The budget-friendly, eco-friendly birthday gesture.

Today, a best friend’s son, Jack, turns three. We grew up together (Emily and I, not Jack). And as tempted as I am to spoil her son with presents, I have to hold back. Because I want to shower all of my friends’ kids with gifts. And well, that’s a lot of birthdays. Sure, for now, the little ones are satisfied with a sheet of stickers or a plastic piece of crap from the dollar section at Target. But it’s only a matter of time before they have to have the latest gadget and will turn their noses up at the cheapy things Aunt Lindsey (or “that lady with the wine glass in Mommy’s pictures”) can afford to send. And that’s the other problem. I have to send these gifts. All of my childhood and college friends live in other cities, so a birthday present for their kid might mean a few dollars, but then tack on taxes, shipping and handling and all of a sudden a simple toy car or book becomes a $20 ordeal.

A card is nice, but it gets thrown away. I’m happy to say that I’ve found what I feel is the perfect birthday gesture. It costs the same as a card (even less in some cases), and it’s sent electronically so there’s no carbon footprint. It’s an app.

Now, I’m just as much a fan of screen-free play as the next parent, but sometimes, an interactive, educational app is just what the doctor (or frazzled mother) ordered. My favorite kids’ apps come from a company introduced to me by Daddy Drinks, called Duck Duck Moose. His twins have about eight months on Jed so he knows of what he speaks. It changed my life.

Two dollars so I can sleep for ten more minutes, finish my meal at a restaurant, check out at the grocery without Jed freaking out. It’s worth it. A gift for the child and for mommy.

When you select an app from the app store on your iPhone, it gives you the option to gift it. Jed helped me pick this one out for Jack, called Musical Me:

These games are adorable, educational and totally tailored to the toddler skill set. Nothing angry or birdlike about them.

I have five Duck Duck Moose apps on my phone and use them as incentives for going potty, cleaning up, you name it. So the next time you feel torn about what to get your college friend’s little girl for her second birthday? Don’t stress. There’s an app for that.

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