Keeping a two-year old occupied and quiet is something man has struggled with since the dawn of time. While our ancestors may have had Laudanum, we have far friendlier (though perhaps just as addictive) electronic means of stimulation and entertainment: the iPhone.
Toddlers love the iPhone for the same reasons grown-ups do: The interface is intuitive, the screen is bright and colorful, and myriad applications are available to suit almost any taste. The problem with kids is that they're fickle, so rather than blowing lunch money on paid apps that might be a flop, try these free ones that are already toddler approved.
1. Labyrinth Lite Edition
Kids love it because the interface is completely intuitive, and the sound effects are great. Even if they can't master the gameplay, rolling the ball around on the screen is good for a few minutes of entertainment. The new 3D interface is kinda fun to look at, too.
2. Digidrummer Lite
A fixed eight-pad sequencer awaits nimble digits and satisfies the urge to be a drummer. Kids love the instant feedback of the instruments, and most of the sounds the app makes are relatively low frequency, keeping them from carrying too far from the dinky internal speaker.
All children love to bang on pianos. This one features a single octave, and keys that are kid sized. For the budding musician, it's a pretty nice way to work out a tune. Definitely not the best app for use in a Library, but plenty good for the car or at home.
4. Scribble Lite
There's loads of good drawing apps out there, but this one is free and uncomplicated. It can draw on photos from the photo library, has 11 colors, three brush sizes and a single brush shape. Shaking the iPhone clears the scribbles and lets the drawing begin on a clean slate. Plus it's completely silent and utterly captivating.
5. Newton's Cradle Classic
This simple app features physics-defying balls hitting one another. A toddler would probably destroy a real Newton's Cradle, but the virtual version is almost as fun to play with. It makes use of the accelerometer, so even if your baby doesn't have the fine motor skill required to manipulate the clackers they can just shake the hell out of it and watch the results.
6. The New Yorker Animated Cartoons App
Kids like animation, regardless of the fact that they don't get the jokes. Plus, it's pretty clasy to push a toddler around in a stroller while they're watching cartoons from The New Yorker, right?
7. ABC's Free
This dead simple app runs through the alphabet song with monotonic computer-generated speech to accompany each letter and word in the song. What it lacks in polish, it makes up for in simplicity.
8. Built-in apps
So obvious they might get overlooked, many of the built-in apps that come with the iPhone are great for kids. YouTube is chock-full of attention-grabbing clips. Whipping through photos with a finger is something any two-year-old could pick up on in a hurry. Best of all, you can rip entire DVDs to the iPod and let your tyke rock out with Yo Gabba Gabba during those epic commutes.
9. I Hear Ewe: Animal Sounds for Toddlers
Kind of like a See 'n Say for the iPhone, this app features 12 animal sounds that are activated when their corresponding picture is touched. The interface is animated and the illustrations are cute. It's also a good chance to see what animals your kid knows and share interaction by telling them what animal to press.
First off, this app is much better with the sound off. That said, it has some potential. Dressing up Chica in various costumes requires a fair bit of motor skill, so it might not be great for the youngest kids, but it's pretty fun for the ones that get it.