Top 10 Educational Apps For Toddlers

by Courtney Sirotin on February 23, 2012

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Kid-Tested, Mother-Approved!
(Thanks, Kix!)

I am the first person to say that children should be outside playing as much as possible. Second to that, I’d want them inside doing hands-on learning activities. But the reality is, we live in a wireless world and our kids have noticed.

Dylan has watched me interact with my iPhone on a regular basis every day of his life, so it’s only natural that he wants to use it too. I think of technology as a modern day language and believe I am doing Dylan a favor by allowing him to become fluent in it while his mind is so receptive to learning. I also want his time on my iPhone to be enriching as well as fun.

There are tons of wonderful educational apps out there…and some duds. It can be hard to know where to start when you go looking for new apps for your kids, so I’m going to share our family’s favorites. The apps below have been vetted by a discerning 18-month-old toddler and his equally discerning mother. I have watched Dylan actively learn many new skills from these games and, as proof, I offer the following video; it shows learning in action!

Top 10 Educational Apps For Toddlers

1. Monkey Preschool Lunchbox (iPhone/iPod touch/iPad – $0.99)

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Description: The #1 preschool game in the app store. Learn and have fun by helping monkeys pack lunch! Monkey Preschool Lunchbox is a collection of six exciting educational games for your preschooler (ages 2 to 5).

Why Dylan likes it: The images are colorful and the monkey is silly. The learning games are long enough to be challenging but short enough to keep his attention.

Why I like it: I’m putting my favorite first! With this app Dylan is learning matching games, colors, puzzles, counting, colors and letters!

2. Old MacDonald – by Duck Duck Moose (iPhone/iPod touch/iPad – $1.99)

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Description: Created by parents, Old MacDonald is a fun, interactive musical book, based on the popular children’s song. An original production by Duck Duck Moose, Old MacDonald includes fresh illustrations, creative interactions, and live music. Designed for children of all ages, starting as young as 18 months.

Why Dylan likes it: There are so many interactive points in this book and Dylan loves discovering them all. The animals are funny and the illustrations are bright and colorful.

Why I like it: This one is fun for adults too. When Dylan wants to use the iPhone with me, I gravitate towards this game. It is enriching musically as well as teaching cause and effect, hand-eye coordination, animal sounds and more. Also, if you like this one, Duck Duck Music makes similar apps for lots of popular kids’ songs. Dylan’s second favorite is Wheels On The Bus.

3. Uncolor (iPhone/iPod touch/iPad – $0.99)

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Description: Kids too young to color can Uncolor! This is a simple but smart app. You start with a dark screen and wherever you touch it, you wipe away the darkness to reveal a picture below. Once you have cleared away all the darkness the picture animates and then moves on to another dark screen.

Why Dylan likes it: It is immediately gratifying to see a picture unfold and the animations are clever and engaging.

Why I like it: Dylan is too young to “get” coloring but he is learning the concept with this app. He is also learning patience and persistence because he has to thoroughly remove all the darkness to get to the prize: the picture and animation. If you like this app you would like Uncolor Dogs as well.

4. Counting Bear (iPhone/iPad – $0.99)

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Description: Simply put, children count objects by touching them. Specifically, each screen contains a set number of objects (1-10) and each time your child touches an object a voice counts along while the object is shaded and labeled with a number.

Why Dylan likes it: The pictures are familiar and stimulating and the feedback is immediate and gratifying. His little finger is given a lot of power with this game.

Why I like it: This app does an excellent job of teaching one-to-one correspondence. Its amazing how easy it was for Dylan to get the concept of counting after playing this game.

5. Little Sorter Shapes (iPhone/iPod touch/iPad – $0.99)

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Description: Little Sorter is an exciting interactive game that helps your child rapidly learn to sort shapes with just the touch of their finger.

Why Dylan likes it: This is the game he is playing in the video above where he’s clearly enjoying sorting the shapes into their correct spots. He is motivated by the positive reinforcement from the narrator.

Why I like it: It has been fun watching Dylan play this game over the last few months. When he first tried it he barely knew how to move the pieces on the screen and now he can sort just about anything the game throws at him! I also like that it becomes more challenging as he masters each level.

