Books, iPads and that Darn Telly

I never wanted an iPad. I knew our child would become addicted and with his strong personality, I wasn’t really up for the fight. But, as it would happen, we did get one (Happy 30th Birthday me!!) and it came with much delight to the parents (a.k.a us), and STRICT stringent rules for the kid/s.

As parents in this (absolutely terrifying) generation (of technology and all-things-accessible), there is this ongoing debate about how many hours of TV are appropriate for what age (each to their own), and should kids be allowed to play on iPads and are they ‘evil babysitters’ and are you a terrible parent for allowing your kids a brief viewing when you simply need a cup of tea and a slab of chocolate? To put your mind at ease, if you are even only the slightest bit concerned about this stuff, you’re top notch and should purchase yourself a noddy badge this very minute (or at least grab a glass of wine… after 5pm, please).

A number of friends have asked how we do the book/ipad/tv stuff. We are by no means the know-it-alls around this (I have no degree in early childhood development), but I thought I’d share a little insight into our family…

We are a BOOK family. This is by intention (my husband is an academic) and well, because our kids are not big TV fans. I know – it’s made that battle slightly less stressful. In fact when we were on a long distance flight recently, I enthusiastically found the in-flight kids channel and forced the earphones over my 3 year old’s ears desperate for some distraction but errr… well… no.  It lasted all of about 1 minute – accompanied by our bribery food of choice – banana chips.

‘It is through hearing stories about wicked stepmothers, lost children, good but misguided kings, wolves that suckle twin boys, youngest sons who receive no inheritance but must make their own way in the world and eldest sons who waste their inheritance on riotous living and go into exile to live with the swine that children learn or mislearn both what a child and what a parent is, what the cast of characters may be in the drama into which they have been born and what the ways of the world are. Deprive children of stories and you leave them unscripted, anxious stutterers in their actions as in their words.’

—Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 3d ed. (University of Notre Dame Press, 2007), p. 216.

But, we’re also a bit of an iPad family – far less so than the books but it still makes its presence known often. After my son had an eye op, we were instructed to patch his strong eye and interestingly enough, our ophthalmologist ENCOURAGED the iPad. There you have it. It’s hard not to feel judged when people watch your glasses-wearing toddler staring at a bright iPad screen because doesn’t too much screen time cause the need for glasses? Apparently not folks.

So while I’m going to be of no help on the TV front (sorry!), I will share with you our BEST books and iPad apps that our kids love (and when I say kids I mean the older one because the younger one just has to abide by what the older one wants – as you with multiple kids would know).

Our Favourite Books: (in no particular order)

Goodnight Moon – Margaret Wise Brown


‘In this classic of modern children’s literature, beloved by generations of readers and listeners, the quiet poetry of the words and the gentle, lulling illustrations combine to make a perfect book for the end of the day’. A must have.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar  – Eric Carle


A classic, where kids learn counting, days of the week, and transformation using an interactive board book with pages cut short and with holes in the pages, where the caterpillar has ‘eaten through’ them. Apparently a favourite of former Pres. George W. Bush, this book has been linked to America’s obesity problem – but I mean… come on.

Where is the Green Sheep? – Mem Fox


There are red sheep and blue sheep, wind sheep and wave sheep, scared sheep and brave sheep, but where is the green sheep? … I love this one.

Time for Bed – Mem Fox


Another winner, read almost every night before bed. A quick read, featuring many different animals as they go to sleep. Rhyming words, delicate illustrations, and a recommendation by Mary-Ruth Wilkinson (who I trust with my LIFE when it comes to children’s book recommendations).

Little Blue Truck – Alice Schertle


Bought for us by a friend on my oldest’s 1st birthday – I LOVE this book. It has such wonderful rhythm and rhyme making it the perfect book to read aloud.

“Horn went ‘Beep!’
Engine purred.
Friendliest sounds
you ever heard.”

