Tag Archives: iPad

Toddler App Review – Gappy’s First Words

Toddler App Review - Gappy's First Words

It was perfect timing when we received a copy of Spinlight’s new phonics app Gappy’s First Words. I had just decided to start using Montessori methods full time for Jax’s homeschooling, and was switching from memorizing the alphabet to teaching letter sounds and empowering him to read and spell on his own. (Should I start blogging about homeschooling again? Stop by our Facebook page and let me know!)

Toddler App Review - Gappy's First Words

I handed this app over to Jax without any presentation to him, and he dove right in. He loves letters, so he first clicked on the “ABC” button. There you’ll find an alphabet page where you can listen to either the letter names or their sounds. Perfect, as I’m now using letter sounds. This is just a free play area of the app.

Toddler App Review - Gappy's First Words

Next, Jax clicked on Gappy’s silhouette and entered the game. I let him choose his level, and of course he wanted to do the highest level – 4. In level four, you aren’t given any letters in the three-letter CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words. We’ve actually been working on our Montessori pink level CVC words for the past two weeks, but hadn’t started when we first tried Gappy. It was a nice way for Jax to get a feel for sounding out a word and writing it based on each letter sound he hears. I played with him, and separated the sounds out for him.

Two weeks later, Jax can reliably get starting and ending sounds himself with our encouragement, but still needs us to slow down the words for that middle vowel. Gappy’s First Words ties in great with our Montessori language lessons,. I’m happy to let my son “play a game” that is actually helping him learn to read and write at age three!

Toddler App Review - Gappy's First Words

There is a reward system built into the game. You earn house parts so you can design Gappy’s house. Every 10 words you complete, you unlock another house item. This hasn’t been a huge motivator for Jax. But he loves letters and finds the spelling to be fun in itself.

We have an original iPad 1 and have had no technical problems with Gappy. A good thing, as our iPad isn’t always able to handle new apps. Thank you Spinlight for introducing us to Gappy’s First Words!

Toddler iPad App Review – Toca Store

We will be reviewing the many iPad apps Jax has been trying out recently. The iPad is great for car rides and waiting in restaurants. I stick mostly to educational and pretend-play when choosing apps for him.

Toca Store by Toca Boca is a free-play app that is a great introduction to money and commerce. What little kid doesn’t like to play store at some point? Toca Store gives you everything you need to open shop with the cute and colorful graphics we’ve come to expect from their apps.


When you enter the “store” you find empty baskets ready to be filled with goods to sell. Click on each basket to choose from 3 dozen colorful items from fruits and veggies to toothbrushes and toy robots. When all the baskets are filled, the shop is open for business!

None of the items in the store catalog have prices, so you are free to assign a price ranging from 1 to 5 coins. The “customer” (often Jax will play both roles, saying, “Store! Buy it!”) places their desired item on the counter and the “shopkeeper” puts in the number of coins it costs. You start out with 10 coins in your purse and each round of shopping continues until you run out. If you try to buy something and don’t have enough coins left, a silly winking coin purse will give you 5 more.


Once the payment is placed in the till, you press the sale button to complete the transaction. A cute animated shopping bag starts hopping up and down, and it is time to put your purchase in the bag.

Jax loves this game and plays it solo in addition to us playing it together. What would I change? It is hard to keep track of how many coins are left. You can’t open the purse to check until the price is already locked in and you can’t see your receipt clearly until the end. So often, if I haven’t been paying close attention, we end up over-budget!

This app is one that will grow with Jax as he starts to really comprehend the concepts of money, buying and selling. I’m hoping they keep adding to the cute catalog of items to keep it fresh and exciting!

For a limited time, another app by Toca Boca is free! It’s a silly hair salon that our whole family enjoys! Of course it went free a couple days after I bought it… 😛

Toddler iPad App Reviews & Giveaway – Spinlight Studio

We will be reviewing the many iPad apps Jax has been trying out recently. The iPad is great for car rides and waiting in restaurants. I stick mostly to educational and pretend-play when choosing apps for him.

We are giving away one of each of these iPad apps! See below for details!

We have had AlphaTots and TallyTots on our iPad for quite a while now. I was really excited when I found then because Jax was just starting to get into letters and numbers. When Spinlight Studio contacted me to try their other apps, TableTots and Swapsies, Jax and I were happy to oblige!

