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One of the first things I promised myself as a new mum was that my children would never be sat in front of a tablet or smart phone. How little did I know about reality! Not only have I found my phone useful for changing the nappy of a wriggling toddler, but an absolute essential when trying to keep a toddler awake in the car at the end of a busy day. So to ease my guilty conscience I tried to find apps that would help my daughter in some way.
I was going to make a long list of the best ones I have found but unfortunately most free apps have very little on them. They also expect you to buy extras to make them worth it – I certainly don’t have the money for that. I don’t think the app designers quite appreciate how infuriating it is having a toddler asking incessantly why she can’t use certain characters or play particular games on her chosen app.
My Top 7 Apps.
CBeebies Playtime and Playtime Island
I’ve put these together as they are very similar. They have different games based on the CBeebies programmes. The games are all different, covering activities from drawing to spelling and skills from counting to problem solving. There are no hidden extras or places that your toddler can go to charge you money. Like all toddler apps the parent areas have code to put in so that little fingers can’t sneak into the settings. My 3 year old loves these apps and has done for over a year now.
CBeebies Story Time
I’ve put this as a separate app as it is very different from the Playtime apps. Story Time is just that, lots of different books, some using well loved characters and others just well loved stories. The books can be read to your child or they can read them themselves. Throughout there are games and puzzles to complete to continue the story. I have found this helps keep my daughter interested. The language used is adventurous which the teacher in me loves. The only frustrating thing about this app is that the books need to be downloaded. This isn’t a problem when we’re at home with the wifi but when we’re out it can become a little frustrating.
Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Story books
These are not really story books but nursery rhymes. Again they can be read with your child or sang to them. My little girl loves the bright colours and familiar characters.
Fisher Price Laugh and Learn other apps
All of the Laugh and Learn apps are great. No in app purchases and all designed for toddlers. They use the same characters throughout the apps. Although the songs are very irritating and repetitive they have a catchiness about them that will mean they are stuck in your toddler’s head (and yours). The nice thing about them is that they cover a range of things including numbers, the alphabet, body parts, shapes and colours. My 3 year old still loves singing along to these even though she’s heard them a million times before.
YouTube Kids / Iplayer Kids
Both of these apps provide a similar thing. They both play children’s programmes without access to the main sites. I personally prefer iplayer kids as it has more of the programmes that my daughter watches. Having said that, YouTube kids has games and songs as part of is that iplayer kids does not.
This is a great introduction to playing more advanced games. It is simple to play but provides great talking points between you and your toddler. They have to start making decisions about what their character will look like and what they can drive. These decisions have some consequences, eg the helicopter can reach the higher coins. They also have to work their way through the levels to get more characters. Again no in app purchases which I love.
I had to include this one, although I don’t think you can get this app anymore. This was the first app my daughter used. It has all the bright characters and annoying songs that you associate with Fisher Price but it is simple and designed for babies to use. My 7 month loves hearing the characters giggle and watching them bounce around the screen.
There are hundreds of free toddler apps out there and although most of them have loads of in app purchases, some are perfect for little, exploring fingers. If you have any other favourites please comment below so we can provide some sanity to those of us who struggle to keep our toddlers away on long journeys or just to amuse them when we just need 5 minutes.