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Repeat After Me: ABC

Stella’s 18 month appointment with her pediatrician is coming up, so I decided to quickly jot down all of the words that she says so that I’d have a ballpark figure. Once I started writing, I almost couldn’t stop. I easily filled up a page worth 65 80+ (see update below) words—words that she regularly says on her own without any prompting from me. (A widely-known benchmark at this age is 20, but it’s common for kids to have much fewer or much more without any indication for concern or pretense.) She also strings a few of them together; her favorite phrases are, “Kick it,” “Where-da-go?”, and “Hi, baby!

Obviously I can’t credit the iPad for everything Stella does. After all, she does get to spend a lot of one-on-one time with me, and she has a phenomenal daycare provider, where she is also surrounded by a 4-year-old boy, from whom she learns a lot.

However, I can’t diminish the iPad’s role in her learning environment either. Not only have I seen some amazing apps with excellent educational value, but I also think the iPad itself has given us a reason to sit down and interact with each other more than we might have without it. We take walks, read physical books, and build blocks together, but what I mean is that the iPad removes the burden of creating both educational content and context, which makes the learning process so much more accessible. For example, I don’t think I would have taken the time to create physical flash cards, let alone keep her interested enough to practice them daily. The iPad just works.

Now that she has started repeating EVERYTHING anyone says, the ABC app has been really fun for me to watch. Most of the time she repeats the letters without my prompting. How cool is this?

Remember, the purpose of my blog is not to make claims one way or another, although I have an obvious bias toward both my daughter and my iPad! I’m simply exploring a new technology that hasn’t been available to us before, so I’m not judging against an alternate approach. What parents do with their children’s educational experience is their own business—I’ve just chosen to share mine along the way.

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UPDATE: We were way off with our estimate. As the week went on—and now conscious of counting her words—there were easily 30-40 more that we missed. I’d estimate that she is well over 100 and into the 120s. According to BabyCenter, this is very common for 19-24 months: “[Your child’s] pace will pick up as he acquires ten or more new words each day. If he’s especially focused on learning to talk, he can add a new word to his vocabulary every 90 minutes — so watch your language!”

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Count to Ten

The Oscar’s 1-10 Balloons app ($.99) is a perfect introduction to the concepts of sequencing and numbers. It offers three modes: Learn, Follow, and Play. Stella thinks the Play mode is for the birds, but she’s very good at Learn and Follow.

I’ll Take it from Here, Mom

I first discovered the Choo Choo Time app from Jason Huber, who runs KidsiPhoneAppReview.com. (See his Choo Choo Time app review here.)

When Stella was 6-12 months old, I would often launch this app on my iPhone to entertain her in the waiting rooms of doctor’s offices and such. She liked to watch the scenery go by, and she got a kick out of the sounds whenever I’d tap the various creatures for her. Now that she’s more independent, she has learned to interact with the app on her own! It has been so fun to witness her transition from passive observer to active participant. Yes, she even makes a barking noise when she taps the dog, although with her pacifier it comes out more like a whimper. 🙂

(The neon glow that appears in the video happens sometimes when I record from the iPad 2. Anyone know why? I’m guessing it’s time for an iOS update.)

Pick a Sticker with Your Sticky Picker

Two things to report this week:

1. Stella and I cracked open a new book (hard copy) called Baby Farm Animals. After playing Animal Sounds app on the iPad 2 for a few weeks, I’m pretty sure she expected the book to make noises, too. When we got to “puppies,” she started to bark like a dog, and then looked around the room—back at me, and then back to the book—wondering why nothing else was happening.

2. I finally captured footage of her little pointer finger when playing with drag-and-drop puzzles and “pick a sticker” games. It’s too cute for words, so here’s a video:

Where’s Your Nose?

Stella and I explored the BabyPlayFace iPad app, which features the cutest [literal] digital baby I’ve ever seen:

All you have to do is point anywhere on the baby’s head to learn the parts of the face. Stella had a difficult time with this, though, because she tended to “paw” at the image, which kept making the “BUZZ” sound (invalid selection).

