Educational Media
August 2, 2010 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend some great educational media for my nearly two year old daughter? I am looking for good DVD's, computer / iPhone software, or websites that I can load up for 30-60 minutes a day. I would like something she can learn from, but if she is having fun, that is cool as well. Right now she is a Dora and Diego addict. I just got her a few LeapFrog preschool DVD's that she loves. She can sing her ABC's and can count to 10 in English and Spanish. She is just starting to be able to answer "How does the letter A, B, C, etc. go?' She knows how to flip pages and push buttons on the iPhone. Are there any computer learning games that a two year old could handle. Flash games? iPhone games? Answers to this question do not involve telling me to take my daughter outside. I am familiar with the debunking of Baby Einstein. I would just like to find some good stuff for her to watch, play or interact with. General toy recommendations are good as well.
posted by jasondigitized to Education (23 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
My littlest ones seem to thoroughly enjoy the Starfall website.
posted by jquinby at 10:23 AM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine refers to the movie "My Neighbor Totoro" as toddler crack. Much recommended.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:23 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't have kids, but I would get the DVDs of old Sesame Street, and maybe Electric Company. Still the best, IMHO.
posted by bolognius maximus at 10:26 AM on August 2, 2010


They have a ton of games for kids as well info.on all their shows.
In particular, Sid the Science Kid is awesome. Peep and the Big Wide World is also really cool. Here's the entire list.

They have a parent section, too.
posted by zizzle at 10:27 AM on August 2, 2010

Check out my question from a couple of months ago. The enduring favorites have been FirstWords, a spelling game (my now four year old kid spells "hexagon" and "elephant" and "koala" and the like. Great party trick), and They Might Be Giants' videos, especially "Here Comes the ABCs" and their science album/video collection. This weekend he just saw the "C is for Conifers" video and then started spontaneously saying "Yew. Cedar. Cypress. Fir. Hemlock. Larch." So hilarious.
posted by norm at 10:33 AM on August 2, 2010

I have yet to meet a kid that doesn't like First Words. Go for it!
posted by dabitch at 10:35 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding both of my kids (ages five and two) have spent significant time with that site and learned a tremendous amount from it.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 10:45 AM on August 2, 2010

Poisson Rouge is a favorite of my niece.

The Balloonimals iPhone app is another form of preschooler crack.

If you find an app/game that she likes and it isn't specifically "educational," don't worry too much. She's learning things like sequencing, cause-and-effect, auditory processing, etc.

I just finished up eight weeks of working in a two-year-old classroom and toy-wise, some of the greatest hits include:

play doh, esp. if you have a package of googly eyes to poke into it
Laurie Berkner CDs
Picture books, notably No, David!
Spraying shaving cream on a table and letting kids mess around with it
Mr. Potato Head
Dressing up
Dot markers
Wooden train sets
posted by corey flood at 10:47 AM on August 2, 2010

the old school sesame street videos are great. My 3 y/o has practically taught himself to read with those. And they're funny and entertaining for me as well.
posted by uauage at 11:04 AM on August 2, 2010

On the iPhone/iPod touch, there are quite a few apps my son (2.5 years) enjoys:

Bubbles, Peekabo Barn, Cupcakes!, Etch-a-sketch Lite, My Coloring Book Free.

He also likes pretty much anything by Donut Games (and I do, too):

Spikey's Bounce Around, Traffic rush, Rat on the Run.

Though not by Donut Games, Skee-Ball is also a hit, as is Coin Flip, a lot of my musical instrument apps (MiniPiano, Kalimba Free, DigiDrummer, MiniPiano, Melodica, iShred LE).

I have two of the Dr. Seuss book apps (Dr. Seuss' ABC and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish). Those are, of course, popular. And they're well done.
posted by wheat at 11:21 AM on August 2, 2010

Oh, if you're on a Mac, AlphaBaby, absolutely rocks, is solidly educational, and is open source, FTW!
posted by wheat at 11:23 AM on August 2, 2010

Are there any computer learning games that a two year old could handle. Flash games? iPhone games? Answers to this question do not involve telling me to take my daughter outside.

I know you don't want to hear this, but DVDs and computer games are basically babysitting your kid without doing much for her education. The stuff she's learning from a screen is more likely nullified by the fact that screen time makes kids passive and uncreative, "requir[ing] zero mental activity on the viewer's part." This crap teaches her brain early on to expect flash, loud noises, and entertaining but ultimately mind-numbing gimmicks. Books, flash cards, play time, socialization and exploring the outside world often take a backseat to the allure of a bright screen. This is crack for her mental process, and it hacks away at her ability to maintain what little attention span she has.

I know you're not showing her violent or non-educational shows, but the intellectual value of a computer game/TV show is next to nothing even though she loves it. Her mind is a hungry muscle, so of course she'll pick up on some ABCs here, a number there, but that's the inevitable and minor gain when you sit a bright, spongey-brained child in front of a screen.

TV and computers will come eventually, but don't overvalue the lessons she's learning from a screen.

Lots of parents think their kids will have a leg up in life if they know their letters and numbers by 2, reading by 3, and so forth. Interestingly, new studies show that toddlers benefit from experiences rather than drilling them with facts. If you read to toddlers and inculcate a love of books, they'll pick up reading within the first six months of school. It's a natural mental process. Enjoy the toddler years by having her engage her world. Even stuff that seems simple to you (learning to walk on sand, examining the wheels of a car, realizing that pigeons will follow her if she throws crumbs on the ground) is monumentally beneficial. Here are some ideas (a few less toddler-friendly than others) to get you started

Not as flashy as computers, certainly, but a lot more educational in the long run.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:27 AM on August 2, 2010 [8 favorites]

[I guess I'll mention that I'm the author of FirstWords. Thanks for the kudos, and meMail me if you have any word requests!]
posted by alms at 11:42 AM on August 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Ay yay yay. Screens in moderation will not hurt your kid so don't listen to the moralizing. Besides, that wasn't your question.

