In today’s modern era, technology can enable great learning opportunities at every age, not to mention, displace weighty books and handfuls of toys in the diaper bag when you are on the go. Last week, we highlighted our 15 favorite iPad apps for babies and toddlers. This week, we cover Big M’s current favorites – 21 apps for preschoolers!
Both my girls have been exposed to technology from an early age. As with many things in life, the key is always moderation and parental supervision. My girls share an iPad (which is my husband’s old one), and we have restricted it so they can only access the apps we put on it. They cannot buy more apps, make in-app purchases or go on the web. My husband and I are the keeper of the iPad and dole out its usage: it is commonly used in the bathroom, on long car rides or flights, and on blustery afternoons or sick days when we can’t get out to play. At restaurants or in the cart at the grocery store, I have definitely handed over my iPhone to pacify a hungry or cranky child until the food arrives or we get through the checkout. So yes, our kids have screen time, but always in moderation and always with parental guidance and supervision. Oh, and we protect the iPad from destruction with this iGuy Case… it comes in lots of colors, they make versions to fit iPads 1-4, as well as the newest models. And biggest selling point, Lil’ M still hasn’t managed to destroy it or the iPad, or remove the iPad from it!
Apps for Life Skills
Potty Time with Elmo
I cannot tell you what a God-send the iPad was for potty training, especially when we were working on #2, which takes some time and patience. The iPad was a great source of entertainment for these tedious times, and Potty Time with Elmo provided the added bonus of having one of Big M’s favorite characters talk and sing all about using the potty. It features a story, with interactive pages and songs, a using the potty reward chart, and puzzles.
Daniel Tiger and Daniel Tiger Day & Night
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Daniel Tiger Day & Night also feature one of Big M’s favorite characters. If you aren’t familier with the PBS show, it is an animated spin-off of the beloved Mr. Rogers of our childhood. It features Daniel Tiger and his friends Prince Wednesday (son of King Friday), Katerina Kitty Kat, Miss Elaina and O the Owl. Every episode covers a common toddler or preschool struggle. The first app similarly provide an entertaining way for children to familiarize themselves with common experiences, like going to the doctor, using the bathroom and getting ready for bed. Day & Night emphasizes great songs to go with a morning and bedtime routine. They are super catchy, and Big M used to make me sing her the Goodnight song every night at bedtime!
Early Math and Science Skills
My husband and I are both finance majors by education, and big math nerds. So it makes me so proud when I can see in Big M already a love of math and numbers. These apps teach great early math skills, like sorting, patterns, counting and one-to-one correspondence. Big M is also into animals these days, and Animal School Day and ABC Wildlife are great early science exploration apps that teach all about different animals, what makes them alike and different, and even explores habitats.
Candy Count is a great introduction to both the concept of numbers, counting and one-to-one correspondence, as well as colors. It leads the child through a progression of sorting various candy by color, counting how many are in each jar, choosing which has the least and which jar has the most, and even ordering the jars by number. This one is free to start, with the ability to add additional features for a fee.
This one is Big M’s go to app these days. It involves sorting and matching foods by type, color and shape. It is also more ‘game-like’ than other educational apps, involving an element of speed, especially as you progress through the various games. It also has a story-mode.
Bugs and Buttons
At $2.99, this may seem pricey, but it is 18 different math and fine motor skill challenging games in one app. From mazes, to connect the dots, to making patterns, counting and sorting, you could just have this one app and teach all basic math concepts. It also has several basic games like tic-tac-toe and memory.
BubbleGuppies – Animal School Day
This one is definitely expensive at $6.99, but Big M loves it! After Elmo, BubbleGuppies were Big M’s favorite television characters. Animal School Day covers 10 different animals, with four different games that can be played with each one. You can play the games individually, or master each animal by playing the games in sequence. The games include discerning similarities and differences between animals (find all the animals with wings, or all the animals with spots), animal snack time where you learn what kinds of food an animal eats, lunch time where you learn about what we eat by having to maneuver different lunchbox closures, and animal habitat where you learn about the environments animals live in.
Even I love this one, and have learned things about animals I never knew! With multiple animals per letter of the alphabet, the app covers over a hundred different animals, providing National Geographic-quality images, videos, interactive mini-games and animal facts. One downside – we restrict our kids from accessing YouTube and the internet – which are both necessary to access full functionality of this app.
