There are thousands of great child-friendly apps available for iOS and Android, but finding software that's appropriate for toddlers can be a challenge. Children ages 1 to 3 can't read and are still developing their language skills, while many have limited hand-eye coordination. However, with the right apps, youngsters can improve their vocabulary, learn about the world around them, or at least stay calm while their parents are trying to eat at a restaurant. (Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents severely limit their toddlers' screen time, which includes TV, tablets, smartphones and computers.)
Here are 10 apps simple enough for 18-month-olds to use, but entertaining enough to keep them occupied.
PicsArt Kids (Android, iOS) serves as a great drawing and doodling app for you and your young kids. The app is loaded with activities, such as a coloring book mode with dozens of templates, a blank canvas and a learning mode filled with mazes shapes and scenes. The app has a variety of simple brushes and colors, and when you're done with your creations, you can save them into a gallery. The premium version removes ads.
Dipdap (Android, iOS) is a neat drawing game featuring the CBeebies character of the same name that has you and your kids helping Dipdap along numerous animated scenes by filling in drawings of missing objects to complete a scene. The app comes with 16 animated scenes that you can play through, as well as a sketchpad. You can even save your drawings and scenes to your camera roll to share with friends and family, or send it to the Dipdap app website.
Can you cheer up a sad sheep or put a smile on a giraffe's face? Avokiddo Emotions (Android, iOS) is cute app that introduces kids to four cartoon animals (a sheep, giraffe, moose and zebra), that they can interact with using a variety of props like food, clothes, toys and more. Each animal responds to the props in different ways, smiling, frowning, laughing or crying, all rendered with lively animations. Parents can use it to help teach kids about emotions and body language, or just let them have fun with free play.
Originator Inc's Endless series of apps focus on edutainment for kids. Endless Alphabet (Android, iOS) introduces kids to letters and words, presenting toddlers and children with a series of minigames. Children put words back together in easy and engaging spelling puzzles featuring talking words, and afterwards, they're rewarded with short animations that explain each word's meaning.
The Duckie Deck Collection (Android, iOS) is a neat series of six minigames designed for simple, imaginative play by toddlers. Each minigame is designed to reinforce a variety of habits, and skills, from teaching care of pets by feeding zoo animals, tidying up a messy room. Plus, matching games encourage kids to try out fruits and vegetables. Interaction is very basic with taps and swipes, without requiring very fine coordination, and colorful art, sound effects and lively music help to keep your toddler's attention.
LEGO's Duplo Train (Android, iOS) lets your toddler build and drive their own toy train in this wonderfully animated little kids' activity app. Your child takes the role of the train engineer, choosing what carts to bring along, as well as playing simple minigames as the train makes its journey. The app sports beautiful animations and numerous little details like plants and animals in the landscape that you can tap to create sounds and actions.
The works of Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, are classics of children's literature, featuring fantastical illustrations of imaginative characters and easy to follow language. The Dr. Seuss Treasury brings together more than 50 of Oceanhouse Media's digital adaptations of Dr. Seuss's works. In addition to the original text and illustrations, the app features digital extras, such as the ability to record your own voice narration and vocabulary learning tools. Users can access the entire library free for seven days, after which they're limited to a free book of the month, unless they sign up for a subscriptions starting at $14.99 per quarter, or permanently unlock the entire collection for $99.99.