our favorite apps for little ones

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favorite-kids-appslike most parents, josh and i try hard to keep screen time with our kiddos to a minimum.  in the beginning when they were babes it was like, “no way. never. they will never look at or touch a screen!” (oh the things we say before we’re parents, or as new parents. i’m so guilty of all of it…)  then we were introduced to baby signing time by a friend when eleanor was around a year old (i can’t recommend it enough ps, it’s so good) and after she picked up several signs the very first time she watched the DVD with us, we realized not all tv shows or apps aimed at children are bad.  many are incredibly educational and fun for them, and when used in moderation, can be a great tool.  a few of our family’s most favorite apps below…

peekaboo barn
this app is especially fun for the tinier ones, since it’s all about learning animals names and sounds, and is also quite interactive. they have several versions, like peekaboo forest and peekaboo safari. the barn version’s our  favorite, and it was a big hit with E and samson still enjoys using it.

tiny sorting hands
this one is great for matching and sorting! it has several levels too, so you can start with colors or seasons or shapes and move onto more problem solving and logic.

toca band
this app is probably my all time favorite kids app! sometimes i find myself kind of stealing the phone or iPad away from my kids to play! it’s all about composing your own music by layering different sounds and tracks to build a song.  and it’s not annoying music either! which is maybe why i’m so into it. i swear i could sing the “la! la! la la la laaaaaa!” all day and it wouldn’t grow old. ;)

bugs and bubbles
we love the bugs and bubbles app because it shares several different games and challenges from physics and memory to fine motor skills.

intro to letters by montessorium
this has been an especially useful and fun app for eleanor lately as she explores reading and writing and phonetics more. we looked at several different types of apps similar to this one over the past few months for eleanor, and this montessori approach to letters and phonics has by far been our favorite.

have you found any children’s apps you love? what are your favorites?

  1. I never knew these existed! I’m making a mental note so that one day when I will be a mommy myself (hopefully) I should keep things like these in mind.

    Thanks for sharing these tips Naomi :)
    Love,
    Yara

  2. My 2 year old loves the Tiny Hands apps as well! We also love the app Endless Alphabet for learning letters and their sounds. Thanks for the other app recommendations…can’t wait to check them out. “Games” have been a lifesaver during my 3rd trimester (I’m 38 weeks!!) when I am just too tired to move any more, but at least he is still learning while playing!

  3. Steph

    Oh, I love this, especially you’re honesty ;) We ALL say that thing about screen time *adopts knowing voice and raised eyebrows* “when I’M a parent I’ll never let my kids do this/that/the other”. Got to love the heady idealism of those pre-motherhood days!

    Great list of apps. I’ve a very tech savvy almost 4 year old so these will come in handy. Thank you x

  4. ES

    These are great! Endless Alphabet is also wonderful.

  5. Noelle

    Thanks for the suggestions! And I was the same way w/ the screen time – my favorite quote ever is “I was such a good parent before I had kids.”

  6. suzanne

    Hi Davis family! I have a 3.5 year old & she loves the “endless” series (endless alphabet, endless reader, endless numbers). fun friendly cute monsters help w/ letter matching, fun definitions, etc…

  7. Alicia

    Endless Alphabet is our absolute favorite!

  8. If your child likes cinema, my favourite app is LA LUNA, it includes the story, of course, but also an interactive video, the story book and different materials to learn how they created the short film.

    I also love Baby’s Brilliant night lights, very calming even for me! ha, ha and their songs and stories are always educational and fun. The creators of Baby’s brilliant are a family of five, so, it’s nice to see it’s not a big corporation, but a family who likes to create things!

  9. Priscilla

    Beck and Bo is a really cute app all about letters and numbers! My daughter loves it!

  10. Hi Taza,

    Thanks for your post – we thought we had exhausted all the good apps out there but we haven’t seen Tiny Sorting Hands or Bugs and Bubbles before. Toca Band is a regular favourite (mine, not the wee boy)!

    Your little ones may be interested in a free app that allows you to create personalised alphabets for your family – I Create The Alphabet (we got frustrated by the alphabet apps out there and created our own).

    It allows you to add your own words, voice over, and images (or even video clips) quickly and simply. It’s a simple little app that means your kids can swipe through or watch an alphabet with only the words they know and love. For example our wee boy has D is for Dalmatians (we have two), and G is for Gramps (cue video of his long distance Grandad saying hello).

    You can see the app and get the download links here:
    http://www.i-create.co.uk/alphabet.html

  11. Agreed. The Endless Alphabet is wonderful.
    Working in education myself the issue is rarely down to ‘screen time’ and almost entirely about the quality of what is on the screen. The more interactive and creative the better, but essentially anything in the world (virtual or real) that can engage kids to explore and learn is time well spent.

  12. My baby is seven months old and is drawn to the computer any chance she gets. We do not have cable, but watch movies on hulu and netflix every now and then.
    Thank you for these recommendations!

  13. Peek-a-boo barn looks so sweet! I’m visiting my boyfriend’s family for Halloween – right near NYC. She has triplets – they’ll be 3 in December! I’ll have to share these apps with her for sure. Thanks for sharing!

