Apps for Parents Who Hate Apps

I’ve gone to great lengths not only to limit my toddler’s screen time, but also to curate what she’s exposed to. While I know there’s no app that can take the place of face-to-face interactions with me, sometimes my face is occupied by eating a sandwich.

So I’ve compiled a list of apps that keep my kid occupied without making me feel guilty in the process:

Endless Alphabet
Well, it isn’t really endless, but I’m willing to forgive the madly cute little monsters for spelling words with only 26 letters. A selection of words beginning with each letter of the alphabet is available, appearing for a moment before a parade of rambunctious beasties scatter the letters to the corners of the screen. Children are then treated to the sound the letter makes when they touch and drag it to the appropriate place in the word’s spelling. When they successfully reconstruct the word, the monsters cheer and a friendly voice gives the word’s definition. One quibble: The teacher in me is irked that some of the words chosen were obviously done so for their cuteness, rather than what is appropriate for the phonetics skills of the game’s demographic, but you can’t win ’em all. Endless Alphabet, Originator Inc., $4.99 on Google Play and $6.99 on iTunes

Little Things Forever
Ideal for older children and adults who pine for the days of leafing through I SPY books, the puzzles in this game call for the player to find a certain number of objects within the allotted time. Collect puzzle pieces to unlock more levels, and lose more hours of your life hunting for airplanes and baseball caps in the body of a cheerful octopus. Okay, so maybe this one is mostly for parents. But adults deserve a little screen time, too. Little Things Forever, KLICKTOCK, free on Google Play and $2.99 on iTunes

Mini-U: ZOO Abracadabra
This game looks like something out of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. Only more playful, in color, and designed with small children in mind (as opposed to twenty-somethings with dark imaginations). The silhouettes of several creatures appear on a carnivalesque background, and children have the opportunity to match the shapes of the animals they see with a set of cards on the bottom of the screen. The illustrations are gorgeous, and hip mamas and papas alike will probably want them on a sweater. Mini-U: ZOO Abracadabra, PopAppFactory, $2.99 on Google Play and iTunes

Peekaboo Barn
Adorable farm critters are crowing and bleating and mooing behind bright barn doors that open when your child swipes, at which point the name of the animal appears and a super sweet kid’s voice announces the animal’s name. The kiddo is the default voice, but the paid version of the app includes the ability for parents to record their own voice, as well as a myriad of foreign language options. I can assure you from personal experience that the looped play mode does not in any way diminish the joy of seeing the llama again, and again, and again. Peekaboo Barn, Night & Day Studios, $1.99 on Google Play and iTunes

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