6. Photo Touch Shapes (iPhone/iPad – $0.99)

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Description: A voice asks your child to touch a specific shape and when that is done successfully the child is praised and a new screen, with new shapes, is presented.

Why Dylan likes it: The object of the game is clear and the task is simple so its kind of relaxing for him to play. At the same time, you can almost see learning occur as the names of the different shapes are drilled over and over again. He is clearly picking them up.

Why I like it: This is a great app to use in conjunction with Little Sorter because they play off each other well. If you like this game you’re in luck because the company who makes it (grasshopperapps.com) has a slew of other “Photo Touch” apps including: ABC, Concepts, Colors, Farm Animals, Food Festival, Musical Instruments, Numbers, Opposites and more! Dylan is starting to show interest in the ABC app now.

7. Peekaboo Barn (iPhone/iPod touch/iPad – $1.99)

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Description: Inside a little bouncing barn, friendly farm animals are waiting to pop out and surprise your little one. Try and guess who they are; tap the doors to find out!

Why Dylan likes it: He has always loved this app. It is fun for him to guess which animal is waiting behind the door based on the sound it is making, and then to tap the door to reveal the animal and see if he was right. He seems to like that the animal sounds are authentic rather than just a person saying, “quack”.

Why I like it: I credit this app for teaching Dylan the different animals and their sounds. If you like this app you will also enjoy the other “Peekaboo” apps from Night & Day Studios including Peekaboo Forest and Peekaboo Wild.

8. Elmo’s Monster Maker (iPhone/iPod touch/iPad – $3.99)

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Description: Elmo wants you to make a monster friend! It’s easy! Choose a monster body and touch its face to give it eyes, nose and a hat—there are lots and lots and lots to choose from. When you’re done, Elmo will dance and play with your monster! This is going to be so much fun!

Why Dylan likes it: Elmo. ‘Nuff said. Dylan enjoys the whole process of this app. First he gets to see Elmo, then he gets to pick a monster that he wants to decorate, then he gets to decorate his monster’s face, then he gets to watch his monster dance and play with Elmo, and then he gets to do it all over again! He has complete control over this game and it keeps him entertained for a long time.

Why I like it: I was so excited when I discovered this app and have a great time playing it myself! It teaches the concepts of eyes, noses and hats very quickly, but beyond that, it’s just entertaining! You have the option to snap pictures of your wacky monster creations and I often find them in my camera roll after Dylan’s been playing this app.

10. Go Away, Big Green Monster! (iPhone/iPod touch/iPad – $2.99)

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Description: Ed Emberley’s beloved and best-selling book comes to mobile! This interactive app builds upon the book experience by progressively revealing (and then removing) each piece of the Big Green Monster– putting all the power in the child’s hands.

Why Dylan likes it: Dylan has this book so he was blown away when I presented this app on my iPhone. He was especially excited to see that he could interact with the story by poking the monster and watching it react.

Why I like it: First of all, if you don’t have this book you should order it now because it’s awesome! I like that Dylan is experiencing a story across multiple formats by having access to the hardcover book and it’s app. He will be learning across multiple formats in school (textbooks, computers, etc.) so this is a concept he should start to explore.

10. Shake The Farm (iPhone/iPod touch/iPad – $0.99)

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Description: Shake the farm is an interactive way for any toddler to learn about farm animal names and their individual sounds as they shake from one animal to another.

Why Dylan likes it: Dylan likes this app because when he shakes it he causes a new animal to appear on the screen and make a sound. It is a very physical app which appeals to his toddler sensibilities of wanting to poke, pound and eat things. Also, the pictures are goofy. (p.s. Eating is not recommended.)

Why I like it: Though this app teaches animals and animal sounds, its real claim to fame is the shaking. I like watching Dylan discover the cause and effect of the movement.

I hope you will download some of these apps and have fun watching your toddler explore them! There are so many great apps out there and this is just the tip of the iceberg! I’d love for you to share some of your child’s favorite apps in the comments below. Let’s help each other out!

Also, if you are worried about clumsy hands and sticky fingers, check out this cool device I recently discovered! You can order it here!

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More App Reviews:

What’s App-ening Wednesday: Starfall ABCs

What’s App-ening Wednesday: Toca Kitchen

The BEST Preschool App For Learning Letters And Numbers

What’s App-ening Wednesday: Nick Jr Draw & Play

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