Play & Learn

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Getting More out of Playtime

Safe Online Play for Kids

Posted by agirlandaboy on Nov. 22, 2012 at 12:00 AM

My husband and I are pretty stingy about letting our preschooler play with grown-up technology. Every time I see other parents hand their smartphones to their littles, I gasp because all I can picture is the kid losing his grip and the phone plummeting to the floor and smashing into smithereens. Maybe I'm just overly cautious, but even though I know there are a lot of cool phone apps for kids these days, I'm just not a fan of putting that much money into the care of a kid who still wears superhero undies.  I can count on one hand the times my three-year-old has been allowed to play with a smartphone or a tablet by himself.

That said, sometimes we're out and about, or maybe stuck in a waiting room without a book, and getting out the smartphone is better than the alternative: mischief and/or whining. In those cases, here are a few tried and true sites and apps we like and trust: 

  • This is our go-to place for video clips, games, and activities from all my son's favorite shows. We don't get Mr. Rogers on our t.v., so we go to for that.
  • My son doesn't watch much Sesame Street, but the show's website is a safe place for him to play and explore. I love showing him vintage clips from back when I watched the show.
  • YouTube: We like to watch kid-friendly stuff like Laurie Berkner, Elizabeth Mitchell, Rabbit!, but also music videos for popular songs like Feist's "1-2-3-4," Owl City's "Fireflies," Up and Over It's "We No Speak Americano," and Of Men and Monsters' "Little Talks." (Make sure to preview all YouTube videos first! I once previewed a clip from Wonder Pets, and about a minute in the clip was interrupted by a scary face and a scream that had me wishing I was still in diapers.)
  • You can build your own virtual LEGO creations (and with no mess to clean up!)
  • The art apps I mentioned in this post.

Do you let your kids play with your smartphone? What are your favorite apps and websites for kids?

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by cara124 on Nov. 28, 2012 at 10:16 AM

Being that my kids are teenagers they have their own smartphones / tablets ( I know gasp ! ) ..... so I'm more than comfortable with them using mine .... That being said .. I like you gasp when I see a Small child in a shopping cart playing with one ! ...... I know I personally drop my own smartphone in a parking lot and man the was expensive to fix & I'm the Adult ! ... But there are some really great apps for kids that even as an adult I enjoy !

by Madelaine on Nov. 28, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Sometimes I do.

by GwenMB on Nov. 28, 2012 at 10:42 AM

My boys don't usually play with my smart phone (they usually want to watch me play Angry Birds on it) but they do play with my iPad.  They are required to just sit on the couch with it.

My boys love the Mini Adventures Animals app.  It shows a lot of animals with a picture of the animal & their name (with the name pronounced, so they are hearing it & seeing it, maybe learning to read?) and then a YouTube video of the animal.  Many of the videos are put together by the Cincinnati Zoo or the San Diego Zoo. My boys became big fans of Thane Maynard, the Cincinnati Zoo director.  We had to make a detour on our way home from Washington DC to MN last summer so we could go there & meet him. :)

They also like a NASA app I found, a couple globe ones (one is Barefood Atlas that tells about many countries, animals, and places around the earth), and a couple state ones (my boys know many of the states, my 5 yo knows 40+ (haven't tested him in 6 months) and the 4 yo knows at least 30).  It is fun finding apps that go with their interests.

by MamaBear2cubs on Nov. 28, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Not Iphones my son does use the computer for games though. Usually PBS or Nickjr, I will have to try Duplo site though!

by dusky_rose on Nov. 28, 2012 at 12:18 PM

My DH lets our son play with his smartphone. I'm not sure what the apps are called though. When he goes on my computer I let him go to nick, nick junior and cartoon network websites.