Toddlers are amazing little boogers. From how quickly they learn new skills like language to how closely they watch and learn from the adults in their lives, these bite-sized, temperamental humans are absolute sponges.
The other day we watched Ellie pick up my brother’s girlfriend’s phone, click on the camera app and start swiping through her pictures. The girl is two and a half. I know plenty of adults who can’t figure it out that quickly (I will spare them the public humiliation of being named, but you know who you are).
She seems to be more interested in phones because she’s not allowed to touch them very often—which is why toddler apps are pretty much the best distraction ever when you’re praying to the gods that your little angels will behave themselves for fifteen freakin minutes.
I’m not going to lie. I’ve totally turned to iPhone apps as a babysitter and/or bribe. Don’t judge. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do—especially if you’re trying to have a phone conversation with a client and are hoping to be able to pay attention without screaming in the background and/or silence that’s indicative of some sort of major catastrophe.
So yeah. Color me guilty. And if you’re sitting there wanting to be guilty with me, you’re in luck. I put together a list of five of the best toddler apps for the iPhone. We got most of these for free either because they’re always free or because we (and by we I mean my husband) watched the App of the Week list and picked them up that way—because momma ain’t shelling out a lot of money on apps for a fickle little toddler. I’m way too cheap for that business.
The little guys love the Monster books (I mean, what toddler hates Elmo?!) and this app takes it up a notch. It’s the most expensive one out of this bunch (although we picked it up for free), but it’s worth it—especially if your kids are into Sesame Street and/or the Monster at the End of This Book series.
The kids feel like an even bigger part of the story than they do while reading it. Instead of just turning pages when Grover desperately wants them to stop, they can actually help Elmo swipe paperclips off of the pages and knock down the block wall that Grover builds. Even my seven-year old wants in on this app.
2. Draw, FREE
No matter what their age, kids really seem to love drawing apps. I guess there’s something about seeing a color appear when you swipe your finger across the screen. I know Ellie loves to feel like she’s in control and this one is great for her because she almost seems to feel like she has one up on the phone. Oh yeah, phone? You think you’re going to have a plain white screen? Well look what I can do! She can change the background color and draw whatever she wants. It usually looks like what you see above. Budding artist? I THINK SO!
The one thing I’m not so fond of is all of the ads that pop up. But it’s free and she just clears to the home screen and goes back into the app when it happens.
3. Peek-a-Zoo Lite, FREE
I like free and I like educational. While there’s not very much to this app, it is both of those things—and Ellie loves it. Basically the screen will show an empty scene and a little bug will start flying across it. The kids will try to touch it, which makes an animal pop up. The app then tells them the name of the animal and the animal makes a noise before it switches to a new scene. Simple enough, but it teaches kids the names of animals and they really seem to like it.
4. Phone 4 Kids!, $0.99
This app is perfect for kids who are obsessed with hitting buttons on your phone as if they’re calling or texting someone. I don’t know about you, but my toddler will not be fooled by some fake phone that doesn’t light up or make noise. With this app, they can pretend to dial the phone and make it ring and they can pretend to text someone. There are also a few other things that look like apps on the home screen which teach them things like letters and numbers. It’s perfect if you’re looking to distract them from actually dialing numbers on your phone.
5. Sago Mini Forest Flyer, $1.99
This one is Ellie’s current favorite and the one that will entertain her two-year old brain the longest. It starts out with a whimsical little birdhouse. When your kid touches the screen a little bell rings and a cute little bird comes out of the house. Things will continue to pop up on the screen, which takes the bird on a funny little journey that cracks the kids up as they make her devour a cupcake, splash in a puddle, sing, dance, and more.
Does your toddler have a favorite app that I missed?