Mark Soper
Software Engineer
Cambridge, MA

I Want to Play Too! Game and Story Apps for 1-4 Year Old Kids That I Actually Like To Use

With three boys - ages 3, 2, and 7 months - it's a constant challenge to find the right context in which we can have a great experience together. Among other things, I've found that games and interactive stories for the iPad can be great for quality time together, especially at bedtime. There are thousands of apps that the kids will probably like, so I look for things that help them learn - that narrows it down a lot. But to really narrow it down, I look for apps that I also actually like myself, because if I don't want to play it myself, them I'm less likely to be involved, and isn't that the point? Here's are six of those apps.

Video of Our 2 and 3 Year Olds Playing Leo's Pad and Little Fox Music Box with Mom

1. Little Fox Music Box

Little Fox Music Box Screenshot

Little Fox Music Box is an interactive musical story app that has it all: Old favorites to sing along with lyrics provided (like Old MacDonald and a beautiful tune called Evening Song I hadn't heard before), endless little effects kids can mess with, excellent graphics and overall artistry. More than most it draws you into it's worlds, especially Evening Song - perfect for bedtime! For iPad and iPhone

2. Leo's Pad

Leo's Pad Screenshot

A truly interactive world that manages the tradeoffs between guiding the kid and letting the kid explore better than anything I've seen, Leo's Pad is exceptional. It approaches a motion picture experience in terms of drawing you in and taking you on a journey while also letting you and the child experiment with gameplay that's both educational and dynamically fun a la console gaming. For iPad

3. Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox Screenshot

One sign of a good game is when you don't mind that the theme song is stuck in your head all day. Another one is when your kids keep coming back to the game again and again AND are obviously improving at the learning exercises. Monkey Preschool Lunchbox!! I have to admit it doesn't really meet the requirement that I'm totally psyched to play along myself at this point, but had to include it the list because of how much our two and three year olds come back to again and again, never tiring of the simple puzzles, memory games, etc. As soon as a kid can work a touch screen they can enjoy this game. For iPad and iPhone and Android.

4. Franklin Frog

Our 2-yr old Leo loves playing around with the Franklin Frog interactive story, experimenting with touch to make things happen, moving through different scenes in the life of a frog. Great education in this game. Like any app it's best to do together, but has been good for our kids alone or partially supervised. I love it when a young kids story tackles advanced concepts - they may not understand everything the first time, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be introducing them to it. We're both now experts on the amphibian reproductive process! For iPad and iPhone.

5. Musical Me

Musical Me was fun for me to play with for a good while, and has remained very fun for our 2 and 3 year olds. I really like it for musical education because it has fun graphics and animations that encourage kids to experiment with musical dimensions like rhythm, sequencing, instruments, etc.

For iPad and iPhone

6. Wrong Book

Like Green Eggs and Ham (one of my all-time favorites), Wrong Book is a story you don't just read, you can perform it! Not sure why some books have this and other don't - maybe conflict is the key ingredient. Wrong Book also has great effects our kids like to experiment with while reading with us (recording your own voices/sounds to personalize the story) and on their own (farting monsters). I swear I've never played with the farting monster by myself ...

For iPad and iPhone

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