Educational Phone Apps for Toddlers! And Lounge Wear for Under $15

Happy Friday guys! I feel like today’s blog post might get some mixed reactions from people. But I wanted to blog about it anyway. Basically, I’m getting to a point in my, I guess I’ll call it “my journey of motherhood”, where I just need a break sometimes. And yes, at times I resort to technology to help keep my daughter Molly busy so I can get a few things done around the house. It’s funny because I used to be so anti-technology with her. In fact, we never even had the TV on in the house around her for basically the first year of her life. We would just leave it off all day until she went to bed and then enjoy one or two of our favorite shows. But after she turned one, we started to let the TV be on a little bit while she was in the room and now that she’s 19 months, the TV is on a lot more than I’d like to admit.

Same goes for using my phone to play with apps. I didn’t really let her play with my phone much at the beginning but then we introduced a phone app or two because it was the only thing that would keep her busy on a long cross country flight – read my flying with a toddler tips HERE. And we’ve done quite a few long flights with her in her short life time so far – so she quickly got used ot the phone apps. And unfortunately, now she absolutely loves my phone and wants to use her Elmo app all the time! Not good.

So that got me thinking, if I can’t keep the phone away from her all the time, and I do want to let her use it every once in a while (so I get a break/time to do housework), what are the best apps for her to play with that would be good for her development and age-appropriate for a one and a half year-old? So what do I do?  I come to my blog for advice from all of you! I’m always in awe whenever I pose a question on my blog by all the amazing responses from all of you guys. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again,  I absolutely love the community of support we’ve all built here on Ali Luvs.

But before I go and ask for your recommendations, I want to leave a couple of mine. So far there are two apps that I really love for Molly. Well, I guess I should say one that she really loves, but I’m not sure is very educational. And the other she really loves and I really love because I feel like she’s learning about animals and musical instruments and other things.

So here are mine and Molly’s favorites…


Sesame Beginnings – Molly absolutely loves this app because she absolutely loves Sesame Street. It’s really the only TV show that we let her watch because we feel like it’s very educational. Ever since she started watching it I honestly feel like her vocabulary has exploded. She knows all the characters names and has learned other things while watching too. So it’s no wonder she loves this app. However, the only thing the app really teaches her is the characters names plus a few other items. So I think it’s OK for her to play for a little bit but I don’t let her play with this one for too long.

Flash cards – Molly plays this one much more often. And it’s her absolute favorite! She loves it because of all the sounds and images she gets to discover and explore. And I love it for the same reasons, plus she’s learning words and sounds. I just think it’s a really great app for one-year-olds and even two-year-olds.

So there you have it! Those are the ones that we use. I would love to hear about the ones that you guys love that are also educational! Let’s discuss and share in the comments below!

But before I go, if any of you guys are wondering about the loungewear jumpsuit I’m wearing in these photos, I got it HERE and it’s only $14! I’m obsessed with it and wear it when I’m lounging around the house on the weekends all the time! It’s just super comfy, slightly sexy (because it comes off the shoulder) and it fits my big belly! You guys are gonna love this thing. But quick caveat, I always tell you guys if you ever buy anything off of the Shein website make sure you read the reviews. And I can only recommend things off the website that I’ve reviewed here on Ali Luvs. I’ve had a few misses from the site and I don’t want the same thing to happen to you guys. So I highly recommend this loungewear jumpsuit! And I also recommend the looks below from the site. The weekend shirt  below is one of my favorite ever! And it’s only $15.


The wink wink top below is only $11! I LOVE IT!


65 Thoughts

65 thoughts on “Educational Phone Apps for Toddlers! And Lounge Wear for Under $15

  1. Ali, I’m 65 and we didn’t have “technology” when I was growing up, but it’s here now and it’s not going away. I think it’s to a child’s benefit to expose them to it early but with the “in moderation” caveat. Let Molly play with her apps and watch TV but balance it with lots of creative, hands-on activities, indoors and out. She’ll probably grow up using a tablet to read books, so why fight it?!

