On her first birthday a year ago, my daughter became the proud owner of a shiny, new Samsung Tablet. And since then, despite my best efforts and sincerest intentions, I have not been able to replace it with a toy as entertaining for her or as peace-of-mind-providing for myself.
As a new mother, I couldn’t even imagine exposing my daughter to digital screens so early on in her life. But when a year passed and I was constantly exhausted from playing, talking, dancing and singing with my baby all day long, handing her a tablet for an hour a day didn’t seem like such a bad idea anymore. You see, we live a very indoors life here in Riyadh. There isn’t much to do outdoors because of the weather and the cultural restrictions. And since toddlers are nothing but cute little balls of sheer energy in human form, I was her only available outlet to dispense all that stored energy. So when she turned one, I caved and bought her a tablet just so she would focus on something aside from me for a little time during the day and I could sit quietly and stare into space. My scheme didn’t work as well as I had hoped. She likes the tablet, but not as much as she likes hanging on my legs. Nonetheless, I really appreciate the few moments of respite it provides me in the evenings, when The Husband and I want to talk about our day or secretly share a piece of chocolate.
Honestly speaking, I was a little guilt ridden when I first allowed my daughter to use a tablet. But considering the kind of life we live and how much we rely on screens for entertainment, information and in most cases, even work, I am not able to find a plausible enough reason to exclude it from my daughter’s life. The best that I can do in this situation is to closely monitor what she plays and watches and that I do diligently. I do not overload her tablet with games and apps to make sure that she isn’t overwhelmed with choices. I periodically delete apps that she isn’t too interested in anymore and I am constantly on the lookout for new engaging ones. The one thing I haven’t done yet is spend money on apps for her. I do get apps with in-app purchases and if I find that my daughter is frustrated by her inability to click a certain button, I simply delete the app. There’s plenty more where that came from.
Here I am talking about a few free apps that my daughter has been using for quite a long time according to toddler standards. They have managed to keep her interested for 6 months or more in all cases and I can see that she has learnt new skills from them. And even though some of them do have in-app purchases, she has not felt dissatisfied with the restrictions yet.
1. Candy Count – This brightly colored game was recommended to me by my sister and this has been a great favorite of BabyZ’s for a very long time. The objective is to sort colored candies into their respective jars and then count them. It took her a few days to figure out what she is required to do and how to pull candies using her finger but I was surprised to see her grasp the concept of sorting so easily. Now she effortlessly sorts other toys when we are playing, which makes me very proud. And I also know for sure that she learnt colors “brown” and “white” from this app. The game also introduces the idea of fewest and most, which my daughter has yet to understand. A great app even without making any in-app purchases.
2. Peppa’s Paintbox – Painting and coloring apps are very popular with toddlers and this is the best free one I have tried so far. This app has endless features that can keep toddlers engaged for a while. They can color using brushes or paint buckets, use numerous stickers on their masterpiece (some of which are animated), throw mud for added attraction and lots more. Every feature is closely related to the Peppa Pig show, so toddlers who are fans of the show will be overjoyed to play with their favorite characters and muddy boots. This app can provide BabyZ a good 10 minutes of creativity, which is amazing. I am a great fan of this app and the fact that it is completely free.
3. Fisher-Price Apps – I tried my best but failed to single out the best Fisher-Price app on my daughter’s tablet. They have all proven to be so educational, engaging and stimulating that I decided to add them as a bunch. On last count there were eight on her tablet and she loves and plays with each of them every day. It is important to mention that these were the first apps I downloaded for her so she has been using them for an entire year now. I used to sit with her when she first got the tab to help her use it and I can confidently say that these apps were my best and easiest tool to teach alphabets, numbers, shapes, animal sounds, body parts and colors to my daughter. These are free without any in-app purchases which makes my heart sing.
4. Finger Paint with Sound – This is another free painting app which I like because of its simplicity and my daughter loves because of the funny sounds it makes when she runs her finger across the screen. There are only five colors to choose from which keeps things uncomplicated. At this point in time, my daughter thoroughly enjoys destroying surfaces which I am strongly against, so I feel that this app provides her with a much needed vent to mindlessly smear color on something clean.
5. Sago Mini Babies Dress Up – This app is seriously cute! You are given four baby animals and you have to dress them up using the options in the wardrobe. There are lots of clothes, sunglasses and head gear to keep things entertaining and the best part is that the babies react by crying or smiling to what clothing items you put on them. This is how I taught my daughter the concept of happy and sad (though why she insists on making the babies cry, I will never understand).
6. Peekaboo Kids – This is a simple fun app which my daughter really likes, despite the fact that the free features in it are very limited. The app has a shaking barn which opens when you tap on it to show you the animal inside. The animals make their sound and do something funny, followed by their name in a narrator’s voice. My favorite feature in this app is where the child is asked to identify an animal and is given three choices to choose from. I assumed that my daughter will get bored of the lack of variety in this app very soon, but she still plays on it every day despite having it for six months now. If I ever decide to purchase the full version of an app for my daughter, I believe it will be this one.
7. Kids Food Game – There are many versions of this game available which are all equally good. This one however, is suitable for little kids because of its simple interface. There are six free food items to choose, prepare and then feed to the hungry monster. Kids can cook eggs and pancakes, pop popcorn, slice a watermelon and gather bananas and carrots. The monster asks for food by saying please or hungry and says thank you when he is fed. My daughter refused to say Thank you out loud and only signed with her hands. Repeating after this monster is how she finally learnt. It is just a simple app that keeps her entertained for a good few minutes.
To be perfectly honest, I am still ambivalent about how much time my daughter should be spending on her tablet or if she should be using it at all. But the constant demands of attention that my daughter puts on me cloud my ability to think rationally and I give in to the possibility of a few minutes of peace while she is awake. This is how I choose to parent and it is totally understandable if you disagree. But I have chosen to live by the mantra that a relaxed mom, is a better mom. Thanks for reading.