I’ve noticed that she does this motion with certain apps, but not with others. I can’t figure out the variable. For example, when using the Color Dots app, she pointed with her index finger more frequently than she pawed. Perhaps low detail and high contrast are factors?

Maybe there isn’t a pattern at all. Lately when using the Monkey Preschool Lunchbox app (a game with high detail and high contrast), she paws when matching cards, but uses her index finger to drag-and-drop puzzle pieces to the correct location. I have yet to catch the puzzle part on video, which is probably for the best because I squeal in the highest pitch known to man every time she does it. But you can get the idea of the motion required from the screen shot of the strawberry.

Either way, Stella loves learning and loves the iPad 2!

Animal Sounds

Animal Sounds by Alligator Apps is such a fun game for Stella’s age (13 months). The game functions in “play” or “auto” modes; Stella seems to like picking her own animals, so I leave it in play mode. (And by picking, I mean attacking the screen with her whole hand.) As with other flash-card apps, you can also customize categories and sounds. It was fun to see which animals elicited a response from her, and which ones were duds. I found out that bison are not that funny, but horses and frogs are hilarious. She is definitely becoming more vocal, which makes this process even more interactive for the two of us.

Finger Dexterity

Stella reviewed the Color Dots app by Ellie’s Games. She gave it two index fingers up! Watching her finger dexterity adapt from one app to another is by far the most enthralling process for me. Sometimes her thumb would inadvertently touch the screen, which voided the touch of her finger, but overall she was very good at timing. As she mastered the index finger, she switched her strategy to slapping the screen with her entire hand, to pawing at the screen with all five fingers and waiting for the dots to come to her. “Work smarter, not harder, mom.”

Another pleasant surprise was the way she handled the iOS rotation. While playing with Talking Tom, she accidentally lowered the top of the screen, which caused the screen to flip. “Hey, Tomcat! You’re upside-down!” To fix it, she attempted to physically rotated the device. How cute is that?! The problem of course is that the iPad 2 is just too heavy for her to handle. But I just didn’t expect her to do that. I’ve since locked the rotation for her (Settings > General > Lock Rotation).

Digital Magic

I created a digital baby book using snippets of media from Stella’s first year, most of which I captured with my iPhone 4. Collecting footage originated as an organic process because of its technological ease; simply because I *could* transition from swaddling to recording, I *did*. Including my long distance friends and family also required little effort, other than a few swipes of my finger, as opposed to a few hours at my computer to edit and publish footage. In mere moments, I could transport their eyes into mine, allow them to experience the way I saw the world (at least the portions I chose to share), and then safely return them back to their own homes, miles away from mine.

The presence of technology in my daughter’s life is never the main attraction, but rather a stepping stone—a silent partner—to discover, relive, and enrich hand-made joy. To me, the memories captured are as magical as the process itself.

Say, “Cheese!” (Literally. Say it.)

For now, she’d rather just eat cheese. Stella’s top front teeth are coming down. I’m curious to see what effect they have on her ability to make different language sounds and how her babble will change.
teeth

She is still playing with the iPad very regularly. We’ve tried a few different apps, but she still seems to like flash cards for about 4 minutes per day.

Baby-Silencer

Not necessarily related to language development, Stella took a break from flash cards to explore the Baby-Silencer app by jolly1312. (Hey jolly, the link to your web site is broken.) This app is designed for younger babies with less mobility than Stella (3-6 months), who like to focus on and track small objects. Although the visuals are great, the app does not include sound. (At one point, Stella actually leaned in to listen for something! That is, until she became more interested in the case than the device.) You can upgrade sound effects by navigating through some strange point system—one that involves installing other apps to earn credits—but it looked painful. I would’ve rather paid the customary $.99 for the upgrade had that been an option. Considering the target audience for this app is a presumably a busy parent with an infant, the scavenger-hunt-upgrade-path seems to miss the mark.