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Family Photos

Living almost 2,000 miles from most of our family/friends makes the holidays difficult. Stella cheered us up this Thanksgiving weekend by going through a bunch of photos of loved ones and reciting their names—yet another simple way to use the iPad 2 with your kids!

Disclaimer: The video does not show all of the family photos that we actually have in our library (I had to cut out some footage in the middle due to stinkerness), so if you think you’re forgotten, think again, Katie, Kara, Brandon, Logan, Mandy, Clint, Amy, Tony, Brenden, Brooks, John, Ilyse, and Mary!

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Top Baby Apps on Our iPad 2

It’s been about six nine months since Stella has been using the iPad actively, so I compiled a list of our favorite apps so far. Also, check out Kids iPhone App Review for more ideas on iPad and iPhone apps for a broader age range.

Itsy Bitsy Spider – $1.99
This one is worth the money. She plays this for a very long time. The graphics are very good, and there’s always something new for her to discover. You can record yourself singing the song, too! (Many other apps are available by Duck Duck Moose. We also have Old MacDonald.)
See my video review…


Monkey Preschool Lunchbox – $.99
This is her all-time favorite app. She’s not very good at it because it is designed for older kids, but it doesn’t stop her from trying. (Monkey Math School Sunshine is now available, too!)
See my video review…


Oscar’s 1-10 Balloons – $.99
This is also a really good one. She gets very proud of herself when she finishes each set. Plus, I think this one helped her learn how to count to 10 by 18 months. (Also check out Oscar’s Alphabet Song.)
See my video review…


My First Words – FREE (limited categories)
We like this one a lot for vocabulary flash cards, but I’m not sure if it’s still available.
See my video review…




Animal Sounds – $.99
She likes to hear all of the animal sounds. She tries to repeat them in her own voice, which is very cute.
See my video review…


Color Dots – FREE
She gets bored with this now, but when she first discovered it, she was very into this game. When she’d pop all of the bubbles, she’d look at me for approval and then keep going with the next set. It has since been updated so you can change the speed and size of the dots as your child develops more dexterity. The developer also offers a Color Square game, which wasn’t as appealing to Stella entering toddler stage, but it could be good for infants.
See my video review…

PlayBabyFace – FREE
This is a cute one for learning the parts of the face in multiple languages.
See my video review…



Baby-Silencer – FREE
This is really fun for a baby 6-12 months. There isn’t a lot to it; colors and lights respond to touch. There is no audio in the free version, but Stella still liked this one a lot at that age.
See my video review…


Baby ASL HD – $1.99
This app is good if you are serious about signing with your baby. The flow isn’t that great when you use it, but the videos of the people signing are great.
See my video review…


SignShine – Free (limited songs)
Stella LOVES singing the songs included in this app because she gets so entranced by the woman signing. You get “Itsy Bitsy Spider” for free, and you can get 10 more songs for $2.99.
See my video review…


Tappie Colorit – $.99
As Stella has transitioned into toddler-hood, she has gravitated more toward this app for learning shapes and colors.
See my video review…


ABC Preschool Alphabet – $.99
This app was hit or miss—some days she LOVED it, and other days she wanted nothing to do with it. It’s probably a good one to have and keep trying as your child grows through different stages.
See my video review…

Others that we use a lot but haven’t specifically posted a review include:

Things Don’t Have to Change the World to Be Important

I’m not going to pretend like Steve Jobs held a special place in my heart before he passed—I probably saw more screen time of Noah Wyle in Pirates of Silicon Valley than of the actual man himself. But I read many tributes to Steve yesterday, and I became very moved. I stumbled upon this excerpt from 1996 hidden among his many other, more widely-known quotes:

“The problem is I’m older now, I’m 40 years old, and this stuff doesn’t change the world. It really doesn’t. I’m sorry, it’s true.

Having children really changes your view on these things. We’re born, we live for a brief instant, and we die. It’s been happening for a long time. Technology is not changing it much—if at all.

These technologies can make life easier, can let us touch people we might not otherwise. You may have a child with a birth defect and be able to get in touch with other parents and support groups, get medical information, the latest experimental drugs. These things can profoundly influence life. I’m not downplaying that.

But it’s a disservice to constantly put things in this radical new light—that it’s going to change everything. Things don’t have to change the world to be important.” [Wired, February 1996]

Will these technologies make your child smarter? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s not the point.

They offer an extraordinary gift of sharing, learning, and interacting. And little things like this—however humble or ambitious they may be—do matter! They matter because they can change *your* world.

******************************************************
Update (Nov. 23 2011): I just finished reading the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. I am no less convinced that he was an extraordinary man, albeit a touch narcissistic. One of the things his wife, Laureen Powell, said in her interview struck me for this post: “Like many great men whose gifts are extraordinary, he’s not extraordinary in every realm. He doesn’t have social graces, such as putting himself in other peoples’ shoes, but he cares deeply about empowering humankind, the advancement of humankind, and putting the right tools in their hands.” This wonderful iPad journey is not just about *my* daughter and her progress, but also the implications for all sons and daughters in this next generation.

Big Grips, Big Relief

I started shopping around for a new iPad 2 case early last summer because I needed something more durable than the Targus Versavu. The Targus is great for an adult—especially for travel—but it was clunky for Stella to handle, and it frequently slid down whenever she would play with the device. Thanks to Jason Huber at Kids iPhone Review, I held out for the release of the Big Grips frame for iPad 2.

Stella can now paw as hard as she wants at the device, and it rarely slides out of the stand. The best part is watching her tiny little hands easily maneuver the iPad now like it’s just another toy. Wait…I take that back. The BEST part is knowing MY precious toy is also safe after watching her hurl the iPad onto the tile floor in this video:

Finger Tips

Tip #293: Clean your screen after every digital baby use.

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.

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!

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).

Hello, cheese? NO! Cheese can’t dial a phone.

…Nor can it play the piano. Stella likes the Virtuoso Piano app, but for some reason she got very frustrated when her fake slice of cheese (made out of felt) did not produce sound. At least, that’s what I *think* she was getting frustrated with. After all, her various cries have become a language of their own, which makes me her master interpreter. A subtle change inflection can mean the difference between “I’m hungry,” “I’m angry,” “I’m angry because I’m hungry,” and in rare cases, “I’m hungry because I’m angry!” Now that I’ve experienced it from both sides, I’ve come to better appreciate the delicate patience required for this primal communication!

As for the title of this post, I had the chance to reference The State, and I took it—primarily because I hope to make 50% of my readership smile from the line.*

*I know for sure that two of you read this, and one of you is Sara!