Fatherly Stuff: Top 3 FREE Favorite Smartphone Apps for Toddlers (for iPhone and Android)

Mar 28, 2012

Top 3 FREE Favorite Smartphone Apps for Toddlers (for iPhone and Android)

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Question: What is the fastest selling product in the infant/toddler demographic?

A) Television & Movies

B) Books

C) Smartphone Apps

If you chose A or B, then you clearly didn’t read the title of this blog post. There are literally millions of apps being sold on a regular basis, many of which are currently targeting the hearts and minds of our youngest inhabitants.

There has been somewhat of a controversy on whether kids actually learn from these apps, which you can read about here, or here. With your own research, you can make your own informed decision, but I make it no secret as to which side of the fence I stand:

Most anything in this world can be harmful, if used in excess. That philosophy can also apply to the usage of smartphone apps:

Is it okay to have your child use a fun/educational app within earshot of you while you fix dinner or get some cleaning done? Maybe.

Is it okay to turn your phone into super nanny while you run to the store real quick to buy cigarettes? Eh…probably not.

 It’s also a great way to avert potential meltdowns by keeping them responsibly preoccupied while you are driving, buying groceries, or waiting for a table at a local restaurant and those cheesy activity worksheets with the little crayons just don’t cut it.

 What I look for when searching for apps  are both educational value yet at the same time, is engaging enough to keep my child interested for more than five minutes. The other component that I believe is important as well is the cost . A lot of the time, you do get what you pay for. But I’m here to say that there are a few that exist where you can get quality at a great price (aka free).
Here are a few of our favorite apps that can be downloaded from iPhone and Android and won’t cost you a thing:

  1. Zoodles (Kid Mode)
    This app is probably the most versatile of the bunch. Once you create an account for your child, the app is programmed to engineer a virtual conveyor belt of activities tailored to their age. These activities include YouTube sing along videos, interactive games, finger painting, storybooks and the list goes on. Another cool feature is the video storybook. I can take a video of myself or another family memeber reading one of the books listed from my son to play whenever he wants. He loves it because he can navigate though the options with ease. I love it because I can give him my phone with the comfort that it comes with a child safety lock, so he won’t be able to contact Japan and run up my cell phone bill. I also like that the app comes with a Parent Dashboard that allows me to monitor and filter the content that is fed.

    The free version gives your child a large amount of content to explore, but there you can also purchase the premium package, which makes even more options available, for a reasonable $3.99 a month. Here's a YouTube video of the app in action.

  2.   Toddler Teasers(Shapes)

    The Toddler Teasers Shapes App is a learning tool that has figured out a simple, yet unique and effective way to teach your child a wide variety of shapes. As the parent, you can control the difficulty of shapes your toddler will encounter (2-D vs 3-D). They accomplish this through three basic menu options. The first is a kind of multiple-choice mode where your child has to connect the pictures of shapes with the questions being asked. Once they complete the round, they are rewarded with their choice of stickers.  My son enjoys being able to build and look at his sticker collection. Also, If the parent is interest, this app also allows them to track their child’s progress.

    The second mode works like basic flashcards that your child can go over either by themselves or with an adult or even a friend.  The third mode is called “Toy Box”. It is a random set of  3-4 games that center around shapes. All of this costs you nothing.

    This is where they get you through:  While the shapes category is free, the developers also have a variety of other subjects, ranging from letters, to animals, to even transportation that you can purchase at your leisure for $0.99 for 4 categories.
  3. iStoryBooks

    For a FREE app, it really doesn’t get much better than this. With a library of over 25 story books ranging from the familiar (Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Little Red Hen) to lesser known tales from countries like Gambia and Iceland, the iStoryBook app is littered with modest yet colorful artwork on each that is enjoyable to both the child as well as the parent.  The main narrator for the stories (Mya) is engaging and has a pleasant voice to listen to.  Some of the stories can also be downloaded in Spanish as well. What’s also useful is the auto-read option, which allows you to simply sit back and enjoy the story.  Here is a YouTube link of one of their stories.

Honerable Mentions

The following are also great free apps that didnt make the top 3 cut, but are still worth checking out:

  • Kids Piano Lite-A great way to nurture a love of music in your child. This app allows you to play free hand or with the notes automatically highlighted to make it easy learn the songs on their playlist. The piano key sounds are also customizable. While the full version does provide some extras, the free version is still a stand alone awesome product. Here's  a YouTube link if you want to see it in action.
  • Kids Finger Painting Art Game- This app provides you with tons of pictures to paint. It also has different paint brush settings which adds to the experience. The paid version comes ad free.
  • The Laurie Bernker Band Mobile App- I talked about this app in a previous post: You can access their database and listen to most of their songs and music videos. There is also an option to view info regarding tours and other cool updates.

Question: What other apps do your children enjoy? Is cost a major factor for you?

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  1. To tell you the honest truth Kyle, I would of said that children don't need mobile phones etc... but after reading your post I feel that they can actually benefit and learn a lot from the apps on a phone. It's not all time-consuming games that teach kids nothing. It just goes to show how you can truly teach 'an old dog new tricks'.

    The next time one of my friends complain about children and mobile phones I have 2 options, send them to your site or inform them of what I have learnt from your site. Nice post again.

  2. Well, I absoloutely agree that children don't "need" these smartphone applications (give me an open field anyday). However, technology is increasingly becoming an unavoidable reality. So why not embrace it, but do so in a responsible manner?

    As always, your continued readership and thoughtful comments are much appreciated!