Don’t purchase TableTots thinking you are buying an educational game – you’ll be disappointed! Think of it as an educational tool. Imagine buying a bunch of learning placemats and all the shapes, letters, numbers, coins and more that go with them (with the added bonus of no little pieces to clean up!) That’s TableTots!


Jax just turned 2, so some might say he is too young for a teaching tool like this. But he adores letters and numbers and I am teaching him every day while he is so enthusiastic. Because he is so young, I do let him free-play with the app more often than when I quiz him with it. He chooses the board and the pieces, and I’ll ask him to find a letter or count the coins. He loves the dominoes and it has become one of his new favorite words. This app is helping me teach him to count objects and associate quantity with the numbers he has already learned to recognize. Later on we can move on to simple math, spelling and learning about money. But, even just with free-play, he learns so much because the objects all say what they are when he touches them.

What would I change? My biggest gripe is there is no multi-touch. This is an app a parent/teacher and child play together, yet only one of us can move an object on the screen at a time. I also don’t like how the pieces are randomly tossed on top of each board, covering up the writing. It makes it hard for Jax to understand that he should sort objects into their correct places.

It would be nice if there were color names. There is a screen that give you a circle of every color to lay out in a color wheel, but when you touch each one, it just says “Circle!” There is a “peek-a-boo” curtain that can be dragged across the screen that I don’t really understand, but that can be turned off.

I think TableTots would be a great buy for anyone who does preschool learning with their child, whether informally or as a part of home schooling. This is an app that parents and children play together, and it is always great when you can combine learning, technology and time spent with your child!

AlphaTots & TallyTots
AlphaTots is a great interactive alphabet game. I give this app a lot of credit for Jax learning his ABC’s so quickly. What sets it apart from similar apps is that each letter is represented by an action, not an object, so you don’t have the same old “xylophones” and yo-yos”. Instead, you “x-ray” some presents and “yank” on a cord to fill and empty a tub of water.


TallyTots is very similar, but deals with the numbers 1 – 20. Jax has learned all those numbers, though he has trouble counting on his own past 13 just yet. This app has unique activities for each number as well. Jax loves to build sandwiches, feed flies to the frog and look at tiny cupcakes under a magnifying glass.

When you choose a letter, They tell you its name and the sounds it makes, then you are presented with an activity. When you complete the activity, you can move on to the next letter. You can also switch to a different letter by pressing an holding one of the letter tabs until the meter fills up. This is a great feature because it prevents clumsy hands from bumping a tab and switching letters accidentally. It doesn’t stop Jax from navigating the app. He quickly figured out how to do it.

What would I change? Not much – just the stability of both apps. We have very few problems with our iPad 1, but AlphaTots and TallyTots are our number 1 crashes. Jax learned to say “sorry” because they were crashing so often and that is what I’d always say to him. AlphaTots likes to crash most spectacularly: it freezes on the loading screen for a minute or two, then the whole iPad reboots. Yikes! The frequency of crashes tends to change whenever they update the apps, and it seems like it is happening a lot less often right now.

Crashing troubles aside, I would definitely recommend these apps for toddlers! With so many activities per app, Jax never gets bored. He picked up on his letters and numbers so quickly and takes pride in getting them correct. I think Jax’s favorite feature of both games are the songs. He loves to hum along and dance around.


I’d seen Swapsies in the iTunes App Store before but had passed it over. I just didn’t think Jax would be that into it. And, so far, he isn’t. We have a sticker book game with a page of both boy and girl dolls that he enjoys dressing – especially putting glasses on them! This app is different. It isn’t free-play, but matching. I think it’s a great idea, but Jax hasn’t really latched on to it yet.

You have your choice of a few boys and girls and buttons for three items of clothing: hats, tops, and bottoms. The clothes are all typical “what I want to be when I grow up” outfits. Police officer, astronaut, train engineer, etc… While gender neutral, they all tend to be masculine.

To play, you drag an item to the boy or girl and if you complete the outfit, a little button appears to play a reward sound. Jax thinks the sounds are funny, but they haven’t been enough incentive for him to match the outfits himself.

What would I change? The interface is a bit awkward. The clothing choices are presented in three round buttons which make Jax think he should press to choose them, not drag them to the body. This quickly frustrates him and makes him lose interest. I think if there was more of a celebration when a match is made, he might better understand the goal of the game. Perhaps a gallery of all the completed outfits with a word/audio telling what they are. Jax just doesn’t instinctively know what a mail carrier or “rancher” wears.

