Kidloland – App Review and GIVEAWAY

The wonderful people at Kidloland are giving away THREE free 3-month subscriptions for Make Learn Go readers! Hooray! 

Enter here: Make Learn Go Kidloland Giveaway

My 3 year old, Tommy, loves his iPad! We are always hunting for new, educational apps and games to download, so I was thrilled when the kind people from Kidloland offered us an opportunity to try out their app! Kidloland is a super fun app for ages 0-5 filled with over 1000 wonderfully educational songs, stories, and games.

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Tommy was SO excited to try out this app, and immediately downloaded the vehicles songs. These fun songs and animated videos teach about all different types of vehicles and what they do, and I have heard Tommy walking around the house singing, “I’m going in a cable car, cable car, cable car, I’m going in a cable car up into the mountains…” among other catchy tunes about airplanes, boats, hot air balloons, hovercrafts, tractors, taxi cabs, and so so many more vehicles.  This section of the app makes my vehicle-obsessed preschooler very happy!

My favorite part of this app is the Phonics section. It has fun songs for each letter, singing the sounds that the letter makes at the beginning of different words, and then fun games and activities for each letter that repeat the phonics sounds throughout the games. I have been trying to teach phonics to Tommy for a while, but he has been bored by most other apps and teaching methods that we have tried. With Kidloland, he will play the phonics games and listen to the songs gladly, and then later in the day I hear him repeating songs like, “The A in apple goes a a a a…” while he’s in the bathtub, and I know that what he is learning is really sinking in. So great!

In addition to the phonics and vehicles sections, Kidloland also has dozens of nursery rhymes, stories (fables, early reading, animal stories, bedtime stories, seasonal/holiday stories, and more), 34+ games, activities (such as tracing, dot-to-dots, and puzzles) with a variety of themes, songs about the “magic words” such as please and thank you, “Create and Learn” activities about places and occupations with (puzzles, vocabulary words, and songs), 4 different versions of “The Wheels on the Bus” (because all little kids are obsessed with that song!), weather and seasons, dinosaurs, Old MacDonald songs about all different types of animals, more specific individual animal songs, fruits and vegetables, 4 versions of “Row Row Row Your Boat” (because kids can’t get enough of this song, either!), numbers 1-100, lullabies, colors and shapes, months and days of the week, and even Christmas songs!

And I love that you have the ability to download or remove content as you wish so that you have access to the downloaded songs and games for your kid to play while the device is offline and it doesn’t use up data streaming or take up all of your device’s memory storing content that your child is not currently using. The only issue that I have had with this app is that it will crash occasionally on my son’s first-generation iPad, but it runs seamlessly on my newer iPad mini.

After you download the free Kidloland app (available through the App Store (iOS), Google Play Store, and Amazon Appstore), you are given free access to: 12 nursery rhymes; 8 animal, vehicle, and food songs; letters A-D and A-C phonics songs and activities, 2 games, and 3 stories. You can try out the rest of the subscription content with a 7 day free trial. For a monthly subscription price of $4.99 (or $39.99 for the whole year), your child will have access to the whole catalog of songs, games, and activities, and new content is added monthly so that they will never get bored with it.

Since starting our Kidloland subscription a few weeks ago, Tommy has all but forgotten about the other apps and movies on his iPad and always asks, “Mommy, can I play Kidloland?” He has played it almost daily, and it seems that he has still barely skimmed the surface of the content that this app has to offer.

 

Download the free app:

*I received this app subscription for free in exchange for my (and my son’s) HONEST opinions and review.

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10 Ways I’m Preparing my Toddler for the New Baby

 

10 Ways I'm Preparing my Toddler for the New Baby

It’s amazing to think that in just about 5 short weeks (or less!), I will be a mother of two. It’s even more exciting to know that my firstborn (2 1/2 years old) will soon take on the very important role of big brother. T is very excited for the arrival of his baby brother, and, while I know that he will be a loving and supportive sibling, I also think that he does not quite understand how much having a new baby in the house is going to shake up our daily life. Ever since we started planning to get pregnant again, I have been thinking about how to best prepare my son (and myself) for dealing with both my pregnancy and the arrival of this new little bundle that will divide my time, limit my sleep, and change the whole dynamic of our little family.

 

Here are 10 things we have done to help our little guy prepare for his upcoming promotion to big brother:

 

1. Look at his baby photos together and tell him stories about when he was a baby.

I brought out a photo album and pointed to pictures of T when he was a baby and asked, “Who is this?” and his responses varied, from “It’s a cute baby!” to saying the name of his baby cousin, or simply “I don’t know.” He didn’t seem to believe me at first when I told him that the baby in the photos was, in fact, him!

I explained to him that he used to be a little tiny baby and how once he grew inside of my belly just like his baby brother is growing now. I told him about how mommy and daddy were so excited to meet him and about the day that he was born- how he stayed awake for hours and didn’t even want to eat because he just wanted to look up his family. I showed him pictures and videos of when he learned to roll over, when he had his first taste of baby food, and when he learned how to crawl and then walk. We talked about how it has been so exciting to watch him grow up from a little baby into a big boy and how soon he will be able to help teach his baby brother how do to those things as he grows bigger.

 

2. Spend time around little babies. 

I have been trying to get T to notice babies everywhere we go. I point out babies napping in strollers when we go for walks, babies sitting in shopping carts at the grocery store, and babies playing on the floor at the library. I try to point out things about the babies we see, like “See the baby’s pacifier? It helps him relax.” or “Look at the baby crawling. That’s how she moves around. Be careful not to step on her!” or “That baby is asleep in the stroller. Shhh, let’s try to be very quiet when we walk by so we don’t wake him up!”

