When Emily Butler takes her 2 1/2 -year-old daughter, Caroline, to restaurants near their home in Washington, D.C., there's one thing she never leaves at home—her phone. That's because she knows that it can serve as her lifeline if Caroline gets upset. She simply turns on one of her tried-and-true apps, like Butterscotch.com's Trancit Lite, and the screen fills with swirling colors and images that never fail to engage her daughter through the meal.
"At a restaurant it comes in handy if your baby is crying," says Butler, 34. "They kind of zone out, staring at the lights. You (and everyone else) get to eat in peace and they get their colors on."
And Butler isn't alone. As parents know all too well, no matter how many toys, books, and instruments we purchase for our babies and toddlers, there's one device that never fails to entertain: our cell phone.
Most of us spend plenty of time talking and playing with our kids, but sometimes we need to buy ourselves a few minutes to scarf down a hot plate of food, pay for our cup of coffee, or have a five-minute adult conversation.
Click through to see our top kid-tested picks of iphone apps.
Cost: Free (Lite Version); $0.99 (Full Version)
This portable piano has been a top seller for years, and it's easy to see why. The eight-key piano plays notes and makes animal sounds, with corresponding cartoon animals pictured on each key. When kids are finished making their own songs, they can play a nursery rhyme by pressing one of the highlighted keys.
Kids see their parents making phone calls, and they want to do the same. Now they can pretend to call people with no risk of actually doing so, thanks to iBabyPhone. As kids dial using the number buttons, the numbers are read out loud but no calls go out. The phone has different modes that teach colors, numbers, animals, and more. Your children get to feel like grown-ups talking on a phone app made just for them.
This app is perfect for a curious, hands-on baby and transforms your phone into a shakeable rattle with fun interactions. Great for babies who have just started to become fascinated by the phone, this app appeals to both sight and sound with a simple, clean design. Choose from four rattle styles that each make a different sound when baby shakes your phone. Cute animations offer a new level of engagement with fun sounds when tapped. Now, if only there were an app that would keep Baby from putting your phone in her mouth...
These animated animals come to life when you touch them. The parrot squawks, the monkey screams, and the lion roars, making this app a toddler favorite. With images of 24 creatures and 12 vehicles, both babies and young kids love to play and learn with I Hear Ewe. Each time they touch an animal or vehicle, the name of that item is announced along with a real sound effect. Choose from one of four languages for an added level of learning.
Sitting with a baby or toddler in your lap who wants to fiddle with your phone? This app is the perfect solution. A panel of brightly colored squares provides an array of musical notes when pressed, allowing for the infinite creation of enjoyable baby melodies. As a fun surprise, each touch produces a spray of sparkling stars across the screen to help keep Baby's interest.
Designed for littles one between six months and 5 years, this app is used by tapping, tilting, or shaking your device to hear the sounds of different cute critters displayed on the screen. The adorable animals on this Laugh & Learn app from Fisher Price include a cow, tiger, monkey, penguin, and pig. The app will keep little ones entertained, and it'll perk up the ears of any nearby pets, too!
This award-winning app from Luminosity is an ideal tool for learning-based play for kids between the ages of two and five. This intuitive gaming experience enables kids to explore a friendly virtual park while strengthening cognitive, motor, and social-emotional skills. Exceptionally cute animation offers an added bonus.
This unique learning app for 3- to 5-year-olds is the first app to incorporate a live, interactive host. Taking inspiration from popular kids' shows like "Blue's Clues," "Dora the Explorer," and "The Good Night Show," Captain McFinn's engages kids in an underwater adventure while promoting emotional and social development.
This media-streaming app is the best thing to ever happen to fans of this beloved children's show. Find video clips and games featuring Elmo, Big Bird, Abby Cadabby, Cookie Monster, and the rest of the Sesame Street crew as they promote interactive learning through tons of silly, familiar fun.
This app is perfect for puzzle-loving tots ages two and up and is totally worth the price. Colorful shapes engage logic and reasoning skills through a series of puzzles and placement exercises in this award-winning app. Designed carefully for young learners, features like passing-swipe control and customizable guided access to keep kids from accidentally exiting out of the app during play make it easy to see why Busy Shapes is a top pick.