Got a new iPad? Congratulations! Got kids hanging all over you and bugging you to play with it? We’ve been there.
Forget slogging through the entire App Store while they yammer in the background — we can help.
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Chances are your kids are already using lots of media. And chances are you haven’t yet found time to explicitly outline your online expectations of what they are and aren’t allowed to do, in writing.
When we got our child her first smartphone, we wrote and signed the following family media agreement. Our goal was to create a flexible agreement that didn’t get bogged down in the details, and I think we did a pretty good job. Feel free to copy and paste it into an agreement of your own and customize it for your kids.
We were most concerned about computer and smartphone use, but it could easily be tweaked to encompass television and video game usage too.
I am never allowed to give out personal information (phone number, home address, or school name) or make plans to meet anyone I do not know in the real world.
I will unfriend, block, and/or stop talking to anyone who makes me feel pressured or uncomfortable. I will tell my parents if someone is persistently bothering me.
I will never use my phone while riding my bike, crossing the street, or walking through a parking lot.
I will be respectful to myself and others, even people I don’t like. I won’t be cruel online and I won’t tolerate, “like”, or otherwise encourage cruelty in others.
I will be a good online friend. I will respect other people’s privacy and feelings when posting photos or other content about them.
I will tell my parents immediately if anyone I know seems to be in trouble or in need of help, even people I don’t know well or like.
I understand that the photos and videos I post, and everything I write about myself and other people online can be saved and shared without my knowledge. Therefore, I will not post anything online that I wouldn’t want my family, teachers, college admissions officers, or future employers to see.
I will protect my passwords so people cannot pose and post as me. I will never pose as or post as anyone else.
I’ll be careful not to spend too much time online. I won’t let it interfere with sleep, schoolwork, hobbies, and my offline relationships with my friends and family.
I will not use my phone or computer recreationally after 9pm at night. I understand that if I cannot respect this rule, my parents will hold my devices overnight.
In social situations, I will make conversation and pay attention, even when I am uncomfortable. I understand that it is rude to look at my devices when others are talking, especially family friends, grandparents, teachers, coaches and employers.
I understand that my computer and phone belong to my parents, who trust my judgment and respect my privacy. However, if they are ever worried about my safety, I promise to answer their questions calmly and honestly. I understand that this family media agreement is subject to revision at my parents’ discretion.
When it comes to staying home from school sick, my kids are absolute maestros. They know instinctively which symptoms can’t be empirically authenticated and which days are least convenient for me. Looking for the best apps for kids on a sick day? Here are a few they can mess around with while coughing on the couch.
An animated working model of home sweet home.
iPhone, iPad | Age: 4+ | Price: $2.99
The Human Body takes a very fun and basic look at the working parts of the human body. It’s a colorful, interesting, and fun introduction to physiology. Kids can send food through the digestive system, tickle the human with a feather to see the nervous system in action, and browse through a brain.
It’s animated, so don’t worry about graphic photos — there aren’t any. Also, the urogenital system is available as an in-app purchase (which you can obviously skip if you’d rather not have your children poring over that particular bit of the body).
Cure toys of funny, made-up maladies.
iPhone, iPad | Age: 3+ | Price: $3.99
Going to the doctor can be scary for little people. Yes, it’s fun to have your reflexes tested with a rubber hammer, but there’s always the threat of a shot. Kids can role play doctor visits with this sweet app. Dolls and toys come down with such maladies as “mixupitis” and “driedout-a-tosis” and it’s up to your kids to cure them.
Smash burgers, sodas, and pizza and find what kind of nutrition lurks inside.
iPad | Age: 3+ | Price: $1.99
Ah, the lifelong challenge of teaching kids to make better food choices (especially when parents aren’t always taking their own advice). Still, good nutrition is foundational to good health, so we have to keep trying.
This fun app has kids set up a profile based on gender, age, and activity level. Then they analyze foods (using nutrition labels) and smash them in a crazy machine to see if the amount of sugar, salt, and oil is more or less than what they should be getting. A perfect mix of health, math, and fun!
iPhone, iPad | Age: 3+ | Price: $2.99
Avoiding germs to stay healthy is one of those things that’s easier said than done — especially for children who play together all day. This interactive story book reinforces the message while gently moving kids forward in early literacy. Will the little bears apply what they learn and avoid getting sick at school? I won’t ruin the ending for you.
Did we miss any best apps for kids that teach about health, nutrition, germs, and hygiene? Tell us about your favorites in the comments below.
Between homework, piano recitals, school plays, and soccer games, most kids these days have plenty of pressure in their lives. You know what they don’t have? Enough mellowness.
We like tense, timed, high-scoring games as much as the next family, but sometimes you need something a little lazier. Like playing in a mental sandbox. Here are five apps that are fun and relaxing for kids.
1. AVOKIDDO EMOTIONS
Dress, feed and play with three funny animals.
iPhone, iPad | Age: 3+ | Price: $2.99
Introduce your kids to a zany zebra, a shy sheep, and a jolly giraffe, then sit back and watch them giggle as they feed them, dress them up, and share toys with them. This game has no rules or expectations. Just funny, unscripted interactions.
There are some nice touches here as well. If you put the flower lei on the zebra, the background changes to tropical. The knit hat takes you to a snowy scene. The sombrero takes you to a Mexican desert complete with bullfighting music.
2. TOCA CARS
Drivers start your engines!
iPhone, iPad | Age: 5+ | Price: $0.99
World’s cutest car racing app! When you race in this stylish cardboard world, there are no rules. Want to mow down all the trees? Go for it. Drive through ice cream? No problem. Jump over a robot…while driving in reverse? Hey, it’s your racecourse.
Kids younger than five will want to play, but may need a little help navigating. If, like me, you knocked over all the buildings and landscaping on your first time around the track, just push the restore button! Come to think of it, I’d like a button like that… for my house.
MY PLAYHOME STORES
Hours of imagination-driven play.
iPhone, iPad | Age: 3+ | Price: $1.99
From the creators of the wonderful, award-winning My Playhome comes this opportunity for kids to goof around in the business world! Take a walk down the street into four beautifully illustrated shops.
Kids will enjoy going to the ice cream shop, doing a little grocery shopping, and even picking out a new outfit (which is ironic of course, because seriously, what kid likes picking out a new outfit!?). Even better, this app is fully integrated with My Playhome, so your kids can bring their purchases home.
4. WEE ROCKETS
iPhone, iPad | Age: 3+ | Price: $1.99
Kids aged 2-6 will enjoy designing and building their own rockets, launching them into space, and then racing through an asteroid field to rescue all the stranded aliens.
There are 64 parts to choose from when tricking out your rocket, and 10 astronauts, so kids won’t run out of original missions any time soon. This is a text-free and intuitive game, so it works well for readers and pre-readers alike.
5. QUELL +
A peaceful puzzle game for all ages.
iPhone, iPad | Age: 6+ | Price: $1.99
Quell+ is a deceptively simple puzzle app with a Zen flavor. Some puzzle apps lead to aggravation. Quell just leads to feelings of peace and contentedness. Don’t ask us why.
There is a raindrop on a game board that you must swipe vertically and horizontally in order to “collect” a series of pearls. Unlike many games, the learning curve is smooth and gradual. Even very young kids will be able to play a few levels before they get stumped. Also? Soothing spa music!
(There are in-app purchases, so make sure you turn them off in your device’s settings if that’s a concern for you.)