Boohbah Zone is a great starter website. Not overtly educational, but fun and a little psychadelic. Kind of like the old show.

Yo Gabba Gabba and the Upside Down Show used to be our go-to TV shows. Dan Zanes, Trout Fishing in America, and They Might Be Giants for great kids' music and videos. Bonus was that these were moderately entertaining for us parents so the kids got to bond with us as we laughed and sang the songs together.
posted by cross_impact at 12:23 PM on August 2, 2010

Response by poster: Point taken zoomorphic. My daughter has more books than I do, goes to the beach, aquarium and storytime every week, has flash cards, magna-doodles, aqua-doodles, keyboards, xylophones, puzzles, blocks, etc. etc. But I can't help but wonder how computer interaction would not be beneficial ( especially now and in a future pervasive-computing world ). I wouldn't consider it a passive activity. Is playing checkers on a computer fundamentally different from playing it on a real board?

You got me on the DVD one. But in defense of tired parents, sometimes you need a baby-sitter so you can use the bathroom while scarfing down some breakfast so you can get dressed so you can then dress the kids to take them to their analog play-date.

Sorry to side-bar.
posted by jasondigitized at 12:32 PM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Unbelievably awesome software for our two year old. Some of these:

-Drawing pad
-Elmo's monster maker (I think they have this for the iPhone)
-Letters A to Z
-First Words animals

I would never in a million years have seen myself recommending this but they're just so awesome and interactive. Everything else kind of fell by the wayside when she started being able to participate and perform actions.

The iPad is her father's, technically, but we all use it and so far she hasn't destroyed it. She can get to and from the main menu and pick the apps she wants to play.

I can't recommend it highly enough. We're not super-moneyed people who spend obscene amounts of money on kids' toys, and we're not Baby Einstein type people, and I am not an Apple proselytizer, but the iPad for kids--wow.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:05 PM on August 2, 2010

Oh, also, ABC refrigerator magnets have been a huge hit.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:06 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Leapfrog makes a video called Talking Words Factory that my son watched at daycare ONCE and came home with some amazing building blocks that enabled him to really pick up written language very quickly. Songs about phonics, basically. At the dinner table he looked at me and said "the vowels are A E I O and U - and sometimes Y" after watching this once.

He also loves Firstwords, and recently we were stuck for an hour in the Apple store and he was able to amuse himself for the entire hour playing the SuperWhy game on the iPad (also for the phone, apparently).
posted by anastasiav at 4:00 PM on August 2, 2010

My two-year-old loves Max and Ruby. It's based on a book but the books are a bit advanced for her.
Other good shows...
Little Bear- This show is very quite and calm. No smash cuts or flash. Just quite stories.
Yo Gabba Gabba
Sesame Street, of course.

She got a tea set for her birthday which she plays with all the time.
For the ipod touch.
Chalk Draw.
Alphabet flashcards (I forget the name but it's easy to find with a search)
And you wouldn't think a toddler would like it but Pocket God. This isn't educational but my daughter laughs out loud when she knocks the little people in the water.

And board books are the best. You can let a toddler read them with no supervision. Break out the paper books when you read to them.

Playdoh is also fun with a little supervision. I sit at the table and surf the net or whatever while my daughter plays with it.
I just keep and eye out for dropping it on the floor.
posted by hot_monster at 4:17 PM on August 2, 2010

I'm not judging you! I started out being anti-TV for my kids, but now I understand that electronic media has its place, and is OK in moderation. My 3 year old watches TV only on weekends, for 2 hours MAX. I filter and only show him pre-aprroved shows that I like. He loves Yo Gabba Gabba, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Pixar movies.

For the iPhone he loves Tozzle (toddler puzzle app, excellent kid-friendly interface).
posted by Joh at 4:49 PM on August 2, 2010

Mom of a two-year-old here. The Leapfrog Letter Factory DVD (it's a series, the letter one comes first) is great for teaching all the letter sounds. My kid picked up the sounds really quickly. (In fact, one of his little buddies knew all the sounds before he knew the names of the letters!) As far as other DVDs, I try to go heavy on the ones with a lot of music--Wonder Pets, Yo Gabba Gabba, Hi 5, etc--figuring that the musical exposure is just as valuable as any more traditional academic skills he might learn. He's currently IN LOVE with Ni Hao, Kai-Lan and Diego, so I never know if my already bilingual kid might say something in Mandarin or Spanish, too! (Not that he has much vocabulary in those languages but it's pretty fun that he knows how to say "slippers" and stuff.)

He would spend all day playing on if I let him. I like the fact that there are multiple levels for when he's ready to move on. (I hope that's soon--he's got all the letters memorized and I get a little tired of some of the songs!)

He loves playing on our Touch and started when he was about 20 mos. We try to save it for special times (dinners out, traveling, etc.) though he has found it lying around the house. When he was younger (sounds funny to say that now), he played a lot of Monkey Preschool Lunchbox. He taught himself how to do the matching and he picked up all the fruit vocab pretty quickly. I have a bunch of other educational-type apps on there but sometimes he's just more content to play Bird Strike.

My overall feeling is that yes, he'll pick up stuff from whatever he's doing, but I'm not counting on his media consumption to teach him stuff. We let ourselves watch tv and play online just for fun, why can't he? He'll learn the stuff he needs over time and there's not much evidence that learning this stuff early is all that helpful. (Great RadioLab interview with Malcolm Gladwell about this last week!)
posted by wallaby at 3:46 AM on August 3, 2010

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