With spring comes warmer weather, blooms on the vine, and vacation plans. Although I encourage kids to head outside to play, it never hurts to load up the iPad or similar devices with some new apps before getting on a plane for a long flight to visit family or go on a beach holiday. With that in mind, I’ve selected a few apps to help keep young ones occupied while traveling without resorting to mindless games (I’m looking at you Angry Birds). So here are six apps you can safely share with your children without worrying if you are only improving their “hand to eye coordination”. As always, I’m calling out apps that have links to websites or social media in particular (Facebook and the like) so that parents are aware of potential distractions/frustrations that may occur when young ones use these apps that really have no need of social media links. After all, what kid under 10 has a Facebook page or needs a Twitter account? Hopefully as the industry becomes more aware of this problem, more and more developers will remove such links from children’s apps.
I’ll start with a few storybooks and on top of the pile are two from one of my favorite storybook app developers, PicPocket Books. The fist story is Choco Gets A Check-Up by Mary Faulhaber. In this rabbit tale, Choco, an adorable chocolate-colored bunny, feels apprehensive about his first check-up with the veterinarian. The story is told through the aid of photographs and each page has subtle question marks that kids can tap to reveal a question that sparks added thought about the story. The story itself is a soothing read for troubled little ones before visiting a doctor too; even the accompanying piano solo is relaxing. At the end of the story, there is a “photo walk” of two girls getting a check-up from a real doctor. All this is followed by conversation questions, reading strategies for home or the classroom, and Fry’s Instant Word List. Choco Gets A Check-Up is available from iTunes for $2.99 and is recommended for young readers ages 4-8.
PicPocket Books also collaborated with The Mother Company to develop A Little Book About Feelings, based on the award-winning children’s program Ruby’s Studio: The Feeling Show. My daughter and I enjoyed everything about this storybook, from its music, the superb use of felt creatures (something I usually dislike in storybooks due to poor execution), Ruby’s terrific narration, and the lessons that Ruby helps kids (and adults) understand about their feelings and empathizing with others. You can learn more about Ruby’s Studio by visiting her website here. There is one email link at the end of the story, but none for social media. Basically, it’s a feel-good app appropriate for all ages, even kids under the age of 3. A Little Book About Feelings is a bargain for $0.99 at iTunes.
Flori’s Birthday is one of a series of storybook apps available from developer Velago GmbH. Flori (short for Florentine) is a Giraffe who gets into all kinds of adventures with her other animal friends. In Flori’s Birthday, Flori must prepare for her party while she gets nervous when her friends don’t show up on time. The app mixes storytelling with activities, such as when young readers get to help Flori bake her birthday cake or pose the guests for a birthday photo. This mixture of stories and activities carries into the other titles in the series too. There is a link to the website on the title page, but none to social media. You can choose between English and German language narration and the narrators are eloquent children. I do wish there was a way to return to the homepage or skip ahead in the story, but otherwise the app is extremely well-designed. Flori’s Birthday is available from iTunes here for $0.99 and is suitable for children 3 years and older.
The last storybook today is Goodnight Safari from Polk Street Press and Illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell. This calming story will no doubt help settle down the most fidgety child at bedtime (it lulled me to sleep). Little fingers need to coax the baby animals on the safari to complete their tasks in preparation for nighttime. The narrator’s smooth tones and the evening sounds of fauna all combine to make for a calm bedtime experience (even listening to it while writing this, I am ready to take a nap). No external links on the app makes this very kid safe. Goodnight Safari is available from iTunes for $1.99 and is suitable for ages 2+.
Okay, so a trip cannot just be filled with storybooks. One thing I remember doing on long trips when I was a kid was mazes. It seems I was not the only one as the developers at OCG Studios and renown illustrator Roxie Munro have created the award-winning Roxie’s a-Maze-ing Vacation Adventure. To say it is akin to a maze book is an understatement. Users navigate a car around a map, but then need to get into boats, planes, and even a hot air balloon to complete the journey. Along the way there are puzzles to solve and a good deal of fun to be had. In the info tab, there are links to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, so parents need to be aware of this, otherwise, there is not much to detract from amazing fun. We found that this app is a bit challenging for some kids under 5, so parents may need to accompany their kids to get the full potential out of this app for younger enthusiasts. Roxie’s a-Maze-ing Vacation Adventure is available for the iPad here for $2.99 and the iPhone here for $1.99. This app is rated 4+.
Finally, what trip is complete without something to color? Fortunately, Lil Painter by Tapptil Studio, turns your iPad into a coloring book as well. With designs for girls and boys or simply blank pages, Lil Painter makes it easy for kids to get creative on the go with a variety of familiar artist tools to choose from: paint bucket, magic pencil, brushes, pens, spray pain, and an eraser. My daughter enjoyed creating pictures and then being able to save her creations with the camera feature too. The app does have social media links on its info page. Otherwise, this is one of the best coloring book apps we’ve come across. The developers have even provided several music tracks from which to choose from along with volume controls, and added controls for the coloring experience. I particularly like the shake to erase feature. Lil Painter is available from iTunes for $1.99 and is suitable for ages 3+.
That’s all this time. Enjoy your holiday wherever you spend it.