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The Right Technology for Kids at Every Age

Jon Whittle (photo) / Monika Melnychuk (illustration)

1 TO 2 YEARS: The High-Tech Mimic

1. Watches educational programming like Blue’s Clues, Super Why! and Dora the Explorer

2. Tinkers with basic cause-and-effect apps on the iPhone

3. Starts to imitate Mom’s tech habits

We know, we know: The AAP says no television for children under 2, and to limit it to two hours a day for children over 2. But the reality is you just got home from the market, your toddler is fussy and fidgety, and 30 minutes of Bubble Guppies will buy you enough time to put the groceries away and get dinner started.

Luckily, TV can be more than just a high-tech pacifier. A 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that viewing educational programs like Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, and Arthur between the ages of 6 and 30 months was associated with accelerated language growth. However, general television viewing (including exposure to adult programs) was associated with reduced vocabulary. The takeaway: Limited exposure to educational television may have a positive impact on your child, but a household where the boob tube is blaring all day will not. Says Dr. Karp: “It’s not OK to plunk your kid in front of the TV for two hours and think that you’re building his brain, but it is OK if your eighteen-month-old watches Sesame Street.”

Sarah Crisp says her 18-month-old daughter is getting a lot out of Super Why! and WordWorld on PBS Kids. “She knows the ABC song, can recognize lowercase letters, and knows how a letter sounds,” she says. “I don’t think TV is bad. You just have to monitor the amount of time and what they watch.”

One of the big social milestones for toddlers is imitating the behavior of others, so expect your tot to gravitate toward the devices Mommy’s always futzing with. If he’s pining for your phone, let him tinker with a silly app instead of reconfiguring your address book. Try Bubble Popper (free; itunes.com), a causeand- eff ect game that mimics bubble wrap . Again, keep the device on airplane mode— it prevents exposure to unnecessary radiation and reduces any chance of clicking through to the Internet. If you’d prefer that he didn’t play with your iPhone, get him an Alphaberry. It has all the sensory stimulation of Dad’s BlackBerry without the cluttered inbox ($20; onestep ahead.com).

 

2 TO 3 YEARS The App-y Toddler

1. Uses an eReader for storytime

2. Sorts shapes and finds hidden objects on iPhone apps

3. Ready for electronic toys that teach numbers, letters, and vowel sounds

Surprise—eReaders are not solely for adults! There are more than 3,500 children’s books for kids ages 0 to 8 available for the Amazon Kindle, and many eReader titles expand on the basic book interface with “read-to-me” features and a touchscreen.

“At bedtime, the question isn’t what books should we read, it’s ‘Should we read an electronic book or a paper book?’ ” says Nina Lindsey, mom of a 3-year-old daughter and a Nook owner. “She switches between the two, so it’s a good balance.”

You can also try an eReader that doesn’t require supervision, such as the LeapFrog Tag Junior Book Pal ($30; leapfrog .com). Touch the little LeapFrog character to the pages on the board book, and it reads aloud and sounds out letters and words.

Sorting shapes and colors and finding hidden objects are two of the big cognitive milestones for this age group. Fulfi ll her curiosity with Tozzle, an app featuring shape puzzles ($2; itunes.com).

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