With their boundless energy, tendency to shout unnecessarily, and slippery grasp of appropriate social norms, toddlers are not always easy to live with. It’s always a good day when you can visit the playground to burn off some of that excess energy, but sometimes you find yourself in a place where squirming toddlers are frowned upon, such as a sit-down restaurant or an airport.
It is with these times in mind that we offer our top three smartphone apps for holding your little one’s interest, plus three more to make parenting in general a little easier.
PBS Parents Play & Learn (Free for Android and iOS)
Building on the same research that has informed decades of children’s television programming, PBS KIDS created an app designed specifically for parents to help them build early math and literacy skills for kids four and under. With more than a dozen games plus advice on adapting these game skills in real-life settings, this is one fun, interactive way to pass the time.
Disney Storytime (Download for iOS only. 2 stories for free, additional stories for purchase from $7.99 to $39.99)
This app contains the largest collection of Disney stories—with their one-of-a-kind illustrations, word-for-word narration, and original music—so whether your child wants to fly with Dumbo or battle evil robots with The Incredibles, Disney Storytime has got you covered.
Koi Pond ($0.99 for Android and iOS)
This app is nice and basic, and yet it’s practically guaranteed to keep your kid busy during those long wait times in the doctor’s office. Simple to use, kids can touch your smartphone’s screen to create ripples and scare away the fish.
And just to make your life a little easier:
SitOrSquat (Free for Android and iOS)
Many a parent’s heart has been sent racing with their toddler’s declaration that they need to go potty RIGHT NOW. Don’t get caught with your pants down! Download the free SitOrSquat app, which uses GPS to locate the nearest available bathroom. Sponsored by Charmin, the app also offers bathroom reviews and other pertinent potty info.
Canvasly (Free for Android and iOS)
Those first couple of fingerpaint masterpieces are most definitely for keeps, but what about the next three thousand? The free Canvasly app lets you throw away the stacks (and stacks) of your kids’ artwork and instead upload them to a secure server, where they can be organized, shared, and even converted into keepsakes. Give your refrigerator a break!
SurfBalance Safe Browser For Kids (Free for Android and iOS)
Let’s face it: We’ve all seen some pretty scary things on the internet. Save your child the trauma by downloading SurfBalance Safe Browser for Kids, an app that guarantees your little one won’t accidentally happen on something that he or she shouldn’t. Parents can choose from three site filter levels to match the maturity of the user, and even set limits so their kids don’t grow up to become surf zombies.