Does My App Look Phat?

Shut up no way you got an iPad 2 for Christmukkah! Lucky stiff. I won’t even attempt to conceal my envy. We got the original iPad a year ago, mere months before the sequel. I feel like one of those Eastern Europeans sporting a t-shirt with a randomly dated catch phrase like “Fuhgeddaboutit!”

You now face a very important decision. Either 1) conceal the iPad’s existence from your baby as you would with, say, anal beads. Or else 2) surrender the iPad unto baby. Because once that genie is out of the bottle, there’s no putting it back.

If you opt to share, your baby’s tablet computing career starts out very cute. “Holy crap he can swipe! He opens apps!” Very quickly it becomes, “Okay careful. No, we don’t drool gratuitously on the iPad. Let’s put that somewhere safe.” Soon you’ll be dangling anything to distract him away from it. I find anal beads work well.

It’s tempting to think that your baby’s facility with the iPad is an indication of genius. And it is: the genius of Apple. The iPad is so intuitive that even grandparents can use many of its features.

Mercifully, the iPad can be a child rearing force for good. I would even venture that the better children’s apps don’t count as screen time. Unlike watching television, which is passive, the iPad is fully interactive. When utilized to its potential, you could regard the iPad as a highly evolved book.

My son is only 1½, so my knowledge of children’s apps ends there. But there is no shortage of app reviews, round-ups, guides and top-tens. In fact, that’s sort of the problem. So many lists seem the result of marketing or guesswork.

Last Sunday’s New York Times published just such a guide in the Travel section. And while I hate to pick on Michelle Higgins again, she lists a measly three apps for ages 1-4. This age range is so overly broad, she may as well be advising preschoolers on drivers ed, tax preparation and menopause.

App selection needn’t be complicated. They only cost a few bucks, so there is no real downside to choosing poorly. Still, it helps to start off with a few that are baby-tested. I’ve noticed a dearth of app selections for babies 6-18 months. With that in mind, herewith are Daddy Confidential’s

App-tastic Picks For The Diaper Set

It is customary for the reviewer to give detailed descriptions and pithy insights. And were I here reviewing running shoes or hotels, I would do just that. But these are apps for babies. They will yield their secrets without much prodding. Plus there’s something to be said for the simple pleasures of exploration.

6 months+
At this age, the iPad’s only real use is for mollification. Say your baby sounds reveille at 0400 hours. Neither parent is fully functioning. Bring your baby into bed and use these apps to buy precious minutes until the world comes into focus.
Note: these aren’t children’s apps; they’re just kinda trippy in a way babies can relate to. Their titles tell you all you need to know.

Bubbles, by Jesse Grosjean
Marine Aquarium
, by Prolific Publishing
Koi Pond HD
, by The Blimp Pilots

12 Months+
Peekaboo Barn, Peekaboo Wild, and Peekaboo Forest, by Night & Day Studios.
Caveat emptor: other companies use the word “Peekaboo” in children’s apps. Many of these are buggy and redundant.
Old MacDonald
and Wheels on the Bus, by Duck Duck Moose
Sound Touch
, by Eran Talmor

18 Months+
Itsy Bitsy Spider and Park Math, by Duck Duck Moose
, by Little Potato Software.

Bear in mind that babies are fickle. They’ll be indifferent to an app for weeks, then suddenly become captivated. Depending on the app, the iPad can be a teaching tool or just a highly sophisticated distraction. It has totally saved my ass in restaurants, cars and planes. But it also offers stimulating activities for when when your baby temporarily loses interest in the analog world.

These are the best of the lot… at least until Apple approves iBaby Anal Beads.

All screenshots pulled from companies’ web sites. The above apps are gender neutral, bug free, and cost $1<$4.

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