‘Little Blue Truck is friends with all of the barnyard animals, and he is always nice to everyone. Meanwhile big, mean Dumptruck has no time for anyone smaller than him and thinks he’s the biggest, most important thing around. Then Dumptruck gets stuck in the mud and since he’s been so mean no one wants to help him out…’

Jesus Storybook Bible – Sally Lloyd-Jones


If you want to buy a bible  – please, please, please buy this one. It won the 2010 ALA Notable Award and the 2010 Mom’s Choice Awards and the Debbie Knighton-Fitt Mom Choice Award all years running. As a gift for our firstborn from his Godmother, we received this with the audio CD and he is obbbbb-sessssed with it. Hands down, the best bible I’ve seen, gorgeous illustrations, catchy sayings, and theologically beautiful. I’m desperate to buy the DVDs.

The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson


‘This book is about a mouse who took a stroll into the woods, along his way he scares a fox, an owl and a snake by telling them the story of the gruffalo who eats them for dinner. The mouse then runs into the gruffalo and he is hungry for mice. The mouse advised the gruffalo that everyone is afraid of him and that the gruffalo should be scared. To prove himself he advises the gruffalo to follow him behind, as they walk through the woods they come across the fox, the owl and the snake who run away when they see the gruffalo although the gruffalo believes they are running from the mouse as he is the most scariest creature in the woods.’

A gorgeous turn-around story, so cleverly written with wonderfully descriptive phrases and catchy wording.

Ten in the Bed – Penny Dale


Buy this book, buy this book now!  An ABSOLUTE bedtime favorite, and with a rhyme/song you will immediately recognize, this is well loved by all children. This has been torn apart (with excitement and immaturity) and taped back together again, and again. Another recommendation by Mary-Ruth Wilkinson.

Lost and Found – Oliver Jeffers


About a boy who finds a penguin. An emotional one for us since it’s the first book our firstborn ‘recited’ as he was learning to talk – much to our amazement. We read this over and over and oooover.

‘This is a lovely book about friendship. One day, a little boy finds a penguin on his doorstep. Presuming the penguin is lost, he decides to help the penguin return to the south pole. They set off in a rowing boat and the boy tells the penguin lots of stories on the way. Once arrived at the south pole, the boy sets off for home alone, but both he and the penguin are sad. Eventually the boy realises that the penguin hadn’t been lost, but had simply wanted a friend and they are reunited.’

The Runaway Bunny – Margaret Wise Brown


A beautiful book. Well loved.

The Runaway Bunny is a 1942 picture book written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd. The plot deals with a small rabbit, who wants to run away. His mother, however, tells him that “if you run away, I will run after you”

The Little Yellow Digger – Betty & Alan Gilderdale

little yellow digger

Given to our boys in New Zealand by very dear family of our friends, this has been read a gazillion times. A NZ favourite and bestseller, this is ‘definitely one of the best picture books for kids learning how to read; a simple and clear text with a solid rhyming scheme, awesome bright pictures, and a practical message. The book works through progressively bigger tractors getting stuck in the mud, and then unspools it with the little yellow digger ending up the ultimate hero (and the concrete pad finally laid).’

Press Here – Herve Tullet


Given to us by another one of my favourite girlfriends in the entire universe, this book had ME captivated at first read. This is imagination at its BEST! Without question, a must-buy. You can’t go wrong with this one.

‘Opening the pages of Press Here a child enters into an imaginative world filled with dots of all colors and sizes, but it all starts with a simple yellow dot. As pages are turned and actions completed the dots come to life before a child’s eyes. Turn the book, shake the book and even blow on the dots in the book and listen to the laughter pour into your home as children & adults everywhere fall in love with this ingenious little picture book’.

Your Favourite Dr. Seuss – Dr.Seuss


The day we left Canada, while our bags were packed and sitting in our apartment, we took a stroll down memory lane. We drove past the hospital where the boys were born, we popped in at Regent College where my husband had studied and we took a walk through Chapters on Granville and Broadway – where I had worked my first job (and had been there approx 9 days). In a moment of pure spontaneity, we bought this ridiculously heavy and expensive ($45) book for the kids. Out of 4.5 years in Vancouver, this has to have been one of the best things we bought overseas. I get emotional just thinking about it.