The best learning opportunities come when we get to spend time up close and personal with babies of friends or relatives. For tiny babies, we practice how to safely touch the baby’s toes or give the baby a toy to hold. By spending time with a little baby, he gets used to hearing the baby cry and sees how a diaper change or shushing and rocking can help to relax the baby. He gets familiar with the concept of breastfeeding. When we get to play with older babies, he learns about how the baby may not be able to walk or talk yet, but it can still be fun to make the baby giggle, roll a ball with the baby, or let the baby chase him around by crawling. We learn about what toys and foods are not safe to share with the baby and how to play gently so that he doesn’t hurt or scare the baby.

 

3. Take him along to an ultrasound appointment and let him see the baby and hear his heartbeat. 

When I scheduled my 19 week appointment with my OB/GYN, I picked a time when I knew that my husband and son would be able to come with me. I had shown them the sonogram photos from previous appointments, but since I knew that this would be a longer ultrasound, I thought it would be a fun for them to experience it with me. T thought that it was so neat hear the baby’s heartbeat, and he was thrilled to get to see his baby brother’s image wriggle around on the screen. The ultrasound tech made sure to point out to him where the head, feet, and other body parts were, and printed off a picture for him to take home. After we got home, he kept asking me if he could “See baby brother on the TV,” again. He was very disappointed to learn that we don’t have the proper equipment at home to view live sonograms on our TV, but I put the printed sonogram up on the fridge where he can see it, and every time I get a new one, I show it to him and we put it up on the fridge. Seeing the pictures of baby brother growing makes him excited and he understands that it’s getting closer to the day when baby brother will be big enough to come out and meet him.

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4. Read books and watch movies and shows about babies together. 

There are so many great resources for kids to help teach them about babies. My son is a big fan of the PBS Kids show Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and there is an awesome series of episodes about Daniel welcoming his baby sister into the family. They talk (and sing!) about the day the baby comes home from the hospital and how life changes after the baby joins the family. Daniel has a very sweet relationship with his parents and baby sister, and this is a great example to kids about how love grows when a baby joins the family.

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There are also a lot of great books available for young kids that help them understand pregnancy and babies. Some that we have enjoyed are Waiting for Baby by Rachel Fuller, A New Baby is Coming!: A Guide for a Big Brother or Sister by Emily Menendez-Aponte & R.W. Alley, and I Am a Big Brother by Caroline Jayne Church (there is also a big sister version of this book). My 2 1/2 year old big-brother-to-be requests to read his “baby books” when it’s reading time, and he is genuinely interested and asks questions and points to things in the illustrations as we read. Waiting for Baby is a simple board book that focuses on mommy being pregnant and how he can help prepare for the baby’s arrival. A New Baby is  Coming! is a longer book (we paraphrase so it keeps his attention), and it goes into more detail about the emotions that he might be feeling as he anticipates the birth of the baby and how things will change when the baby joins the family. I think of it as a What to Expect When You’re Expecting for big brothers and sisters. I Am a Big Brother is a sweet book by one of my favorite board book author/illustrators that depicts what daily life will be like after the baby comes and what some of his special new big brother duties will be. He has even started pointing to the little boy in I Am a Big Brother and saying things like, “Tommy can sing to the baby,” as he imagines himself in the place of the big brother. It melts my mommy heart!

 

5. Sort through his old baby things together and let him choose a special gift to give to the baby.

Since we are expecting another boy, most of his clothing and toys will consist of hand-me-downs from when T was a baby. I sat him down with me as I sorted through bins of his old baby clothes and explained that these itty bitty clothes no longer fit him, but they will be the perfect size for baby brother. He didn’t react much to the thought of passing down his onesies and swaddle blankets to the baby, but when I pulled out the bin of baby toys, the nostalgia kicked in for him. He didn’t pay any mind to the teethers and rattles, but he remembered his favorite play mat, activity table, and a few other cherished baby toys. I let him play with his old toys and asked him if he would be willing to share the toys with the baby soon and teach him how to play with them. He agreed, and I reminded him that he will have his special big boy toys that baby brother will be too little to use, so they can both use different toys and be happy.

Ever since T was a newborn, his very favorite toy has been a little lovey plush puppy blanket. He calls it his “pup pup” and he sleeps with it every night and snuggles it extra close whenever he is sick or upset. When we were at the store one day, I let him choose a special lovey that he can give to the baby. He chose a little blue elephant with a silky edge just like his pup pup. I told him that when the baby is born, he will be able to give him the present and he will be so happy to have a special lovey just like his big brother.

 

6. Involve him in setting up the baby’s space and let him get used to having the baby’s things in the house.

As my third trimester nesting instincts have kicked in full-force, I have recently set up the baby’s space in our bedroom with a diaper changing area, a small dresser, and the baby’s bassinet. I have sanitized all of the bottles and found a place for them in the kitchen cabinets. Within the next couple of weeks, I plan to install the infant car seat in the back seat next to T’s car seat and to set up the baby’s bouncer in the living room. Having some of the baby’s things in place has helped T get used to maneuvering around new furniture and equipment when he plays, and it has also been helping him to visualize where the baby will be when he sleeps, bathes, gets dressed, and plays. It has been helpful for me to show him where he will be able to find a clean diaper to help me out when baby is on the changing table, or how to gently rock the bassinet rather than jerking it around.

 

7. Practice some of his big brother duties using a newborn-sized teddy bear.

In addition to practicing proper behavior around the baby’s gear, T has been excited about learning how he will be allowed to interact with the baby. We took a newborn-sized teddy bear that he has named “Baby Brother Bear,” and we have been using it for practice. He has helped me swaddle, dress, and diaper the bear. I have been keeping the bear in the bassinet and T asks me for permission if he wants to hold it, so I can set him up on the bed or couch with a pillow and help him hold the bear like he would hold a baby. He periodically will bring the bear a toy or a pacifier or turn on lullabies for it. I remind him not to smack the bear or poke its eyes. It has been very sweet to watch my rough and tumble toddler interact with the bear so gently, and has reassured me that, when the baby replaces the bear soon, he will understand how to approach the baby carefully and responsibly so that he doesn’t hurt or scare him.

