The idea of a toddler using an app on a cell phone or tablet may seem outrageous to some, but the fact that toddler apps exist and are in demand shows that parents do have many uses for them. While young children should be monitored around technology, they live in a technological world, and that includes device apps made just for their age level. Whether they are educational or just plain fun, apps for toddlers can be useful if parents know what to look for.
When parents are used to whipping out a cell phone to show a picture or video, toddlers are used to seeing it happen. They recognize that there is something entertaining about these devices by the way they are used by the older people around them. Many toddlers are interested in their parents’ phones even without apps because they have bright colors and make appealing noises, like many other children’s toys.
A lot of concern over toddlers using such technology revolves around their exposure to wifi and influences too mature or dangerous for them. Too much screen time is also a concern, as it has been proven that looking at device or computer screens for too long can have unwanted effects such as trouble sleeping and headaches. While these are reasonable concerns, especially when it comes to toddlers, it does no good to shelter them away from technology they will come to rely on as they get older.
Why Use Toddler Apps?
Since we adults use technology frequently every day, toddlers see us use it, and it becomes normalized. Therefore, it is helpful to teach toddlers how to use technology responsibly from an early age. Introducing them to technology and connectivity isn’t something that should be avoided in a world where soon everything will be online.
More 5G infrastructure means more Internet of Things devices, which are devices that are connected to the internet by wifi. While the internet can invite many hazards to kids who are unprepared for it, it can also be a valuable resource for toddler entertainment and learning. Informed parents can protect their toddlers online or even use apps offline.
The use of toddler apps can also help them develop other skills through play and interaction. Through short games that can hold their attention, toddlers can be exposed to concepts such as shapes, colors, and the alphabet, allowing them to become familiar with these concepts before being formally introduced to them in preschool.
Toddler apps can also provide a valuable distraction to young children when parents or caregivers need a moment to do a quick task or errand. Hospital waiting rooms and riding in the grocery cart are also times when toddlers might need something fun to do to keep them occupied. While screens can never replace parents as caregivers and shouldn’t be relied upon to teach toddlers to self-regulate when distressed, they can be handy tools in those everyday emergencies when the adults need a minute away.
What Qualities Should a Toddler App Have?
There are a variety of toddler apps out there, but not all of them are equal. Some risk exposing toddlers or their parents to unwanted influences or hidden fees. Always check an app thoroughly before downloading it and sharing it with your toddler.
Some things to consider when you are looking for a toddler app include:
- Age appropriateness: Many toddler apps are for ages 2 and up, with some of them for kids as old as 8. While these broader apps are great for introducing your kids to the characters and interactions within them, it’s also important to ensure your toddler is not overwhelmed with games or lessons that are too complicated.
- Ease of use: if the controls and user interface are too complicated for your child, they may grow frustrated and upset, which will discourage them from using the app.
- Security: What information does the app have access to? If the app collects too much of your or your toddler’s personal data, be wary for the sake of your privacy.
- No hidden costs: Some apps might have in-app purchases that are simple to buy, which means your toddler might be able to accidentally access them. Others promise access but only at a cost that isn’t revealed until later. If subscriptions or add-ons cost money, an app should make you aware of it upfront and require your approval for every purchase.
- Ad-free: Some apps are free because they allow ads to be shown during their gameplay. Some of these ads may not be appropriate for children. Reputable apps might also have ads but they are usually gateways to other parts of the site.
- Simple designs: Complex designs and a lot of flashing lights might upset or overstimulate a child, which might discourage them from using the app. Loud noises and fast action should also be avoided.
What Toddler App Should I Get?
Every child is different and has a unique set of strengths and needs. Apps for this age can be fun and need not be educational, but they should definitely work to encourage your child to play with them and to explore the world outside of them.
Here are some of the most critically acclaimed apps for toddlers:
Duck Duck Moose by Khan Academy
Khan Academy has excelled so strongly in education at all grade levels that some schools use their modules as coursework for the class. Duck Duck Moose is a series of apps for toddlers that was designed by the online educator, with puzzles, stories, and even a virtual zoo.
PBS Kids Games
PBS has always been a powerhouse for kids’ programming, featuring a variety of characters that have been helping kids learn for generations. They have brought their quality educational content online in a series of games and apps featuring their best-known characters in interactive media.
LEGO Duplo World
Even adults have fun with LEGOs, but Duplos are made especially for toddlers to introduce them to this creative world. However, LEGOs and Duplos take up a lot of room, so this app lets toddlers have virtual Duplos they can manipulate and build with. It’s almost better than the real thing because they have access to pieces they may not see in person.
The suite of apps under the Toca Boca name promise all kinds of fun for your toddler as it introduces them to the world around them with interactive and creative games. Kids can play with pets, grow trees in a forest, or learn about fixing boo-boos and taking care of themselves, all in interactive and fun settings that prepare them for the world outside their homes.
This subscription app has it all for ages 2 to 8, from shapes and colors to math and spelling. For toddlers it offers a myriad of games and interactive lessons to help them learn numbers and letters or just plain fun like a virtual pet or a virtual closet. The app can be customized to your child’s learning path and allows multiple profiles so siblings can all have separate games based on their age and skill level.
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox
This app is especially targeted toward kids aged 2 to 5, making it perfect for toddlers and their pre-school siblings. Join Milo the Monkey on a series of adventures in counting, colors, and fun. Toddlers can earn stickers for winning the games, following their progress in a reward-based setting.
Backed by a non-profit education company, this toddler app can help kids learn their ABCs as well as phonics and even a little reading in fun interactive games and videos that help kids engage with words. It’s also free, and parents can rest assured that their child’s security and privacy is guaranteed.
A fun app with matching and sorting games, Goodness Shapes gets toddlers started on these skills as well as counting and even a little pre-reading. These skills are built in a fun way that prepares toddlers for pre-school with the help of smiling shapes and adorable characters.
This app was designed by a parent specifically with his young child in mind. It features easy and fun games like popping balloons and banging on xylophones, in bright but friendly colors that are fun for your toddler. Kids can learn animal sounds and watch fireworks on an ad-free app that costs nothing to download and has no fees.
If PBS is an empire of children’s educational entertainment, Sesame Street is its most famous road, being a franchise itself that even has its own amusement park. Many kids know the characters that populate this area, and a suite of apps brings them to life on a parent’s cell phone.
The Best Apps for Your Toddlers
Every child is different, and finds different things fun. No matter what apps you choose, your toddler should enjoy them if you hope for them to gain from them. Even apps that have no lessons can help develop hand-eye coordination or just give a toddler a break from the big, wide world. Finding the right apps might take some trial and error, but can be a rewarding source of pleasure for both parent and toddler.