Katie Lemons, talks about some of the benefits of screen time and highlights top apps for toddlers.
Our society is transitioning toward a more technologically-driven approach in all facets of life. TVs, computers, and phone screens are only a few examples of the types of devices that play a significant role in many adults’ lives, so it is only natural that children are intrigued and attracted to them as well. The warnings about the negative effects of excessive screen time for young developing minds have generated a great deal of apprehension around the issue. While limitations on screen time are recommended, there are also numerous advantages technology and apps bring to a young child’s education and development.
Benefits of Screen Time
The traditional classroom set-up is not conducive to many kids who learn more effectively through other learning styles. Whether your child is an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner, there are apps available that cater to these specific needs. It’s also possible for high-quality apps to enhance brain development such as cognitive thinking and problem solving through age-appropriate games and puzzles. Apps with text can promote early literacy by bolstering letter recognition and sound association skills. Interactive apps provide an excellent means of support for fine motor development and improving hand-eye coordination.
Technology will undoubtedly have a considerable impact on your children’s lives. Becoming familiar and comfortable with operating devices is an important life skill kids can gain through screen time. In addition, your children have the opportunity to discover and determine what they are interested in and want to spend their time doing. Increasing the access that children have to different ideas and topics will lead to more areas of interest they can explore.
Limits on Screen Time
Before setting limits on screen time for your children, examine the frequency of your own screen use. Are you and your partner setting a good example and being mindful of the role that screens play in your household? For adults and children, screens and technology should not be the primary source of entertainment and solution for battling boredom. Make it a habit to turn first to books, outdoor games, and creative activities when looking for something to do.
Particularly for young children, parents should be involved during all screen time, so that real-world connections can be made with the content that is being consumed. For older children, it is important that rules and expectations for how much screen time is allowed are made clear and are consistently enforced. Don’t think of screens as the enemy; they are a valuable tool that can be used productively when in the right context.
Best Apps for Toddlers
Here are a few examples of high-quality apps that are both interactive and educational.
Metamorphabet takes a fun and creative approach to learning the alphabet that can be enjoyed by both adults and kids. Combining visually stunning 3D graphics, seamless animation, and harmonious sound effects, Metamorphabet has managed to transform the letters of the alphabet into a delightful learning experience.
Each letter begins with a simple 3D image of the letter on a contrasting colored background. With every touch of the screen, a new word beginning with that letter is introduced and the image is transformed effortlessly. For “B,” first it grows a beard, then a beak, from which a swarm of bugs is released. Tapping the swarm will allow you to catch a butterfly. Once the letter transformation is complete, you can continue playing or move on to the next letter.
The words chosen for each letter are unpredictable and, at times, downright wacky. The vocabulary is vast and includes both concrete and abstract words. Navigation is tactile, intuitive, and easy to pick up, even for younger children. The app responds easily to any interaction, whether you touch, drag, or pull. The immense vocabulary range and the creative depictions of each letter make this app a must-have.
This app combines learning to count with adorable farm animals, in an interactive 3D pop-up book format.
You can turn the pages of the book in the app, just like with a real book, revealing fully interactive pop-up scenes. The first ten pages of the book center around learning to count up to ten, while the last seven contain mini-games to reinforce the numbers that you have learned. On each page, tapping each individual animal will add to the tally, and completing the page will result in a special animation.
The game contains multiple levels that get progressively harder, challenging kids by adding different kinds of animals to select from or animals moving around as you try to tap them. There are three different playing modes: Read, Autoplay, and Games. In Read mode, you participate in the counting activities at your own pace. Autoplay mode counts the animals and turns the pages for you, so only observation is necessary. Games mode takes you directly to the mini-games at the end of the book.
Farm 123 is professionally narrated in eight different languages so this app can be used for bilingual or non-English speaking children. The activities in this app help to sharpen motor skills by asking kids to tap and drag objects on the screen. Recognizing animals and colors is an added skill that kids will pick up. But most importantly, your kids will have a firm grasp on their numbers and counting from one to ten.
Making classical music appeal to young kids can be a challenging undertaking. However, Tongo Music incorporates animation and sound clips of classical pieces to make learning about the fundamentals of music a fun experience. A colorful landscape is used to reveal animated musical instrument movies, triggered by specific animals and elements of the scenery. For example, tapping on the swan will prompt Tongo to play “The Swan” from “The Carnivals of the Animals” on his cello. Included in the app are fifteen high-quality music samples from masterpieces of famous composers, including Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky.
Children are introduced to important musical elements, such as reading music and various types of instruments, all presented in a simple and intuitive way. Users of the app are also able to try their own hand at playing musical instruments including a piano and numerous percussion instruments.
Tongo Music is an intuitive and user-friendly app, with no text or instructions, so it is appropriate for a wide age range. It has an open-ended design, devoid of rules, timers, or keeping score. Users can discover each musical element at their own pace, expanding their musical knowledge through this whimsical app.
One of the most popular role-playing games children like to reenact is doctor and patient. This app gives kids the chance to perform “medical procedures” on a patient, just like a real doctor would. At the beginning of the game, the user can choose between three different characters, all suffering from the same five ailments: a cold, toothache, ear fungi, bone fractures, and scrapes. In order to heal each ailment, the user must perform a series of different tasks. For example, to cure a cold, you must take the patient’s temperature, give her a hot drink, blow her nose, and use a spray on her mouth and nose to kill germs.
The app relies on sound effects and visual cues to guide kids on what to do next. Outlines are used to show the location of where an item should be placed, and if it is dragged to the wrong place, the patient will shake her head. There is no timer or score-keeping for each activity, and the patients are very effusive with their appreciation, saying “thank you” after each completed task and cheering when they are completely healed.
Although the ailments and treatments are not the most medically accurate, Pepi Doctor is a great tool for helping kids become familiar with some medical procedures and alleviating fears about going to the doctor or dentist. The patients are shown as happy and grateful, rather than scared or sad. Parents can also use the conditions described in the app to talk to kids about the importance of washing hands, brushing teeth, and taking care of your own body.
Cricket Kids: Opposites
The concept of opposites is a tricky one to teach and understand. Cricket Kids: Opposites uses an interactive storybook format to capture the differences between opposing words that are commonly used in everyday life. On each of the 13 pages, a pair of opposites is represented, using a scene that includes game-like activities. For example, to demonstrate noisy versus quiet, a radio can be tapped and turned on or off. The app also takes advantage of the capabilities of the smartphone or iPad by incorporating activities such as shaking the device to make the room untidy or using the microphone to blow out candles on a birthday cake.
Pairs of opposites that users can learn about include asleep/awake, little/big, noisy/quiet, cute/ugly, full/empty, closed/open, clean/dirty, tidy/untidy, broken/repaired, lit/blown out, hot/cold, and more. The app can be used in six different languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. For older kids, a quiz mode is available where early readers can test their knowledge of sight words that are used in the story. Narration throughout the story and fun interactive games illustrating the meaning of the opposite words are entertaining and effective in helping young minds to learn and understand.