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8. Encourage independence and helpfulness in his daily routines.

Before I got pregnant again, I tried to envision doing everything that I do on a daily basis while suffering from constant nausea and fatigue and periodically having to run to the bathroom to vomit. Then I imagined doing it all with a giant belly, swollen feet, and an aching back. Then I pictured doing everything with a baby in my arms or in a wrap snuggled against my chest. I thought about what I could do differently throughout the day to limit lifting, bending, and squatting during my pregnancy and in the postpartum weeks while my body heals from childbirth. I imagined T calling for me to help him while I  nurse a hungry baby. I realized that a big part of making this transition easier for all of us would be to encourage T do more things independently.

As soon as I saw that plus sign on the pregnancy test, I got more strict about having T clean up all of his toys so that I don’t have to get on my hands and knees to pick things up off the floor. I started making him hold onto the handrail and climb stairs independently rather than giving in to his whining when he wanted to be carried up and down the stairs. He has been practicing dressing and undressing himself and gathering his shoes, socks, and coat when it is time to go somewhere. We are a month into potty training and he has learned how to tell me when he needs to go and how to flush the toilet and wash his hands on his own. He has even been helping me out more with daily chores- helping me load and unload the dishwasher, putting groceries away, dumping his clothes from his laundry hamper into the washing machine, and throwing away his own trash after he finishes a snack or a juice box. He is proud of himself when he helps out, and I like that he is getting in the habit of doing more things without my help now so that it doesn’t upset him in a few weeks when mommy’s hands are occupied and I won’t be able to help him with everything that I used to.

 

9. Incorporate more independent play and quiet time into his daily activities. 

Along the same lines as teaching T to not need my help as much with his daily routines, I have been trying to get him used to not having me available as a constant playmate. I have been stepping back a bit while he plays to encourage him to entertain himself without me always being available for a tickle fight or to play hide and seek. I have also been trying to work in more quiet time activities like puzzles, books, and art so that when I need to sit down to feed the baby or put him down for a nap, T will be able to happily and quietly entertain himself without waking the baby. And I have been stocking up the DVR with episodes of his favorite shows and updating the apps on his iPad so that he will have something to do while he cozies up next to the baby and me in bed or on the couch during those first few weeks when I will be feeling a little groggy and sore.

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10. Let him name the baby!

Yes, we let T choose the baby’s name! After months of deliberation, my husband and I finally narrowed our name search down to a list of 3 names that we liked, and then I presented the names to T and asked him which one he thought would be the best name for baby brother. He chose a name, and then later in the day I presented the names to him again (in a different order), and he chose the same name again. When I asked him if he was sure that this is what we wanted to name his brother, he said, “Yes! I love that name!” So, it is decided! He’s so excited about it and has been calling the baby by name, and I’m thinking that we might have to make this a tradition with any future children we may have- to let the youngest child choose the name for the baby. 🙂

Any other expectant mamas out there working on getting older kids ready for baby’s arrival? What are some ways that you have helped prepare the big brother or sister for their new sibling joining the family?

Share your experiences in the comments, or share a picture or tip on Facebook or Instagram @makelearngo.

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Countdown Calendar for Out-of-Town Parents

My husband travels quite a bit for business, but it’s usually only one or two nights once or twice a month. This past week, though, Dada went away on a week-long “man trip” to hike and mountain bike in Utah, and I was worried about how  little Tommy (23 months old) would handle it. He LOVES his time with his daddy and has certain routines that revolve around their time together, so I knew that 7 nights with just mommy would be a challenge. T will ask for Dada every night when he expects him to come home from work and then again in the morning when my husband routinely gets him out of his crib and changes his diaper while I slowly drag myself out of bed.

In an effort to help T understand that Dada was going on a trip, I brought him to the airport with me to say goodbye and send him off. I explained to him that Daddy was going on an airplane and would be home in seven days. He said his goodbyes and seemed okay with it, and I realized that he did understand that Daddy was traveling when we were out later that day and he kept pointing at airplanes in the sky and saying “Dada! Dada!”

But when we were at home later that night, he started looking around the house for Daddy and getting upset. I knew that there had to be a better way to help him understand that Dada would not be home for a few more days, but that he would indeed come home eventually. So, I decided to make a little countdown calendar.

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I just drew a simple calendar with the days of the week from the day Daddy left to the day that he would return (Monday through Monday). Then, rather than listing the actual date, we counted down the number of nights left until he would return. On the final day, we pasted a picture of Daddy. Then, each morning when T woke up, we would go to the calendar and put an X through the previous day. Any time during the day that Tommy asked for Dada, I would take him to the calendar and point to the number and ask him “How many more nights until Dada comes home?” and he could look at the calender and tell me.

After the second night with the countdown calendar, he understood what was going on and stopped looking for Dada at bedtime and in the morning, and instead would tell me “Dada airplane” or “Dada bye bye” or “See you soon Dada.” It made him excited to see the days getting crossed off and was a great visual to help him comprehend that each day that passed was getting closer to the day when he would get to see his daddy again. On the final day, he kept shouting “One day Dada home!” to all of our friends and neighbors.

We will definitely be doing this from now when my husband goes out of town, and it would also be a great idea if we ever get a chance to go on a getaway together and have to leave him overnight with a babysitter or relative. It could work, too, for a little one with a sibling going away for summer camp, or even to look forward to an event, like a countdown starting the week before grandma comes to visit or a birthday countdown.

