Best Educational Toddler/Kid Apps for iPhone

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As  new mother, I didn’t have any thoughts on media use, aside from having always been strictly against TV before age of 2.

I figured we had a while to go until other media use ( computers, iPhones, video games) become a concern. However, in our world of virtually living on our iPhones (for both me and my husband who only last month switched to Android, sucker!), I underestimated the power it would have on our suddenly aware baby.

It makes total sense: they are designed to mimic their parents and when seeing us with our iPhones in our hands or pockets half the time, Alexis decided that she wanted to see what the fuss was all about. At first it was all about just pressing the HOME button for fun. Then I got a “bright” idea to download a baby app  (Sound Touch). It was the end of life as we know it. Enter the world of Toddler iPhone use.

I think it was around 7-8 months when she fell in love with it. She loved the Sound Touch app and it was pretty “educational” AND in Russian, so I felt she was getting enough good exposure for it to be ok, passable, even though I wasn’t happy about how passionate (read: obsessed) she was about it. It was one of her first words, after mama and dada: TANG! (for “thing” as that is how we had to call it after she figured out the word “phone”). She still calls it that at 18 months and never switched to the actual word for the phone.

For a while, I felt iffy about letting her use the iPhone. I mean, she was only using things that were beneficial to her during the times where a more beneficial parental interaction wasn’t possible, but I still didn’t like how MUCH she enjoyed listening to her app pronounce words, pictures of which she pressed. Soon came the discovery of Dr Seuss books and that made me feel slightly better about giving her the phone since she would be listening to a book, of all things… I battled like this for months, going back and forth between “Should I never give her the phone again?” and “She loves it and the apps are harmless (no fast scene switching, age appropriate content)“.
It wasn’t until just recently though that I finally realized how great some of the iPhone use can be and despite my fear it was greatly beneficial to her on many levels, including learning the whole English and Russian alphabet (both sounds and letter names) on her own by using the apps.

You can read about our story, my media philosophy, Lexi’s iPhone use and what we do and plan on doing, as well as the research I’ve read about, in my long and detailed post about Media usage scheduled to be published next week. Subscribe here if you want to be notified of it, or follow my Facebook page.


This post is about apps we have found to be great and/or educational.
The age reference I am putting in the brackets is the age Lexi started using this particular app and the age when I noticed her getting something beneficial out of it, not necessarily the age your baby will be ready to use it or gain any benefit from it, but it will give you some kind of idea.


OceanHouse Media ( Started using at 9 Months+/Best for 9 Months+)

The best book apps out there. They have a whole range of Dr. Seuss books which are a huge hit with toddlers and babies. This was one of the first apps we used with Lexi at a pretty young age. Because she’s always been a huge bookworm and Dr. Seuss was her favorite, AND she was “reading” books far beyond her age, I got quite a few Dr Seuss e-books for her and would initially read them to her on “READ IT MYSELF” option to maximize parental interaction, and then as she got older and smarter, she started using AUTO PLAY, where the book gets read to the child. That was a great app to use when dinner needed to be cooked or laundry needed to be done and Lexi wasn’t co-operating. Because it’s a still technically a book, it doesn’t change frames, it doesn’t move like a cartoon, it simply reads a story with illustrations.


Cat in the Hat learning Library (Best for: 18months+)

A spin off of Dr Seuss’s Cat in the Hat books, these are more educational than anything else. If you have paper books of the same type, you know the format. They talks about earth, animals, north pole, deserts, birds.  It’s best suited for older kids (5+), but Alexis has always loved these books. For older kids, these books can help them with reading and spelling, as words are highlighted as they are read, and you can press on an object or a word to see it in red letters and hear it spoken out loud.

Aside from Dr Seuss books, OM books have awesome collections called Little Critter and Berenstain Bears both of which are great hits with Lexi. The Little Critter stories add a little twist to the books by placing characters throughout the story that you’re supposed to find and click on (a mouse and a spider). Each book also goes over some major changes in a toddler’s life: New baby, Going to the dentist, Helping out, All by myself, etc.


Disney story apps (various ages):

The Lion King (Started using at 9 Months +/Best for 18 Months + ): It’s an absolutely gorgeous app with special effects and Disney music. BUT this app is VERY interactive and is designed for use with a parent or for much older kids. Every page needs some sort of input from the toddler which might be difficult for those who aren’t skilled with the iPhone yet.  Since Alexis was using the iphone since she was 7 months old, she knew the concept of touching and swiping to get things to happen and only needed occasional help when something was too complicated (like finding all the birds with closed eyes and getting them to open their eyes). Aside from the fact that it’s a very hands- on book, it’s a great story, well illustrated and read and more importantly comes in various languages which is SO important for bilingual kids as it’s hard enough to expose them to their non-dominant language)


Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, Toy story (Started using at 9 Months +/Best for 14 Months + )

These are very similar to Lion King with fewer interactive moments. However, they require an adult or the kid to turn pages ( there’s no AUTO PLAY mode), which is good because it calls for parental interaction. However if you’re planning on having your toddler use it, make sure he/she knows how to click on an arrow button to get the page to turn. Otherwise, beautiful imagery and good ol’ Disney stories.


