DSC_0168If you had told me five years ago when I first got my hands on an iPhone (after waking up extremely early and standing in line with hundreds of other excited fans at the A T & T store, naturally), that I would be sharing it with a two year old, I’d say you were crazy.  CRA-ZY.  Who does that?!

Ha.  The things you say and do before you have kids.  It’s adorable.

My oldest son (2 1/2 years old) is obsessed with my iPhone, and it always amazes me how easily he can navigate through the screens – he knows how to browse through my thousands of pictures, locate games that he can play, and hey, he’ll even call people from time to time (I apologize if you’ve been on the receiving end of one of those calls).  I try and save use of my phone for “special occasions” and “emergencies” only – because hello, does any two year old really need unlimited access to a $500 not-a-toy-but-let’s-be-real-it’s-totally-a-toy-electronic-gadget??  When I do let him use it, I make sure it has material and games on there that interest, engage and educate him.

(That sounded good and responsible parent-like, right?  Let’s be real.  I try and find things that keep him sitting still, quiet, and out of trouble for a few minutes so I can nurse baby brother in peace).

Our favorite apps include:

1).  Endless Alphabet

Our number one app for sure, this game teaches little ones letters and words through funny, colorful, animated puzzles.  A word will show up on the screen – some are short and sweet like X-Ray or Dive, while others are longer and more complicated, like Gargantuan – the letters will scramble and your child has to fit them back into their correct place.  As the letters are dragged and dropped, they become animated little creatures themselves, and express themselves phonetically.  When the word is complete, an animated illustration will appear to demonstrate the definition of the word.  My little guy LOVES this game, and will play it for ages.  He imitates the sounds the letters make and blows me away with how quickly he can unscramble and put back together a word he’s never seen before.  New words are added regularly, which I like, and there are no time limits, winners, losers or high scores – kids can work at their own pace to “solve” each puzzle with no outside stressors.

2). My Little Town: Toddler’s Seek & Find

This series (My Little Town, My Zoo Animals, Tiny Firefighters and Animal Circus) is fantastic.  They’re interactive picture books filled with lots of little things to explore and discover. Each time something (or someone) is touched on the screen it comes to life; for example, in a “My Zoo Animals” scene, a llama spits at an unsuspecting visitor, an elephant trumpets and giraffes eat leaves from nearby trees, among countless other things.  This is another game my little guy will spend a lot of time with, exploring and carefully poring over each scene, finding new things to push and old favorites to repeat again and again.  You can purchase additional scenes for a few dollars.

3). Kindergarten.com Flashcards

This is a huge, incredible series of apps that we – and our son – love.  There are flashcards for the ABCs, Food, Animals, Sports, Vehicles, Places, Sight Words and more, each with a picture, word and accompanying audio.  Our son flips through these regularly, connecting the pictures with what he sees in his daily life.  There are also games, such as “What Doesn’t Belong?” and “What Rhymes With…” that you can purchase.  While some are a bit above a two-year-old’s head (I’m not totally sure he gets what “rhyming” is, even though he’ll occasionally get the correct answer) I love the interactivity of it, and the fact your child can actually grow with these programs as they get older.  You can keep track of correct and incorrect answers, and a discrete data tracker allows you to gather information you can email to yourself or to teachers.

4). Coloring Books

Always fun for a bit, there are countless coloring book apps out there that allow your child to pick colors and “color” different pictures with a touch of their finger.

5).  Puzzle Games

There are lots of “puzzle” apps available for download too, where images are dragged and dropped into their correct places.  Tozzle features a variety of puzzles – farm animals, letters, numbers, cars, etc. – always reliable for a few minutes of peace.

When you let a little one have your phone or tablet to play with, there’s always the chance they’ll leave a game and get into something they shouldn’t (like the phone feature.  Or they might accidentally start deleting things, which we’ve had happen more than a few times too).  Be sure to check out these simple steps on How to Lock Your iPad/iPhone so your kids can’t leave the app they’re playing with.