Do your little ones have a hard time when a parent goes out of town? What are some tips that help you pass the days? Share in the comments!

Favorite Puzzle and Sorting Apps for Toddlers (iPad, iPhone & iPod touch)

Favorite Puzzle & Sorting Apps (iPad & iPhone) for Toddlers

T is a puzzle addict… we have spent so much time over the past year sitting on the floor doing various types of peg puzzles and shape sorters, so I was thrilled to discover that there are so many great puzzle apps available on my iPad and iPhone (and for iPod touch, too) that are appropriate for his age. We have also started playing little match-the-image games and color sorting games, and these sorting apps that I discovered by Tiny Hands are so awesome to practice those sorting skills! These apps save me from having to gather bins of little same-colored or same-shaped knick knacks to set up my own sorting activities. I’m all about less clutter, and these apps allow puzzles and sorting games without all of the tiny pieces sprawled across the floor, getting lost and stepped on!

So, here we continue our round-up of Tommy’s favorite apps with our favorite puzzle and sorting apps for toddlers!

Favorite Puzzle Apps:

  • Shape Builder – Murtha Design Inc. – $2.99 – iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch

Shape BuilderThis is a great puzzle app! You can try it out for free with just a few different puzzles to choose from, but we upgraded to the full version soon after downloading because T loved it so much! The puzzle pieces have unique shapes and are matched together as plain silhouettes of different colors. Then when all the pieces are put together, the completed puzzle image is revealed. Very fun and great for developing visual problem solving skills!

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  • ABC Alphabet Puzzles – Codegent – $2.99 – iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch

ABC PuzzlesThis is a cute app that has a puzzle of one animal beginning with each letter of the alphabet. You can try out a few puzzles for free, or upgrade to the whole alphabet for $2.99. The puzzles are challenging with uniquely shapes pieces, but not so hard that a toddler would get too frustrated with it. It’s a way to practice visual problem solving skills, animals, and ABCs all in one place. Great app!

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  • Shape-O! ABC – Bellamon – $1.99 – iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch

Shape-O ABCsThis app has pretty puzzles with objects made up of simple geometric shapes. Each puzzle also has letter tiles to spell a word, and it says the name of the letter when you drop it into the correct place. This app gives your little one the option to change the colors within the puzzle for pretty new variations of the puzzles as well. If the child gets stuck, they can click the eye icon above the puzzle and it will automatically place a piece for them. There is background music that plays, and the option to mute the music also. You can change the complexity of the puzzles to simple, medium, or hard and you can also choose to have the words removed, with letter hints, or without letter hints. There is also an option to have either uppercase or lowercase letters in the words. This is a great, inexpensive app that can grow with your child as their puzzle and ABC skills increase.

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  • Animal Match Up – BabyFirst – Free – iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch

Animal Match UpThis is a fun app that matches animal heads, bodies, and tails. For free, you can get the safari animals. The child just has to swipe their finger up or down to scroll through different animal parts until they find the ones match with the same animal and color. Once the correct pieces are lined up, it tells the name of the animal and then mixes up the body parts again. For $2.99, you can upgrade and get 45 more animals to mix and match, with five themes including jungle animals, farm animals, underwater creatures, and birds. We haven’t upgraded because he gets enough entertainment from just the one free set of animals.

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  • Little Puzzles Preschool Games – Grasshopper Apps – Free – iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch

PuzzleThis app is comprised of four-piece square picture puzzles. You can adjust the difficulty level by taking away the picture guides and increasing the number of puzzle tiles. You can even make your own puzzles using your photos! Super fun and totally FREE!

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Favorite Sorting Apps:

  • TinyHands Sorting 1 – TINYHANDS APPS – Free for first 3 game boards (open all 15 boards for $3.99) – iPad

TH-Sorting 1TinyHands makes very fun and intellectually engaging sorting apps. This app has 15 different boards to choose from, each one with a different type of sorting game. There are shape sorting games, color sorting games, games where you match objects  by size, and more advanced games where you sort items by the season they belong to or match animals to their homes. There is a cute little character that pops up after you complete a board and you can pop the balloons to make him fall down. T absolutely loves that part! Designed for ages 2 and up.

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  • TinyHands Sorting 2 – TINYHANDS APPS – Free for first 3 game boards (open all 15 boards for $3.99) – iPad

TH-Sorting 2This app is just like Sorting 1, offering 15 new sorting boards designed for ages 2 and up. This one includes different types of shape sorting boards, a board sorting vehicles by whether they fly or drive on a road, dressing a child for the rain and one for warm weather, sorting sticks by whether they are oriented vertically or horizontally, and sorting objects at the beach by whether they belong in the water or on the sand. This app is very fun and so engaging and educational for toddlers!

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  • TinyHands Lotto 1 – TINYHANDS APPS – Free for first 2 matching boards (open all 10 boards for $3.99) – iPad

TH_LottoIn this app, the child simply matches images to their corresponding image. It teaches vocabulary words, saying the name of each object as it is matched. There are 10 matching boards total. Like Sorting 1 and Sorting 2, there is a little character that enters the screen after a board is completed. This one drives a little car that blows bubbles that you can pop. There is also a little frog that sits at the bottom of the screen that will blow up like a balloon and float away if you tap on him.

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  • TinyHands First Words 2 – TINYHANDS APPS – Free for first 2 matching boards (open all 10 boards for $3.99) – iPad

TH_First WordsI don’t know why this app isn’t just called Lotto 2 (or why Lotto 1 isn’t called First Words 1). This is the exact same app as Lotto 1, just with 10 new matching boards total. Designed for ages 2 and up, but simple enough for younger toddlers to do. This (and Lotto 1) would be fun to work on together with a one-year-old to help learn new words.

