In 2011 the tablet will become a key tool for parents trying to educate and entertain their children.

While plenty of discussion takes place on the benefits of tablets and smartphones for adults, many enterprising app developers have their sights set on a much younger market. Startups are creating new features and ideas that cater to parents who are now discovering that their children can get some use out of their smart devices too. Here are a few key trends that are popping up in apps geared towards kids this year:

Remote Parenting: For parents who can't spend as much time as they would like with their children because of work, apps such as Nursery Time With Storytime offer a way for them to still read a bedtime story from miles away. The app offers a connection feature that lets a parent recite a nursery rhyme while their child plays an animated storybook. Pop-Up Interactivity: Many developers are bringing the concept of pop-up books to digital devices. Apps like Grimm's Rapunzel and PopOut! The Night Before Christmas bring technology usually reserved for gaming into the world of children's storybooks. Kids can drag images across the screen with and watch them jump back and come to life. Popular Brands: Well-known characters and brands like Barbie and Dr. Seuss have already begun cropping up in apps for the iPhone and iPad. More famous entities are expected to show up in the App Store before the Christmas season. Original IPs: Recognizable brands are nice, but developers such as Outfit7 will be creating new characters that will debut on the tablet. Microphone/Voice Input: Some apps on the market allow children to interact through speech rather than touch to blow down a house in a 3 Little Pigs app or talk with animals in several Outfit7 apps. Cameras and Augmented Reality: Developers are incorporating camera functions into their apps with greater frequency, letting children convert photos into Lego form with Lego Photo or scan their rooms for monsters with Monster Meter. Digital Sandboxes: Other apps are taking a more open-ended approach by giving children a set of virtual toys to play with, such as blocks in MegaBloks Playground HD or a theater playset in Pollock's Toy Theatre. Education and Special Needs: Plenty of high-quality educational apps are available now, such as the brain trainer, Jellytoons. Developers are also creating apps with special needs children in mind, such as iCommunicate for iPad.

[Via The Guardian]

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