  2. Animals by Cleverbit is a great app. My now 4 year old still loves it.

    It shows all types of animals (pets, wild animals, bugs, ocean creatures) and so they can flip through the animals and hear the sounds they make. And at the end is a little Pick 4 quiz (Where is the dog) Best thing is no ads and they CANNOT get out of the App! 🙂

    Now we use ABC mouse but I’m not sure shes old enough

    1. Oooooooo I LOVE that she can’t get out of the app. When I give her my phone to play an app and walk away, next thing I know she’s liking random tweets on Twitter! Ha!

      1. If you use an iPhone, turn on guided access!!
        Once that’s enabled, you hit the start button 3 times and it locks the phone down to the app you’re in (including ads, etc)!

  3. Hi. Ali.
    My son is 21 months. He watched tv only 2 times when he had a cold. My husband convinced my to do it. I am unfortunately full time working mom. (Would love to be stay home or working from home mom…) so as soon as I get home it’s all about spending time with him. And it would kill me to put the tv on. That’s our time together. So no technology at our house. I’m very strick about that. My husband loves his Cubbies though so he keeps telling me he wants our son to watch it at least few games. (We will go to the game not watch on tv. lol )
    Anyways I don’t think it’s wrong for you to let her watch or play with technology. Maybe I will look at it differently if I was home more. But for our home tv/phones is off limits.

  4. I need that cute jumpsuit!
    Your journey of motherhood is fantastic, Ali. You & Kevin are both wise, caring parents.
    I don’t know what advice to offer except I think moderation is a good word &
    Education is the best!
    Have a great Feb in your new home.

  5. Love love love this!!! I just went & downloaded BOTH!
    Also, I saw the potty you got the other day & ordered that as well. Love that you’re real & I always trust your suggestions! Thanks! Xo

  6. Great ideas — I am going to try them for my 20 mo old! We use “Elmo Calls” or just play her little video spinets we have of her from daycare or where ever. She is so obsessed.

    I hear you on the challenge of keeping TV/phone off, but as someone above mentioned, technology is here and its here to stay. Its about finding boundaries you’re comfortable with and sticking to them. Good luck Mama!

  7. Ali,
    My little one is the same age as Molly (only a month apart) so I totally get it! He goes to school during the day and when we get home it’s cooking/ cleaning and other stuff, thankfully he doesn’t sit there the whole time, he walks around and plays. We have story time and singing time at bed time. I still haven’t warmed up the the iPad for a young child, but after reading your blog and recommendations I just might change my mind and test it out.

    Btw! You are super mom to Molly!

  8. I think it’s fine to expose them to technology at a young age. Technology will be an even bigger part of her generation so I think you are doing her a favor by letting her practice a little bit. My son is 14 months old and has watched Super Simple Songs on YouTube since he was 6 months old. He loves music and loves to dance! We also like Daniel Tiger which is a children’s show that is a “spin off” of Mr. Rogers. They have several episodes on Amazon Prime streaming. The technology hasn’t detracted his interest in “reading” books and playing outside. I’m all for it, Ali!

    1. My daughter is 16 months and LOVES Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood as well. I love that they always have life lessons and think it’s actually a great tool to help teach about different emotions and behaviors. There are some episodes where the family has a new baby and brings her home and Daniel has to adjust to having a new baby around. I’m currently pregnant due in June, so these episodes will definitely be playing as time gets closer for us to bring home our new baby. The show is on PBS and there is a PBS app that will show the most recent episode. My daughter starts laughing and clapping when she hears the opening song

    2. I’m not here to cause any problems, but it is important to keep in mind that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under 18m, and less than an hour per day for children 2-5 years. If you are exposing them to screen time, it should be educational.

      Not giving your toddler screen time will not set them back, they will certainly learn to use technology well throughout childhood. There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that children exposed to screen time will be at a disadvantage, but there is evidence that it can be detrimental for children if they have too much of it. So, be sure to stick to the recommendations made based on research!

      1. typo- There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that children *not* exposed to screen time will be at a disadvantage,

    3. I was also going to suggest Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Super cute show and has a lesson, too. One of my little grandkids was sitting and watching this whole show around 18 months, he loved it! We watched it on TV, not an app. I think moderation is the key here, like everything else.

