Best Kids Apps

5 Ridiculous Apps that Kids Just Love

It’s no secret that there’s a wide chasm between what kids think is funny and what adults think is funny.   While you obviously can’t measure silly, these 5 fun apps will make you wish you could –  you’ll be rolling your eyes, while your kids are rolling on the floor.


fun apps for kids who need to laugh out loud1.  FACE MELTER
An absolutely hysterical photo deforming app.
iPhone, iPad | Age: 3+ | Price: $1.99

All these years later, this is still one of the funniest games in the iTunes Store.  I’ve shown this app to dozens of people (kids included), and every one of them laughed out loud.

You take a picture of your face or your friend’s face with your iPhone (or import one from your photo library), and then deform your features by dragging your fingers across the screen.   Once you’ve finished stretching your nose halfway across the screen or giving yourself basset hound eyes, you can animate your new self portrait by touching the movie reel icon (this is when first-timers usually scream with laughter and/or wet themselves).


fun apps for kids who need to laugh out loud2.  TALKING CARL
Talk, sing, and play with a little red creature.
iPhone, iPad | Age: 2+ | Price: $0.99

The App Store is bursting to the seams with fun apps with interactive characters these days: talking cats, talking birds, and even a talking bacteria (bacterium?).  Red, squarish Carl is the original, though, and still the funniest.   Tickle him, and he’ll giggle.  Pinch him, and he’ll growl.  Strike him with lightning, and… well, you’ll see.

Parents will appreciate baby mode, which when activated will make all the buttons disappear so very young children can’t accidentally exasperate themselves by navigating away from Carl.


fun apps for kids who need to laugh out loud3.  ELFYOURSELF by OFFICE MAX
Dancing elves.  Enough said.
iPhone, iPad | Age: 5+ | Price: $2.99

No list of fun apps could be complete without this version of the hilarious, seasonal website by Office Max that we all know and love.  Snap or upload photos of yourself and your family or friends, spend waaaaaay too much time adjusting their faces so they fit just right under the pointy green and red hats, and laugh yourself silly when you finally premiere the video.

While the app itself is free, additional dances are available as $0.99 in-app purchases.  If that bothers you, be sure to go into your phone or tablets settings and disable them.


fun apps for kids who need to laugh out loud4.  MY TALKING PET
Make a video of your cat talking.
iPhone, iPad | Age: 3+ | Price: $0.99

This is a perfect, perfect example of an app that my kids love and I just don’t get.  You take or import a photo of your dog, cat, or hamster (or just use a picture of any animal if your own pets aren’t cooperating), identify the eyes, mouth, and chin, and then record a voiceover.  Once that’s all done, you press play and watch your pets “talk”.

Maybe it’s because this app lends itself to scatalogical humor that I haven’t warmed to it.  Who knows?  It’s really mostly funny for older kids who can email the results to someone or post them on Facebook.  In any event, it won’t take long for them to figure out they can dub funny sayings onto photos of their siblings, and from here it’s a short journey to total chaos.


fun apps for kids who need to laugh out loud5.  CLONE BOOTH
Put your face on every face in a group picture.
iPhone, iPad | Age: 3+ | Price: $0.99

From the makers of the iconic You Don’t Know Jack franchise comes this opportunity to take your face, and put it on every face in a funny group picture.  It’s sort of hard to explain why this made our list of fun apps, but it totally did.  Have you ever wondered what you would look like as a baby in the 1800s?  Or a 60s prom attendee?  Me neither.

Kids can choose from couples or group shots, take a quick self-portrait, and mash the two up.  It’s not good for endless entertainment, but it will keep them laughing for awhile.

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5 Fun Games without Winners and Losers

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.


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.


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.



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.


3-2-1… blastoff!
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.)

4 Apps That Can Keep Kids Safe

Apps that help parents keep kids safer both online and off

Most parents — myself included — aren’t willing to delegate their child’s safety to a handheld electronic device.  We’re more focused on the risks smartphones bring than the ways they can make our kids safer.  Still, there are a handful of apps that can give parents some peace of mind.

No matter how much trust and independence play a part of your parenting style, here are five apps that can keep kids a little safer both online and off:

1.  LIFE 360
Keeps kids safe from: Endless parent check-ins
Keeps parents safe from: Worrying

This location-sharing app for iPhone and Android users allows families to create circles with private maps, messaging, and check-ins.  If you’re the kind of parent who finds yourself texting your kids, “Did you make it?”, this is the app for you.  Whenever someone in your circle leaves a zone (like school) and arrives at a zone (like home), you’ll get a notification.

Two warnings: 1) if you’re thinking of using this app to keep teens in line, you should know that they can uninstall and therefore outsmart it — it’s not really meant for that, and 2) the maps include the locations and pictures of registered sex offenders (this information isn’t reliably correct and up-to-date, but it is always alarming).


Keeps kids safe from: Time suck websites
Keeps parents safe from: Nagging


You know when your teen is trying to get homework done, but ends up wasting time on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Vine, Pinterest, Instagram, TMZ, and so on?  Download a free trial of Anti-social, and block websites that prove distracting during certain hours.  If you like it, subscribe.  Who knows, you might decide to try it for yourself.

If you really, really, really need to use Facebook while it’s disabled for some reason, you can get around the block by re-booting your computer.



Keeps kids safe from: Late night texting
Keeps parents safe from: Grouchy, tired kids

Zact is an iPhone and Android app that lets parents monitor (and budget, and top off) their kids cell phone usage, set curfews, permit or restrict contacts, and approve or block apps.  Not everyone needs that level of micromanagement, of course, and many people object to it.  The killer feature is setting curfews.  Don’t want your kid to be able to send and receive texts between 9pm and 7am on school nights?  That functionality is just a finger tap away.

A word of warning: my high school student often needs to get in touch with project partners later at night than I would like, so don’t set the curfew too early.

Keeps kids safe from:  “Accidentally” viewing something inappropriate
Keeps parents safe from:  Worrying

Don’t think you need web safe browsing?  Consider this.  According to a 2008 study in CyberPsychology & Behavior, 93% of boys and 62% of girls have seen internet porn before they turn 18 (or so says Nancy Jo Sales in her Vanity Fair article, Friends Without Benefits).  Will installing a web browser with parental controls completely circumvent this?  Of course not.  Will it delay it?  I think so.

You can filter based on age, and comprehensive reporting means you can monitor your child’s web browsing history (and use it to have important conversations about what is and isn’t okay).