Princess Story Theater (Started using at 16 Months +/Best for 24 Months + ): 

Taking interaction and story play further, Disney came up with a Story Theater where instead of listening to a Disney story you come up with one on your own. You’re given a few options for each story and can then record your character moving around and talking in each option you pick. After I created a few stories where Ariel goes dancing in the water, meets a pair of mean eels and shushes them away with a Dinglehopper, Lexi quickly caught on and is now designing her own stories while occasionally asking for my help. It’s pretend e-play at its best.

Story time

This is the least impressive of all Disney apps, but it has its place. It’s basically a collection of different Disney stories. The great thing about it is that it has virtually every Disney story imaginable. The bad part – you have to pay per book and the books are so POORLY read with a dull British accent void of any emotion. The only reason I am including this here is because despite of this, Lexi still liked selecting the books and listening through them once she got used to the accent/dullness.


Shrek and Madagascar

I just downloaded them trying to get her ready for the trip to Universal with the Shrek app. It’s e-books like any other with possibly superior graphics and storytelling than others.

madagaskar 7


Wee Sing  (Best for any age)

A new app we downloaded just a few days ago to continue fostering her newfound love for letters and sounds. The app pairs alphabet letters with animals and instruments and takes you through flash cards with a letter and a coordinating animal playing an instrument and three other words that start with that letter. Everything is clickable and either sounds out music,  letters or a word. My favorite feature is the ABC song with a indicator of which letter they are on, as well as the alphabet board where each letter is connected to the sounds from the song. So you press A and a boy sings A like he would in an ABC song. You can also explore all the animals, hear their instruments and their names along with the corresponding letter.


Talking ABC   (Best for any age)

This is the app with the help of which Lexi learned the Russian alphabet. We have it in Russian, but they just released an English version and it’s the best alphabet app out there.

Not only is it extremely beautiful and visually appealing, the alphabet song that they sing  is absolutely unforgettable. The song makes this app.  I like the Russian version better but the English version isn’t that bad either, even if it’s sang with a little bit of an accent. The animals of the app are formed out of playdough and make funny sounds and faces. Lexi literally has minute long laughs at some of them.

Aside from the wonderful Alphabet song, it also has great educational games to help your toddler learn his letters and sounds and then test himself. That’s how I found out Lexi knew Russian letters. I decided to play the quiz game with her and she got every answer right. I was floored! I can confidently say that this app (in combination with some other Russian letter apps and me singing the song and pointing out animals and letters with her) is responsible for her knowledge of the whole Russian alphabet at the age of 18 months: both sounds and letters. She had absolutely no other exposure to the Russian alphabet anywhere else.

Note: you can set the song up to sound out letter sounds or actual letter names, depending on what  you’re working on. Some other games included in the app are Animal games, Puzzles and being able to spell out any word with the cute playdough animals.


ABC little reader (Best for 12 Months+)

This app was a suggestion from a friend. It claims that it can teach kids reading by showing flash cards in fast sequences, but as you will learn from my MEDIA for TODDLERS post, I am very much against fast scene switching, so we use it with a slightly different purpose. It has a few sections that go over parts of your body, actions and events, with a picture and then the word spelled out and sounded out, followed by a video.

Word World and Word Friends (Best for 24 months or when your baby knows his letters/sounds)

My favorite new app. I have not bought the extensions to these apps so we are only using the free parts of it since they are challenging enough for now, but if you have an older kid who can spell with ease, paid parts offer even more fun.

The two activities she plays the most in these apps are word building and letter recognizing.

In the first, all letters of the word are scrambled and you’re supposed to put letters in place by pressing them in order when the narrator sounds them out. It goes sort of like this: – What letter makes an “SSSSS” sound? You click on letter S and the dog brings it to the empty letter space. “Good Job! Letter S makes the “ssss” sound” or “No, Letter O does not make the “ssss” sound!” And you go on like that until the word is complete and then sounded out.

To my surprise, Lexi loved the game as soon as I downloaded and is really good at it. I would say she selects the right letter based on the sound about 85% of the time. Since we haven’t really taught her sounds of the letters, I assume it’s only going to get better with this game.  The key here is being there with her and repeating the question myself if she is having trouble selecting the right letter.

Update: 1 week later, she can now spell correctly nearly 100% of the time). She has very little trouble spelling words like HORN (she just did that today) without any mistakes.