Early Literacy Skills
These apps introduce basic literacy skills: letters, letter sounds, building words with letters, writing letters and numbers, learning to tell stories and puzzles. Yes, puzzles build early literacy skills! Puzzles teach children how you have to problem solve to make pieces of a puzzle fit together to form a complete picture, much like you have to fit letters together to form words, and words together to form sentences to tell a story.
Big M became obsessed with puzzles around 18 months. She has loved this app since about that age, and still does, as the puzzles increase in difficulty. With 30 puzzles, starting with puzzles of 4-5 large pieces that you just slot into a picture, to blank slates with 15+ pieces, this app is appropriate for ages 0 to 6.
First Words Deluxe
We started with the free ‘sampler’ version of this app, First Words Sampler, but Big M liked it so much and quickly mastered the short animal words, that we upgraded to the full Deluxe version. You can select a word category (animals, colors, shapes, etc.) or all words, and the app provides an image, speaks the word and scrambled letters which you have to drag to a shadowed space to spell out the word. The name of the letter is spoken as the letter is dragged.
Endless ABC and Endless Reader
These are awesome – the animation is great and so entertaining, kids don’t even realize they are learning while playing it. Both feature monsters acting out words. Endless ABC features words, as you drag the scrambled letters around to spell the word, they make the phonetic letter sound. When you complete the word, a scene uses it in a sentence and acts it out. Endless Reader takes this one step further, teaching site words. You spell words, then place them in sentences. Big M loves them both!
The Beginner’s Bible
Big M has a Fisher-Price Little People Noah’s Ark that provides countless hours of fun, from lining up all the animals, matching them up, two by two, and we also play a matching game with real images of animals. One day, I realized while we played with it all the time, she didn’t know the story of Noah’s Ark. I asked my cousin for recommendations on a good children’s bible, and she recommended this one. In looking it up, I discovered it had a great app.
We are Catholic, and while we are not super religious, I view knowing basic Bible stories as an important part of literary canon, not to mention the basis of our faith. The Beginner’s Bible is free with a handful of well-known bible stories to start, and lets you add more stories with in-app purchases. It will read the stories aloud, and also has interactive images to go along with them.
This is our newest app, and Big M’s current favorite. She drags around a cat with wings to encounter various scenes from famous fairy tales. There are no words, so I encourage her to tell the story, and help her tie it back to the stories she knows and we have read or watched.
Dora ABC’s and Dora Ballet
Elmo. BubbleGuppies. Daniel Tiger. Dora. That has been the progression of Big M’s character obsessions from 12 months to present age. Dora ABC’s is the first app in a series to teach literacy skills. It covers letters, letter sounds and writing letters. Dora Ballet is an interactive story adventure, combining Big M’s two current favorite things – Dora and ballet.
I am a fan of iWriteWords. With multiple settings, children learn to write upper and lowercase letters, then write words, and also numbers. You can adjust the size of the letters formed as their fine motor skills improve. And there’s a cute little crab and numbered dots that guide their finger to teach them how to properly form the letters too!
Art, Music and Colors
With all the math, science, and literacy skills they are learning, there has to be some room to experience the arts too! Big M is fascinated by music these days, and thanks to Uncle Brian, we have great insights on fun music apps. And the rest are ones she enjoys creating her own art and colors with.
PaintSparkle and MusicSparkle
PaintSparkle is a fun drawing app with great paintbrush features, colors and sound effects. MusicSparkle is its musical counterpart, and offers a host of instruments for kids to play. Both these apps are free, but have additional features which can be unlocked with in-app purchases.
Big M loves this game. You paint cars different colors, with different super powers, and guide them through courses and races. There’s also a music game and puzzle game. She figured it out on her own and had to show me how to play it. I officially feel like a dinosaur.
We discovered this one thanks to Uncle Brian. It is great for teaching musical timing, and can be as easy or as difficult as you wish to make it. Tap the dots with as many fingers are designated to play popular and well known songs. I have to admit, I enjoy playing this one as much as she does! And so do Lil’ M and the hubby.
Hopefully you found a few apps in this list to enjoy with your preschooler. Do you have any favorites that didn’t make our list? Please share your finds with us and our followers by commenting below or on our Facebook page!