We asked our readers to share the child-friendly apps that enhance their little one's learning experience -- and for the times when they just need a few minutes of peace and quiet.
School your toddler on six different subjects: letters, letter phonics, numbers, shapes, colors, and counting. You can choose specific questions, customize lessons, and review your child's progress on each subject. Kids earn stickers, which can be used to create colorful scenes, when they get correct answers, or they can earn coins for a reward system you create. When your child outgrows these lessons, there are TeachMe: Kindergarten and TeachMe: 1st Grade apps available. (99 cents; iPhone, iPad)
Toddler Teasers Sorting
Toddler Teasers was created when two parents realized that their 2-year-old was better at operating an iPhone than most grown-ups are. There are different educational apps to choose from on the Toddler Teasers site, but our favorite is Sorting. Little ones learn numbers, shapes, and letters by sorting them into containers and treasure chests. There are four interactive scenes with voiceovers and colorful animations to make the educational process fun. Once sorting skills have been mastered, move on to a quizzing app. Make sure to check out the website for special promo codes and deals. ($1.99; iPhone, iPad; toddlerteasers.com)
Puzzle apps are a big hit with our moms, and this app seems to be the most popular. It includes more than 40 puzzles that can help your toddler improve shape recognition and motor activity. If she needs help finding the right piece to a puzzle, a helping arrow appears to lend a hand. Once a puzzle is solved, children can play around with funny sound effects by tapping the screen. When the kiddies go to sleep, test out your own puzzle-solving skills -- the app's creators boast that it can keep everyone from 2 to 99 entertained! ($1.99; iPhone, iPad)
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox
Our readers love it, so it's no surprise this is the number-one preschool app available in the iTunes store. This collection of six different games teaches kids ages 2 to 5 about colors, letters, numbers, shapes, differences, and more. Parents and children love the animated monkey that helps with lessons along the way. Each player earns stickers after winning a game, but, best of all, the app is easy to navigate so kids can play on their own -- perfect for when you're cooking dinner and need to keep them busy! (99 cents; iPhone, iPad, Android; monkeypreschool.com)
Improve your child's recollection skills by hopping on a train to the circus with Spacey the elephant. As the train whizzes by different backgrounds, he will need to pay close attention to featured objects and then recall colors, shapes, numbers, and more. Four can play at a time, so the family can compete to earn stars, badges, and peanuts (elephants love them!). Plus, with 10 levels, you're sure to find one suitable for every age group. (99 cents; iPhone, iPad)
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Your little one can showcase his storytelling skills by creating his own play and puppet show! The customizable, interactive, and recordable show includes characters, props, and sound effects, and it's set in a medieval castle. Kids ages 5 and up can even use their own voices to act out scenes. Future shows will include trips to outer space, a pirate ship, and a dinosaur world. ($2.99; iPad only; playtimetheater.com)
Tired of rummaging through your bag for scraps of paper when your kid feels like drawing? This free app means the end to that nuisance -- and your child will never be bored again at the doctor's office or on a long car ride. Doodle Pro lets her create unique drawings with shapes and colors. For more advanced artists, there's a pencil tool for sketching. You can even save the artwork and email it to family and friends or use the app to jot down notes and to-do lists. (Free; iPad only)
Suitable for older children learning to read, this educational word search game can improve comprehension and boost vocabulary. It features Lex the Bookworm, who encourages kids to form words by linking letters left to right and up and down. The bigger the word, the more points you earn. If you run into trouble, simply shake the iPhone to re-scramble the words and start over. Play the classic version or challenge your child with a timed match. ($2.99; iPhone, iPad)
Zoodles Kid Mode
A series of fun and educational videos and games for kids ages 2 to 10, Zoodles allows you to browse by subject (cognitive and creative development, math, reading, etc.) and choose the programs most suitable for your child. It also puts your device into a "kid safe" mode so you don't need to worry about her wandering onto any other sites or opening up other apps. (Free; iPhone, iPad, Android; zoodles.com)
Easy Kid Timer
Are you constantly running late because you can't get everyone out of the house on time? Does your child always dawdle? If so, you're not alone, and this app, which teaches the concept of time, is popular with moms. You can easily customize it with your own pictures and task descriptions (getting ready for school, for instance, or cleaning the room). It can reinforce the importance of patience, too. When your child asks for a treat, set the timer so that he has to wait a little for it. He'll learn that good things come to those that wait -- without whining. ($1; Android only; appbrain.com)
Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation.
Linda DiProperzio is a mom and a freelance writer covering a variety of topics, including parenting and pregnancy. Her work can be viewed at www.lindadiproperzio.com.