5 Apps That Can Enrich the Life of Toddlers Between 12 and 24 Months of Age
Screen time is a dubious topic when it comes to our children, but it would be shortsighted to ignore the educational and developmental benefits of some of the more child-friendly apps available at the minute.
The problem is that there are currently 8,930,000 apps available via our smart devices. As a new(ish) parent, it’s unlikely that you have the time spare to grab a cup of Joe with your friend, let alone examine the suitability of literally millions of apps. Not to worry, though, we here at Geeks with Juniors have done the job for you!
That’s right, folks. Our dedicated team has done the research, and we’re excited to announce our comprehensive shortlist of the best apps for children between 12 and 24 months of age. They’re colorful, fun, educational, and of course, completely safe.
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
If you’ve got hope that your kid will become the next Vivaldi, Baby Zoo Piano should be your first port of call.
The brightly colored keys invite your one year old to explore an entire octave of notes, refining their musical ear, as well as developing their memory and fine motor skills.
The notes are pre-organized into a key, so don’t worry about an A-tonal racket as your child shreds their first piano solo. It also includes a large amount of nursery rhyme and lullaby jingles for your toddler to enjoy too.
But baby Zoo Piano isn't just a musical extravaganza. It’s also a fun way of learning about animals and the sounds they make. The app includes a bunch of cool animal characters to choose from. Once selected, they’ll sit above a key, ready to sound their call when pressed by your child.
It’s free to download, but unfortunately, there are a lot of in-app purchases that will unlock more animal characters and jingles, so make sure to turn off in-app purchases on your device before handing it to your toddler for a jam!
- Colorful - A real treat for the eyes.
- Lots of Specific Movements - improves fine motor skills.
- Musical - The perfect introduction to music.
- Free - No upfront download fee.
- Simple Interface - Just right for one year olds.
- In-App Purchases - Full app isn’t free.
ABC Mouse is more than just an app, it’s an entire virtual learning space spanning all sorts of disciplines, from painting to reading to math.
The adventure starts in a charming virtual classroom, where you or your child can select a fun activity suited to their age range and ability level.
It’s a subscription service, so it’s not free, but considering there are over 9000 activities to choose from, you certainly get your money’s worth.
Designed for toddlers upward of 18 months, ABC Mouse is a great investment as your child nears the final section of the receptive learning stage. Plus, once they reach two, you can input their age into the app to receive a customized curriculum that will guide them right through to 2nd grade — pretty neat, huh?
- Multiple Disciplines - This is a one-stop educational app. You may not need any others.
- Customizable Content - Curates age-appropriate activities for you.
- 9000+ Activities - Expansive content.
- Long Term Learning - Grows with your child.
- Subscription - Can be pricey over time (but worth it)
- Age Rating - It really shines once your kid hits two.
Here we have another classroom-based app, but this one’s built from the ground up with Montessori educational principles.
It contains hundreds of different super fun and educational activities, each designed to help your child develop a sense of curiosity, adventure, and self-awareness. It also offers plenty of open-ended activities, encouraging your child to use their imagination and to take control of playtime — it can be a huge confidence booster!
Activities topics include colors, numbers, shapes, nursery rhymes, and for when your child is a little bit older, even coding.
It’s free to download, but if you want access to the full app, you’ll need a subscription. The good news is that prices are very reasonable, and you’re offered tons of flexibility in terms of subscription parameters, meaning you won’t be wasting money on features you won’t use — hurray!
- Expansive - Tons of great activities.
- Free Download - Basic version is free.
- Montessori Principles - Encourages exploration, imagination, and confidence.
- Flexible Subscriptions - Plenty of options.
- Long Term Learning - Support all the way to year 1.
- Subscription Fees - It’s not free.
Flying can be a nightmare for us big kids, so throw a one year old into the mix, and you can end up as one grumpy family indeed. That is, of course, unless you’re prepared with this awesome Very Hungry Caterpillar virtual picture book for kids upwards of 15 months.
We freakin’ loved The Very Hungry Caterpillar when we were kids. This app is a chance to pass on the magic of this wonderful story to new generations, but with an educational twist.
It puts a big focus on labeling everyday things and animals, which is exactly what a one year old will have just started trying to do. It covers 13 categories, including animals and nature, vehicles, food, family, and objects, and there are over 80 words to learn in total.
Like an honest-to-goodness pop-up book, beautiful things appear as if by magic when pictures are tapped, and it’s fully narrated, so you can take it easy and enjoy your flight, while your kid has a blast learning new stuff!
- One-Time Fee - Full app for a small download fee.
- Focuses on Labeling - Perfect for one year olds.
- Quiet - Suitable for planes.
- Award-Winning - You should see the caterpillar’s trophy cabinet.
- Zero Narrative Context - The learning facilities don’t fit into the hungry caterpillar story.
Learning Shapes is a bundle of fun! Each shape is personified with a cute little face, which is a clever move, as it uses your child’s flourishing understanding of facial expressions to aid in their learning.
Most of the activities are creative reworkings of shape-in-the-hole games. For example, the shapes may be parachuting down, and your child has to guide them into the right hole at the bottom of the screen. These kinds of games help to develop an understanding of physical phenomena and fast-track the development of fine motor skills.
Then there are other more open-ended activities that strip the idea of right and wrong whilst leaving the learning aspects intact, allowing your child to take the initiative and enjoy a positive, no-pressure, educational experience.
- Shapes Have Faces - Incorporates facial recognition and ideas of empathy.
- Very Interactive - Develops fine motor skills.
- Open-Ended Activities - Encourages initiative and imagination.
- In-App Purchases - You’ll have to pay to unlock certain features.