  9. Hi Ali,

    I’m 27 and have no children, so take this post with a grain of salt for sure. I have no idea how stressful it can be to keep your toddler occupied and I’m not sure which apps are best for Molly, but as far as screen time regulating goes, I thought you might find this article interesting for both Molly and the baby on the way. Please don’t take this as me trying to tell you how to raise your children. Just simply spreading info that not many people know about and might be helpful to you and your family. I first learned about these guidelines when I heard Kristen Bell in an interview mention that her daughter (when she was younger) hadn’t seen Frozen yet, or any TV for that matter. Anyways, hope you have a great weekend and congrats on your new home!

    1. My daughter will be 2 in March and she loves Endless numbers, which is in the same family as Endless alphabet! It has helped her learn to count and identify her numbers!

      Also, Knock Knock is an app where you can add pictures of people and when you click a door it opens and says their name! I don’t have family near by so it helps my daughter learn faces and remember them!

  10. Hi Ali!
    You are doing a great job!! There are so many educational cartoons and online things for her. It stimulates her brain and teaches. You are her mommy and use your intuition to know when enough is enough. Every baby is different. No telling where technology will be when she’s older so best to expose her now. You don’t want to be “that” mom that didn’t let her do what will surely be the norm. She’s a doll and so are you!! ❤

  11. You are super-mom to Molly and that is all that matters. When my second child was born last summer our pediatrician literally said to me, “Do not feel guilty if you need to use the TV.” Being preggo, working full time and having a toddler is not the easiest task. You’re doing just fine with your mom skills. Don’t let anyone tell you differently!

  12. Hi Ali,
    My son is 22 months old and he is watching tv one time per day when I need to do the dishes for 30 minutes. He’s usually watching Curious George or Daniel’s Tiger Neighborhood tv shows. Sometimes he’s playing with apps on iPad but not very often. But he loves car wash app or smart puzzles even though he doesn’t know what to do. I aloud him to play or watch tv more when he’s sick. That time I can little bit relax too.
    Thank you for your tips. You are a great mom.

  13. I have 3 girls age 14, 12, and 8. My older 2 had very little exposure to technology when they were young. They played a few games on our desktop computer. My youngest was much more familiar with apps in my phone. I think the main way parents misuse technology to to feel that their child needs visually entertained all the time. Times when we don’t use technology in my house…doctors appointments, car rides, restaurants. Kids have forgotten how to just sit and wait. Cars have DVD players and kids have iPads. Sometimes you just have to sit, be bored, and behave. So….no matter what apps you use, it’s more about being minimal with them.

  14. Hi Aly! I have 4 kids under 8, and there are a couple favourite apps that they all love!
    1. Peekaboo Barn (so cute and you can even have your voice speaking out the animals!) my 1 yr old loves it!
    2. The Human Body (so many fun things to do in this one, I never gets old!)
    3. Puzzingo (has some annoying sounds lol! But they love the puzzles!)

  15. Hey Ali! I have a 16mo old and I’m a stay at home mom and I have totally given in to technology. I have had my moments of feeling guilty about it but it’s here to stay so I feel it’s best to expose in moderation and let’s face it, it’s hard to be on as a mom All The Time. Nora is also a fan of Sesame Street but another one of our favorite apps is Mother Goose Club (they have a show on Netflix too), it’s basically just nursery rhymes… it’s cute!

  16. We use that same flash cards app. My youngest is a boy and he is speech delayed. That is the first app we have used that really does its job. He has gotten great words from that including bus and it helps with animal sounds. I could not be happier you are using that one with Molly.

  17. My son is Molly’s age and loves Tozzle! He’s big into puzzles so this allows him to continue leaning his shape recognition. There are puzzles of all types so they can advance to the tougher ones when they’re ready. Definitely worth upgrading to the paid version for the extra puzzles. It’s been a lifesaver on several long flights!

  18. Starfall ABC’s is great! Both my girls love it I have a 2 year old and a 5 year old and my 5 year has played with it since she was 18 months old, it’s super cute and they are always updating it so it’s not always the same.