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  • TinyHands What’s My Pair 1 – TINYHANDS APPS – Free for first 3 matching boards (open all 12 boards for $3.99) – iPad

TH_Whats My PairThere are 3 boards in Level 1 of this app, including colors, facial expressions, and musical instruments. Level 1 is very basic like Lotto 1 and First Words 2, except in this app you match the images side by side and they disappear after you match them. Again when you finish a board, there is the little animal that floats up with balloons that you can pop. There are 4 levels with 3 boards each (a total of 12 boards). I have not upgraded to the full app yet, but it appears that the matches get more challenging with matches including quantities of objects, silhouettes to objects, one side of an object to another side of a symmetrical object, and colors to fruits. This upgrade will probably be our next iTunes purchase- the harder levels look like a fun challenge that T would enjoy.IMG_0513  IMG_0515IMG_0672

Are there any other great puzzle or sorting apps for toddlers that you love? Share in the comments! Or just download these ones, try them out, and let us know how you liked them!

Stay tuned for one more post about Tommy’s other favorite apps- and don’t forget to check out our Favorite Art, Shapes, and Colors Apps for Toddlers, our Favorite ABCs & 123s Apps for Toddlers, and our Favorite Games & Video Apps for Toddlers.

Favorite (Mostly Free!) Art, Shapes & Colors Apps (iPad, iPhone & iPod touch) for Toddlers

Favorite Art, Shapes & Colors Apps (iPad & iPhone) for Toddlers

Last month, we took a two week vacation to California. As I mentioned in my previous post 10 Must-Haves for Flying with a One-Year-Old, one thing that I always take on the plane is my iPad loaded with in-flight entertainment for my little guy. I seriously don’t know how my 22-month-old and I could do the cross-country flights without it!

I have spent the past couple of months downloading tons of new apps and having Tommy try out one or two a day. Because I let him use the iPad not only for flights (when he is sitting on my lap), but also when I need a moment to cook dinner, check my e-mail, or run to the bathroom alone, I look for apps that will hold his attention for an extended period of time. I also try to find apps that he can navigate on his own with little to no help from Mommy so that if I am busy, he won’t be whining for me to come over and help him if the app freezes up or if the app is too complicated for him to use without help. We do also enjoy snuggling up and using the apps together. Most of the apps that I download for him are learning apps, and I love to work on them together with him or to at least be close enough to watch so that I can see how he’s learning and growing. After a lot of trial and error, I have added some really awesome new apps to our handful of tried-and-true apps that he has been using since he was about a year old.

There are a lot of apps that I want to mention, so I am splitting them up into a few separate posts. I will start here with our favorite art, shapes & colors apps. Without further ado, here is our list of Tommy’s favorite art, shapes & colors apps for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch:

Favorite Drawing/Art Apps:

  • Kids Doodle Bejoy Mobile – Free ($0.99 to upgrade to ad-free) – iPhone, iPad & iPod touch

Kids DoodleThis is one of the first apps that I ever downloaded for Tommy when he was about a year old, and he has always enjoyed it. It’s a drawing app where he can use his finger to scribble a design, but the black background and neon colors make it more fun than old fashioned pen and paper. Now that he is a little older, he is using some of the more advanced features, like changing the brush style, watching the movie play back of this drawing steps, and drawing on top of photos from the camera roll. It’s simple enough to entertain a one year old, but has enough to it that I think he will enjoy this one well into his toddler and preschool years.

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  • Kaleidoscope Drawing PadBejoy Mobile – Free ($0.99 to upgrade to ad-free) – iPhone, iPad & iPod touch

Kaleido FreeVery similar to Kids Doodle, but this one makes beautiful symmetrical designs with the tap of a finger. Tommy loves watching the bright colors change and watching the replay videos. He also likes to switch between the 8 kaleidoscope modes and 10 brushes to get new effects. Fun app for babies and toddlers!

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  • Cool Coloring DB Best Technologies LLC – Free ($0.99 to upgrade to ad-free) – iPad

Cool ColoringI was really surprised how long it took us to find a coloring book app that we liked. Most of the coloring book apps that I found have lots of ads, in-app purchases, and locked images. Tommy would get so frustrated with them and was always clicking links that took him out of the app. I love Cool Coloring because it has a variety of cute, simple images to color, is super easy for a toddler or baby to use, and has a pretty texture over the images that is nice. I like that you only have to tap on an area and it fills with color- some of other coloring book apps require you to actually scribble the color in and that is too hard for a one or two year old to do on their own. I also like that you can turn on fun music to listen to while coloring. Another great thing about this app is the rainbow colored paint drop that you can select- it automatically changes the color every time you tap it so that the kid doesn’t end up coloring the entire image one color each time. Best free coloring book app out there, hands down!

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Favorite Shapes & Colors Apps:

  • Laugh & Learn™ Shapes & Colors Music Show – Fisher-Price – Free – iPhone, iPad & iPod touch

FP_Shapes and ColorsThis was one of Tommy’s first favorite apps. There are two different levels and both are cute and fun (especially for one-year-olds). Level 1 has five fun little shape characters (blue circle, yellow star, etc.) that pop up when you tap the screen. When you tap one of the animated shapes and drag it around the screen, smaller shapes will trail behind it, music will play, and a cheery voice will tell you name of the color and shape. Level 2 has all five shape characters up on a stage. When you tap on a character, it will step forward and dance to a fun song about its shape and color. After you have tapped the characters a few times, the curtain comes up and they all sing and dance together. There is also a little piano at the bottom of the screen that plays notes when you tap it. Very cute and fun, and a perfect first app for babies!