Want a good GREEN story? Read The Lorax (included in this collection)…

‘The Lorax presents the complicated issue of caring for our environment to children in an approachable lesson about the mythical creature “the Lorax”. The Lorax “speaks for the trees” as he defends a forest of “Truffula” trees from the greedy axe of the Once-ler, a man selfishly determined to make a fortune without thought to his lasting impact on the environment and creatures around him. The Once-ler is successful, as least for a while. But before long, the Truffula trees are all gone, the forest creatures are forced to leave for their own survival, and the Once-ler who refused to heed the warnings of the Lorax is soon out of business for good. The story offers an element of hope and redemption at the end, as the Once-ler gives his account to a small boy many years later, offering him the last Truffula seed with the expectation that the boy will reverse the damage that he has done’.

Winnie the Pooh, a Collection of Tales and Poems – A.A. Milne


Another irresistible collection of stories and poems. This is another classic that has captivated the minds of adults and children alike. Beautifully written, and illustrated, you can’t help but love the simplicity (and depth) of the storytelling and the characters who reside in the Hundred Acre Wood.

‘When Christopher Robin asks Pooh what he likes doing best in the world, Pooh says, after much thought, “What I like best in the whole world is Me and Piglet going to see You, and You saying ‘What about a little something?’ and Me saying, ‘Well, I shouldn’t mind a little something, should you, Piglet,’ and it being a hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing.”

‘Happy readers for over 70 years couldn’t agree more. Pooh’s status as a “Bear of Very Little Brain” belies his profoundly eternal wisdom in the ways of the world. To many, Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and the others are as familiar and important as their own family members. A.A. Milne’s classics, Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, are brought together in this beautiful edition, complete and unabridged, with recolored illustrations by Milne’s creative counterpart, Ernest H. Shepard. Join Pooh and the gang as they meet a Heffalump, help get Pooh unstuck from Rabbit’s doorway, (re)build a house for Eeyore, and try to unbounce Tigger. A childhood is simply not complete without full participation in all of Pooh’s adventures’. (All ages) – Emilie Coulter.

There are (obviously) many, many, maaaany more books which I’ve not featured here, and which we love such as There’s a Wocket in my Pocket, Possum Magic, Where the Wild Things Are, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, Each Peach Pear Plum, Llama Llama, Love You Forever (read by Joey to Emma, Rachel’s daughter on F.R.I.E.N.D.S), Going to Bed Book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Beautiful Oops and the list goes on.

… and no, I didn’t forget about Narnia. As the kids are getting older… Mr Tumnus is becoming more and more of an intriguing character in our lives…

*Mary-Ruth Wilkinson co-authored an incredibly insightful book called Time To Read, with her daughter Heidi Wilkinson Teel.

‘In a Time to Read, Mary Ruth K. Wilkinson and her daughter, Heidi Wilkinson Teel, have compiled a helpful guide to children’s books. More than bibliography A TIME TO READ also includes essays on the nature of children, families, literature and story–and how these hold together in a Christian life, reflecting Mary Ruth’s 30 years’ experience teaching a literary and Christian approach to children’s books.’

~ Right, so, I lent this book to someone in Vancouver. I’d love it back if that’s you!

*(Most) book titles are linked to a website called Better World Books. Not only are they an amazing online store with millions of titles, but they offer free shipping ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD! You can buy new, gently used or well used books at reduced prices, and they raise money to aid literacy, learning and the building of libraries.

iPad Apps:

Far from being the perfect parent (FAAAAR), I have limited the iPad to only having educational apps. The kids know no different – they love them. We also put the clock timer on, on the iPad itself so when it buzzes, time’s UP (no tantrums).

The Endless Series: My ULTIMATE favourite. Of.all.time.

Endless wordplay

Endless Alphabet, Endless Numbers, Endless Reader, Endless Wordplay.

Usually, the initial download is free and then if you wish to acquire more words, letters, numbers etc. then you need to purchase them. Worth every penny.

endless musician

I’m fairly certain my child can recite and sound out his alphabet, can count and build words (!) PURELY because of the AMA-ZING Endless Series. I love love love LOVE these apps.

