These Dozen Apps Can Entertain Your Toddler
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. (Just be aware that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents severely limit their toddlers' screen time, which includes TV, tablets, smartphones and computers.)
Here are 12 apps simple enough for 18-month-olds and above to use, but entertaining enough to keep them occupied.
Petting Zoo (Android, iOS: $2.99)
Fox & Sheep's Petting Zoo app (Android, iOS) brings 21 cute cartoon animals to life in an interactive picture book. Using only simple swipe controls, kids and parents can play with different animals, such as dogs, elephants, big cats, and more. The app features animations by author and illustrator Christoph Niemann, and its cute designs and cartoon antics make it a great app for parents and toddlers to enjoy together.
Avokiddo Emotions (Android, iOS: $2.99)
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.
Artie's Magic Pencil (Android: Free; iOS, $2.99)
Kids and parents can join young Artie on his artistic adventures in Minilab's Artie's Magical Pencil (Android, iOS), a kid's game that teaches basic shapes, while also reinforcing values of altruism and empathy. Kids guide Artie along his journey, where he can use his magic pencil to help animals and people whose homes have been damaged by a rampaging monster. By drawing basic shapes, Artie's magic pencil can grow plants and trees, rebuild homes and machines, and help people in need. Kids can play though the entire story, or go back to the map redraw their favorite shapes and things.
Endless Alphabet (Android, iOS: $6.99)
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.
Duckie Deck Collection (Android: $1.99; iOS: $2.99)
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.
Dr. Panda City 2 (Android, iOS: $3.99)
Dr. Panda City 2 (Android, iOS) has players teaming up with Hoopa the Hippo to build an urban playground. Kids can combine a variety of elements to build houses, roads, train tracks, museums, shops and more, and a helpful combination guide recalls the building recipes they've already unlocked. As your town grows, more cuddly animal people move in, and you can zoom in and play with them, placing them inside buildings so that they can study in school, eat in restaurants, or play in your parks and plazas. This app is all about free play, with no score boards or points, just an open world for kids to build the city of their dreams.
LEGO Duplo Train (Android, iOS: Free)
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.
Dr. Seuss Treasury (iOS: Free 7-day trial)
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.
Peekaboo Barn (Android, iOS: $1.99)
Animated animals play peekaboo with your toddler in Night & Day Studios' Peekaboo Barn (Android, iOS), a simple children's app that has friendly farm animals hidden behind the barn doors. Numerous animal animations can keep younger kids amused. Animal names and sounds add a learning dimension. The app can display animal names in a variety of languages, such as English, Spanish, French or Mandarin, and parents can even record their own voice speaking the name of each animal.
Toca Life: Farm (Android, iOS: $2.99)
Developer Toca Boca have made a name for itself with imaginative, child-friendly games, apps, and software toys designed to be ad-free and devoid of in-app purchases. Toca Life: Farm (Android, iOS) is a freeform animated playset that allows kids and parents to explore life in a farm filled with cartoon people and pets. The app is designed with free play in mind, with kids exploring the farm to discover places and things to do. Each location includes numerous interactive objects such as cows to milk, crops to harvest, and products that you can turn into food. A neat feature is the ability to create your own stories, with the app recording your character's movements on screen as well as your voice.
Toca Nature (Android, iOS: $2.99)
Another Toca Boca offering, Toca Nature (Android, iOS) allows little ones to shape and interact a virtual world. From a bird's-eye view, kids can plant trees and forests, raise up mountains and create pools and rivers. Then, kids can zoom in and explore the virtual worlds they've created, climbing mountains, exploring forests and making sure that the animals that inhabit the world don't go hungry. As with Toca Boca's other apps for kids, there are no high scores and no in-app purchases. One purchase gives you and your child an entire virtual world to play in and explore.
Toca Cars (Android, iOS: $2.99)
Let's complete the Toca Boca hat trick with Toca Cars (Android, iOS), which transports children into a colorful, cardboard-cutout world that they can drive around and explore on and off the road. The app lets kids zoom around in a giant sandbox environment of cardboard houses, trees and vehicles. Jump off ramps, zip through puddles of molten ice cream, knock down everything and then put it all back up again with Crash'n'Restore. Best of all, a user-friendly Editor mode lets you set up tracks, ramps, buildings and other objects, letting you and your child flex some creative muscles. As with other Toca Boca apps, this one is ad- and in-app purchase-free.