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Friday, September 28, 2012

30 Free Apps for Babies


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We are back in the States and trying to recover from jet lag, but I wanted to take a few moments and share some of the apps that we discovered while we were in Taiwan. What were we doing discovering apps in Taiwan, you ask? Don't ask. Well, since you did...the plane ride there was incredibly challenging. Bam Bam (15 months) did NOT want to sleep. At all. Ever. For 15.5 hours. He wanted to lie down flat and nurse to sleep and because he couldn't lie down flat, and refused to nurse under the cover (I nursed him in the plane bathroom twice. I felt less clean than I have ever felt except after having a baby!), he was miserable, we were miserable, and everyone on the plane was miserable with us. All the planning, preparing and creating I did was for naught because nothing made him happy. Even the television didn't help much. The plane left at 1:45 in the morning and all my poor little boy wanted was to sleep. It was a really rough experience and I seriously considered never leaving Taiwan just so I wouldn't have to go through that or put my family through that again. But then being in Taiwan also had its challenges, so I decided we had to find a way to get home. So, I started researching and testing apps that would distract Bam Bam from his misery if he couldn't sleep again.

What I was looking for in an app for him was movement, sound effects, and simple tap or drag cause and effect. Here are the best 30 apps I found. The app that kept his attention longest is first, and then they are just grouped catergorically from there. The best part is all these apps are FREE! Some of them I would like to buy the full version, but they are fun in their lite versions, too.

We did have a couple apps on my Kindle Fire, too, but I am too lazy to get that right now. So, these are just the ones on my iPhone. Not sure if they are all available for android, too. The best two that I had for the Kindle were a bubble making and popping one (there are loads of free ones for any device and you should definitely download one of them!) and a paint dropping one where you could splatter the paint. I could not find either of those exact apps for the iPhone.

And in case you are wondering, the plane ride home was better, thank the good Lord! Bam Bam and Boogie both slept some, and Bam Bam did enjoy some apps. The sleeping saved the day and our sanity, though :) It is good to have a supply of apps for waiting situations, too, though, so I am glad that I have them ready to go, just in case I need them another time.

 Animals and/or Vehicles

Peekaboo Barn

Bam Bam loved the free version of Peekaboo Barn so much that we bought the full version. This is hands down his favorite app. All you have to do is touch the barn door and it opens to reveal an animal. The animal makes a sound and a child's voice says the name of the animal. For free, you can record your own voice saying the names of the animals, which allows you to customize the language for free. Or, for an additional fee, you can buy a language pack (either Asian or European, both of which include several languages from the area). I just discovered this when linking to the app page, so I will definitely have my husband record the animal names in Mandarin for our kids!

I Hear Ewe

This app has 24 animals and 12 vehicles. The images are all cartoons. You touch the picture and a voice says "This is the sound a ______ makes," then you hear a real life sound. The pronunciation of some of the words is strange, but the variety is great. The biggest thing I love about this app is that you have 5 different language options for free! I switch between English and Mandarin. You can also choose to turn off the description and only hear the sound. I wish there was an option to just hear the name of the animal/vehicle in Mandarin, rather than the whole phrase. And I wish there were photos rather than cartoons. Otherwise, a pretty comprehensive free app.

Sound Touch Lite

This is the free version and it has cartoons of 12 animals and 12 vehicles. You touch the one you want to hear and it takes you to a full screen photo and a clip of a real sound effect. I love that it uses real photos, which is my complaint about I Hear Ewe.

Hatch!

The idea for this is great, but I feel like it could use some work. There is a large egg on the screen. You tap the egg and cracks appear. After several taps, there is a boing sound and something is revealed. I feel like this could be a lot more educational if it was all real creatures that actually come from eggs, if there were photographs instead of drawings, and a voice said what the animal was. For what it is, though, it is cute.

Talking Tom series

I downloaded three of the Talking Tom series because they were suggested on every site that had reviews for apps for kids. The highlight of these apps is that you talk to the animals and they repeat what you say in a funny voice. The downside, which I think you can turn off in some of the apps, is that there is a violence aspect where when you poke the animal, instead of giggling like it tickles, the animal acts like you just smacked it. 

