Often I get asked how I keep my littles (4 year old twins) busy while I’m homeschooling my daughter in high school and first grade son. (Honestly, it sounds harder than it actually is…twins have a way of entertaining each other!) But even if you’re not a homeschool mom, I’m guessing sometimes you could use some help keeping the littles busy while you do all. the. things…Before I spill the tea on my favorite apps–let’s preface this by stating the obvious: screen time should be limited. But let’s also not be blindly afraid to use technology! There are some incredible apps out there that truly enhance learning and offer creative play outlets. No more mom guilt! Let’s take a look at 3 amazing apps for preschoolers they can use independently–that you won’t feel guilty about!
*A Quick Note About iPads…
As a mom of 6 kids (3 are now teenagers), I’ve seen technology for kids really evolve. For many years, my oldest kids only had access to computer games. We bought educational games on discs, and then we starting using websites like Starfall and Noggin. Unfortunately that meant our small children were working on our home computer! Back then it felt like we were always getting a computer virus–kids have a way of clicking on things they shouldn’t!
When we finally got an iPad it was such a game changer! I feel like it’s much more “self-contained,”–meaning, my kids can’t end up on some other website by accidentally clicking the wrong button. At least, this is my experience with PAID apps–free apps still tend to have ads (but usually they just take you to the App Store)! Additionally, iPads are so portable–which has been a lifesaver on long trips (like to Disney World)! And–they are incredible easy for little hands (touch screen vs. navigating a computer mouse).
Here are our basic iPad house rules:
*Don’t walk around with it–sit in one spot.
*We only play on the iPad in a family space (my little kids do not take it into their rooms).
*Be gentle–if the iPad breaks we can’t just get a new one! (We have an Otterbox iPad cover, so I really don’t worry too much about damage–it’s heavy-duty)!
*Turn it off when I tell you–or you won’t be playing with it tomorrow!
*If you fight about the iPad–mom will take it away!
Ok–so onto 3 Favorite Apps for littles! My kids play all of the following games on our family iPad but these apps can also be used on some smart phones…
1) My PlayHome
Do your kids have some toys that make you think–“Wow, I would have LOVED that growing up…”? My sister showed me this app several years ago, and we immediately knew we would’ve spent hours playing with this virtual doll house!
All my little kids truly love this app! When playing with My PlayHome, they get immersed in open-ended pretend play. It is simple–but filled with so much detail! I highly recommend this for ages 3-8! (A 2-year-old could definitely play with assistance and even older kids will still enjoy it!)
It builds vocabulary, creative story telling, and it so interactive! I truly believe that play is the best way young children learn–and this blends the spirit of imaginative play with technology beautifully!
We actually own all the My PlayHome Apps, which include My PlayHome Store, My PlayHome Hospital, and My PlayHome School.
I adore logic and problem solving games–but until I found Thinkrolls, I didn’t realize there was a logic and problem solving game tailored to pre-schoolers! It is adorable and genius!
With very minimal assistance, my kids were able to play this game at age 4…When they do get a little stuck, I actually really enjoy playing this game with them!
(Thinkrolls is recommended for ages 3-8.)
3) Toca Boca
Again–I love Toca Boca games because they are created in the spirit of open-ended, creative play! There are a lot of Toca Boca games, and we have slowly collected nearly all of them as they’ve been released over the years (even my 15 year-old still gets excited when a new Toca Boca App is released)!
There are so many Toca Boca apps, it may be overwhelming to know where to begin–and they are created for various ages groups, ranging from preschool-elementary.
For very young kids, I like:
Toca Hair Salon: Silly, funny–and there is just something little kids like about cutting hair (as evidenced by the bangs my 4 year-old cut for herself…finally growing out a year later!)
Or…Toca Train: If you have a preschooler who loves trains, this is perfect!
And…Toca House: Some of the characters are a little odd…But I like the preschool activities, such as sorting that are built into the game.
**All my kids have a lot fun playing with games in the Toca Life series (especially Toca Life Pets)–but you should know that this game is developed for kids 6-8. (I think there is some doggy poo involved…And after 6 kids, we’re okay with some virtual poop!)
What Apps Do You and Your Kids Love?
There are many excellent apps out there–and when kids are allowed to explore and play them within time and safety guidelines, I think they offer a lot of enrichment. I also enjoy educational iPad apps like ABC Mouse, Homer Learn-to-Read, and Reading Eggs. However, in my experience to truly benefit from these type of preschool/early reading apps, parent engagement is required to keep young kids on track. My PlayHome, Thinkrolls, and Toca Boca are great play-based activities to mix into your day when you need help keeping kiddos busy and playing independently!
I’d love to hear how you use technology in your home! What apps do you and your kids keep coming back to?
P.S. Don’t miss My Ultimate Guide to Preschool Toys and Gifts!