Like it or not, modern babies are born directly into the world of technology. I was 20 when I had my first PC. My son, aged two, operates the touch screen of a tablet like he’s been doing it all his life (which is actually the case). I don’t know about you, but in my opinion, computer literacy is as important a skill as being able to read. If the humanity doesn’t want to be taken over by the machines (it isn’t science fiction any more, it’s what serious guys like Stephen Hawking predict), we should teach kids to tame the beast and, as it’s often the case, learning begins by playing.
There exist tons of apps designed especially for preschoolers and most of them are quite decent, so the rule when you choose is “try and see”. Besides this, I have set the following criteria: free apps that have no pop-up ads and don’t require access to my personal information. Of course, I also pay attention to the graphics and the content: nobody wants their kids to see scary, ugly or inappropriate stuff. With these restrictions, there’s still plenty of choice. Here are a few of our favourites of the moment:
- Scott Adelmann puzzles. There’s a great variety of themes, ranging from pirates to Easter bunnies. The puzzles are easy and well drawn and, once completed, they become interactive: you can move objects, make sound effects and pop confetti. The free version includes four puzzles for each theme. The only drawback is that every theme has its own app that should be installed separately but then, you can only choose the ones you like, which is not so bad if you think in terms of memory saving.
- Samo Coloring For Kids. As its name suggests, it’s a colouring app. The palette is impressive, the outlines clear and the whole app is very neatly made. Warning: adults can be tempted to steal the game from their kids!
- Pizza Maker Kids. And Ice-cream maker. And cake maker. And pretty much everything else maker. The pizza design is very realistic, with lots of free ingredient options (there are paid options too). The feature I like most is that you can play with your pizza once it’s ready and cooked!
- ABC Handwriting. One of the best letter tracing apps I’ve tried so far. It includes capital and small letters and numbers from 0 to 9 and offers a choice between guided and free writing. It’s also equipped with a sound on/off button, which might help preserve your sanity for awhile, until your kid discovers what it serves for.
- Toddler Aquarium. The free version only offers 5 letters but the app is very well made and probably the one worth paying for. Features include letter and animal puzzles, matching shapes and learning words, all with sound support, as well as a team of cute crabs cheering at every successful move.
- Simply Colors Lite. This app includes six colour related games based on matching, sorting and following simple instructions. I like this game for its simplicity and clear pictures: no distractions is sometimes a good thing!
- Kids Math. While it might be a little complicated for a two year old, this app features very cool graphics and a series of math games. Definitely a keeper.
- Simply Sea Life Toddlers Lite. The free version includes three games: playing hide and seek with sea animals, completing a puzzle and following instructions. Personally, I adore the splash sounds in the puzzle.
- Winter Snow Clean Up. My kid is currently very keen on cleaning (virtual, that is), so he loves this app. The game includes two spaces to clean: a room and a yard, and a dirty puppy to brush, soap and shower. Unfortunately, the game bugs from time to time but we still keep it.
- Kids Socks. This is one of our first apps and still a favourite. It’s a cute sock matching game with lots of cheering in the background.
- Pixelesque. This one is actually a program for geeks who want to create pixelated game characters. I occasionally use it to make colourwork patterns for knitting (remember the Vaders hat?) and my son loves to play around with it, changing colours, filling and erasing the “pixels”.
- Laugh And Learn series. Created by a toy manufacturer, these apps don’t require buying the toys (which is often the case with this kind of apps). Cute, friendly characters, nice songs, three languages to choose from – what’s not to like? Maybe just one thing: the sheep in the apps says “meeeh” instead of “baaa” – but who has no faults? Make sure to check corresponding cartoons on YouTube, you (ahem! I mean, your child) will love it!
I could go on and on (we have lots of apps that I rotate regularly) but I suggest you rather go and see for yourself. Your tablet-wielding kids will thank you! Well, they probably won’t but you’ll be able to keep your offsprings busy and gain some knitting time into the bargain!
One last thought… Toddler locks are useful but most aren’t free of charge, and for the moment, we survive without. Here’s what you can do to minimize the potential damage:
- Reserve an entire screen for your kid’s apps and insist that he cannot touch anything else. Like really insist. Every time you hand him the tablet. Hopefully, one day it’ll end up by sinking in.
- Hide your apps from the main screen: you’re the adult, you know where to look for them!
- And the most efficient: activate the flight mode. If your kid does find his way to your account (he will), at least he won’t purchase anything or publish his game score on your Facebook wall, or open something unsightly in the browser. He’ll still be able to erase your contact list, so keep an eye on him all the same!