Regular readers of my blog (or followers on social media) know that I have a very active and inquisitive kid on my hand. At three and a half, he’s a lot to keep entertained, particularly with the day job, keeping up with this blog, writing, etc…
I’m fortunate in that he loves to write in his notebook, sing made up songs, and read his books. But I’m not going to sit here and say that I keep him occupied without the aid of a favorite TV show or game.
Since we don’t have cable, turning to the TV usually involves a few favorites from Netflix on repeat. For a long stretch, he started every morning (and I do mean EVERY morning) off with the musical Pirates of Penzance. This was after a long stint of knowing every word to Disney’s Tangled. Currently, his TV flavor of the month is Pingu, a stopmotion claymation series that we accidentally introduced to him as a baby.
But his attention is only held for so long by TV, so my iPad has become invaluable for those moments when I need to focus on a spreadsheet or manuscript that needs my attention.
What apps keep his attention and keep me feeling fairly guilt-free about his iPad use?
Magnetic Alphabet (FREE) – I get asked a lot about what I used to teach Jonas to read. The truth is, there was no special program. I’ve read to him since before he was born, and as a baby, I’d talk to him about letters. To this day, playing with letters of any kind is his favorite thing to do. This app lets you spell words, practice the alphabet, and with the purchase of additional “magnet packs” you can make scenes with cars and other shapes.
United States Puzzle Map (FREE) – I am terrible at Geography. I blame my public school education where it was never a focus. Honestly, before downloading this app for the little man, I couldn’t really tell you where quite a few states are located. (My answer would likely be, “oh, you know, somewhere towards the middle.”) Aside from the awesome fact that he is learning something, it’s the fun of playing with a puzzle, without the mess of picking up the pieces.
Draw a Stickman (FREE) - This app is short and sweet, but the little man likes to play it again and again. The game starts by asking him to draw a stickman. What follows are a series of instructions to get the stickman to where he needs to be to save his stickfriends. It’s fun to watch him draw the items requested and follow directions to get to the goal.
Sketchbook Pro ($4.99) – Given how fickle a three and a half year old can be, I generally stick to downloading apps that are free or .99. That way, when Jonas abandons the app two days after I’ve downloaded it, it’s no big loss removing it from the iPad. This app was a splurge, but if you have a kid that loves to draw, it’s a great way to take an art kit with you wherever you go. As a matter of fact, this is such a great art app, I bought it for both of us. [nb. when writing this post, I discovered there is a FREE version for the iPad called Sketchbook Express - I would highly recommend downloading this one first, as Pro has SO much you might be perfectly satisfied with the stripped down version]
Endless Alphabet (FREE) – If you want to know how my kid manages to spell the word gargantuan and use it properly in a sentence, meet Endless Alphabet. This app has a series of words that your child can click on. Each word tells him how it’s pronounced, helps him spell it with fun, animated letters, and then gives him a cartoon and audio explanation of what the word means. They add a few new words every week or so. It’s adorable, free, and it really works. As a matter of fact, last night Jonas told me he was “famished”. This is by far, the most impressive FREE app I’ve downloaded for him.
Garage Band ($4.99) – The other “splurge” app on my iPad was introduced to Jonas long ago by my brother. With stringed instruments, percussion, piano, and a sound mixer, the kid can spend a long time making music. There’s a section where he can sample his own voice to add it to the song, and he has the ability to record his creations. This is another app that’s great not only for solo playtime, but for us to play together. (And I’ll admit, I’ve played with it on my own, too.)
With all the apps out there, I’m sure there are plenty of entertaining and educational ones I’m missing. What are your favorite apps for kids (and yourself)?