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Learning His ABCs -- The High Tech Way

When J was a baby, Big C and I decided that we wouldn't let him watch TV until he's two years old. We were vigilant about upholding this rule, but we did relent when he was about 20 months old and finally introduced him to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Elmo. Since then, we've allowed him to watch TV in the mornings, but we still keep a close eye on what he watches. Letting him watch TV at this particular point in time, where he's learning quite a lot and absorbing information really quickly, has allowed me to gauge his ability to understand what he's seeing on the screen. So far, I've seen that he grasps the concepts of whatever show or movie he's watching: he shows proper reactions and emotions (i.e. being scared, being happy) and he identifies things that he sees (cars, balls, etc.)

J's also learned how to use the iPad. Our battered, but still working first generation iPad, which I bought as a birthday present for Big C before J was born, has now found a new owner. While we were initially hesitant to let J spend so much time playing with it, he's at that age where he's benefiting greatly from playing educational games. So we just make sure that we carefully screen the programs he plays with. I have personally selected the games that he plays. To make sure that the games are educational and age-appropriate (not just in terms of content but also in terms of skill), I go through several rounds of the game myself to see what it's like and I teach J how to play the game.

Since we let him play with the iPad, J has learned his ABCs (upper and lower case), colors, shapes and the numbers 1-10. So for us, we've already recouped our initial investment on the iPad, not even counting the time that Big C and I used it. Disclaimer though, this is not to say that technological learning devices are totally good, there are still some dangers to avoid and it's our responsibility as parents to be vigilant and instill discipline when it comes to using electronic devices. The decision of how much time your little one spends with his iPad, iPod, or computer is still entirely up to you. But to help you make the decision on what apps you can let your kids play with, here are some of apps that J plays on his iPad:

1. Bugsy Pre-K: This is the very first learning app that we taught J how to play with. This is basically the app that started it all for us. From this, J learned the letters of the alphabet, numbers up to 10, colors (primary, secondary, brown, white and gray), and shapes. The nice thing about this app is that it starts at a very basic level then progresses in terms of difficulty. For instance, for shapes, it will start with the basic shapes, then include hexagons and pentagons to increase the level of difficulty. For letters, it will start with identifying and recognizing letters, then move on to identifying beginning letters and phonetics. This app is still my favorite in terms of learning content. Plus, at the end of each round, J gets to pick a toy for Bugsy to play with, which he likes, so it motivates him to keep playing more rounds. He's been playing with this for about three months already and he still loves it.

2. Pororo Tick Talk English - Colors: This is also one of J's favorites that he keeps coming back to. It just teaches colors, but he likes Pororo so he likes this app. Basically, it will ask you to pick a can of paint to color an object with. For instance, there's an outline of a blue plane, so Pororo will ask you to choose the color blue and you can paint the plane. It also tests the child by giving him an array of objects and asking him to click the ones that are blue or red or yellow and so on. It can also help your little one learn the colors as sight words, because the word "red" will flash and the font is red. There's also a reading portion about colors that your child can listen to, which helps with reading skills.

3. Little Writer - The Tracing App for Kids: I downloaded this for J because I wanted him to start learning how to write. This is pretty nice because it teaches J how to write letters in upper and lower case, numbers, draw basic shapes and write words. It's kid-friendly because instead of ordinary tracing lines, your child will be asked to trace by pulling an animal or a truck to "eat" or get the objects. For instance, J has to pull the giraffe to collect all the apples, and the strokes follow how to write the letter. I've noticed that since playing with the app, J has started using his fingers to trace the letters he sees, like on my shirts or his books. For writing words, it will ask the child to write the letters one by one and at the end, it will show a picture of the object, say the word and show the word in your child's handwriting. My favorite feature of this app is that it allows you to add words of your own. I've added Daddy and Mommy and J and Little C's names and at the end our pictures flash, which can eventually help J recognize the words and spell it.

4. Jellytoons Toddler Skills - Bobo's Birthday Challenge: This is one of the newer apps on J's iPad. This app lets J work on shape and color matching and counting. There's also a part where J has to guide a ball around a track to reach the end, where it makes a funny bouncing sound that always makes J laugh. This game works on his motor skills. There's also a cup game, where a toy is hidden under a cup and he has to watch and guess which of the three cups the toy is hidden under. For each round he finishes, he gets to pick a gift for Bobo. There are also counting games to teach your toddler the numbers 1-10, using a fun ice cream game.

5. Jumpstart Preschool: I remember playing the Jumpstart 3rd Grade game on the PC when I was a kid, so I downloaded the Preschool version for J. Like Bugsy, this app teaches letters, numbers, shapes and colors. There's also a puzzle portion, where they have to put together a puzzle that forms a flashcard about a letter. There also memory matching games and stories for them to listen to/read along and connect the dots to form a picture. What I don't like about it is that the only reward the child gets at the end of each game is a star, which doesn't really do much. You don't get any prizes if you collect a certain number of stars, you just collect stars, so I'm afraid after a while, J will lose interest because there's no motivation.

So there you have it, mommies. Some kid-friendly and teacher-mommy-approved apps for your little one to enjoy. I leave you with a picture of my J, in DND ("do not disturb" in ICQ-speak -- again, a dated reference that betrays my age) mode with his iPad.
J in do-not-disturb mode
Happy weekend, mommies!

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