8 best educational apps for toddlers

Wondering which apps will give your little one’s development a boost? Read on to find out.

School are closed until after the Easter weekend due to the coronavirus outbreak. We would all love for our kids to play outside and get some fresh air, or keep them busy with other fun games at home, but that might just not be possible – especially if you’re working from home during this time. They’re going to play with your tablet anyway, so make sure they are getting something out of the experience by downloading these educational apps.

ALSO SEE: Make your own educational toys for your toddler

Ruffy The Husky: On Ice

Free from the App Store

Meet Ruffy, a husky who lives in the North Pole. Ruffy would like you to help him put all the pictures of friends back together, because the icy temperatures have made them crack. Recommended for kids aged 2 and older. The app gets the thumbs up for teaching shapes, letters and numbers.

Resilient Family: Happy Child

R144, 99 from Google Play

You’ve probably heard much about the importance of mindfulness for kids, but you might not be sure how to incorporate that into your family routine. That’s where this app helps, teaching kids how to use movement in a way that discharges stress, develops resilience, builds self-confidence and teaches self-regulation.

Little Robot Shapes and Colours

R29, 26 from the App Store

Matching and sorting are important foundation skills, taught on this app through a game that encourages kids to group items according to shape and colour.

ALSO SEE: Teach your baby about shapes from 0 – 1 years 

Peek and Seek

R29, 26 from the App Store

‘Visual discrimination’ is a fancy term for being able to recognise the details in pictures – sounds simple, but it’s a critical foundation skill. This app uses a series of games to help kids get to grips with concepts like figures and foregrounds.

Smart Baby 3D Shapes

R29, 26 from the App Store

A great first introduction to shapes, colours and movement for young toddlers, this app is also a primer for spatial awareness, shapes and numbers. Plus, it automatically adjusts to your baby’s growing skill, so that their development keeps growing.

ABCMouse.com

Free on Google Play

Loved by moms around the world, this award-winning app is nothing short of a virtual classroom. Kids are able to choose from more than 10 000 learning activities that help teach the basics around music, art and math.

Reading Eggs

Free on Google Play and the App Store

Already downloaded more than 10 million times, Reading Eggs gives your kids the gift of reading by teaching them everything from phonics and sight words to vocabulary. It grows with your child, too – with over 2 000 digital storybooks, they’ll still find the programme challenging at the age of 9.

KidzGrow

Free on Google Play

Another app overseeing development in all spheres, from cognitive and gross motor skills to social development. Your kiddo will enjoy completing the activities right up until she’s 6, and the app even provides feedback (formulated by a team of child development specialists) to help you foster development further.

What the experts say

With all the warnings about screen time, is it a good idea to let your child play with these apps – even if they promise to produce a genius at the end of it all?

Occupational therapist Sue Dacre says there are pros and cons. On the one hand, there’s little point in imposing a blanket ban on tech, because your child will never be able to escape its omnipresence. On the other hand, if you’re not great at math and fear you won’t be able to help much in this department, it might be a relief to pass on the duty to an app. What’s more, you can’t overlook the fact that it’s fun to be able to interact with kids from around the world or take part in global activities like World Math Day, Sue points out. “For children who experience disabilities – whether physical or learning-related – or who are impacted by teaching barriers, apps offer a huge advantage,” she adds.

There’s a but, however: You can’t overlook the addictive nature of screens, which have a massive influence on children’s increasingly sedentary lifestyles. This isn’t always countered by the ‘brain work’ the app is encouraging, as the child’s involvement is often passive or brought about only by significant prompting and guesswork, which means that they don’t fully master the skill the app sets out to address. “Activities often build more skills than the ones they are overtly targeting, which is not the case with apps and why they cannot replace sensory and play-based learning.”

All told, says Sue, children stand to learn much more by interacting with the real world, especially at preschool age.

More about the expert:

Sue Dacre is a Johannesburg-based occupational therapist with a special interest in developmental skills, in particular sensorimotor and perceptual skills. Visit her website here.  

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