The second game gives you three words and asks you to select the word that starts with a particular letter. This one is easy simply based on the fact that she selects A LETTER she is asked, not necessarily the one the word starts with, and usually it’s the first letter she sees anyways.




Learn ASL (Best for Any Age with parental involvement)

In an attempt to teach Lexi ( and myself) more ASL words, as I was doing a pretty shitty job doing that in my own ( non-existent) free time, I purchased and downloaded this app after trying out quite a few out there. It has a comprehensive list of ASL signs that pertain to a baby and toddler life with a female and a male signers showing off these signs in a video format and explaining how to make them.  You can add whatever signs you’re trying to learn into your favorites and just run through them together with your baby. It was very helpful and Lexi loved watching it with me and repeating the signs.

sountouchSound Touch (7 Months/ When your baby becomes interested in doing more than just clicking buttons)

The very first app that Lexi used and she is still madly in love with it. We were recommended this app by our Kindermusik teacher and never looked back. The concept is simple- it’s a grid of several illustrations of items combined by themes (animals, wild animals, household, transportation, musical instruments, etc). When pressed, a photo shows up with the name of the item sounded out in whatever language you set the app to. This was a huge deal for me, because there are rarely any good Russian apps out there. Each time you press the item, a different photo of the same item pops up, so you get to see different versions of the same thing, which is a very valuable learning tool for toddlers. Very quickly Lexi learned all the words available and knew what they were- random things like helicopter, saxophone, dishwasher, etc at 9-10 months.

Video Touch (9 Months/ When your baby is tired of Sound Touch)

Same concept as above, but in video. Just like in Sound Touch, the videos change each time you press the same item and they are very high quality. This has been absolutely amazing to watch when it came to Lexi’s development. She would become obsessed with one category, music for example, and watch it over and over again, different versions of the same instrument playing and imitate it. Lately  she’s been walking around with her drumstick to her mouth singing and tapping her fingers on its side, pretending to play the flute. She has had zero exposure to flutes or images of flutes, except for this app. She also recognizes instruments like harp anywhere she sees one and even connected the harp and a little string based instrument we have at home that resembles a harp as similar string instrument.



Fisher Price Apps

Storybook apps feature nursery rhymes told line by line and illustrated with colorful characters.


Where’s Puppy is an app that teaches body parts with an adorable puppy and kitten. Lexi loved playing this and pointing to her own body parts when she was younger.


Let’s Count, Animals and Monkey apps go over numbers, animals, shapes and colors. Non-interactive.


Shapes and Colors displays dancing shapes and colors while sounding them out when pressed.


Duck Duck Moose

This has a series of apps that are really well made and fun for toddlers.

Peek-A-Zoo (Best for  18 months+)

A very cute app that features different animals who announce themselves in kids voices when pressed. It includes games where you have to select an animal who is doing a certain action: wagging his tail, trying to hide, calling on the phone, crying, is sad, is happy, cross eyed, etc. A great app for attention (look and find type) and to help toddlers recognize actions and emotions.


Old MacDonald and Wheels on the Bus (Age: 14 Months +)

If your toddler loves songs, this will be great! Extremely interactive, very fun, will send them into a fit of giggles and is accompanied by their favorite toddler songs.



Peek-a-Boo Barn (Best for new iPhone user)

The Barn shakes with an animal sound coming out from its closed doors. You click on the barn, the doors open up and it’s a HORSE (DOG, DUCK, etc), and a kid’s voice says “HORSE!”  Barn doors close up again.

Simple but works with babies. Not very educational, but fun.


Puppi Love (Age: 12 Months+)

Most everyone is familiar with Puppi Love. It’s an adorable puppy that talks to you, teaches your letters, colors and numbers, plays peek-a-boo with you, tells you stories, sings you songs and lets you feed him. Lexi really got into him when she learned to recognize letters and numbers. Early on, she would play peekaboo, since it only required her to tap the screen, then she transitions to feeding the puppy while saying “nom nom nom  mmmm”. Later came her favorite songs, then letters an numbers along with quizzes ( she loves quizzes, like her mom) and finally the storytelling. From the educational standpoint, the letters, numbers and colors parts of the app are very helpful. You get to pop bubbles, which is fun for them, but at the same time you’re listening to the names of the letters and numbers.


Memory games (Age: 14Months/18Months +)

I haven not found an English app that has a memory game good enough or one that is well made (attractive graphics, large images, cards with objects appealing to kids) but I did want to bring a Russian app to your attention. Bookvario has a great memory that is fabulous. Easy to play, features animals and very kid friendly. (see the app below under RUSSIAN). A memory game is really a great way to help your kid focus and develop their memory. Alexis has been amazing at playing her memory games. She got the concept almost immeidiately and can match like a pro. She hasn’t developed strategies yet, but definitely speed matched some boards and moves up in levels fast. She can even manage a hard board ( with many matches) if given enough time. It’s one of her favorite games to play.


