Cheap games offer great value for toddlers

Cheap games offer great value for toddlers

It’s one of my favorite times of the year – Little League season. Baseball games are always intriguing because you just never know what’s going to happen next. Sometimes you’re awed by a seemingly miraculous double play and other times you just can’t help but fall over laughing when the right fielder misses a fly ball because he’s too busy break dancing.

But something else has intrigued me for the second consecutive Little League season — the game playing ability of one team member’s 3-year-old sister. This child sits quietly and patiently throughout the two-hour games playing a variety of gaming apps on her mother’s iPhone. I decided to inquire and cozy up to this single-digit gamer, who like I said, was gaming last year at the age of 2.

Come to find out, this not-yet-potty trained “i” girl, has five favorite gaming apps: Monkey PreSchool Lunchbox, JellyCar, Tozzle, Talking Lila the Fairy, and Doodle Cake.

For 99 cents, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox can be downloaded and includes seven games for kids ages 2-5. There is no navigating, just push and play with easy flow from one game to the next, all led by an endearing monkey. Kids not only learn to recognize and match colors, letters, numbers and shapes but they also hear the names of the same. Unlimited play is offered along with stickers when they win a game.

Spend another 99 cents and get JellyCar, now in its third version. Just as the name implies, it features a squishy car driving through a squishy world to reach an exit. There are 28 levels and more parts to maneuver on your device than Lunchbox, requiring some coordination. Players have to touch the screen on the right to drive right, left to go left, etc. Devices have to be tilted to rotate the car, and cars can be touched to make them expand or blow up momentarily. It’s a simple game, likened to Angry Birds and Tiny Wings, that any preschooler can play but adults are enjoying, too. The latest version allows car design, more levels and secret exits. Parents beware — this Disney game offers in-app purchases.

The priciest app the little league sideliner plays is Tozzle, a puzzle game available for a whopping $1.99. It’s really a darling game with 42 different puzzles for the choosing. Kiddos pick a puzzle like one of the most recent added, a beach puzzle, then touch, drag and drop pieces from the side of the screen and insert them into the picture in the middle of the screen. It’s a great way to learn shapes and sizes. If, after the third try, a toddler doesn’t select the right piece, an arrow points to indicate the missing piece. The pieces also make characteristic sounds. Even after the puzzle is complete, players can touch the pieces and hear the sounds again. Really cute and entertaining!

It’s almost too good to be true – little girls can have their own fairy to talk to. For only 99 cents, Talking Lila the Fairy will flutter her wings and repeat what your child says. Lila will make faces, giggle, sing, spin on flowers and cast magic spells. Games don’t get easier than this but they also don’t get any more mesmerizing. Little girls are enamored by the winged nymph. There are other “Talking” apps, too, like Talking Carl, which boys might enjoy.

When I was kid, I made Easy Bake brownies in my kid oven — as well as a huge mess. Now parents can let kids make cakes on a gaming app called Doodle Cake Bake … no mess, no sugar high and only 99 cents. There are 14 different recipes of cakes from peanut butter to pineapple and 18 varying styles including round, square, topsy turvy, square double round, two-heart tier, etc. Kids crack the eggs, add the ingredients and put the cake in the oven. They can then eat it, save it or e-mail it to a friend to show off the confectionary creation. Doodle apps are a-plenty. There’s cookie and candy doodle, etc.

If not for these educational and entertaining apps for my Little League friend, it’s likely her parents would miss a lot of their son’s baseball moments. And because it’s never too soon to introduce tiny people to the touch-screen world we live in, download these on your Apple and Android device.