of instruments (ranging from piano to xylophone to cartoon sound effects) and tap the colorful keys to play along the diatonic scale. Animated characters add to the fun, but it’s all about making music. $0.99
Fisher Price See n’ Say A great adaptation of the classic toy, a flick of the finger turns the spinner. When it lands, it makes the customary animal noise, and then fades to a live-action video clip featuring the designated farm animal. $1.99
Wheels on the Bus/Itsy Bitsy Spider/Old Mac These apps by Duck Duck Moose are beautifully done. They are essentially interactive, musical board books, best when shared between an adult and a child. Each screen plays a musical phrase of the song, and features a beautifully drawn scene with elements that respond to touch. The music is good quality, and can be downloaded in many languages. $0.99-$1.99
White Noise Baby This app is really useful. It offers 17 different background noises with adjustable volume and a timer. I love the baby rattle, a bonus feature that also happens to be the nicest rattle app I’ve found. $0.99
Uncolor Wipe off the black to reveal a colorful graphic underneath. The artwork is really nice, and it’s a simple, intriguing cause and effect game. Older toddlers will have fun trying to guess which picture they’re about to reveal. $0.99 (also available for iPad)
Tappy Tunes This app features over 80 well-known melodies, and babies play the song by tapping on the screen. It’s a great way to develop awareness of rhythm, since the notes follow the rhythm of the tapping, and not based on the rhythm of the original tune. You can also just play the melodies outright. $1.99 (also available in a free lite edition).
Adam’s Game This app is great for toddlers who are starting to understand language. It shows three images and asks the toddler to touch a certain one. Get it right and the app cheers; get it wrong and it says “uh oh.” You can customize it with pictures of family members and record your own voice, too. $0.99
And what about older kids? My older girls have an iPod Touch, and are are both huge fans of the App store. I consulted them for their top recommended apps for kids, and here’s what they came up with.
Doodle Jump True to the warning, this game is addictive. But it’s also really easy to learn and fun for all ages. Just try not to be embarrassed when your kid beats your high score. $0.99 (also available for iPad).
Goofy Mad Libs Just like the books, this is a really fun game to play with older kids. Fill in the words and make wacky stories that’ll have everyone cracking up. $3.99
Jumbo Match A basic matching game, but my kids love that they have over ten different themes to choose from. $0.99
Cupcakes! Choose the batter, bake the cupcakes and decorate them. It’s a simple, delicious idea, but my kids never get tired of it. They can email photos of the finished product to dieting family members for extra fun. $0.99
Art Studio There are lots of painting and drawing apps, but I think this is the best one. It isn’t free, like Scribble Lite, but it is robust and it will encourage your budding little artist to expand her skills. $3.99 (also available for iPad).