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  • Shapes Toddler Preschool Toddler Teasers – Free ($3.99 to add all categories) – iPhone, iPad & iPod touch

ShapesAnother awesome (and free!) app for learning shapes. This one has flashcards, quizzes, games, and puzzles to help kids learn their shapes. They can practice recognizing their shapes by viewing the flashcards and hearing the name of the shape, then the quiz will ask them to “find the (circle, crescent, triangle, etc.)” among other shapes. When they tap the correct shape, they will hear cheering, and after a few right answers in a row, they get to choose a “sticker” to add to their sticker collection. There is also a “Toy Box” game where they get to pop balloons to reveal shapes, launch shapes out of a cannon, build a train with the various shapes, and build a block tower with the shapes. The “Puzzle” option brings you to a shape sorter where you match the shapes to the matching negative spaces in what looks like a wooden board. There is also an option on the top of the homepage for “Stories,” where there are little mini eBooks about shapes. (In all honestly, this is the one part of the app that Tommy is not interested in at all.) This app also has great options in the adults only section: you can change the language to English, Spanish, or French; buy 29 more categories to learn (including colors, letters, numbers, animals, food, musical instruments, and money- just to name a few!); change the theme of your reward stickers (picnic, underwater, or robots), and see a “report card” showing which shapes your child is getting right most of the time and which ones need more practice. There is SO much included in this app for FREE, and paying $3.99 to add the other categories is really a great deal. It’s so exciting to see when he is asked “find the octagon” and he picks it out among 5 or 6 other shapes!

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  • My Colors & I My Digital Photo Story – Free (upgrade to full version for $1.99) – iPhone, iPad & iPod touch

Colors and IThis app is really only worthwhile if you pay for the upgrade. The free version uses a default child’s image, but with the full paid version of this app, you can upload your child’s photo and they will burst into giggle fits when they see themselves inserted into all sorts of silly scenes wearing costumes of different colors. You can choose between 15 different colors and it will display a screen covered in 9 cards with objects of the selected color. As you tap the objects, it tells you the name of the object and the card is lifted away to reveal part of the image underneath. The revealed image is a scene of the selected color with your child wearing a silly costume in the same color. There are over 50 unique costumes with different options for girls and boys. This app is so much fun, and Tommy’s 3 and 5 year old cousins couldn’t get enough of it, either. I like that it not only teaches colors, but also teaches over 100 vocabulary words with corresponding images, which is awesome for babies and young toddlers who are learning to talk.

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*UPDATED 6/28/15- we added a new favorite shapes & colors app to the list!*

I was contacted by an app developer, Rico Zuñiga, with an offer for Tommy to try out his new app. We are always interested in the opportunity to experience new products and thank those who are generous enough to share with us. Most of the products that I recommend and review on this blog, Instagram, and Facebook, are products that I have found and purchased on my own or that we have received as gifts from friends or family. Whenever I do mention a product that I was given the chance to review for free (or if I was compensated in any way by a product’s maker or distributor), I will state it. I assure to all of Make Learn Go’s followers that I will only share positive reviews for products that Tommy and I truly do feel are great enough to recommend… and this app happens to be a really good one, so read on below for the review! 🙂

  • Shape Match Kids Alpabeto Games – current discounted price of $0.99  – iPhone & iPad

Shape Match KidsAs I have mentioned before, Tommy LOVES puzzles, so this app was a hit with him right away! The game is set up like a shape sorter puzzle, with a shape’s outline shown at the top of the screen and a smaller shape below that the child taps and drags over to fit inside of it. As the child progresses through the levels, it gets more difficult- additional shapes are added in to make it harder to find a match, and various colors are added so that the child has to match not only the shape, but also the color. The app has music and sound effects (that can also be muted). The graphics are simple, but bright and engaging. I appreciate that this app has no ads or in-app purchases, and there is a “parents” section with news, upgrades, and support that can only be accessed by holding down your finger for 5 seconds. It’s so great to find apps that are easy for my just-turned-two year old to navigate and play without being constantly led out of the app by pop-ups and links. This app was clearly developed by a parent of a young child for parents of young children. I also love that this app teaches him shape recognition, color recognition and matching, and helps to sharpen his visual perceptual skills. It has quickly become a favorite app of Tommy’s, and would be a great addition to the app collection of any toddler or preschooler!

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Do you have any favorite art, shapes, and colors apps that I should know about? Share in the comments! Or just download these ones, try them out, and let us know what you think about T’s favorites!

Don’t forget to check out our Favorite ABC & 123 Apps for Toddlers, our Favorite Puzzle and Sorting Apps for Toddlers, and our Favorite Games & Video Apps for Toddlers.

Flower & Bees Sponge-Stamped Oven Mitt & Pot Holder

With Mother’s Day approaching, I thought it would be fun for T and I to make something to send to my mom and to my husband’s mom. We wanted to give them something useful, but also something that Tommy could personalize. After a trip to Dollar Tree and AC Moore, we came home with supplies to decorate oven mitts and pot holders! We had lots of fun making this together and the result was an inexpensive, cute, and practical gift for T’s Grandmas (or as he calls them “Gralla” and “Sweet Marie.”)

* To Gralla and Sweet Marie: Sorry if you see this blog post before your Mother’s Day package arrives and it spoils the surprise!

Flower & Bees Sponge-Stamped Oven Mitt & Pot Holder

For this project, you will need:

  • Plain oven mitt & pot holder- no pattern (We found these at Dollar Tree for $1 per oven mitt and $1 for 2 pot holders- score!)
  • Clean kitchen sponge (we learned that the scrubbing side makes a better stamp)
  • Scissors
  • Fabric paint – yellow, black, & white for the bees, green for the flower stems (we chose permanent fabric paint that is dimensional but not puffy, and comes in a small tube with a pointed tip for detail.
  • Palette or plate (for paint)

OPTIONAL:

  • Rubber alphabet stamps
  • Baby wipes

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To decorate the oven mitt and pot holder:

1. Grown-up: From the sponge, cut out a small circle (about the size of a quarter) and a longer petal shape to make your stamp for the flower. Cut out another quarter-sized circle and a small wing shape to make your stamps for the bee.