Broom Broom

I think they meant "vroom vroom." In this app, when you move your finger around the screen, the squiggles turn into roads and cars drive around on them. Eventually the roads fade so you have room to make new ones. The cars make sound effects and sometimes honk. This is by the same maker as Colorful Balloons, and like that app, the ad on the bottom is annoying, but watching the cars drive and the roads appear is entertaining and engaging.

Music

Piano Pals

On the bottom of the screen is 8 colored keys, and the top is a farm scene with 8 animals. You can choose to have the keys play the animal sounds, play music, say the colors, or say numbers. There are 4 other animal themes beside the farm that you can purchase.

My Baby Drum

In this digital drum app, there are 8 colored circles (drums) on the screen that you can tap. There is also an option to have music play that you can drum with or have drums play that you can drum with. I think the free play is the best for a baby who just enjoys tapping the screen.

Singamajigs

If you like the Fisher Price Singamajigs, you will like this app. You can scroll through several different creatures, tap their tummies and they will sing notes. There isn't the option like there is on the real thing to change between words, sounds, and notes, but watching the mouth move and hearing the notes is still entertaining.

Liquid/Water

Pocket Pond

I really like this app. A very realistic looking pond with koi that swim around and get scared if you poke your finger and make ripples. For a 15 month old, the original version is perfect. There is a 2nd version with more interaction but it is a lot more involved and not as baby friendly. 

Colorful Aquarium Lite

For a baby, a parent has to set up the aquarium by adding fish and plants and what not, but then your child can watch them swim around. You can also tap on the glass or shake the aquarium to make the fish move, which your baby will like. The bubble sound effect can be controlled or turned off, and the glass tapping sound will amuse your child. I recommend turning off the dirtiness factor in the setup menu unless you want to have to fake clean the fake tank so your baby can see the fake fish.

Colorful Ripple

Not very water-esque, really, but since it is called "ripple", I put it with the other water apps. I wanted this app to be more than it was, but it did engage Bam Bam and it is simple, colorful, and fun, so I should stop nitpicking. The background is a colorful spiral. When you tap the screen, a "ripple" (a colored circle in this case) appears, expands, and disappears. You can tap repeatedly or drag your finger around. Each ripple is a different color. I wanted there to be a musical interaction each time you tapped but you can have music playing in the background.

Liquid Mantra Lite

As you move your finger around the screen, you make water appear. It moves or settles depending on your movement. Pretty realistic and there are a lot of options if you want to change them but since it is just for Bam Bam to tap on the screen, I left the settings alone.

Liquid Lite

Similar to Liquid Mantra Lite but the graphic isn't as realistic. The liquid moves more with the phone motion and there is a sloshing sound effect, along with 4 different liquid colors and backgrounds.  Not sure which one I like better, which is why I kept both. If your child likes the sound effect, this is the best water app for you, since the others don't have sound.

Liquid Mirror

This is a cool idea. The app uses your phone's front or back camera and acts like a mirror, but when you touch the screen it distorts it as if it is a reflection in water. You can make ripples and waves. No colors or sounds, but it is a fun way to use your baby's love for mirrors.

Fluid Monkey

Another liquid simulator app. This one has a TON of options for changing how the liquid looks. I like the way the water looks and moves and settles, even though I feel that Liquid Mantra Lite is definitely the most realistic as far as how it looks both when settled and moving. But as far as the way the water moves, this one is probably the best. 

Pocket Drops

This is like fruit ninja, in zen mode, with circle and square drops of water. The maker also made Pocket Pond, so the graphics are great, and there are some sound effects. There are 4 different backgrounds that you can have your water drops floating around on. The drops don't interact with phone movement, only finger movement. You can combine and then slash the droplets to make more, and watch them reconnect, or you can add more by opening the menu.

