Thinking back to my first pregnancy, I remember soaking up as much information on babies and childcare as humanly possible. There was a strong desire to not thoroughly mess this kid up. In my mind was a clear plan for what I would and wouldn’t do, supported by scientific evidence that itself was supported by peer review. Part of my plan included a blanket ban on screens for my baby until he turned 2 years old. The experts all agreed on this. I am no expert, but I like to listen to them.
Fast-forward a few months. I’m nursing my baby boy, sitting on the couch, and watching TV. My son is turned away from the TV and chomped down securely on my breast. He starts straining, trying to see what is going on behind him. Suddenly, he unlatches, bends himself completely backward, and watches my violent TV drama upside down. It occurs to me that this screen ban may have been an unrealistic goal.
My kids get screen time — usually in measured doses and sometimes not. If I am sick, working on a deadline, or trying to clean up whatever disaster they have inflicted upon my home, there is probably a screen involved.
I’ve become much more okay with the screens in our lives because I control and monitor what my kids are watching and playing. And so, for your own peace of mind and sanity, I have compiled a list of some of the apps that I do not mind my kids using in moments of extended screen time.
Don’t feel guilty. Feel awesome because some of these apps are really cool.
When I was pregnant with my daughter and had to bring my then-2-year-old son along to my OB appointments, I gave him my iPod to play Endless Alphabet while he waited with me. It wasn’t long before he was using words like demolish and gargantuan in context. I can’t say enough about this app. There are others in the same series that help kids learn about numbers, reading, and even Spanish.
This app uses games and fun animation to teach kids about space. They soak up an impressive amount of information on rockets, planets, and our solar system through play.
Learning some of the tenets of coding and programming, kids play a basic game that has been used by emerging programmers for years. Move The Turtle lets kids write the code necessary to move the turtle around their screen. This is a great introduction to basic programming using creativity and imagination.
3. Quick Math+
This game focuses on developing mental arithmetic as kids race the clock to solve math problems. As they progress, they earn stars and unlock characters. Concepts like the order of operations and negative numbers are practiced so children can learn to work with them in their head.
This is one of the cooler apps I’ve seen, and it’s a big bowl of STEM deliciousness as well. Kids can build inventions within the app and then operate them in real time. Once the invention is complete, it can be used to accomplish a wide variety of missions. In these missions, kids will become familiar with basic physics terms and begin to learn the theory behind why their invention works the way it does.
Another great suite, but this time, for the littlest ones. Kids learn animal sounds and names in this app, venturing beyond some of the standard barn animals to include ones like llamas and owls. The other apps my kids love are Peekaboo Sesame Street, with characters and objects from their favorite show, and Peekaboo Wild, featuring several habitats and lots of interesting animals that toddlers are unlikely to become familiar with otherwise.
6. Crazy Gears
This is a puzzle game with an engineering twist. Presented with gears, pulleys, and other parts of a machine, kids must figure out how to bring these pieces together in a way that makes the machine function.
This app puts the opportunity to learn Spanish, English, French, German, and a slew of other languages at your child’s fingertips. With fun lessons and games, my son is enjoying exploring a new language. This one is for everybody though. I’m learning French on my phone!
8. Sight Words
With five grade levels of 320 sight words, this app is great for helping your child become a better reader. Parents can customize the word list to include specific sight words their child is working on, and then they can play games to grow their recognition.
9. MoMA Art Lab
This creative experience gives kids access to art collections within the Museum of Modern Art as well as tools to create their own masterpieces. This is not your mama’s MS Paint. Kids can create music, shape poems, and collaborate on a group drawing while exploring basic art techniques like the use of shape, line, and color. MoMA Art Lab inspires kids to create and then lets them get to it.
10. Fish School
Great for preschoolers, the activities in this app teach kids the basics like letters, numbers, shapes, and colors in addition to differences, matching, and music. There’s some great play thrown in, just for silliness, but the majority of this app is educational, and it’s all entertaining.
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