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2. Child:  Squirt some paint onto a palette- choose a color of paint that you want to use for the center of your flower. Dip the circle sponge stamp into the paint so that there is a pretty thick layer of paint spread evenly across it. (We found that stamping with the rough scrubbing side of the sponge works best because it absorbs less of the paint.)

3. Child: Press the sponge stamp onto the oven mitt to make the center of your flower. (Be sure to think about whether the person you are making it for is left- or right-handed so that you can decorate the side of the mitt that will be along the back of the hand rather than the part that will be gripping the hot dishes and greasy oven racks.)

4. Child: Repeat steps 2 & 3 with the petal-shaped sponge stamp and a different paint color. Stamp the petals all around the center circle to make a flower.

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5. Child: Repeat steps 2 & 3 with yellow paint and a circle sponge stamp to make as many bees as you would like.

6. Child: Repeat steps 2 & 3 with white paint and a the wing-shaped sponge stamp to add wings to the bees

7. Grown-up: Use the green fabric paint to add a stem and leaf to the flower. (If your child is older, they can probably do this part on their own, but with a younger toddler, steps 7 & 8 should be handled by a grown-up.)

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8. Grown-up: Use the black fabric paint to add stripes, a head, and a stinger to the bees.

9. Grown-up: Use white paint to add the name of the person you are giving the oven mitt to. You can simply write it with the fabric paint squeezed right out of the tube, or see below for the rubber stamp method we used.

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OPTIONAL: To use rubber stamps for the name, carefully apply the fabric paint directly to the rubber letter stamp. Trace the letter with the paint so that it has a nice even layer on it but there is no residue on the sides of the stamp that will transfer when you stamp it. Stamp the letter onto your mitt and then clean the remaining residue from the stamp with a baby wipe. Repeat with all of the letters in the name.

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10. Grown-up & Child: Repeat any of the steps above however you wish to decorate the pot holder. We decorated ours with bees and then painted on little red hearts scattered around. If you get want to do more than one pot holder, it would be fun to do another with a big flower in the center. Have fun and be creative!

FINISHED

Do you love to give (or receive) homemade gifts? I know that I sure do!

For some other fun gift ideas that you can make with your tot, try:

Don’t forget to share pictures of your finished projects with us for a chance to be featured on our Instagram and Facebook pages!

To submit a photo on Instagram, tag @makelearngo or send us a direct message.

On Facebook, send a message to Make Learn Go.

Or e-mail us at makelearngo@gmail.com.

Foam Flowers for Spring

Our latest spring craft was a quick little project that was made up of a few materials from Dollar Tree.  We found some pipe cleaners, colorful foam sheets shaped like flowers, and re-used the pop poms from our Easter Egg Color Sorting activity to make some festive Spring flowers to decorate the playroom!

Foam Flowers for Spring

For this project, you will need:

  • Crafters foam flowers (you can either buy them already in the flower shape like I did, or cut flowers from regular rectangular or square colorful crafters foam sheets)
  • Pipe cleaners (green ones will look best- these will be your flower stems)
  • Pom poms
  • Liquid glue
  • Tape
  • Paint (or glitter glue, stickers, or whatever else you’re feeling) to decorate

To make your flowers:

1. Grown-up: If you need to cut the flowers out of your crafters foam, do that first. Then, prepare your pipe cleaner flower stems. Fold a pipe cleaner in half, then bend one side of the “v” shape to make a leaf (as pictured below). Pinch the pipe cleaner together at the stem and then wrap the end of the leaf around the stem to hold the leaf shape. Make one stem for each flower you plan to make.

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2. Grown-up & Child: Squeeze a dot of glue in the middle of each flower. Let your little artist choose a color of pom pom to go in the center of each flower and place it on the glue dot.

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3. Grown-up & Child: Turn the flowers over and help your little one secure the stems in place with tape.

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4. Child: Turn the flowers over and decorate! T used pastel colored tempera paint to add some swirly strokes and texture to his flowers.

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T was so excited when he finished and was carrying his little “bouquet” all around the house. Then we hung them up on the wall with the other Easter crafts that he has made. (He got this little picture of Jesus at church on Sunday and it’s his favorite part of the Easter wall. 🙂 )

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Go ahead and make your own flowers, and comment below to let us know how it goes!

Or better yet, upload a picture to Instagram and tag @makelearngo, send a message to Make Learn Go on Facebook, or e-mail your photo to makelearngo@gmail.com for a chance for your child’s artwork to be featured on our Instagram and Facebook pages!

And don’t forget to check out our other fun Easter crafts and learning activities that you can do with your little one:

And if you’re still trying to figure out what the Easter Bunny is going to bring this year, here’s our helpful list of Easter Basket Ideas for Toddlers & Babies.

Play Dough Easter Eggs & Butterflies

Play Dough Easter Eggs & ButterfliesPlay dough is something we play with a lot. We love it because there are endless possibilities to the things you can create and different ways you can play with it. My little Tommy really likes to roll out his play dough and use cookie cutters to make different shapes. So when I saw some fun Easter-themed cookie cutters out at our local Kroger, I made sure to grab a couple! I picked out an egg shaped cookie cutter and let T choose one. He chose a butterfly.

When we got home, we picked out some some bright colors from our play dough stash and got to work rolling and cutting out our fun Easter shapes.