  19. My son is 21 months and we watch quite a bit of Seasame Street. I’ve tried to introduce him to other shows like Daniel Tiger or Thomas the Train, but he loves his Elmo! He is super smart, knows how to count 1-14, and knows every single letter of the alphabet…and his vocabulary is impressive! (This mom loves to brag about her little boy!) Being honest though.. he watches 30 minutes of TV when I’m getting ready for work in the morning, and maybe an episode (or 2) when we get home while we are making dinner. He doesn’t sit in front of the TV and stare at it, but it’s definitely on in the background while he’s playing. I don’t feel guilty about it because I feel like it’s educational and we play A LOT at home. Even when he was younger (and now) we always seemed to have the TV on in the background…& unless Elmo is on it—he doesn’t even seem to notice.
    I would use the iPad/iPhone but I’m too afraid he’s going to break it…he’s a brute! LOL
    Technology is the future!

  20. Ali, thank you so much for being so honest. I always thought I’d be the mom with the “no tv/iPad rule”. But as my son is getting older, it’s definitely hard to get anything done without letting him have some tv time. As a stay at home mom it’s hard keeping my son entertained all day.
    We like PBS Kids. Thanks to you and the community for the app recommendations!

  21. Hi Ali! I have a 3 year old son and we kindof had a similar situation in which we went on a few long flights (Hawaii and Iceland) and he ended up using our phones or an iPad to play games to keep him occupied!

    We don’t do it all the time either but on occasion I think is ok. And some days I just want to put the laundry away and need 20 minutes to do that! =) Thank you for always being honest and open as I dislike sometimes the mom or parent shaming that happens with judgement of raising kids.

    The best ones we think are:
    Endless Alphabet-teaches words that kids wouldn’t necessarily hear everyday and puts them in sentences-There is also a Spanish one we use with him too!
    Endless Numbers
    ShapeBuilder-puzzles-good for the brain! =)

  22. Ali thank you so much for always being so real and honest and also carefull and respectfull with your opinions! Reading you is refreshing at this complicated social media times. When most people are pretending or being mean to each other. Greetings all the way from México!

  23. Hi Ali,
    I strongly believe that restricting phone/TV TOO much only makes them want it more. A little TV is not going to scar them for life! I have a 5 year old and I have let him watch TV since he was about Molly’s age (and use the iPad) occasionally and he is a very active/healthy boy. Moderation is the key to everything.
    That being said, the app he loved when he was 1.5 was “Elmo loves ABC’s”. I swear it was instrumental in helping teach him the alphabet! He would repeat the letters after Elmo and learn them that way. If Elmo’s voice doesn’t grate you, I highly recommend!

    Love your blog!

  24. I’m a teacher and use It’s starts with their letter sounds then beginner reading. It’s animated so even if they are not technically old enough. they can listen, repeat and enjoy. Keep it in mind if not now, for later!
    Someone also mentioned abcmouse. That is also good but maybe when she’s a little older.

  25. It might be a little too soon, but we bought our granddaughter (with parental permission) an Amazon Fire a couple years ago, in her favorite color purple. It has parental controls on sites available and has parent set time limits. She uses it to watch movies and tv shows, play videos, play games, draw, etc. There are hundreds of apps and books and games for children of all ages that entertain and teach sounds, things about animals, also pre-math and reading, concepts, etc. that increase in difficulty as she masters basics. She has never wanted to play with our phones, but her baby sister is already hooked on playing with cell phones. So the tablet might be something to consider….