Best Apps for One Year Olds - A Guardian’s Guide
What actually makes an app suitable for a one year old? Sure, many apps will have an age guide, but that’s not really a strong enough reason to use them.
There are tons of factors to consider when giving such young children screen time, so we put together this guardian’s guide in order to smooth the process out.
Before we get into the specifics of app design, it’s important to make sure the device itself is child-safe.
One year olds are messy little pups, and even though they’ve developed some fine motor skills at this point, they’re not completely in charge of themselves yet. You may end up receiving your iPad back covered in peanut butter or with a huge crack in the screen.
A squishy case will provide the device protection in the event of a drop or collision. Alternatively, you could set your child up in a safe carpeted or blanketed area before offering them the device. You may even want to invest in a device specifically for children, such as the Amazon Fire Kids tablet.
Keep an eye on them as they play, firstly, because it’s adorable as heck! And secondly, they may somehow manage to close the app and reach the device home screen, at which point, chaos will ensue.
Oh, and in terms of display size...the bigger, the better. Small screens make the muscles in the eyes work harder, leading to concentration issues, headaches, and inevitably...tears.
Screen Time and App Immediacy
At this age, screen time should be extremely limited, which means an app needs to include quick, easy tasks. It needs to impart as much digestible information as possible in a short amount of time.
If you’re going to let your sprog loose on an app, The last thing you want is for them to accidentally empty your savings account on obscure app extensions. So, be sure to disable in-app purchases on your smart device before handing it over.
We know you’d do anything for your little bundle of joy, but ideally, spending a fortune on apps wouldn’t be on that list of “everything”, which is why it’s important to assess the payment parameters of an app before downloading it.
A lot of them can be purchased for a one-time fee of around $1–$4, while others may require signing up for a subscription after a certain amount of time has elapsed. You’ll normally pay for these on a monthly or annual basis, so prices can vary.
A subscription can sound like more of a commitment than you’re willing to make for a one year old, but these apps often have a much more robust selection of content, not to mention customizable and evolving curriculums.
Choosing From a Reputable Source
Apps for young children need to be developed by people that understand how children learn, what they enjoy, and what’s considered child-safe, so choosing an app from a renowned and experienced company is often the best course of action.
Educational Vs Just Plain Fun
All the best apps for one year olds combine education and fun into a single user experience, which is great, but allowing them time with things that are simply fun is fine too, within reason. The odd My Little Pony clip never hurt anyone.
At the age of one, children are slap bang in the middle of their receptive period, so enriching their playtime with lots of educational content will have a hugely beneficial impact on their development.
Choose an individual or a selection of apps that cover a lot of educational ground. Your child will enjoy...
- Basic numbers
You should also consider the learning paradigm the app is using. Does it match up with your chosen parenting style? For example, if you’re taking the Montessori approach to raising your child, you’ll want apps that are built around the same core values.
Open-Ended Vs Guided
A large part of a child’s learning is based around positive reinforcement when they get something right, something many educational apps do in some form or another, and that’s great, but it’s not the only way of learning.
Open-ended activities in which there are no set goals, right or wrongs, winners and losers also play a huge role in a child’s development. Allowing them to set their own goals encourages creativity and emotional intelligence.
As apps usually make full use of touch screens, they provide a much more engaging and physical experience, meaning the right one could help your child develop their fine motor skills.
Look for apps that don’t just require the odd screen tap, but a variety of different movements spread across lots of fun activities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have you got time for a brief FAQ section? It should clear up any queries you have that weren't covered in the Guardian’s Guide above.
How much screen time should my one year old have?
The AAP suggests keeping screens turned off around children until they reach at least 18 months of age, and even then, it’s best to keep screen time to a minimum — we’re talking 10–20 mins per day.
However, it’s generally thought to be fine to treat younger children to very small bursts of screen time if it will aid their development.
What should I be teaching my one year old?
One year olds are big into labeling things. They’re not just learning that a chair is a chair, but that this is a big chair, while that is a small chair, or perhaps even that it’s a small, blue chair.
As such, you and any apps your child uses at this age need to be very vocal, employing simple, declarative sentences. Apps that focus on everyday things such as body parts, colors, shapes, sounds, and farmyard animals are particularly helpful for building up their understanding of the world around them.
Is it worth showing my one year old counting apps?
Yes, you should absolutely introduce your child to apps that encourage very basic counting skills.
Children typically won’t fully engage with math until at least the age of 18 months, but it’s known that before this milestone, they already have an innate sense of numbers that can be nurtured with simple exercises.
At what point should I start teaching my child colors?
As a guardian, you know your child better than anyone, so only you can decide when it's the right time to introduce them to something in a direct educational sense. If you think they’re ready, introduce them to color-based apps right away, but 18 months is typically when they’ll start engaging with color.
What are the downsides of screen time for a one year old?
A: The largest worry people have is that screen time is a sedentary activity, preventing the child from developing their motor skills, which is why it’s important to choose at least a couple of apps that engage your child physically.
Another gripe is that while apps can be educational, they’re not tactile in any way, and a child of this age should be doing a lot of learning by feeling their surroundings.
In serious cases involving too much screen time, toddlers exhibited underdeveloped awareness of facial expressions, leading to a lack of empathy.
The Final Word
There you have it, folks, five of the very best apps for one year olds. These are by far our favorites, but there are dozens of amazing options out there, so don’t stop here. Carry on your search, and you’ll be able to find a suitable app for your child, no matter the occasion or subject.
As long as you remember to keep screen time to an absolute minimum, these sorts of apps will bring nothing but positivity to the life of you and your little one. Enjoy!