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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Dear Santa – A doll, a Lego set…and an iPhone!

Get ready for it. The hottest item on any self-respecting toddler's holiday wish list this year is going to be the iPhone!

OK – you don't need to buy them their own iPhone, but if you want to bring a smile to their face and keep them entertained for hours, then letting them have a share of Mom or Dad's iPhone is surely the way to go.

More by accident than by design, Apple's flagship device – and its fellow traveler the iPod Touch – have become two of the best child-entertainment devices on the market. It's not just their ease-of-use or the bright child-sized screens, it's the thousands of great games and educational exercises that are popping up in the App Store!

Much has been made of the meteoric growth of Apple's App Store. There are now over 75,000 apps available through iTunes; everything from navigational tools to social networking apps to constantly updated news and sports channels. All downloadable at the touch of a button and most costing less than $3.

But one of the most intriguing trends is the amount of apps that are being specifically developed for kids, and very young kids at that. Take Wheels on the Bus, produced by Duck Duck Moose, an iPhone developer specializing in educational games for kids.

This award-winning app has turned the children's classic song into a digital wonderland. With a tap of the screen, kids can make the wheels spin, open and close the doors, swish the wipers, pop some bubbles and make a dog bark. They can also hear the music played on a variety of different instruments, and even listen to the song in English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian. And all for $0.99!

And it's not just entertainment. There is a Pre-School Adventure app, a Toddler Flash Cards app, a Build a Word app, and dozens of counting and early math apps. In fact, there are hundreds of educational apps for toddlers, with more coming out almost every day.

Of course, it doesn't just stop at toddlers. Older kids have thousands of apps to choose from too  – everything from make-up apps for girls to amazing card tricks. There's even iShatter, an app for relieving a little of that pent-up emotion after a stressful day at school!

Some parents might balk at the idea of their youngsters learning how to manipulate a touchscreen before they can tie their shoelaces, but just remember to count time spent with these devices as part of their overall screen time and make sure the very young ones don't use headphones.

Hopefully, Barbie and company will still be very much part of the picture as they grow up but when you're looking for a little extra peace and quiet, handing over the iPhone for few minutes will always do the trick!

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