  26. Hi Ali. I completely understand where you’re coming from as a working mom of two kids (5, 1) myself. However, I completely disagree with you in regards to screen time. I’m coming from a friendly place and understand we can all agree to disagree. The AAP has relaxed their screen recommendations in about the last year and I think it’s because parents weren’t following the guidelines anyway. But, with my first we didn’t do any screens until after 3. And even now at age 5, it’s probably about 2 hours per week total. With my one year old we have done none.
    Screen time has been linked to anxiety in elementary school age so I don’t think we’re doing our kids any favors starting them so young. It can affect sleep, posture (watch a kid in a stroller with an iPad and you’ll see what I mean), and it has not been shown to improve vocabulary.
    Screen time at Molly’s age is suggested to be very high caliber and the parent should watch with the child. That would go against your theory of getting a break.
    Here are suggestions that have worked for us. Some take a little prep work but will give you time in the long run. If in the kitchen, hand Molly some plastic bowls and different size spoons. She can “help” you. Activities of varying degrees of difficulty putting objects in and taking them out. A ball pit – we use her pack n play and tons of small, soft balls. Gives her a safe place and fun, while you can walk away to be productive.
    These are just a few quick ideas. Again, this is just a friendly suggestion. I understand you’re going to do what you’re going to do. And what’s right for my family might not be right for yours. I just know that what can start with some mild apps can lead to 3 year olds at daycare telling other 3 year olds about how they saw Star Wars in the theater. That has happened more than you can even understand. Let’s let kids be kids as long as possible. They are very easily entertained at this young age. Thanks for reading. I love reading your blog.

  27. Ali, you are a fabulous mom! Ignore these other posts about screen time. Every NORMAL mom with kids let’s them watch a little TV from time to time and use apps!

    New studies will be out soon showing that limited educational screen time exposure is actually beneficial for social skills and language.

    -Harvard Alum, Child Psychologist, mother of five kids

    1. You had me until “NORMAL.” Maybe you should have said LAZY.

      Thought we were in a safe space.

      Mother of two, masters degree in kinesiology, I’ll give you Harvard.

  28. I live in NW WA so during the fall & winter it’s hard to not watch tv or play games cause we are cooped up from rainy days.. our favorite apps our anything musical or artistic, hands down. My little guy also likes talking tom! He feeds tom, bathes tom, tom takes vacations & he puts tom to bed! They have “talking Angela” for girls 😉💖

  29. We use the “Bible for Kids” app when our son wants our phone. It has a ton of Bible stories with interactive features throughout the story. For example, you can click on the Lions during Noah’s ark and they will growl. My son loves it and I like that it’s getting biblical truth into him even though it’s fun!

  30. AnimalsPuzzle, Smart Sorter, and a letter tracing app are some of my favs. I’m a middle school teacher and a mommy of a 3 yr old and 2 yr old. I always feel a little guilty when handing them the phone- but some apps truly are educational and amazing! And I think a balance of everything is great.

    Jumper is adorable! It is down to $10 now 🙂
    Thanks for the link!

    I’ve been a fan of you since your bachelor days – congrats on baby #2!!

  31. My son is the same age as Molly and I let him watch Sesame Street in moderation and on the plane or in the car he watches apps on the iPad. My husband and I grew up watching tv all the time as toddlers and we both ended up going to Harvard so I get super annoyed when people act like it’s damaging their brains to ever let them watch a screen. Screens are unavoidable this day and age and they can be great learning tools as long as kids can still get out and play and interact!

  32. Hey Ali! My daughter is 18 months old and we’ve started letting her have a little screen time recently too. She LOVES classical baby on HBO Go – it’s a baby that directs an orchestra of animals and they play well known classical pieces. She is into Elmo and I’ve noticed an increase in vocabulary just like you have since we’ve started letting her watch Seasame Street. I used to feel guilty about screen time but I decided to just let it go because we do plenty of other things that don’t involve screens and she’s not watching a crazy amount of tv. I’m also pregnant and have been so sick, so if it means she will cuddle with me on the couch and watch Sesame Street, or give me a few minutes to empty the dishwasher then so be it. Every child has a different temperment and I think at the end of the day we are all just doing what works best for our families. Thanks again for being real, as always!

    PS: I haven’t looked into any apps yet, but that will be good to remember the next time we travel!

  33. Ali,

    I think you and Kevin seem like wonderful, loving, attentive parents. My wise Mom used to say parenting is one profession that doesn’t have a how-to manual.

    I enjoy following your website and seeing you on Hallmark.

    Take care, Debra

  34. Hi Ali! My son is 22 Months. I need to check out these apps! I’ve let him watch YouTube and I put the iPhone into “Guided Access” mode, you can do it on the iPad, too. That way when he presses the home button, he doesn’t leave the app. The only downside is once it’s in guided access, you can’t change the volume-this could also be a good thing 😉 (And he could still leave comments for a YouTube video or rate it bc it keeps you in whatever app you are in when you turn it on 😂) but it is helpful to keep him in the app. Hope this helps when you give it to Molly and walk away for a second!!

