Last week, I asked for recommendations for iPhone apps that amuse children. You responded—in droves. The iPhone has become the Swiss Army knife of mobile parenting. It soothes jumpy kids waiting in doctor's offices and marooned in car seats. It helps children who are dyslexic, dyspraxic, or just plain bored-at-home. It gives parents time to unload the dishwasher and "get 10 minutes of peace, maybe." Which is all you need, sometimes.
Babies as young as 9 months are able to press the home button, then press the "orange button," and watch videos. In general, kids appear to be careful iPhone guardians and will eventually relinquish it and move on to other activities. As one husband wrote: "My daughter was just 2.7 when I got my iPhone, and even then I found it was safer to give it to her than to my wife, who is a Facebook addict."
I also heard from many app developers. I wish you well on your journey to the top of the iTunes charts, and I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to try all of your creations. The apps in this article are those mentioned by parents. Let's go to your responses, starting with guilt and moving toward virtue.
Fart for Free advertises itself as "the one and only fart soundboard you need." The uses for the app include "Entertain your little brother" and "Reminisce on past farts." My time with a 4-year-old suggests that they do not need encouragement to explore issues related to farting, but I can see how this app may be good for a laugh. Plus, it's interactive—setting up fake farts around Mom and so on. Much better than Pee Monkey, which I found disturbing, especially when the monkey pees in rainbow colors.
Pocket God is a game in which you throw pygmies into volcanoes and otherwise mess with them. It's pointless and fun—not unlike burning ants with a magnifying glass. Another highly touted game was Ragdoll Blaster, praised for its "problem-solving" aspects and accurate physics. Other vaguely educational games that received lots of votes were Doodle Jump, Geared, Boxed In, and JellyCar. The whole gaming question brings up a side issue of the competition between Mom's phone vs. Dad's phone. An iPhone mom writes: "I have all educational apps, my husband has Pocket God. Guess which phone my boys (6 and 4) prefer?"
SpinArt is the app version of the school fair staple. The electronic version does not include goth sixth-graders who collect tickets at the spinner and encourage you to squeeze more black on your creation. I've never understood the appeal of spin art but it amuses many throughout the world. The latest update includes glitter.
Sesame Street podcasts, while technically not an app, are a trusted tool in many an iPhone arsenal. They are educational and five to 10 minutes long, thus offering a natural endpoint to wrest the phone back from your little one.
Ocarina was a big surprise. This is the app that turns your phone into what is essentially a pan flute. You blow into the microphone to make sounds. The world has enough pan flutists, I think. But you insisted on the calming power of Ocarina, so I gave it a try on my 4-year-old. I can't even get that kid near a recorder but, lo and behold, he loved fooling around with the iFlute. One issue: He shoved the phone into his mouth like a real instrument, so there's a definite saliva-frying-the-motherboard danger here.