Screen time. The evolving internal conundrum parents find themselves in every day. Once we give in, there’s really no going back right? In fact, for some of us, it signified the beginning of a media addicted tot monster complete with terrible tantrums, bribery and exhausting negotiations. Our mobile devices and tablets have become tantrum intervention tools for dining out and traveling with children, especially on an airplane. According to Common Sense Media statistics from 2013, 38% of children under 2 have used a mobile device and 75% of children have access to mobile devices at home.
For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has been extremely strict with their recommendation of absolutely no screen time for children under 2. Studies have suggested that early exposure to TV has effected children’s ability to learn language and develop necessary social skills. Screen time has been known to interfere with children’s play as well as parent-child communication. A recent study just released shows evidence of speech delays for children between ages 6 month – 2 years correlating the amount of screen time to the degree of speech delay.
These are serious implications, however, it seems almost impossible to comply with this recommendation considering we live in a technology era where we are upgrading our devices every time our child has a birthday. In fact, this recommendation was set forth before the explosion of apps and touch screen devices. To that point, the AAP considered the challenges parents face and decided to revise their recommendation to better align with today’s technological culture. They acknowledge that children are doing the same things they always have been except now there is a virtual element. Parenting has not changed and we still need to participate in our children’s activities, teach them, be role models and set boundaries. They also recommend that we pay attention to the content of the 80,000 “educational” apps available and use our best judgement as to whether these apps are interactive or not.
As parents, we are all faced with this dilemma and we shouldn’t judge each other. Sometimes a little screen time can be a life saver, especially when traveling. I’ve chosen screen time over glaring passengers on the airplane many times. So, in an effort to support the choice of educational iPad access, here are 6 educational and interactive apps kidtrip recommends loading to your tablet before your next vacation. These apps are fantastic, educational collections of engaging and interactive content that will put little brain cells to work. Apps with collections of games can entertain your little ones longer while minimizing the amount of apps you have to load to your device. Sometimes too many choices can defeat the purpose especially if your little one is already a tech wiz and swipes around your device faster than you!
Fish School ($1.99)
This app is great for 1-2 year olds because it touches on all the basics. Alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, matching and differences. This underwater experience is colorful and vibrant with all kinds of sea creatures engaging with your child. The sound effects are fun too so consider earphones or ear bugs!
EduKids Room ($3.99)
The vibrant colors and ongoing loop of engaging games makes this app great for 2-3 year olds. There are 18 games that encourage your child to match colors, sort objects, pick out patterns and put together puzzles. There is also the consistent positive reinforcement of a fun egg to click on after a few games that presents your little one with a fun sticker. This developer also offers a preschool version and a bundle for $19.99 that includes 8 apps.
Bugs + Buttons Bundle ($9.99)
What a unique pairing, bugs and buttons! And the app is just that…..every activity involves a bug or a button or both. There are exciting games for 2-3 year olds from navigating bugs safely through the rainforest, helping them cross ponds, sorting and repairing colored buttons and putting letters of the alphabet in order.This app is colorful and fully interactive and engaging with Morty the beetle making surprise appearances offering stamps for the kiddos collection if they click on him fast enough. The bundle offers further fun with bug adventures, bug art and bugs and numbers. Depending on your iOS you may be able to download these individually, but the bundle is definitely worth it!
Dr. Panda ($1.99 – $2.99 or $9.99 for bundle)
The Dr. Panda series will likely have a perfect match for your little one. There is an app for just about every scenario….restaurant, town, supermarket, airport, train station, swimming pool…the list goes on. The airport app is one of our favorites. Kids can take their characters on adventures through security, baggage claim and ticketing. The app teaches the process of going through the airport while integrating number, shape and color recognition. All the Dr. Panda apps have the element of freedom, meaning your child can navigate through the town or restaurant how the wish while peppering in some educational elements.
ABC Mouse (membership required $65)
ABCMouse.com offers an app version of their platform that is great for traveling with kids. It comes with a membership fee of $65, but it is by far the best educational app available for all ages and you can access it on desktops, tablets (with wifi) and mobile devices. There are interactive games, songs, books and puzzles. Little ones can visit the farm or zoo and learn about animals, practice puzzles that help them learn colors, letters and numbers and listen to really cool songs about their favorite letters. Preschoolers can play tons of games that help them learn upper and lower case letters and numbers in an interactive environment of feeding elephants peanuts, racing cars and leading rabbits through mazes. Every activity rewards tickets and there is a virtual store where kids can pick out furniture for their room, clothes for their avatar and even pets! This app is worth every dollar.
Sprout Playground (free)
Now that your little one’s brain has had its work out, it might be nice to relax with their favorite episode from the Sprout Channel. This app is free and offers limited episodes of some of the favorite shows. There is also a game section where you can practice matching with the Terrific Trucks or take photos of nature with Dot.