Geek Chic of the Week: Kid-Friendly iPhone Apps

My love affair with my iPhone is well-documented. And while it is capable of many amazing things, there is one feature that is utterly priceless: the ability to entertain my children. Like when I’m stuck in a pharmacy waiting for a long time with nothing to occupy my 1-year-old. Or our order at a restaurant is taking an ungodly amount of time to arrive and my 4-year-old starts getting punky. iPhone to the rescue!

Here’s a rundown of some of my recent downloads — some good, some…less so. Please share your own favorites (and disappointments) in the comments!

Tip: put all the kiddie apps on one (or two) screens so your kids know to go to “their” screen only and not touch any of your apps.


Baby Flash Cards (Free)

I’m not fooling myself into thinking my kid is actually learning anything, but the cards are really cute and all one needs to do to get a new card is tap the screen. This is endless fun for my 1YO son. And nothing is cuter to strangers than watching a baby seemingly use an iPhone. BABY GENIUS! I bask in that faux glow as much as possible.
Rating: Two thumbs up

iStoryTime ($0.99-1.99)

Disclosure: iStoryTime gave me free download codes so I could check these out.

Each story from iStoryTime is a separate app. I’ve got Binky the Elephant and The Reading Bug. My 4-year-old LOVES these. At her age, we put the stories on “automatic page turn” mode, and the story plays itself to the end. We also have it set to child narrator, and the kid’s voice is really endearing. The stories are written and illustrated by amateurs (or at least, they seem to be). So, the stories seem a little unpolished and, to my eyes, some of the drawings are not great. I’m also bothered that — in both stories — I’ve discovered typos/grammatical errors. Which, for an app that bills itself as “educational” seems pretty egregious. That being said, did I mention my kid LOVES these? (I did share my typos with the company who was very responsive; I assume they are in the process of correcting them.)
Rating: One thumb up

Jirbo Match ($0.99)

It’s exactly what it sounds like: the old card-flipping Memory game. My 4-year-old and her friends love to play this game on my phone. My only gripe with this one is that — because I have the free version (which seems to not be available anymore?) — my daughter has accidentally clicked on the ads while playing the game.
Rating: Two thumbs up (Free)

I found the Disney app disappointing. It might be that my daughter is too young for it; there’s not much for her to do and many of the characters are from tween shows that we don’t watch. But, even the cartoon character interactions are rather underwhelming. We tried to get Goofy to “talk” to us but the first step is to enter your kid’s name. The app kept giving me a message that the character couldn’t say that name. Granted, my kid has a unique name but it wouldn’t even say MY name (and Meghan is hardly exotic). We finally had luck getting Goofy to say my husband’s name.
Rating: No thumbs

Pickin’ Time ($1.99)

So cute! This IconFactory app has adorable graphics and music and is addictive even for adults. I prefer the single player version to the multiplayer, but both are fun. Connecting multiple phones for multiplayer play was a little tricky at first (you have to enable bluetooth which wasn’t immediately apparent to me) but once we did that, my daughter and I played this in the car: she in her carseat with her dad’s phone and me in the front seat with my phone. Geek-alicious!
Rating: Two thumbs up

iDoodle2 lite (Free)

On car trips, my daughter can sometimes be occupied by drawing with this app. It’s very basic, but at 4 it’s enough for her to be able to draw lines with her fingers. She sometimes gets stuck trying to figure out how to change background colors or “pen” colors but overall it’s good.
Rating: Two thumbs up

Photos (Native app)

Never underestimate how long kids (and some grownups) can be occupied looking at pictures of themselves! I sync the photo albums on my phone with iPhoto every once in a while to keep the selection fresh.
Rating: Two thumbs up

eliasABC and eliasZOO (Free)

Both super cute apps that are easy to use. My 1YO loves the animal one especially. A slide of the finger moves to a new card, a tap gets the animal to make a noise. Same interactions give you a new letter and tell you the letter on the ABC app. I got these during a limited-time free offer (keep an eye on app review sites for those!).
Rating: Two thumbs up

Feed Me! (Free)

Got this one for free from the same offer mentioned above. The iTunes reviewer known as Nephster got it right when he complained that this app goes from baby-easy to grade-school hard with no warning, “The child that is engaged with identifying colors is a long, long way from being able to recognize fractions”. So, it’s one you need to be ready to help out with. That being said, my 4YO enjoys it — she loves the monster’s “wrong answer” face so much that she sometimes gets it wrong on purpose just to see him stick out his tongue.
Rating: One thumb up

Tic Tac Touch (Free)

Never underestimate the power of the simplest games. This can keep my 4YO busy for extended periods of time; she loves to play against the computer or against one of her parents. Same as with Memory Match, the only danger with this one is that — because it’s the free version — we’ve experienced accidental ad clickage.
Rating: Two thumbs up

Do you have favorite kiddie apps? Do tell. And remember, the free-er the better. I’m a cheap-ass.