I don’t have a large Russian readership, but in case some of you out there are reading it and are raising your kids bilingual, here are a few Russian apps to help with that.


A library of Russian books. Illustrations are pretty bad but it has some of the old favorites like by Mayakovski.


Russian Cards

Alphabet flashcards that sound out letters and animals.


Zuza Lullaby

This was Lexi’s first Russian book and she used to love it. She doesn’t read it anymore but for the 7-12 months age it was invaluable. It has a really fun story, great illustrations and awesome narration.



An Alphabet app that goes through each letter and associates it with an animal. The most valuable part of the app is the memory game (read above in MEMORY GAMES)


If I didn’t mention your favorite app, please feel free to add in the comments!

The best educational apps for toddlers

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  • Reply
    August 28, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    My son absolutely loves Starfall ABCs. It’s great for learning the alphabet and letter sounds.

  • Reply
    August 28, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    I have very mixed feelings on smartphone use for kids; All of my nieces & nephews use them – It’s nice when they are quiet, but when someone tells them NO they can’t have the phone, or they have to share – an epic meltdown usually occurs. They are ages 3-9, and they all meltdown the same. None of them can sit at the dinner table & be quiet with out some sort of entertainment. I just don’t like that. I’m not a parent yet, but this is a discussion I’ve had with my husband many times. Obviously we won’t know how we are going to handle it until we have to handle it.

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      August 28, 2013 at 2:14 PM

      I was concerned about that too. But I am in the camp of people who realize children’s limitations and don’t demand that they do things beyond their ability. Toddlers can’t sit still, and have trouble entertaining themselves without toys/books, etc. To make an acitve toddler sit at a restaurant and wait for food without any entertainment or being able to move is simply not understanding how their body and mind work at that age.
      I actually touch on that in my next week’s post on cell phone use. Hell,I get bored waiting for food, what can I expect for a 2 year old who doesn’t have siblings to entertain her.
      But as in love with the iphone as Lexi is, luckily a set of crayons and paper, or a sticker book will keep her attention and entertain her for just as long now.

      • Reply
        August 28, 2013 at 2:39 PM

        I find that interesting. I have 3 year old twins and a 2 year old singleton and we NEVER give them our iphones to play with. When we go out to eat they sit just fine. We color on the place mats and talk about stuff around us. We don’t pull our phones out at dinner either. I’m all about educational apps if it’s your thing, I just get nervous that kids these days aren’t going to know how to function without some source of media in front of them and are going to lack the ability to use their imaginations and entertain themselves. I love that my kiddos will go play together for an hour in the morning while I get things done.

        • Reply
          Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
          August 28, 2013 at 3:33 PM

          See, the difference is that they have siblings to entertain them and that’s a big deal. And to be honest, kids are just different. Lexi is content drawing on placemats or playing with her stickers, but she also loves her iphone. Other kids might not be interested in that so much.
          But I don’t think you can expect a toddler to sit there on his own without nothing to entertain him, be it other kids, devices, books, or drawing pad. I hate sitting waiting for food, so unless there is an interesting convo going on, I get on my iphone.

          • Tarynkay
            August 28, 2013 at 8:07 PM

            I dunno. One of the things we are trying to teach is patience and waiting well. No one is born knowing how to do those things, it takes a lot of practice. We don’t just sit there and stare at the wall, though. If we are out to eat, we talk to each other while we are waiting. If I am out alone, I might read something while waiting- is that what you mean? I wouldn’t go out with other people and look at my phone at dinner, though. If I found them that uninteresting, I wouldn’t be having dinner with them, right?

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            August 28, 2013 at 9:10 PM

            No I’m more referring to going to dinner because you’re starving and it’s convenient. Not to have a convo. In those case you’re usually so tired…
            If you’re actually meeting a person for dinner or making it an event, sure, you’d be taking to the person.

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            August 28, 2013 at 9:11 PM

            And at the same time if I’m out having dinner with friends, I don’t have the time to engage Lexi so that she was entertained, I’m busy taking to them. 🙂

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            August 28, 2013 at 9:14 PM

            And at the same time if I’m out having dinner with friends, I don’t have the time to engage Lexi so that she was entertained, I’m busy taking to them. 🙂
            Luckily now all she needs is a bunch of crayons or a sticker book. And I have no problems giving her the iPhone if I have to. All she does on it is either read books or spell anyways so I’m not complaining.

