We are a reasonably techie family and recently a few people have asked me what are my top 10 apps for toddlers, to download before a long car journey or a flight. I’m not too keen on young children (especially under 3 years old) using technology but as with everything if you use common sense and limit time spent on tablets, phones and laptops then apps can be a novel way to spend time with your children and frankly a godsend on long haul flights or car journeys. We tested out a few apps on our recent family holiday so I thought I would share our favourites with you. As always, try to use the apps as a new way to interact rather than as a babysitter for your children to use in isolation and make sure that you create passwords for your accounts so that you don’t find that you have an enormous bill from children making ‘in app purchases’. If you have an iPad or iPhone then you can also use ‘Guided Access’.
Here are our current favourites:
Apps for Fun
1. Petting Zoo by Christoph Niemann
This app is an absolute joy. The animations are unique, clever, colourful and funny; the interaction is very intuitive as it involves mainly swiping, so it can easily be picked up by young children; and the music isn’t annoying. The transitions between each animation are very imaginative and there are 21 different animals to visit. Our favourite has to be the giraffe!
2. Peekaboo Barn by Night & Day Studios
Simple and fun, Peekaboo Barn has become a firm favourite in our house. The animal in the barn makes a sound and you can guess the farmyard animal before tapping on the door to reveal the animal inside. The name of the animal is also displayed to help with word recognition. The app is voiced by US children and there are Americanisms like ‘rooster’ instead of ‘cockerel’ but this doesn’t take away from the fact that it is easy for young toddlers to use and enjoy.
3. Doodlecast by Zinc Roe Design
Doodlecast is intended for parent and child to play together and I was hugely impressed with this app. You choose a prompt, for example ‘What is happening in the sky’ and then you can draw along with your child and simulataneously the sound is recorded so that when you have finished you have a video of your artwork and how it was created, which you can save to your cameral roll or upload to YouTube. It is a lovely way to stimulate talk with a young child and keep those creative moments in a way that isn’t possible with crayons and paper. It wasn’t easy for a 2 year old to use independently but as a joint activity this was a real winner.
4. Toca Monsters by Toca Boca
Toca Monsters was a real hit with little one. I wasn’t sure that choosing snacks for a monster and then feeding them to the beast would appeal but even though there isn’t a wide choice of foods the monster’s reactions are funny and always bring smiles and laughs. Feeding the monsters does take some practice as you need to hold your finger on the pad and drag the food but it didn’t take long to master.
5. The Land of Me -Storytime by Made in Me
The stories are short and well animated and you can choose who the hero is, the type of story and whether the ending is happy, sad or funny so there are numerous combinations. I particularly like The Land of Me as it uses an English accent but the little one enjoys it more for the animations.
6. Dear Zoo by Pan Macmillan
I have written before here about how the ‘Dear Zoo’ pop-up book by Rod Campbell is very popular in our house and this lovely app, narrated by Caroline Quentin, brings new life to the story with interactive packaging and animals. We particularly like the swinging monkey and playing ‘fetch’ with the puppy at the end. The app also has a matching pairs game which little one doesn’t necessarily completely understand yet but he still enjoys it all the same.
7. The Story Mouse Talking Books by The Story Mouse
The Story Mouse Talking Books app is a virtual library of traditional stories. You can download the app and you get ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff’ for free. Then, if you wish, you can add other stories. We only have the one free book. The Three Billy Goats Gruff is read by an English actor and has educational touches like highlighting the text that is being read in the ‘Read To Me’ version. The story is long so it is more suited to older toddlers. Because this app features ‘in app purchases’ (you can add more stories once in the app) make sure that your account is password protected so that little ones don’t end up buying the whole set and adding a huge bill to your account.
8. Toca Band by Toca Boca
Toca Band offers you sixteen sound effects represented as animated characters which you can then place on a stage to build your very own piece of music. There are lots of combinations you can try but we found that the little one quickly plumped for favourites and then it can get a little repetitive.
9. The Wheels on the Bus by Duck Duck Moose
If your children love this song then they will surely enjoy the app. You can swipe, tap and slide your way through several verses with interactive features for each verse. You can swish the wipers, open and shut the doors and even pop bubbles. You have the option to change the language (Spanish, French, German and Italian), choose different orchestrations or even record yourself – which adds a more personal element to the app. The Wheels on the Bus would suit any young child who can swipe and tap, or is on the verge of learning how! We seem to be stuck on opening the doors and poking the pigeon inside the bus and then the music gets repetitive but it is a favourite.
You can download lots of episodes of CBeebies programmes on iPlayer for free before you travel and then watch them on your journey so make sure that you download your children’s favourites. Each episode expires after a period of time so don’t do this too far in advance of your departure and check that you have enough days left on your downloads to get you through your journey there and home again!
If you are looking for ways to limit screen time then check out these great Tips for Toddlers With Tablets. If you would like to keep up to date with reviews of the latest releases the iphone mom is a useful resource, even if it is focused on an American audience. Apologies if you are on Android as we are very fond of our iPad and iPhone here but you can check out these recommendations from an Android loving family.
What apps do your children enjoy? If you have any suggestions please do let me know in the comments below.