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We used some brightly colored pony beads (left over from our Easter Egg Color Sorting activity) to decorate the eggs and butterflies.

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He also liked using these little Crayola Model Magic Press N’ Pop Texture Tools to stamp shapes into the play dough.

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It was such a simple activity, but  and it kept the little guy entertained for a long time! He had lots of fun choosing which beads to use to decorate, and it was another opportunity to work on learning colors. Picking up and placing the little beads was a great activity to sharpen his fine motor skills, and trying to pick the beads out of the dough afterwards stepped it up to a bigger fine motor challenge.

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Next time we try this, I want to add pipe cleaners to make antennae for the butterflies. I also saw a cute cookie cutter shaped like a bunny’s head that could be fun, too- maybe with googly eyes, pipe cleaners or toothpicks for whiskers, and a bead or button for a nose).

Try it out, and let us know how you decorate your Easter play dough creations!

Take a minute to check out my simple solution for How to Fix Dried Play Dough.With a few minutes and one magic ingredient from your kitchen, play dough that was accidentally left out overnight will be as good as new!

Don’t forget to check out some of our other fun Easter crafts and learning activities that you can do with your little one:

And if you’re still trying to figure out what the Easter Bunny is going to bring this year, here’s our helpful list of Easter Basket Ideas for Toddlers & Babies.

Easter Egg Color Sorting

Dollar Tree is one of my very favorite places to shop lately. The place is loaded with inexpensive supplies for all sorts of fun projects and activities, and the best part is that EVERYTHING is $1! I can let T choose whatever random toy or book he wants and I don’t have to worry if it will break or if he will get tired of it in a week, because it only cost a buck!

The other day when I entered the store and saw all of the colorful plastic Easter eggs in front, a fun activity for T instantly came to mind. Recently, we have started working on learning colors. What better seasonal objects to use for a color activity than Easter eggs? At 21 months old, he’s not quite getting the hang of recalling all of the color names, but we are working on color matching to start. So I browsed through the aisles in search of single-colored objects that would fit inside of the plastic Easter eggs and matched the colors of the eggs. For $4, we got all of the supplies needed for our color sorting activity: a package of 18 plastic Easter eggs, a bag of colorful pom poms, a bag of colorful pony beads, and a box of Skittles candies!

T had lots of fun doing this activity, and an added bonus is that all of the items can be re-used for other projects and activities later on! Score!

Easter Egg Color Sorting

For this activity you will need:

  • An empty egg carton
  • Plastic Easter eggs (the hollow kind that you can open up) in a few different colors
  • Small single-colored objects that match the colors of your Easter eggs (Eg. pom poms, beads, candies)

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To do this activity:

  1. Grown-up: Open up the plastic eggs and place the bottom half of each color of egg into your empty egg carton. (You can set the top half of the eggs aside for now- you won’t need them for this activity. I also cut our egg carton in half so that there would be fewer empty spaces. I didn’t want him to get distracted and try to just move the eggs from space to space.)
  2. Grown-up: Gather together your colored items and place them in the empty spaces in the egg carton. (We used pom poms first, then Skittles, then pony beads.) 
  3. Child: Let your child move the objects one at a time to the egg of the coordinating color.
  4. Repeat steps 3 & 4 with the various items you have gathered.

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Try it out with your little one, and let us know how it goes! What other items did you add to your color sorting egg carton? Share with us in the comments below or tag @makelearngo on Instagram!

And don’t forget to check out some of our fun Easter crafts and learning activities that you can do with your little one:

And if you’re still trying to figure out what the Easter Bunny is going to bring this year, here’s our helpful list of Easter Basket Ideas for Toddlers & Babies.

Cotton Ball Bunny & Lamb

For those of you who didn’t know, I am a mama by day and a freelance illustrator by night (and nap time!). The other night as I was finishing up a project to send over to a client, I came across this little lamb sketch that I did a few years ago. With springtime and Easter on my mind, I instantly thought up an adorable craft that my little Tommy could make using this drawing as a base. Of course, no Easter craft involving fluffy white baby animals would be complete without a bunny, so I whipped up a little bunny drawing to go along with it!

Cotton Ball Bunny & Lamb

For this project, you will need:

  • Little Lamb & Little Bunny (<—click the links to download .pdf files)
  • Printer (with black ink or toner… no color printer necessary)
  • White 8.5 x 11″ printer paper (or card stock)
  • Cotton Balls
  • Liquid Glue
  • Stickers & markers (or whatever you want to use to decorate your picture)

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To make it:

  1. Grown-up: Print the Little Lamb and Little Bunny .pdf files. (I printed on white card stock to make this a little more sturdy to withstand the glue and weight of the cotton balls.)
  2. Grown-up & Child: Squiggle some glue onto the body of the little lamb and let your little one help place cotton ball “wool” all over to make the lamb cute and fluffy.
  3. Child: Decorate your picture with colorful stickers, color the background, and add words or designs to make it your own.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3 with the Little Bunny printout.

These printouts are free for personal use, but please remember that I am the artist and I retain the copyrights to the artwork. These art files (along with any other art or photography that I post on makelearngo.com) cannot be copied, reproduced, or sold without my permission. If you have any questions about this, please e-mail me at makelearngo@gmail.com. Thank you!

When you make this with your little artist, don’t forget to take a picture! Tag @makelearngo on Instagram, send a message to Make Learn Go on Facebook, or e-mail your photo to makelearngo@gmail.com for a chance for your child’s artwork to be featured on our Instagram and Facebook pages!

And don’t forget to check out some of our fun Easter crafts and learning activities that you can do with your little one:

And if you’re still trying to figure out what the Easter Bunny is going to bring this year, here’s our helpful list of Easter Basket Ideas for Toddlers & Babies.