Book apps make me wish I’d been born quite a few years later as they take reading to a wonderful new level. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to read all books in enhanced format, but watching our toddler have fun with it is wonderful. And it hasn’t turned her off normal books – in fact, it’s made her love stories even more and she’s constantly asking to have stories read to her. And it’s true, tablets are easy enough for a toddler to operate so it keeps her amused on trips in the car or when activities need to calm down before bath time every night.
I’ve bought a few apps that promised a lot and didn’t deliver or weren’t quite what I was looking for. So to help others I’ve put together a list of my five favourite book apps for toddlers that tell a lovely story, have great interactivity or enhancement that adds to the story and have a “read to me” function. I haven’t included music or general apps and focused on books instead. All are aimed at toddlers from about 15 months to age four and are worth paying for (prices may differ from time to time).
Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton
$3 (R30) Android
$3,99 (R39, 90) iPhone, iPad
You could easily list all of Sandra Boynton’s books here because they’re so amazing. This one is our favourite and one of her top sellers. It’s about the sounds that animals make, with that Boynton humour. You’re going along with cows say “moo”, sheep go “baa”, when suddenly the toddler has to pull up a curtain to find out pigs go “la la la” to much giggling as each pig sings. It’s corrected on the next page where the child is further amused by changing the scene from day to night and back. Dogs chase cats and ducks multiply. Endless fun! You could also get Going to Bed, Barnyard Dance and Blue Hat, all by the same author and all lovely.
What does my Teddy Bear Do All Day by Bruno Hächler and Birte Müller
$3,99 (R30) for iPad
A little girl is determined to find out what her teddy does when she isn’t around so she spies on him, hoping to catch him in action. It’s delightful and one of the most interactive book apps I’ve come across. From the cover, where the teddy moves his head from side to side, every page is interactive. He dances to music, jumps on the bed, hides in cupboards, tiptoes around behind her back and watches TV (the toddler can use the remote to change channels to all sorts of silly shows). When you click on a drawing pad on one page it switches to a section where the toddler can draw her own picture. And when you return to the story, the artwork appears on the little girl’s wall. It results in much giggling and the toddler learns to find all the touchable bits to make the teddy do stuff. I suspect we haven’t yet unlocked all the features as every time we read this book we find something new.
Chipper’s Rainy Day Adventure by Invent a Tale
Free for iPad
This is a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure story at toddler level. Chipper the mouse has to decide what to do on a rainy day and each page offers three options. You can build a fort of buttons and watch him knock them down or use toothpicks to build the fort where Chipper spends time playing with a torch. You can help him hide and pick something for him to do when he’s outside – the toddler’s favourite part – from jumping in puddles to dancing or building a raft (we spend a lot of time making Chipper jump in puddles). The child also helps him finish his day and can decide whether he baths in a teacup or showers with the help of a watering can. A sweet story with so many options.
Scruffy Kitty by Michael Slack
$4,99 (R49, 90) for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Scruffy is a kitten that lives outside and gets into a fair bit of trouble before going inside and being cleaned up. As the story continues he falls off bins, howls at the moon, marches up and down and enjoys himself singing out of tune. And the toddler’s favourite, once he gets cleaned up you can dry him with a hairdryer. We’ve just discovered it also changes for special events – the app now has a Halloween theme after a recent update. It’s funny; the illustrations are good and the app emphasises that after playing we’re cleaned up then go to bed, which toddlers seem to think never applies to them. There’s also a sticker function which are for older toddlers.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
$5 (R50) Android
$3,99 (R39,90) for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
This classic tale of the naughty rabbit that gets into trouble when he decides to have lunch in Mr McGregor’s garden is told in pop-up format with soothing music. The words highlight as the story is read and the bunnies can be touched to make them move slightly, giggle or be pulled to a different place with pull-out tabs (the beauty is, of course, the tabs won’t be broken within weeks as with normal pop-up books in the hands of toddlers). This one is great for older kids too who are learning to read.
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