The Itsy Bitsy Spider app by Duck Duck Moose ($1.99) is perfect for Stella’s age (almost 15 months). The developer has lots of similar apps (Wheels on the Bus, Old MacDonald), but I chose this one for my own sake because it had the least annoying song. The story itself is fun (touch the spider to advance each verse of the song), but there are also lots of other supporting touch-spots for her to discover and remain engaged— so much so, that we’ll probably even use this app without the audio on the plane.
The Oscar’s 1-10 Balloons app ($.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.
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!
I recently read an article entitled “How to Make Your Baby Smarter.” Let me be clear: I have no agenda to make my baby smarter. I stumbled upon the article because I was searching for AAP recommendations on the limits of screen time for children.
I finished the article just seconds before throwing up in my mouth. Here’s why:
1. An article written in 2011 cites “studies” from pre-tablet era—heck, pre-interactivity era. This line in particular is a killer: “Studies show that there is no benefit to intelligence-building programming under the age of three, and Belilovsky calls them a waste of time.”
I asked the author of the article for a link to these studies (out of a sincere quest for insight), and her response (albeit prompt) was disappointing:
Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to go back and find all the studies I referred to, but yes I believe they focused on TV, movies and “computer programs,” but they were likely before the tablet era.
2. Anatoly Belilovsky (the expert cited in the above quote) is a New York-based pediatrician who is authoring a book entitled, Parents should not trust development to intelligence-building toys or tapes. I don’t know the guy, so I have no comment on his work as a medical professional or an author. But it is book titles like these that encourage us to view technology and learning as mutually exclusive—or even dangerous! Must the concept of screen time always equate to a child zombie sitting in front of a television or computer, unattended? Belilovsky himself says children have little incentive to solve a puzzle or build a structure when left alone because the interaction [with caretaker] is what motivates the child. Yes! I agree, Belilovsky. But why is this interactivity praised when the puzzle comes in a cardboard box instead of a touchable, digital display?
I know: It’s because people make sweeping generalizations about intelligence-building toys and tapes.
<—————–Exit stage left: Mutual Exclusivity.
(Wait…did he say tapes? As in cassette? Really?…)
—————–>Enter stage right: Technology Integration.
Parents magazine lists 50 Simple Ways to Make Your Baby Smarter. By my count, 10 of those items could easily be done using an iPad; specifically, numbers 4, 11, 32, 34, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, and 47. For example,
#11: Joke around. Point to a photo of Uncle Frank, and call him “Mommy.” Then tell your child that you were being silly and laugh at your “joke” to build her budding sense of humor.
It doesn’t matter whether the photo of Uncle Frank is on paper or on a screen because the point of the exercise is to prompt interaction between the child and the parent. Technology integration [done well] is not clunky or competitive; it’s seamless and supportive! No stealing of thunder required.
So what did we cover?
1. I have unabashedly judged a book by its title. But writing about cassette tapes in 2011 is ridiculous. If that makes me an elitist, then I’m charmed to meet you.
2. A learning tool (digital or not) should not be a scapegoat for deficiencies due to lack of interaction from an educator. Otherwise, as this guy and this guy (and now I) say, “A teacher that can be replaced by a machine *should* be.”
The A/V Adapter allows us to output the iPad display onto our TV. It was expensive ($40 + HDMI cable), but it’s great for parents because it gives us the option to keep our child’s paws off the control and still share the output with her for movies, flashcard apps, and more:
- Netflix: We are able to stream Neflix through our Blue-ray Player or XBox (wow, are we spoiled), but there is something especially enchanting about resuming content in our queue at the exact spot where we left it.
- Videos: I feel like I got a 2-for-1 on my Yo Gabba Gabba downloads. And, no more storing DVDs!
- Kids App (Monkey Preschool Lunchbox): This is one of Stella’s favorite games, so it was fun to watch her use both the iPad and TV screen. The game incorporates colors, shapes, fruit, counting, puzzles, and matching—worth every 99 pennies. Bonus: Stella signs the word “more!”
- FaceTime: Grandpa is finally life-size!
- Web Browsing: Browsing the web as a family affair? Hello, Google DNS and parental controls.
And for those of you who are concerned about the amount of her daily screen time (more on this later), she also played with non-digital toys—and boys!—all day long.