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7 Apps That Will Keep Parents Sane

Moderate use of hand-held devices can keep kids happy, leading to a peaceful environment for others.

I’ll admit, there was a time when the sight of a child on a gaming system in a public place used to really get under my skin.

I thought, “C’mon people. Step it up and do something a little more creative to keep your kid occupied while you wait for your burgers and fries.”

After all, my oldest never needed an iPhone or a Nintendo DS to stay quiet. All he needed was a crayon and a blank piece of paper. If those weren’t available, he would get creative with the sugar packets.

But then came child #2, and the world was turned upside down. This little guy has the energy of a freight train. No crayon and paper can satisfy. And trust me, we’ve tried to mold him into the quiet, focused, creative boy his older brother has proven to be, but it’s just not who he is.

Every child is a different story, as we all know.

Despite our efforts to avoid all electronics, we, too, have succumbed to the era of the iPhone. And I’ve realized that it’s OK in certain situations.

As parents we sometimes have to pick and choose our battles. I now feel guilty for judging those other parents.

My generation grew up with the Nintendo Game Boy. I seem to have turned out all right despite endless hours of playing Tetris.

So here we are in the year 2012. Rather than deny our children the opportunity to grow with technology, I think we should embrace it in a healthy way.

In my searches to avoid mindless games and only allow my boys to play those that are mentally challenging, I’ve come up with my own list of favorite iPhone apps for toddlers and adults alike.

  • Blocks Classic ($.99) – This app is somewhat old school, reminiscent of the Atari game “Pong,” and teaches some basic lessons in physics. A "Lite" version is available for free.
  • iWriteWords ($2.99) – The New York Times calls this “One of the Best iPhone Apps for Kids.” Children use a finger to practice writing letters and numbers in fun ways.
  • Where’s My Water? ($.99) – Disney’s latest app offers fun lessons in physics with an interesting main character, Swampy the Alligator, who lives in the sewers under the city.
  • Super Why! ($2.99) – This PBS app offers games led by Alpha Pig, Princess Presto, Wonder Red, and, of course, Super Why, all characters from the popular Super Why! cartoon. Games incorporate reading, spelling, rhyming, writing and letter identification.
  • Contre Jour ($.99) – By far one of the most beautifully developed apps I’ve seen, Contre Jour offers a captivating score by David Ari Leon, amazing graphics and challenging physics tasks. Inspired by “Le Petit Prince,” the main character “Petit” faces challenges in a dreamy, dark world. This app might be more appealing to you than your little one.
  • Stack The States ($1.99) – Voted "Best Educational Game App," this app offers outstanding photos and educational geographic trivia with questions like “Natural Bridges National Monument is a landmark of which state?” and “What state’s capital is Lincoln?” As the child answers the questions correctly, he stacks the states to achieve his goal and move on to the next level.
  • Word Wagon ($1.99) – Winner of the “2011 Parents’ Choice Gold Award,” this app focuses on phonics and reading through the use of colorful characters. Some geography is also incorporated into the lessons.

Just remember, all things in moderation.

Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen January 18, 2012 at 12:03 PM
You should check out the Trunky series. There is a number of titles including one with math.
Jim Kahle January 18, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Jenae: I think that you cannot find it because this is (for now) an iPad ONLY app. I found it when using iTunes on my PC, but not when using my iPhone... Here are some details; http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/caseys-contraptions-hd/id399408335?mt=8
Irene January 23, 2012 at 03:56 PM
The Wander Our World geography app (www.wanderourworld.com) is great for non-readers because of the voice for country names on the tap. When double tapped, music, flag, and a slideshow of real world photos appear for every country.
Jenae Holtzhafer January 23, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Looks like the Wander Our World app is also for iPad only .... you folks are starting to convince me into buying one! :) These look great!
Mary Georger January 25, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Agreed - all things in moderation! I'm the editor of an app review website, The Recapp (www.therecapp.com), and we recently published our picks for best kids apps, including Where's My Water? which you noted. I'd love for you to check out our list here: http://bit.ly/x7PpdH Thanks! Mary Georger Editor, The Recapp www.therecapp.com www.twitter.com/therecapp

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