Like Mother, Like Child: Toddlers Using Apps for More Than Just Fun

Some of today’s hottest mobile apps, like The New Potty, are designed for those still in diapers. This popularity owes much to parents handing over their smartphones and tablets to their children — 75 percent of them, according to a recent survey.

“It’s amazing to watch my 2-year-old easily open apps on my iPad and play his educational games,” said Maria Quiban, the social media anchor at FOX 11 television in Los Angeles. “He’s so much more advanced because of it,” said Quiban, who is also the mom behind the Mommy Loves Tech blog. 

Quiban believes apps have a tremendous potential to help educate young children if parents are smart about what they install. One of her favorites is Baby Flash Cards, which teaches the names of animals, letters, colors and everyday objects, including the sounds they make.

Other apps teach toddlers about everything from shapes and sounds to letters and words through both audio and visual. For example, the Interactive Alphabet ABCs app, which was voted best Kids App of the Year 2010 by iLounge, turns letters into interactive toys to help kids learn their ABCs. It features upbeat music, a baby mode and phonic sounds to help develop foundational reading skills. The Toddler Teasers Shapes app features simple audio instructions, prompting toddlers to select correct shapes. If they guess the right shape four times in a row, they are awarded a sticker. The New York Times named the iWriteWords app one of the top apps for kids. This app teaches handwriting and how to combine letters to spell basic words associated with images on the screen.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children spend no more than two hours a day using entertainment media, and that it should be avoided altogether for those under two years old. Interacting with the real world, the Academy notes, is critical for young children to exercise and develop their imagination.

"Although new technology is a wonderful resource for us, and quite revolutionary,” Quiban said, “We must remember to monitor the amount of time our children spend on tech. Balance is a must."