20 great iPhone apps for preschoolers [e-parenting]

I love my iPod Touch and on more than one occasion, it’s been a fantastic sanity-saver by occupying one or more of the kids. Now, I’m not advocating for “digital distractions” (well, not on a regular basis anyway), but many of the apps offer genuine educational value.

In an upcoming post, I’ll review the kid-friendly podcasts that I make sure to have loaded on my iPod for road trips and unexpected shopping wait times.

Note: Prices on Apple’s non-free apps tend to change frequently. The cost I included is as of the writing of this post.

Balloonimals

Cost: $1.99
This simple but addictive game involves selected a balloon, inflating it (with a slide on the Touch or blowing on the microphone on the iPhone), shaking it to twist it into an animal shape (you’ll really have to trust your kid not to let it go flying), then using various sliding gestures to make it do hilarious things. ALL of the kids continue to play this on a regular basis.

Checkers Free

Cost: Free

What can I say? It’s a cool, free checkers game. ‘Nuff said!

Dots Free

Cost: Free

This is a digital version of the paper-and-pencil dots game I grew up playing on restaurant placemats. This is probably better for older kids, though adults (like me) may find it nostalgic.

Fling

Cost: .99

This an addictive game that is suitable for kids and adults. My oldest (aged 6 years) started playing with the free version and got pretty good at the puzzles up to level 3 or so. That’s when I picked it up, conquered the remaining levels in the free version, and promptly downloaded the free version.

Fluid Motion Painter

Cost: .99
This finger-painting app has an almost hypnotic quality to it. While not specifically designed for kids, I regularly find them playing with this, tweaking the settings to produce “artwork” similar to digital spin art.

Four in a Row

Cost: Free

Another game that doesn’t need much explanation. Remember Connect Four? This is that game…just on a touchscreen.

Google Earth

Cost: Free

This free app is amazing. While this isn’t a game nor an app for kids specifically, it regularly comes it useful for showing the kids geography in a way they can visually understand. (Note: requires an Internet connection.)

I Hear Ewe

Cost: Free

This simple game shows two screens of cartoon animals that, when touched, tell you the sound that animal makes. Simple, but my younger ones regularly play this one.

iWriteWords

Cost: $1.99

A little critter helps the kids draw lowercase and uppercase letters as well as numbers. I was surprised the older kids liked this since they do more challenging writing assignments as part of their homeschooling. I was equally surprised that my 2-year-old could actually play the game. The free version is more limited, but is a great way to see if your kids like the game play.

Jumbline

Cost: .99

This is a word-jumble game for adults and is addictive for word-game nuts (like me and my wife)! However, I include it here because I’ve set it to 5-letter puzzles with “infinity” time limit and my oldest has fun with it, even if she can’t solve many of the puzzles.

Kids Art Puzzle – Sliding Slices

Cost: .99

What do you get when you mix classical art with a basic puzzle? This fun game that exposes the kids to several iconic pieces of art. The settings allow you to set how many slices are used.

Peekaboo Barn

Cost: .99

One of the kids’ absolute favorites. When the barn shakes, you touch it, it slides open to reveal a farm animal and the sound it makes. Repeat. Has a really cute ending, too! There is a free version, but really, just download the full version! If you really like this app, I suggest getting the sequel Peekaboo Wild, which is currently $1.99.

Preschool Animal Find

Cost: Free

Like digital flashcards, this game asks “Where is the [animal]?” and provides decent feedback when the child touches a correct or incorrect choice from the four pictures shown. While the cartoon animals aren’t very realistic, it’s still a fun game.

Preschool Music

Cost: .99

This cute app includes four music-oriented games. The kids like this a bit, though it doesn’t hold their attention for too terribly long.

Sprout Player

Cost: Free

This is a video player for PBS Sprout Kids clips. My kids always clamor to play this one, so if you, like me, limit how much TV they watch, you might not want to introduce another thing to fight over! 😉 I’m not sure how often they add new content, since the kids seem to have viewed all the clips at least once by this point. (Note: requires an Internet connection.)

TappyTunes

Cost: $1.99

Select a tune from the catalog, then either tap it out (with adorable icons bouncing out) or simply hit the play button. The free version includes a very limited catalog, but will give you a sense of the app. The full version includes a very extensive library of songs.

Tic Tac Toe Free

Cost: Free

Another “duh” app, though this one can be enjoyed by younger kids.

Toddler Jukebox

Cost: $1.99

The kids took awhile to warm up to this one, but now they all love it. Offering six full songs (Wheels on the Bus, Working on the Railroad, Head, Shoulders Knees & Toes, Row Your Boat, BINGO, and Word by Word), there are no flashy visuals, just a simple acoustic recording that the kids sing along with.

Topple

Cost: .99

Think of Tetris meets Jenga. As the squishy blocks fall, you place, twist, and rearrange them so the stack doesn’t topple! They’ve since come out with a couple of new versions, but I’m perfectly happy with the original.

Wheels on the Bus

Cost: $2.99

While this is most expensive app in this list, I’ve certainly gotten my money’s worth. Each verse in this song favorite has an interactive animated cartoon that makes singing along that much more fun!

What other apps have you found that are a must-have for kids? Let me know in the comments!

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4 comments

  1. Darren · February 15, 2010

    Great list! My 5 1/2 year old son loves Topple (and Topple2). Please consider these two Apps for 2 to 6 year olds!

    Shape Builder – the Preschool Learning Puzzle Game (Apple Staff Favorite and App Store Essential for Toddlers!)
    itunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/shape-builder-preschool-learning/id306572986?mt=8
    web info: http://touchscreenpreschoolgames.com/games/shape-builder-iphone-toddler-game

    Preschool Connect the Dots Game to Learn Numbers and the Alphabet with 200+ Puzzles (new release!)
    iTunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/preschool-connect-dots-game/id353386972?mt=8
    web info: http://touchscreenpreschoolgames.com/games/connect-the-dots

    from Canada…Happy Family Day 2010!

    Darren

    Like

  2. mrmerlot · February 23, 2010

    A similar post was just published that includes a whole host of apps I hadn’t heard of. I plan to check out many of these which may require a follow-up to this post!

    Like

  3. Jill Seman · March 24, 2010

    Great post! My 6 year old son’s favorite is Little Suitcase – its a game that fosters imagination by letting the child pick what kind of adventure he’d like to have, then pack for it, then explore a new place. My 3 year old likes Wheels On the Bus – which you wisely list above! Another big hit are the board books on the iPhone – great for waiting in lines – individual titles are developed by PicPocketBooks and a subscription service is offered by Tales2Go.

    All of the apps above are written by parents for parents. There’s a growing list of us parent developers (50 so far..) who have banded together to make searching for good kid friendly content easier. We just started a site called http://www.momswithapps.com – for both moms and mr. moms! – to make it easier to find good iPhone apps. It showcases the apps as well as provide links to the kid friendly review sites.

    Like

    • mrmerlot · March 30, 2010

      Thanks for the comment, Jill! I’ll be sure to check out momswithapps.com (awesome domain name!) and pass the link around.

      Like

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