iPhone/iPod touch apps
I mentioned this before, but it's worth repeating. Baby Monitor ($4.99US) by CodeGoo calls you when Jr. starts to fuss. Simply launch Baby Monitor and put it in his bedroom. When he starts to cry, Baby Monitor will call a pre-determined phone number, like your home's land line. It's not a substitute for a genuine baby monitor, but certainly useful for when you forget to bring the real deal to Grandma's house.
When my son was new, we purchased a white noise machine for his bedroom. It produces five sounds, including stream, car, heartbeat, music and white noise, and cost thirty dollars.
For $0.99US, Ambiance [iTunes link] plays more than fifty sounds. You can combine sounds to create new ones and adjust settings like duration, fade out and a lot more. Updates of the app always include new sounds, and you've got the option to delete sounds you dislike to save room.
Grocery IQ ($0.99US) [iTunes link] is an application I didn't anticipate using. I'm a pen-and-paper guy (read: old geezer), and dislike typing on the phone for extended periods. It's not the iPhone's fault, the keyboard is great. I'm just quicker with a pen.
Despite this, Grocery IQ has earned a spot on my home screen. Not only is creating a list as easy as a click, you can save frequently-purchased items and even a standard list. Plus, it's a lot easier to de-select an item you've tossed into the cart than cross it off of your paper list after Jr. has tossed your pen.
I've mentioned iChalky ($0.99) [iTunes link] before, too, but both my 3-year-old and my 5-year-old love it. Poor Chalky is a physicis-aware stick figure who is subject to your kid's whims. Shake him, flip him, hang him from a push pin. It's just the ticket for avoiding a full meltdown in the middle of the post office.
Read on for hardware, software and accessory recommendations!
You can't go wrong with a vintage Mac! For about $100US, you can have a nice Mac set up for the kids that keeps them away from yours. Grab a 350MHz or 400MHZ iMac off of Ebay or Craigslist (they're going for about $25US right now). I'd avoid the 333MHz iMac, as the tray-loading CD-ROM is easily snapped off by young, eager hands. It will probably come with a 6GB or 10GB hard drive, which is plenty for their purposes.
You'll want to wipe the drive, so grab an OS 9 installer CD. You won't find one for sale at Apple, but check with your local Apple Authorized Retailer, vintage electronics shop or Mac User's Group. I found 9.0.4 to be a decent build of OS 9, so grab that if you can.
From there, you can install all sorts of games, both educational and recreational. Again, check with the same resouces you used to find OS 9.
We'll let you decide on Internet access, but remember you'll need one of those internal adapters to get an original Airport Card connected to this iMac. Both will set you back about $50 on Ebay.
If you're going really retro for the kids (that's pre-OS 8.1), check out Apple's Older Software Downloads page.
The Datadesk LittleFingers Keyboard is just the right size a student in early elementary school, and features appropriately sized and spaced keys, a built-in trackpad and user-definable function keys. They cost around $100, depending on the model.
iLife includes, without question, some of the best software you can hand to a new parent. The ease of iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and iWeb make it actually fun to share photos and movies of Jr. with far-flung family and friends. Photo books, calendars, DVDs, etc. make wonderful gifts, and creating them is something even bleary-eyed new parents can accomplish.
Macgourmet ($24.95US) is recipe management software that we've written about before. Store and share favorite recipes, generate shopping lists and more. As a parent of two toddlers, I can tell you how helpful it is to have the week's meals planned out ahead of time. Macgourmet makes that easy.
Alice introduces kids to programming in a fun and unique way. Developed at Carnegie Mellon, Alice introduces the basics of object-oriented programming by having kids develop animations. It's won praise from several sources, and it's free.
iKlear Apple Polish will safely remove Jr.'s smeared fingerprints from just about all of your Apple hardware. If you're the type that hands your iPhone or iPod touch to the kids, you'll appreciate a bottle of iKlear.
The Charger Frame ($20US) displays your favorite photo of Jr. while it charges two devices, like your iPod and iPhone. It comes in several colors, and is just the kind of thing you non-parents will scoff at that we parents would love.