Now that we’ve got our kids learning their ABCs and mathematics with apps for iPads and iPhones, here are a handful of free apps that will keep younger kids entertained on flights, in line or just curled up on the sofa during the holidays. My experience has been that different apps appeal to different kids, so if you download one and your child doesn’t have much interest in it, try some of the others; they are free after all. If you have the patience to search the app store, there are loads of free or demo versions of applications. To save you some time, here are some of our favorites. Note: I do think it best for parents to screen any app before letting a child engage with it.
Leaf Jam from My Busy Kit is the kind of simple app that can intrigue toddlers for quite awhile. We had this one out during a Thanksgiving dinner party and four kids were eager to get their fingers on the iPad simultaneously to interact with the falling leaves. Special thanks to Jacqueline Cohen, aka @beijingwithkids, for giving us the lowdown on this simple yet elegant app.
Another winner from My Busy Kit is My Little Suitcase. Reina loves packing up this digital suitcase and then creating a story to go along with each of the four holiday destinations. My only wish is that there were more items and destinations to take the suitcases too in this application, but it’s hard to complain when someone makes a clever app for tots and then puts it out there for free.
Literacy is not the only thing that developer L’Escapadou does well. Draw with Stars, as the name implies, is an app that lets users get creative with stars. You can upload images that your child or you can decorate with stars and then post the results on social networks or print out the results. Like an Etch-a-Sketch, give it a shake to clear the screen and watch all the stars fly away.
Jot! Freeby Tabula Rasa is billed as a productivity app but I feel the potential in a child’s hands is too great to overlook. Though not intended for kids, they can easily use this application that lets them simply use their fingers to doodle. An added bonus is that your child will quickly be able to teach you how to use it for making business presentations to your boss.
The developers at Sound Touch Interactive have actually made an app that is fun and educational with Sound Touch Lite. At present there are over 150 sounds and images of animals, musical instruments, birds, vehicles and appliances. One nice aspect of this program is that there are different sounds and photos for each item, so kids don’t get bored so fast by always seeing the same picture when they select the dog icon. As generous as the free version is, we plan to splurge this season for the full app.
Okay, they are not all free, but if your kid likes beading, Let’s Bead Friends is a cute app from i-Itch Inc. Besides the standard beads, they have added holiday beads to this $0.99 app and your child can store their creations in a virtual jewelry box; a feature that seems to still have eluded my daughter as her box remains empty in spite of regularly using the app.