    1. Katie – you can still have volume controls in guided access! When you hit the home button 3 times the first time you’re in a new app, there is an “options” button at the bottom. Click this to enable volume controls! If you have already set up guided access on a particular app, you can get to the options by clicking 3 times in and then 3 times again to stop – this should give you the options menu.

  35. Hi! I love reading your blog! My daughter is 18 months and we just had our second daughter 2 months ago. I find reading your blog encouraging and insightful especially when it is about things your are doing with Molly (especially your blog post on sleep training). Anyway, I totally relate to this post. Two shows my daughter enjoys are Curious George (which is very educational) and Clifford. We like Clifford because the books keep her entertained as well! Keep up the good work as a mommy!

  36. My daughter is 16 months and loves the Fisher Price iPhone apps! They have the alphabet, counting, shapes, animals etc. that all teach them about each subject. There’s another called ‘I hear ewe’ that does animal sounds and transportation vehicle sounds. We save app time for long car rides or at restaurants 🙂

  37. My 18 month old son doesn’t really play apps on my phone but we do let him watch BLIPPI on YouTube and he is obsessed with it! It’s very educational too. I think it would appeal to girls also, although it’s geared more towards little boy that like trucks, tractors, trains, etc.

    Question for you Ali, does Molly have her own iPad or tablet yet? I call it a “crack pad” for kids. I didn’t want my son to have one until he was older… maybe age 5. But of course, my mother-in-law bought him an Amazon fire tablet (WITHOUT ASKING ME) for Christmas. Ugh.

    And as for regular TV, we try to limit it but sometimes he just needs to be entertained while we get stuff done around the house. His favorite shows are Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Puppy Dog Pals.

  38. As a mom of a 19 month old daughter, I can totally relate to where you are coming from. Sometimes us moms need a “break” too, and if that means I need to turn on the tv for 20 minutes for my daughter to actually sit still, then so be it. I don’t see anything wrong with screen time in moderation. My daughter’s vocabulary this past month has literally exploded. She says 2-3 new words a day and she watches tv, and I have no problem saying that. I grew up watching tv because my mom was a single mother who worked two jobs and sometimes that was the only way to give my mom a break. And now I am a proud college graduate and have an amazing job.

    Don’t listen to the haters Ali, you are a great Mom and Molly is a smarty!

  39. Ally I have a 21 month old an d her favorite app which is also a website is ABC mouse. This is very educstional. You actually need a membership bit since I am a teacher I get it free. She loves doing puzzles and listening to books. Everything has to do with reading and math with lots for them to do. She unfortunately became obsessed with it so I had to delete it off my phone. I now can’t have my phone out at all because all she wants to do is “puzzles”

    Instead of having her on my phone she watches songs on Netflix. She loves watching “little Baby Bum” and “mother Goose Club”. I like having her watch these shows instead of my phone because I don’t have to worry about what she is getting into on my phone. Her vocabulary is amazing because of watching these shows!

  40. My little guy is about a month younger than Molly and I am currently a week behind you in pregnancy! I love the jumper you posted- do you know if it is sold anywhere else or can be shipped to Canada? Its so what I need right now! Also love this post about apps- I feel exactly the same way and have been looking for some good ones!

    Thanks for all that you share 🙂

  41. Hi Ali! I was wondering if you could please e-mail me the info on the educational app Molly uses? I have heard you talk about it and I’ve see Molly use it, but for some reason when you put a swipe up link to try it free for a month my phone won’t let me swipe up to get it. Probably because I refuse to load the Facebook app on my new iPhone! Anyway, my daughter in law and son are interested in starting my 22 month old granddaughter on one of these apps like Molly uses. I told her about it, but didn’t have the info for it. I would appreciate it so muck! I so enjoy watching Molly and Riley videos! They are so smart and so stinking cute! Molly talks like a little adult and it’s so cute! Thanks again!
    Kathy 💕

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