    Warm Regards,
    Alexandra
    http://www.littlewildheart.com

  14. Ah, yeah, I had hoped to keep Asa’s screen time down, but we usually watch Curious George or Sesame Street every morning before naptime… and… oh well! I’m sure when he’s old enough I’ll be giving in and letting him use apps to learn things. These all look great!
    xo
    Kristina
    http://www.eccentricowl.com
    Cardigan Giveaway!

  15. Alicia Nieto

    Maya loves Toca Doctor and Paint my wings. both from Toca Boca :D

  16. Elizabeth

    Hello! My almost 4-year old daughter loves the Cursive Writing Wizard – Trace Letters & Words app by L’Escapadou. It correlates to the sand paper letters she does at her Montessori school. And well, it is a win win because she finds it fun, and I love that she is learning how to write script.
    Elizabeth

  17. Britt

    Ubooly! The voice drives me bananas, but it’s great for the kids’ imaginations.

  18. Audrey Hunter

    I’m a teacher and love the endless alphabet, reader, and numbers app! Im excited to start using these now! Thanks for sharing!

  19. Myriah

    Thank you soooo much for this!! A weekend away/ road trip with three littles under 5 bright and early tomorrow deserves a few new apps.
    Thanks again.
    Ur the best.

  20. I can’t wait to share these apps with my best friends and their children.

  21. Grouchiegrrl

    I got the peekaboo barn app when my son was 6 months – we were doing baby sign and it was a great one for doing the animal signs. He is two now and still likes it – but I got put off a lot when they did a redesign recently and now all the animals look like creepy bratz dolls with huge eyes. I was annoyed because they don’t really look like the animals they are supposed to be anymore and I am pretty keen to find something similar that has realistic looking animals. But most of the others I agree with you about, they have been great to use.

  22. Love all of these, going to check them out tonight! We’re big fans of all the toca games ( esp Toca house!)

  23. Elizabeth

    When it comes to Math – Zorbit’s Math Adventure is great for preschoolers, and now they’ve released another app for Kindergarten!

  24. Jessica

    My kids love all the Toca games and also all the Dr. Panda games. They rarely get to play games on my phone, so it’s always a special treat. Toca Pet Doctor is free in the App Store today! What I like about the Toca games is that there’s really no “wrong” way to play so it’s good for younger children. But my 6 year old still loves it too since he can kind of make up his own way to play.

  25. Lexie

    A new favorite of ours is The Human Body. My 3.5 year old loves looking at all the different body systems and experimenting with how they work!

  26. Thanks for the recommendations. I’m not really super tech savvy, and we too have not given our 17 month old much screen time (other than the occasional archived episode of Blue’s Clues when to keep quiet when daddy needs a sleep in).

    Now we’re starting potty training before babe #2 comes and one sure way to keep her on the toilet is a little ipad time, but I have no idea even where to start with what would be some good apps to try.

    Thanks again!

    Julia Kristina
    http://juliakristina.com/blog

  27. Bible for Kids app by LifeChurch might interest you!

    I’m not sure if it’s the King James adaption, but it’s definitely kid friendly. You can check it out first if you’re hesitant. My nephew absolutely loves it and insists that I play it with him and loves to teach me the stories of the Bible that he has learned through this app :) it’s so precious.

    Hearing a 5 year old say, “God wants you to repent your sins and live as He tells us to so you can go to Heaven” really changes a person ;) check it out!

    I love your blog and the example you set for women and mothers alike. You’re truly an inspiration!

    Best wishes,

    Ashley

  28. Meghan Van Vliet

    I just purchased Peekaboo Barn for my little one this morning. He’s only 6 months, but he cooed with excitement over the opening and closing of the doors, and the animals inside. Too cute!

  29. Caroline

    This is awesome…thank you! There was no such thing as an “app” when I had my daughter, so it will all be new to me with this baby. I love that these apps aren’t just fluff – they can actually do a lot for the brain. Thanks again for sharing!

    Caroline
    http://www.laviemclean.com/

  30. Elena

    My 3 years old son absolutely loves reading eggs apps. Highly recommended for older kids.

    Thanks for inspiration!!

  31. alison

    My 1 year old loves peekaboo barn. My 3 year old also loves Nighty Night the bedtime book and Trucks by Duck Duck Moose.

  32. Ava

    Yeah, screen time is tricky. I am a media researcher, so I know firsthand the damage that certain TV shows and electronic games can do to children. I found an app that I use all the time with my two kiddos: “Storybook Reading”. It’s fairly new, you basically take pictures of the pages of all your favorite books and then record yourself reading… My daughter has a library of like 20 or 30 books on our family iPad. So when I need an extra minute, I’ll tell her she can look at a book on the Storybook app. It is the closest thing to reading to her that I have found. It’s just book pages with a little bubble that has my face recorded as I am reading to her. Love it!

  33. Edit

    Hi Taza! Thank you for nice tips. Although as a mom, kids book illustrator and one half of duo behind Mr.Fox and friends studio creating apps I know tons of apps, I didn’t know some of them.

    Our 2yo son loves What’s the time Mr.Fox? and Mr.Fox and shapes (these are apps we created with my husband for him). Hope you will all like as well!

  34. Please take a look at the apps by Mobile Montessori. We have been developing apps for young children for 4 years and have had great success with schools and parents around the world. Our apps are simple in design and engage young minds to learn! We have apps for Math, Geography, Language, and Science. Please, visit our site and contact us with your comments and questions!

    – Harin