‘Endless Alphabet is a great educational app that allows children to practice their alphabet while learning new words and definitions as well as practice their spelling skills. With highly animated letters and characters, this app takes learning to a new level. It engages and educates little minds as they explore new words with fun and silly characters.’ –

Letters with Pooh – Disney

Letters with pooh

Practice writing your ABCs with Winnie the Pooh in this interactive app. Help Pooh complete his quest for honey by catching falling letters and bringing letter puzzles to life. (Parents and caregivers can track proficiency for up to four children in the comprehensive parents’ section).

The PrestoBingo Apps were great when my son had his eye patch on and needed to use his weaker eye to identify shapes and colours…

PrestoBingo Colours – PrestoBingo

PrestoBingo Color’s first set of colors covers basic identification for preschoolers: black, blue, brown, gray, green, orange, pink, purple, red, white and yellow. On each screen, kids are asked to find objects of a certain color. Friendly narration guides them if they get stuck. To make it more challenging, sometimes kids will need to tilt their device to find a hiding shape that’s just off the screen. Then, when the basics are mastered, the difficulty level can be changed. Magenta? Periwinkle? Plum? Developing a broad vocabulary to describe color becomes a fun game.

PrestoBingo Shapes – PrestoBingo

Learn SHAPES! Beautifully illustrated and animated puzzles hide up to 20 shapes. This game teaches your child circles, diamonds, ovals, rectangles, semicircles, squares, trapezoids, and triangles. Each type of shape is explained and identified. Play a game of hide and seek. Some shapes are in plain sight, but some can be tricky to find! Do I spy an oval, hidden in the tree? Do I spy a diamond kite floating in the sky? See how many shapes you can see in each puzzle.

Thomas and Friends – Engine Activity Fun – HiT Entertainment


Little engineers will be entertained for hours as they play with come-alive puzzles, creativity-boosting coloring pages, and brain-building matching games (currently a little too advanced for my tots). Extend the play even further by purchasing additional packs with new puzzles, coloring pages, and collectible match cards.

Please join in the conversation!

What are your child’s absolute favourite books, iPad apps, and TV programs?  Do you give them a TV limit per day? Do you limit the iPad to desperate measures? Let’s chat about these things as we navigate ourselves through such a technologically advanced society that we feel sane, and after all this, that we’re doing okay…

CS Lewis

8 thoughts on “Books, iPads and that Darn Telly

  1. We have a room FULL of books! Where to begin with favourites? For newborns to 1: 10 little fingers and 10 little toes, If its written by Julia Donaldson – just get it, it will be brilliant (The gruffalo, The snail and the whale, Room on the Broom etc) I love Each Peach Pear Plum, and absolute favourite, The Pout Pout Fish. Oh! And Edward and Edwina the Emu.
    We only just started exposure to ipad (on the potty only)… I started with endless series as dear friend and author of this blog recommended. Elsie is too terrified of the monsters to touch them (epic fail!). She likes Elmo though.
    TV: Kipper, Kipper, KIPPER. 7 minutes long so they are not sucked in for ages. Slow moving. Not flashy and bright and in-your-face. The characters are so loveable. Etienne and I love watching it with her as much as she loves watching it.

    Great list Debs 🙂 So many little ones don’t read these days.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! I know you know how important it is to read and instill in your children the love of books. YAY 🙂 I must try this Klipper 🙂

  2. Thanks for this post…we’ll be meeting our baby boy in just one weeks time, and while he is still so little, it’s great to have some tips for when he is a little bit older ?

    1. ONE WEEK!!!!! Lots of the books are perfect from very little. Good Night Moon, Ten in the Bed, Runaway Bunny… I can’t wait to see pics. Please send send send!!! My heart is already bursting for you!

      1. Yup! I got the call yesterday to meet a 6 month old baby boy! We are absolutely thrilled! I’ll definitely be posting asap! And I’m busy downloading the apps you suggested on my iPad, all saved in my “Noah” folder ☺️

        1. Ohhhhh I’m THRILLED for you! You must be hysterical with excitement. Can’t wait to see little Noah!

  3. Fabulous post. Thank you! I am always looking for new books as ours get read over and over. The only books that I can HIGHLY recommend that I didn’t see on your list are all the Richard Scarry books. They are oldies but goodies ??

    1. Yes!!! We have some but felt the kids were too young – so thanks for the reminder!!! I must get them out.

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