Intro to Letters/ Intro to Math: I just throw these in there hoping the kids will accidentally press on them. Kidding. These are beautiful apps based on Montessori materials. Very rarely will my sons work with these apps without prompting, but it's a joy when I help trace letters. Even better on the iPad that I borrowed from work.
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox: This is on the list grudgingly. The eeh-eeh-eeh of this monkey has been known to send a parent into the kitchen to fill out applications for Waldorf school. The monkey has it all figured out though: You match fruit or solve puzzles and then you get stickers. Never underestimate the drawing power of a cute, overly expressive animal.
Ragdoll Blaster 2: A game for the kid who takes apart the vacuum cleaner. You shoot ragdolls at targets that are hiding behind all manner of contraptions and obstacles. Teaches physics!
Reckless Racing and Slotz Racer: The requisite car-racing games. My personal pick would be Real Racing, but these are the ones that the boys like best. Slotz is easier to play, but Reckless Racing offers more crashing and mayhem potential.
Solipskier: Draw the slope with your finger and launch the skier into the air while a fabulous guitar solo blares. Another only-on-the-iPhone game that delights with its freedom to experiment.
Talking Carl: Your child shouts words, Talking Carl shouts those words louder, and with a higher-pitched voice. Minutes or hours of hilarity, depending upon your age.
My "kid screen" has become much more game-heavy since last year. That's due in part to the 5-year-old's ability to detect anything that's remotely educational and then promptly pronounce it "boring." (Where does that heat-seeking ability come from?) I should also mention that his second-favorite iPhone activity is going into the app store to look for "cooler" games. He doesn't do the drawing apps, the photo apps, and the reading apps I've heard so many good things about.
Leave your best apps in the comments below or e-mail me at email@example.com.