As with all apps I get that Jax isn’t into, it will stay on the iPad just in case he likes it later. This has happened more often than not! I don’t think we would have bought this one, but it could be fun for a child who is into what they want to be when they grow up.

The graphics on all of Spinlight’s games are cute, crisp and colorful! I love when my son’s favorite games are pretty to look at, in addition to being educational. Their apps are available in both the Apple App Store and the Android Market for Android devices. They are currently on sale for 99 cents each!

Here is a video of Jax playing Alpha and TallyTots, plus a clip of Swapsies:

Would you like to win one of these great apps?

Jax & I have four free app codes to give away (one for each app) to four lucky winners. To enter, leave a comment on this entry. Four random winners will be chosen at noon on Monday, February 13th. Each winner will receive a code good for one of the above apps (my choice, as I only have one of each.) Good luck!

Full Disclosure: We purchased AlphaTots and TallyTots ourselves. Spinlight Studio provided us with free copies of TableTots and Swapsies to review and a copy of each to give away. This review is my own, honest opinion.

If you have a toddler or preschool app you’d like Jax and I to review, please contact me with details. We have an iPad 1 and an iPhone 4.

Toddler iPad App Reviews – Zoo Train

We will be reviewing the many iPad apps Jax has been trying out recently. The iPad is great for car rides and waiting in restaurants. I stick mostly to educational and pretend-play when choosing apps for him.

Zoo Train

Zoo Train is an app by Busy Bee Studios. It has 5 little games in one that are great for preschoolers. It includes: Picture Puzzles, Whistle Music, Train Builder, Word Builder and Track Tycoon.


This was Jax’s first “favorite” app on the iPad. He has impressed so many people, both relatives and strangers, while solving the word puzzles. At first he’d just drag any letter to any spot, but he quickly realized that he needed to match them and started looking for similar shapes. He still gets confused with some letters like “m” and “n” but really does great. He LOVES that the game gives him stickers after he solves three words (you also get stickers every 3 picture and train track puzzles.) He gets so excited and exclaims “Oh! Stickers!!”


The picture puzzles were the first of that style of game he’d done. He was having a hard time with a wooden puzzle he had in real life, but after playing the puzzle game a bit he started to be able to solve it. He didn’t understand the track puzzles for quite a while and would ask me to do it for him so he could see the train go around the completed track. Then one day I looked over and he was solving it like it was no big deal.

Jax enjoys the train building game. You don’t get any rewards for this one, but it is cute. You get to choose a train engine and then 4 cars. All of them have really cute zoo animals. Once your train is built you choose a scene from 4 choices and watch your train drive by. We like to point out things in the scenery that we’ve spelled in the Word Builder, like “cloud” and “ship”.

The section of the app that gets the least use is the musical train whistles. He occasionally goes into it but he isn’t patient enough to let a song play out.

I would definitely recommend this app to other parents of young toddlers. Jax has learned a lot of early literacy skills just from playing these simple, fun games. They have given him a good foundation for learning to recognize  letters and put them into words. The app has also helped with his fine motor skills.

We got this app quite a while ago and I’m pretty sure it was either free or 99 cents at the time. It goes for $1.99 and I think it is a fair price. It includes an iPhone version. I do wish they would add more words to the Word Builder and more Picture Puzzles. Jax can do the puzzles in about 15 seconds each now! I think we’d even pay an extra dollar for an upgrade pack if it were to double our content.

If you have a toddler or preschool app you’d like Jax and I to review, please contact me with details. We have an iPad 1 and an iPhone 4.

Toddler iPad App Reviews – Toca Tea Party

We will be reviewing the many iPad apps Jax has been trying out recently. The iPad is great for car rides and waiting in restaurants. I stick mostly to educational and pretend-play when choosing apps for him.

Toca Tea Party

Toca Tea Party by Toca Boca is not necessarily targeted to toddlers, but Jax had no problem at all figuring out what to do. Sure, some may consider this a game for girls, but I think anyone can enjoy make-believe food!

This is a free-play app which lets kids use their imaginations. You launch the app and are presented with a choice of 3 random tablecloths. You then get to set out your choice of coordinating place settings. Once you have your table set, you choose three baked goods for your tea party.

When the party starts you’ll notice little details like music on the radio (which you can change) and little tea lights you can blow out or light. You can pour lemonade and tea, and if you spill it you can wipe up your mess. The graphics are bright and charming, as are all Toca Boca games.