          • Tarynkay
            August 29, 2013 at 11:26 AM

            Your qualifier “interesting” is what threw me- I was picturing my teenage sister in law, sitting at dinner with everyone, messing with her phone the whole time! We don’t eat out that much, most of our meals are at home. If we are out with child free friends, we put the baby to bed and leave a sitter at home. If it is family or friends with kids, the kids are part of the conversation.

            Whatever decisions you make for Alexis are great- there are many right ways to raise kids. My point is just that we are actively trying to teach our son to cope with boredom on his own without distractions, and to be able to sit and wait patiently.

          • Meryl
            September 1, 2013 at 8:43 AM

            See, I think it’s so important to teach patience. The iPhone is awesome, and it has totally saved me from full-on toddler meltdowns at places like the DMV, but I definitely don’t want to raise my kids to get restless and irritated as soon as they’re confronted with delay. Learning to wait for stuff is an important life skill. Not that I’m suggesting, Elena, that you’re training Lexi to be demanding; it’s just that I know kids who can’t wait for a damn thing, including more material crap all the time, so I’ve been tossing all of this around in my head as I raise my own kids. And, yes, nothing makes me sadder than watching people out to dinner with friends and spouses, all staring down at their glowing screens. God, what kind of society are we building if we forget how to interact face-to-face? I worry about that with my kids, which is why I try to make the iPhone seem like no big deal, like just another tool, even though I know how easily I could become addicted to the damn thing.

          • jen
            September 2, 2013 at 3:07 AM

            Thanks for the app suggestions. They look quite good and I’m going to have a look at them later. However I do agree with the comments about restaurants and patience etc. I have a 20 month old and 3 year old and let me tell you, they definitely do NOT entertain each other at restaurants!! I would never pull out my phone though. I just try to keep them engaged by talking, colouring (harder with the younger one as she just wants to escape all the time), spy games etc. It can be very difficult and its certainly not always enjoyable for me but I don’t want to resort to a phone or iPad to keep them occupied as you lose a bit of that interaction, which I think is sad.

            I have no problem letting them play these things at home though when I see fit. If they demand it, they do not get and if they throw a fit when I take it away, then it just doesn’t come out for a long while. It is hard finding the balance between the time slot where it is beneficial and the time slot where they are just passively using it.

            It is hard to know where we sit with technology. Its so useful in today’s world but it can also be a curse as well. You are a bit off this yet but we have started letting our 3 year old use our laptop (supervised) so that he can type words & numbers, and practise using the mouse. He gets a lot more out of it (imo) than a tablet and its a good skill for him to master!

            Now, off to the app store with me!

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            September 2, 2013 at 3:43 AM

            I understand what you and some other comments are saying and it’s definitely easy to judge not knowing the specifics however…
            When my husband and I do get to go out to a restaurant, the last thing we want is to have to work hard to entertain someone. What we do want is to have 10-20 minutes to talk with each other. Adult talk. Relax, have a drink, breathe easy. We don’t have family here, we don’t have/do babysitters, we don’t go on dates, we are both EXTREMELY busy with work. So when we do go out, we go out with our very active toddler in tow and what we want is just a little time to ourselves.
            She gets crazy amounts of quality interaction with both of us during the day. I don’t feel bad for one second for letting her entertain herself with the iPhone while her dad and I enjoy each others company once in a blue moon. Not one bit.
            If anything, the iPhone shouldn’t come out at home where the interaction is most important. What’s the difference in lost interaction at home vs a store or a restaurant.

            So I disagree. I feel stores and public places are the best places to give an iPhone to a toddler (not kid who has impulse control but toddler). And when that iPhone presents an opportunity for learning or enrichment… Well I am just all for it. (Which I didn’t used to be until I learned and experienced a few things).
            But to say “hey i want to go eat some tasty food most of which you can’t have, you get to sit in a restricting chair in a boring environment twiddling your thumbs and be happy about it while dad and I talk and reconnect from the day just because we said so…”, well that’s just a sucky thing to do to a 2 year old.
            And hey when you happen to go out for the sake of said toddler, it’s cool to keep the iPhone in your pocket and experience the world with them. Like we will in 1 week at Disney which I cannot wait for. Eeeek! The iPhone will definitely be staying in my bag most of the time then. 🙂

          • jen
            September 2, 2013 at 5:48 AM

            I hear ya! We are in the same boat, no family nearby, stressful work and just each other to rely on. It is hard. I guess also maybe we are from a different culture where we don’t eat out a lot unless its necessity and tbh its just not worth the effort and money until they are older. My husband and I just do the bonding-dinner-wine thing when they are in bed.