Heat/Fire

Heat Pad Lite

This is a tough app to describe but it is really cool. When you touch the screen, it acts like a heat sensor and the colors change depending on how long you touch one spot. There are 9 different color/style settings, including heat, glow, metal, and flame, just to name a few. You can tap or drag your finger to create images and there is a setting to change how long they stay on the screen before fading. There is zen music playing in the background that you can use or silence. This one is great for babies.

Fireworks Arcade

I looked at a bunch of fireworks apps, and liked this one best. When you touch the screen, a firework appears and explodes. If you stop it will start setting off its own show, which causes a baby to start touching the screen again and set off their own.

Fire Fingers

This is like drawing with fire. It is similar to Heat Pad Lite, except the flame graphic is more realistic in this app. 

Kaleidoscopes
Kooleido Lite

This is a kaleidoscope app that you can set to auto or manually control the changing of the image, either with your finger or by tilting the phone. There are 15 images in the free version and 4 different shape combinations you can choose between. It is as close to a real kaleidoscope as you can get without carrying one with you. 

Kaleido Free

Another kaleidoscope app, but in this one, as you move your finger around, you are causing a glowing kaleidoscope image to appear.

Balls, Bubbles, Balloons

Newton's Cradle

There are several different free versions of this app. I am sure you have seen this in real life. It is a stand with balls on strings that keep tapping one another. That is not a great explanation, but that is the best I can do under the influence of extreme jet lag. Mesmerizing and relaxing for adults and interesting for kids.

Colorful Balloons

In this app, each time you tap on the screen, a balloon appears. They float around the screen on their own. If you continually tap on the same balloon it gets bigger, and eventually pops or flies around the screen making a sound like you let it go part way through blowing it up. The ad on the bottom is annoying if your child likes to tap all over the screen, but otherwise a cute app.

Bubble Snap

This is digital bubble wrap popping. Such a clever idea. You can choose 3 different sizes, and I find that the biggest is best for clumsy little fingers. It looks and sounds like bubble wrap, and what kid doesn't love that?!

Jiggle Balls

The free version of this app is such an annoying tease, but the idea is fun, so I am including it in case you want to buy the full version. In the free version, you touch the screen and several tiny grayish balls appear and fall to the bottom of the screen. The more you touch the screen, the more balls appear. They react to bumping into each other, touch, or phone movement. The sound effects are bouncy and fun and it is pretty much like having a bunch of ping pong balls in your phone. But the free version keeps the info screen as the background and taunts you with the information about the paid version (you can change background, ball color, ball weight, gravity, sound, and the bounce). Next time we are going somewhere, I might get the paid version because I think being able to change those things would make this a really awesome distraction.

Random

Let Loose

I was looking for some kind of "splat" app, where if Bam Bam touched the screen, something would make a splat sound and image on the screen. That is how I stumbled across this app, which is pretty funny. There are 15 cartoon "weapons" you can use to throw at a picture from your photo library. The "weapons" that I choose for Bam Bam include pies, tomatoes, eggs and water balloons. There are a few different sound effects and the splattering is different depending on the "weapon."

Crack and Break

Another one I stumbled across looking for something else. My little bruiser really liked this one. You can choose between a picture on your phone, glass blocks, light bulbs, or fluorescent lights and you tap them to break them. He laughed out loud the first time one shattered. I am in trouble!

Smart Tot Rattle

A very simple app that held Bam Bam's attention when he was tired. The app has several backgrounds with some combination of big black, white and red pattern. Then, in front, there are 3 more colorful objects that move and bump against one another making sounds. They move on their own as well as according to touching the screen or moving the phone. I think there are 4 screens that it rotates through.

Fisher Price series

There are a bunch of free Fisher Price apps that have minimal interaction needed. The typical Fisher Price voice and song and dance kind of does its own thing, which is adorable and educational. Bam Bam isn't really into just sitting and watching, though, so he wasn't a big fan. He wants to poke and have something happen, and the ones we played were on auto mode. But if you have a child who likes to watch and you need them to be quiet, these are great.

Do you have any apps for babies or young toddlers that you would add to this list? Feel free to comment below!


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