At the end of the tea party, you wash all the dishes before starting over. I like that you clean up, and this game has helped me practice saying “more please” and “thank you” with Jax.

This app is currently priced at $2.99, though we got it on sale. I think $2 would be a better price, but would pay $3 if I had to. We have already played Toca Tea Party a zillion times, so I’d definitely recommend it!

If you have a toddler or preschool app you’d like Jax and I to review, please contact me with details. We have an iPad 1 and an iPhone 4.


We have a cross-country trip coming up and I am starting to get into planning mode.

What are your thoughts on leashes/safety tethers for toddlers? While I’ll be using a baby carrier in the airport, Jax will be in his car seat for nearly 6 hours on the plane and I doubt he’ll want to be held while we are getting our luggage and waiting for our ride. How do I safely let him stretch his legs in LAX while still watching our bags, etc? I hope you’ll share your experiences with me!

Some links for you…

  • I may have to make Jax the food from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. He loves that book and that is his favorite page.
  • Here’s another mom’s take on extended nursing (with a photo by me).
  • Making a rug like this is on my to-do list this winter!
  • There aren’t many cute sewing projects for boys’ clothes out here, but here’s a great one for simple boy pants.
  • Need some new jewelry? Raid your tool box!
  • Got an iPhone or iPad and a toddler? Hurry out to Starbucks this week for their free app card. It’s this great Sesame Street ebook! Jax loves it!
  • His other favorite app right now is Zoo Train. I was pretty shocked at how good he is at it! Check out the video below and another one here (this one is noisy, sorry! We were waiting for diner at a sports restaurant.)

Unique Handmade iPad Cases

I have a hand-me-down iPad 1st gen that I love! I named it “Stephanie & Jax’s iPad” because half of its purpose it to have games and ebooks for Jax during car rides and trips. The other reason I have it is because it’s great to use while I’m nursing Jax. Beats playing solitaire on my phone (I put in many hours of this when he was newborn!)

I just have a plain Apple case on mine, but one day I’d love something more unique. I’d also like something that stands up better on its own. I’ve been having fun browsing Etsy lately. So many fun cases!

This case is made out of a real book. I love the Beatles, so of course I love this amazing Beatles album case! Here’s a case that looks like a giant 80’s cassette tape. Panda! And he hugs your ear buds! This one is really pretty and has a strap like a purse.

And some non-Etsy cases… This one has a bluetooth keyboard. I like the different angles you can have with this green one. This one has great pockets inside. Gorgeous bamboo case!

Do you have an iPad? If so, what case do you recommend?

iPad Games for Toddlers

A reader asked if I had suggestions for iPad game that toddlers would enjoy. Here are a few that Jax loves!

For young babies, Look Baby! is great!It has four simple activities: a teddy bear you can tickle, a butterfly that changes color, bubbles you pop and shapes that bounce around. Jax sends himself into a fit of giggle when he “tickles” the teddy bear and it laughs at him!

The graphic designer in me loves Interactive Alphabet. The illustrations are so bright and fun! Ever letter has a fun activity, plus you can sing along to the ABC song and watch a robot dance (the robot, of course!) at the end. Jax adores the train, the hamster hiding under a hat and the zipper. It’s on sale right now, so snap this one up!

The first game he fell in love with was Peekaboo Pets. We got it when it was free – it now costs $1.99. It would have been money well spent. Jax learned many animal sounds from pushing the buttons and popping the animals out. He calls the iad “Baa” because of the sheep in that game. He also learned to use one finger to push the button after starting out smacking it with his whole hand.

A more recent purchase was Nighty Night. Jax was enchanted by this half ebook/half game as soon as the narrator started to speak. The graphics are beautiful and the animations and sounds are cute. You can interact with all the farm house animals, then put the light switches to put them to bed. Jax used to just wave “night night” to them, but now he clicks off the lights and is so proud of himself! He loves the fish pond because the fish make silly faces and sounds.

I also recommend all of Sandra Boyton’s ebooks: The Going to Bed Book, Moo, Baa, La La La! and Blue Hat, Green Hat. It’s fun to be able to read those books when we are away from home. Plus, they all have fun interactive elements.

We most recently got Pat the Bunny. It is adorable! You can record your own auto, which I did on the iPad, and if you have a camera (like I do on my iPhone) your baby can see himself in the “mirror”. Every page has a different activity. Jax’s favorites are the nesting dolls, the velcro shoes and the kitchen band.

Hope these suggestions help!