Amazing math app that kids can start using early and get value for years. Think of it like a math role-playing game with missions, challenges, and rewards. Covers addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Touches on pre-algebra as well.
Tips and tricks we used to make sure the iPhone/iPad didn't create too much drama.
We aren't afraid of screen time:
Jonathan averages 1+ hr per day on a screen and has done so since he was 9 months old. We have seen no negative outcomes and only positive outcomes so far. Even with all this screen time, he is still a very normal kid. He likes going to the park, doing science experiments, building puzzles, arts and crafts, reading books before bed, and other activities. Jonathan started going to preschool 5 days a week when he was 2.5 years old and before that was in a nanny share with a child that was close to his age since he was 1. iPad time is almost exclusively limited to evenings and weekends. Also, we strictly limit passive screen time (watching TV, Youtube, etc). We often watch sports together as a family in the evening and limit his Youtube time to 10 mins a day or less. Our philosophy is that active screen time is positive and passive screen time is less productive. We have some experiences with Jonathan going into zombie mode when watching Disney movies or Paw Patrol and ultimately he has less fun than when he is playing with the apps above. We've spent a lot of time researching the apps above and observing/helping Jonathan play with them. We love that his iPad is his own little world that he controls (within reason - see below).
We are kinda hardcore parents:
We don't act the second our kids start crying. We often ask/force them to wait for what they want (even just a few minutes). Our kids started sleeping through the night at 5 months (we had the help of a great night dula). We have had no problems with bedtime routines since. At around 2 years old we introduced Jonathan to 5-minute timeouts in his room which greatly helped his discipline. After a year we really didn't need to do them much anymore. We don't see ourselves as servants to our children but as extra-loving teachers. Teachers have to set limits or classrooms go crazy. We have the same philosophy in our house. I say this because these while apps have been very helpful in our household, I cannot guarantee they won't create extra stress or frustration in yours. TDLR - your mileage may vary.
This involves more active teaching than you might think:
In the early days, we had to teach Jonathan how to do a lot on the iPhone / iPad. How to swipe, how to drag, how to click, etc. With new apps, we often have to teach him how they work and help him get unstuck (even at 4 years old - his current age in the fall of 2022). With more advanced apps we might have to teach him some simple math in order to help him. In hindsight, it's a bit surprising how much we had to teach him in order for him to get enjoyment out of screen time and we always love when he comes to us requesting our help (some games like Math Tango have an aspect of this built into the game).
We never force him to do anything on is iPad:
Jonathan's iPad usage expands and contracts based on what's going on in his life, what he finds interesting, whether we've downloaded any cool new apps, etc. We don't have a set of tasks that we require him to do or apps that we require him to use. When he seems to be getting extra bored with screen time we find that is the perfect time to explore new apps or figure out if he is blocked in any of the apps he is currently using.
The iPad has rules:
When Jonathan started using the screen it was before he could talk. Endless 123 and Flashcards were entertaining for him and taught him the basics of using a device -- scrolling, dragging, clicking, etc. When it was time for him to stop we would tell him and then take the device away. Once he began to speak we implemented the rule that when we told him the time to play iPad was over, he had to hand us the iPad. We didn't specifically time his play, usually there was something like dinner or bedtime that would be a natural stopping point. If the iPad wasn't charged for some reason, he couldn't play till it was. We didn't respond positively to whining or crying when it came to iPad usage. We responded indifferently -- there is always time for more iPad tomorrow. At around 3 years old (when we removed the foam cover), Jonathan became responsible for keeping the iPad charged. Jonathan has never attempted to physically destroy his iPad. If he did we would probably let him so he can learn the lesson that good things can go away.
iPhone / iPad is setup in a specific way:
Jonathan started by using our iPhones until he was about 1.5 years old. They were small enough for him to handle. We used guided access to make sure he couldn't switch out of the app we set up for him. If you aren't familiar with guided access - google search it. It's very easy and useful. When Jonathan could start communicating more clearly we switched him to an iPad mini with a foam case that was for his dedicated use. There are a lot of controls on Jonathan's iPad! We removed almost all apps that aren't the ones above and moved the remaining apps into their own folder. For example, Jonathan's iPad doesn't have a web browser. We purchase all paid versions of each of the apps above so that no ads would appear. We used the settings in screen time to prevent him from using his apps before 7am, so that he wouldn't wake up early to play iPad. We disabled the ability to delete apps or add apps using (another setting in screen time). In order to add an app, we would disable this feature and re-enable it when we were done. With that being said - we stopped using guided access. Jonathan can use whichever app he wants and can switch between them as he wants. After 1.5 years old, he was free to use the iPad as he wished (with the above controls in place of course).
Now that Jonathan is 4, we usually add new apps based on his interests. We don't trust the iOS store to search for apps. It often takes 20-30 minutes to research the best app online by reading blog posts, reviews, etc. That is one reason why we created this guide. It took over 40 hours of research over the past 3.5 years to generate this list of apps. Not all apps are created the same. Most suck. Many create passive screen time in disguise.
One secret is my wife Sarah:
Sarah is amazingly patient, a great mom, and puts up with my obsession with apps. Little known fact: Sarah was the first to introduce Jonathan to screen time on her iPhone and since then he's been off to the races. Many of the activities I mentioned above (going to the park, doing science experiments, building puzzles, arts and crafts, reading books) are things she taught him and regularly does with him. Most of my (Michael's) contribution is researching apps, teaching him to swim, being a calming influence when things go wrong (my sister and brother are 10 and 15 years younger than me so I grew up with little ones in the house), and generally being a pretty hardass disciplinarian. I see my role as adding a little bit of healthy friction to Jonathan's day-to-day life (keep in mind he lives a pretty privileged life). Finally, shout out to our amazing nanny Tori who is just as hardcore as Sarah and I. Jonathan loves her to death.
Questions or Suggestions?
If you have any questions about the apps on this site or suggestions of great apps you've found - please let us know! If you are reading this site you probably have a way to contact us :)