IPad apps for toddlers

Digital tablets seem like they were tailor-made for toddlers: intuitive, easy-swipe games, inviting animation, and the ability to keep wiggle worms calm, even on long car rides. Of course, endless screen time isn't good for growing minds — the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than an hour or two of total screen time per day, plus plenty of unstructured play and outdoor time. But you can maximize that limited screen time by downloading the iPad apps for toddlers that rank among the finest for learning and flexing their imagination. From practicing those ABCsto putting together all kinds of puzzles, here are the best tot-friendly apps the iTunes store has to offer.

Apps About Animals

Four-legged and feathered friends are naturally fascinating to toddlers and thus a perfect entry point to learning about the world. There are plenty of animal-savvy iPad apps for tots to choose from, but one of the first (and cutest) isPeekaboo Barn ($1.99, Night & Day Studios), which won the Best Toddler App Ever award in 2009. In this app, someone's knocking at the barn doors. Touch them to reveal who's inside — perhaps an oinking pig or a mooing cow. You choose how to hear the name of the animal: in a kid voice, a grown-up voice, in Spanish — or you can even record yourself or your child saying it. Once your tot's learned animal names, kick it up a notch with Feed the Animals ($1.99, Curious Fingers), which lets a toddler match pictures of bananas or flies with the creatures that love to eat them.

Apps About Stories

Nothing's sweeter than cuddling with your toddler as you read a story — and this selection of interactive iPad apps for toddlers adds to that experience. Start with Sandra Boynton's hilarious Moo, Baa, La La La! ($3.99, Loud Crow Interactive). You swipe to turn the story's pages like a real board book, but the fun continues with silly animal sounds and charming interactions (for instance, you can slingshot the running cats away from the barking dog). Nighty Night! ($2.99, Fox & Sheep) will become a go-tobedtime story, with a soothing sound track and an array of gorgeously illustrated animals that all need to be put to bed by a helpful toddler — yours.