            But anyway, am getting off track. I suppose it is really one of those ‘each to their own’ situations and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other 🙂

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            September 2, 2013 at 2:12 PM

            We used to have dinners as “our thin” way before Lexi. Then stopped for a bit and now that’s really the only way we can have fun together. After bedtime wine and dinner aren’t an option for us, since we both work well past her bedtime till 12-1 am. So we started going out to dinners as a way to have some fun together, because Lexi is contained, we are out of the house ( where we spend most of our time, so we are sick of it).
            I can’t wait till my mom gets here again, so that she can babysit Lexi now that she is older and we can go on a proper date or something as basic as seeing a movie in the movie theater (whoa!) lol

          • Mrs Loquacious
            September 2, 2013 at 1:21 PM

            It’s hard to put a hard, fast “rule” on media and children. For sure, Ted Talks has a video from a fellow who talks about the dangers of TV for young, impressionable minds, so I subscribe to the no-TV rule. I cannot justify allowing my child to be “fed” by a screen that talks *at* her, and doesn’t allow for any interaction whatsoever. Plus, I’ve seen how kids get addicted to the TV and they always want it on, even if only for “background noise,” and I fear that it compromises their ability to develop a sustained attention span.

            That said, I feel as though iPhones and apps are another beast entirely. And like Elena, I agree that there is a time and a place for it, but it shouldn’t be *the* go-to form of learning for little people. Our little girl, like Lexi, is very active and inquisitive; my DD is hyper alert and aware, and sleeps below the “average” amount of time that other 18-month olds sleep for. This means that we are *on* all day long and all night long (and like Elena, we don’t have family around to give us breaks while we juggle working from home and entertaining our girl), so we get really tired sometimes. The iPhone, like any other tool, gives us a bit of a break and allows DD to be entertained for a brief amount of time while we catch our breath and/or enjoy a meal. We usually whip out the iPhone after we’ve already read through all of her books (we pack an average of 25 books per car trip and 8-10 for a meal out), sung her some songs, and exhausted other means of entertainment. At that point, I’m not averse to handing her an ABC or animal app to play with. The other day, we were stuck in traffic for nearly an hour en route to the aquarium; the iPhone was a very handy tool to save our sanity and keep her from freaking out in the car seat (and she only had the phone for about 20-25 minutes of that time, not the entire hour). When we arrived, she was ready to get out and walk, so surrendering the phone wasn’t a huge battle.

            On most days, I have a hard time locating my iPhone because I don’t keep it on me and I am busy playing with DD. So, in our situation the iPhone is not an addiction nor a babysitter, but simply another tool in our educational arsenal. This is not the case with everyone, so I think that each situation of toddler iPhone use needs to be evaluated individually.

            Elena – how is Lexi with navigating on the small iPhone screen? I’m thinking of picking up an iPad Mini bc DD doesn’t do so well with some of these apps, partly because of her own motor skills but also because I am finding that some of the apps aren’t very touch-sensitive/ responsive (even to my finger touch!). The iPad is way too heavy, and my iPhone is also unwieldy bc of my Mophie case, so I’m leaning toward the Mini. Thoughts?

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            September 2, 2013 at 2:19 PM

            “so I subscribe to the no-TV rule” same here. I wrote a massive post about TVs and media that is scheduled for next week I think where i go into lots of details on my thoughts and rules.

            It’s so funny to read your comment because I kept nodding my head in agreement since it’s exactly out situation: after we’ve exhausted everything possible ( and she doesn’t stop) finally, she is able to sit down with an app an I can breathe a sigh of relief and get myself tea or make her next meal.

            Small iPhone screen- she has no problem at all. Her fine motor skills are pretty good for her age and I’ve not seen her struggle with pressing the right buttons since she was maybe 12 months old. That being said, we are talking about buying an iPad mini for her, but I am concerned it’s just too big. It seems that the Iphone is the perfect size to hold onto, but I like that the screen size of the Mini is more comfortable to look at. So I am torn. We are waiting for the new ipad mini to be released this month and then we’ll let her play with one in the store and decide.

  • Reply
    Rachell Edens (@RachNole20)
    August 28, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    Great resource for iPhone apps. My son is obsessed with my phone as well and I have just now started allowing him to do things on it. Now I know which apps to download for him to use. Thanks

  • Reply
    August 28, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    Except that in April FCC, which has not revisited its standards for mobile devices since 1996, announced that it would be reevaluating the potential risks of cell phone usage in relation to cancer…As fun as iPhone apps may be, I don’t think they are worth exposing my child to radiation, no matter how small it might be or how inconclusive current research is.

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      August 28, 2013 at 2:15 PM

      Yeah, I somewhat agree. We take certain precautions when it comes to her cell phone use. I wrote about it in my next week’s post.
      But in the end she gets as exposed to it just by being near me carrying the iphone as her using it on airplane mode.

  • Reply
    August 28, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    Ahh! too much flashing on the page! My eyes!

