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iPhone apps for your rug rats

Every day another gazillion iPhone applications are released into the wild, and the vast majority are designed for grownups. But more and more developers, realizing how many young hands are reaching for their parents' phones, are creating apps for kids. The list below highlights some of the more promising entries in the exploding field.

By Chris Colin

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Cooking Mama

Cooking Mama

iTunes Store
Ages 4 and up, $6.99

Why not Cooking Papa? Why must the young cook be a girl? Legitimate questions, but this is still a worthwhile introduction to the culinary arts. Using the tilt and touch features of the iPhone, kids can execute all manner of virtual chef maneuvers, from chopping to mixing to garnishing. They're not exactly ready for Iron Chef by the time they've mastered the dozen or so recipes, but their appetite is whetted — and they have a new appreciation for what mama or papa are doing in the kitchen.

Bottom line: Your kid can refine his kitchen techniques as a virtual chef.

Chris Colin is the author of What Really Happened to the Class of '93 and writes the "On the Job" column for the San Francisco Chronicle as well as stories for the New York Times, Mother Jones, McSweeney’s Quarterly, and GOOD magazine. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.

Comments from readers

"Would love to see some recs on Adroid-based educational apps."
"Very entertaining, but do they learn anything about spelling?"
"I was trying to teach my 3 year old how to write his letters - he was not very interested. I downloaded the Letter Tracer app and he quickly learned how to write all the letters. It was a great learning tool. I also downloaded all his leap frog movies and some Disney ones too. Great for a long dinner with friends - he watches his movie when he is finished eating. I would recommend getting an itouch to any parent of a pre-schooler!"
"I don't agree with the two previous comments. Let's face it. We all have been waiting in a doctor's office or going through the super market and wish our kids had something to do for two minutes while we choose which milk to buy. I have dozens of apps, why not have some children friendly ones. Having a couple of educational apps on my I-phone doesn't mean that my children don't go out and play and that I am not reading to them personally. In this busy times, we need all the helping tools we can get. I thank you Great schools. "
"Parents, you need to remember everything in moderation, yes there are hazards associated with 98% of everything we do, but moderation is key. I read the two posts out there and think, wow, when did you the parent lose your control? I think these apps would be a useful tool on my phone and then my child gets to use it when I want him too, at times when we are away from home, waiting in long lines and/or waiting at a DR office, after his homework has been completed. Be the Parent! "
"What does any of this have to do with a phone? "
"I find the fact that Great Schools has made no mention of the health hazzards that may be associated with children's use of cell phones very disturbing. This is at least the third article on children's use of cell phones that has made no mention of President Obama's Cancer Panal and Arlen Spector's Senate Hearings on Cell Phone safety both of which spoke of the epidemiological data the shows a association between EMF exposure and the increased risk of Childhood brain tumors and leukemia. I would like to be removed from receiving any further emails from your organization because I have no time or inclination to read what seems to be a marketing engine of a questionable technologies where children's health is concerned."
"While I applaud the educational component, I find it a little disturbing that there is a focus on young child applications on phones. There are so many articles about how our kids need to get out and play and how 'unplugging' your child would allow for more real in person socialization. If kids are using phone applications at the age they are interested in Clifford, what will they be asking for at age 12! While I'm an advocate of keeping my child technologically educated, games for kids as apps on cell phones are one more reason it's difficult to explain to my 10 year old why she can't have the latest greatest cell phone or ipodTouch thing because 'everyone else has it'."