If you've got both an iPad and a toddler in your home, you'll know that your chances of keeping them apart are slim to non existent … no matter how much you liked the idea of minimizing screen-time before they were born. But, rather than let them send random emails to your entire contact list and Like inappropriate posts on Facebook, it's probably best to load your iPad with a few apps to keep them busy. Here's our selection of some of the best iPad apps for toddlers.
Endless Alphabet is a huge hit in my house, especially first thing in the morning. It sees users learn the alphabet by sliding "talking" letters into place to spell various words. Think "Gargle" and "Quarrel" rather than "Cat" or "Dog". They are then rewarded with an amusing animation illustrating the definition.
App Store: Endless Alphabet (Free)
Petting Zoo by Christoph Niemann
An animated picture book from illustrator Christoph Niemann, Petting Zoo introduces little ones to 21 animals, including a break-dancing dog and an elephant in a bath. The marvelously quirky hand-drawn style makes it almost as enjoyable for adults as it is for kids.
App Store: Petting Zoo by Christoph Niemann (US$0.99)
Press Here: The App
Based on the Hervé Tullet book, Press Here – which gave children instructions to follow involving printed dots and swirls – the Press Here app is more of the same. However, this time there's less imagination needed for the wonderfully simple games and animated activities.
App Store: Press Here: The App ($1.99)
As parents and their children read about the likes of Charlie the Chipmunk and Eli the Elephant, kids are encouraged to find the first letter of the animal in the animations. They also get to practice drawing letters on an interactive sketchpad.
App Store: Wee Alphas ($2.99)
Rather than simply trying to teach kids the names of the various animals featured in this stylish app, Peek-a-Zoo also aims to educate them about emotions, actions and positions. Examples include trying to identify the character in an image who is crying or hiding.
App Store: Peek-a-Zoo ($0.99)
One for parents who wish their kids would play with paper and crayons more! DRAWNIMAL is another alphabet app … but with a physical world difference. Users are given instructions of shapes to draw around the iPad, which then become parts of the animated animal on screen.
App Store: DRAWNIMAL ($1.99)
When children tap illustrations in Sound Touch, they're played a corresponding noise as a photograph of the pressed object appears. To keep it interesting there are five images and sounds for each of the 72 objects, which includes animals, vehicles and musical instruments.
App Store: Sound Touch ($4.99)
Rumble In The Jungle
An animated version of the Giles Andreae classic picture book and read by Hugh Laurie (Dr. Gregory House or Bertie Wooster depending on where you know him from) this is another often requested app in my household. In addition to the story there's also a basic jigsaw puzzle game.
App Store: Rumble In The Jungle ($2.99)
Intro to Math
Intro to Math does exactly what its name suggests. It introduces children to the numbers 0-9 through a series of games and activities that include things like arranging rods from longest to shortest, or learning to draw numbers by tracing them on the screen.
App Store: Intro to Math ($4.99)
Eric Carle's My Very First App
Eric Carle is probably best known for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but his My Very First Books are also very popular and this app is the digital version of them. Complete with his distinctive illustration style the app consists of interactive games that teach about things like colors, animals, shapes and numbers. In-app purchases add additional games.
App Store: Eric Carle's My Very First App ($1.99)
While this app is not specifically aimed at toddlers – it's an instrument/composition/artwork from Brian Eno – it has proved very popular with some young children. That's because music can be played by simply tapping the screen, which also produces pleasing visuals.
App Store: Bloom HD ($3.99)
Little Digits – Finger Counting
Little Digits uses the iPad's multi-touch screen to teach children about numbers. In its most basic mode it will display and say the number of fingers which are making contact with the screen. There are also addition and subtractions games in which older children answer sums with their fingers.
App Store: Little Digits - Finger Counting ($1.99)
Maily: Your Kids' First Email
Though it might still be a while until your toddler needs to send emails, it can be a nice way for them to keep in contact with family members. Maily is a parent-controlled email account that makes it easy to create images and messages and then share them.
App Store: Maily: Your Kids' First Email (Free)
Bebot – Robot Synth
This is another app that wasn't created just for toddlers, but try telling them that! Bebot is a multitouch synthesizer which, in the hands of a musician, can be used to create music … but for kids it's a great way to make noise with a cute robot.
App Store: Bebot – Robot Synth ($1.99)
Letting your toddler loose in the kitchen probably isn't a good idea, but with Toca Kitchen they can learn about preparing and cooking meals without have to touch a sharp knife or hot oven. Users cook food for one of four characters and then feed them to see if they like the meal.
App Store: Toca Kitchen ($2.99)
PianoBall turns the screen of your iPad into a colorful piano with toddler-friendly sized keys. Users can also select instrument sounds and even play along with basic tunes by pressing the key highlighted by sparkling stars.
App Store: PianoBall ($0.99)
In Peekaboo Barn, young users press on the doors of a barn to discover who is inside. They then get to meet a variety of animated barnyard animals as they hear the noises they make and how to say their names. There's also the option to record your own (or your child's) voice saying the names of the animals.
App Store: Peekaboo Barn ($1.99)
Balls is a deceptively simple app in which a number of colored balls bounce around the screen making wind-chime-like noises as they hit each other. Kids love changing the directions of the balls by touching them on the iPad screen.
App Store: Balls (Free)
More than just an iPad version of paper and crayons, Drawing Pad gives children easy access to a digital art tool-kit including markers, paint brushes, colored pencils and stickers. What's best, creations don't have to take up all that space on your fridge, they can be shared online or saved to the iPad.
App Store: Drawing Pad ($1.99)
Elmo Loves ABCs for iPad
Toddlers love Elmo, and this app uses the furry red monster to teach them about the alphabet. While learning how to identify letters, their sounds and how to draw them, users get to watch 80 Sesame Street clips including the classic alphabet song and discover 75 Sesame Street coloring pages.
App Store: Elmo Loves ABCs for iPad ($4.99)
There are simply loads of great iPad apps out there for toddlers. And although we've tried to include the best that we know of, we'd love to hear what other apps your little ones are enjoying, so please let us know in the comments section.
While some people will shudder at the idea of handing a $500 iPad to a toddler, it's important to note that many of the apps we've talked about are best experienced with a parent. However, if you are going to leave you're precious one alone with your child, you might want to invest in a suitable case to protect it from accidental drops and slobber. Oh yeah, and don't forget to disable in-app purchases!