    Endless Alphabet is a favorite iOS app around our house. We don’t do Disney stuff, because it’s not my favorite, but will do Sesame Street apps. Elmo’s Alphabet is another favorite.

  • Reply
    Mrs Loquacious
    August 28, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    We are wrestling with the same thing! We used to give her the iPhone (she had her own for a while) with the FP apps loaded on, but we found that if we weren’t strict about access, she would be on the thing for a LONG time, and would cry hysterically if we took it away. It was like an addict on crack.

    Now I don’t surf on the phone when I’m watching her (but I do when Hubbs is watching her, or the nanny is reading with her). Hubbs is also trying to limit his screen time while he’s with her, so that she doesn’t think that the phone is as important as she is.

    However, we do give her the phone to play the FP apps (and now the WordWorld app! – thanks for the recommendation!) when we are at a restaurant or on a long car ride and she has already exhausted her supply of books and songs and toys. Sometimes we will let her watch Max & Ruby streamed on Vimeo too. But that’s pretty rare, and I think she probably only plays on the phone once every week or maybe even less than that. The phone has lost its addictive appeal now, so she will only play for 15 minutes or so before she wants to move on to something else. No more wailing and having to fight her for the phone! 🙂

    When she is older, I am going to get an iPad Mini so that she can play on that and I can have my phone back. But I think I won’t be really introducing technology as a regular thing until she starts preschool or hits age 3.

  • Reply
    August 28, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    I just read an interesting article about this that might interest you:

    I am totally a digital hypocrite. I am also a hypocrite about alcohol, coffee, and driving in that I do all of those things but will not allow my son to do any of them for a long time.

    On the occasions that someone (usually aunties or uncles) have handed my son an iPhone or iPad, he has been able to figure out how to use them quickly. They are pretty intuitive devices. So I am not worried that he is not going to know how to use technology in the future.

    On the other hand, when it is time to do something else and he has to give the device back, it is awful. He gets very upset and has a lot of difficulty transitioning to another activity. It just hasn’t been worth it to us, to deal with a tantrum in exchange for some quiet busyness. So one thing I am particularly interested in hearing is how much screen time you allow Lexi and then how you transition her away from it.

    I am looking forward to reading your post about media use and toddlers. I think that our philosophies on this might be exactly opposite! We don’t use smartphones or ipads or computers around our son even though we do use these things on our own. However, nobody pays me to be online- your livelihood is online. So that is a huge difference. For me, time spent online is time I am not doing things that are more important for me to be doing.

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      August 28, 2013 at 4:00 PM

      I actually go over how we transition from Iphone use to another activity and you ARE right it used to be a nightmare. Which is precisely why I was second guessing my decision to allow her iPhone use. I couldn’t believe how addicted she became and it made me worry, but with time as she found other things that interest her and grew, plus we learned to handle it better, it became no different than drawing or painting or playing with her toys. Often she will turn music on it, lay it down and go to play with something else. She still loves the iPhone but there are days that she never even mentions it or asks for it, or sees it an walks away.

      • Reply
        August 28, 2013 at 8:12 PM

        That is really interesting, that it became like other toys. Do you think it was more the repeated exposure, or you changing your habits? I guess we will find out how he is able to handle it in a few more years!

        • Reply
          Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
          August 28, 2013 at 9:18 PM

          I think it mostly had to do with the change in my attitude. I stopped stressing out about her using it and deleted the apps I didn’t want her using like YouTube or any kind of show. I left educational apps or books only and have her sort of free reign with it without trying to take away when mommy guilt kicked in (because I was against media in general until I realized how much she learned from it)
          But at the same time I stopped carrying it with me so it wasn’t so available.
          So if she saw it somewhere and asked for it, she could play with it. But otherwise she rarely would remember to ask for it if t wasn’t around.

          But I really think that me relaxing about it and changing WHAT she uses on the phone was the key.
          Plus I have a little trick for taking it away when I need to. I wrote about it in my next post that’s scheduled for next week.

          • Sarah
            September 1, 2013 at 6:06 PM

            I actually had a similar experience. Once I stopped feeling bad about it (because I realized how much he was learning!) and made it better for him to use (also removed youtube and other junk), it was fine. We also now have set times that he can use it. He knows when it’s available and when it’s time to stop. Some days he’s ready to use it, some days he picks a book to read. It was like I stopped making it a big thing, and so did he. He’s older than Lexi, so it was different in some ways. But like all other things, moderation was important.

          • Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
            September 1, 2013 at 6:35 PM

            Yes, that is exactly my experience! By not giving it to her, I was making it so important that she HAD to have it.

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      August 28, 2013 at 4:09 PM

      Interesting article by the way. I totally agree that the reason babies reach for the phone is because they are looking for a connection and partially it’s the whole “mimicking” thing of theirs. I make sure that I leave my phone upstairs nowadays and stay off it most of the time and probably that’s what made a difference between her wanting it badly and her using it as any other toy for a period of time.

  • Reply
    August 28, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    thank you so much for posting this. I know i had made a previous comment asking for your recommendations, and then today i was just thinking “man i wonder if she will ever do i post about apps” and sure enough i opened my reader this morning and saw this post!
    thanks again, cant wait to start using some of these apps with my lil man. I already downloaded the Talking ABC one. I just couldnt pass up the cute lil clay animals!!! lol
    the sweet life of a southern wife

  • Reply
    August 28, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    I wanted to ask about your tv usage. I see you have a strict policy but although I have tried to not focus on TV, it does provide a nice background noise at times and my little one lives certain shows. If you don’t watch TV and you were to spend the week JUST at home and not go out, what would your typical day be? What does Lexi do when you’re cooking? Etc

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      August 29, 2013 at 2:35 PM

      We don’t have/watch TV, so that’s not even an option.
      When I need to do something like cook, I used to have to ask hubby to come play with her (he works from home). Now that we have found activities that she likes and she splays with independently, I usually sit her down at a desk with sticker books and look and find books, crayons or paint and let her go to town. Most of the time she gives me 30 minutes doing that. If then she starts needing my attention, I let her read an iphone book or do whatever she feels like at the moment. And that gets me through making some food.

  • Reply
    Anna Kochetkova
    August 28, 2013 at 11:32 PM

    WOW great research!

  • Reply
    August 29, 2013 at 6:35 AM

    Thanks for posting this. I’m a new blogger and am 35 weeks pregnant so this list is great (even though I have a little while to go).

  • Reply
    Leah Rosenbaum
    August 29, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    my 2 year old likes some Lego apps and Mr./Mrs. Potato Head. I have a singing sign language app that he likes too. the abc songs from is a free app he also enjoys.

  • Reply
    August 31, 2013 at 11:58 PM

    Our faves – Endless Alphabet, First Words (Deluxe), Baby Pad ABCs and Animals, any of the Pyzia or Grasshopper apps (there are several – for the post part they are in the “touch the A” or “Touch the elephant” with a series of letters presented on the screen genre), Farm Sounds by Tantrum, Grandma’s Garden/Monkey Preschool Lunchbox (pretty much the same app, just different presentations), the wonderkind Toddler Seek & Find apps. That said, “favorite” apps is relative, because she only gets it in the car during long trips, so it’s hard to base it off of just that…but those are the ones she seems to like most.

  • Reply
    September 1, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    Thanks for this post! We tried a couple of them and they’re great! I’m always looking for new kid apps to try. Talking ABC has been a big hit.

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      September 1, 2013 at 6:36 PM

      I looooooooove Talking ABC! My favorite app!

      • Reply
        September 2, 2013 at 8:14 PM

        I noticed a couple of other commenters mentioned Endless Alphabet. Do you have that one? That one is a huge favorite of both of my boys and the main way my big one learned letter sounds. I think it’s also good for learning basic iPhone/iPad skills, which is where my little is now. Little has some sensory stuff that caused some fine motor delays and using that app has had some amazing effects on him.

        • Reply
          Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
          September 4, 2013 at 12:28 AM

          I just bought it and OMG, it is AMAZING!!!! Lexi picked it up in a second and was spelling huge words within 2 minutes of working with the app. I couldn’t believe it. Withing about 10 minutes, she started saying words, like COOPERATE (attempting to) and GARGLE (lol, she is hilarious saying that word).
          Thank you, everyone, for mentioning this app!

          • Sarah
            September 4, 2013 at 6:33 AM

            I was sold when after one day of playing, my 2-year-old said “Hilarious is big, big funny!”

  • Reply
    September 5, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    Thanks for this! Do you let her use the iPad with restrictions enabled or some sort of cover? I got the Goodnight Moon app because it was free and, of course, my 19 month old loves it, but she’s always changing settings like mute. And the screen gets so dirty!

    • Reply
      Elena @The Art of Making a Baby
      September 6, 2013 at 8:52 AM

      I have a case but there’s not much you can do to prevent them from clicking mute till they learn not to. Lexi stopped clicking wrong buttons at about 12 months when the phone became a tool rather than a curious thing.

  • Reply
    December 14, 2013 at 4:52 AM

    Thanks for the post. Some great suggestions.

    Some of our favorites – Peekaboo Barn,Endless Alphabet, and Alphabet Fun 2.

    My thoughts regarding smartphone use for kids: Moderation & Parental Restrictions Enabled 🙂

  • Reply
    May 10, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    Thank you for including Russian apps! My husband is Russian and we are raising our 8-month old daughter bilingual. If you have any other recommendations for apps, please let me know!

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