Jack Stalwart: Passport to Adventure is a world travel-themed interactive adventure for kids based on a wildly popular series of books.
(they are especially wonderful for reluctant readers, here’s a link to the author’s Amazon page.)
Anyway. Eight ancient artifacts have been stolen around the world, and your kids must recover them using only their wits and fingertips (and picking up a bit of geography, history, and culture along the way).
There are puzzles to be assembled, scrambled words to be decoded, hidden pictures to be found… and much more.
Why we love it:
In-country contacts? Secret missions? Travel to Australia, Thailand, and Brazil? What’s not to love?!
In the spirit of full disclosure, however, I have to admit that being called “Secret Agent Mommy” (a moniker I chose for myself during set up) was my favorite part of this app — I just never got sick of that.
Overall, the app has very high production value, with great background sounds, images, and activities.
Watch out for:
There is a link to the iTunes store to buy the author’s ebooks and audio books (these are not technically in-app purchases, so they can’t be turned off. Explain this to your kids). Also, while this is a great app, it will work for a somewhat narrow age range, say 6-9 (my 11-year-old liked it, but finished it very easily).
If you haven’t yet upgraded to iOS 6.0, you’re going to have to in order to download this app.
Toonstastic Jr. Pirates is a storytelling app that allows young kids to make their own pirate-themed animated movies.
Kids choose the beginning, middle, and end of their stories by scrolling through sets of scene starters. The characters act out the beginning of a scene, such as “Love at First Catch”, then kids finish the story. They record their own narration (with funny voices, matey) as they move the characters through the scenes.
Why we love it:
The original Toontastic app is one of the best free creative apps for school-aged kids. Teachers use it because it teaches storytelling concepts through imaginative play. This junior version simplifies the process for preschoolers.
Watch out for:
It’s difficult to scroll through the scenes when they move at the speed of a slot machine, so slow it down by tapping the screen gently. The app also doesn’t give kids much time to think of the narration as it counts down quickly to record. To get the perfect movie, kids will need to use the redo button a lot.
Ah, summer. The beach, the mountains, the lake, the… long hours in a car or airplane with impatient children. If you’ll be flying or road tripping this summer, download a few new iPhone and iPad apps to help the miles go by a lot quicker.
1. Jacob Jones and the Bigfoot Mystery: Episode 1
Ages: 6 and up | $0.99
Jacob Jones is off to summer camp, where everything isn’t exactly as it seems. Along with his hairy new sidekick, he has to figure out what is going on at Camp Eaglefeather by solving a series of narrative-style puzzles that are just right for young kids.
2. State Plate Bingo!
Ages: 4 and up | $0.99
This app really won’t keep kids occupied for hours, but it’s fun as an ongoing quest on road trips. Can you find all 50 states in a single journey? There’s only one way to find out. The iPhone version works on an iPad, but isn’t optimized for it.
3. Sago Mini Sound Box
Ages: 2 and up | free
Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers (and maybe even some older kids) will love this cute, simple music discovery app. Kids choose an “instrument” (though it could be a puppy barking or a noisy barn). They tap the screen to add the sounds, then grab, fling, bounce and play with them.
4. Road Trip Bingo
Ages: 4 and up | $0.99/1.99
Got exactly two kids? Download the only travel-themed bingo app that lets both of them compete head to head. Your kids can scour the landscape for everything from road signs and blue cars to snow-topped mountains and dogs.
Ages: 8 and up | free
Got three or more kids? Check out this hilarious app that’s a lot like the telephone game we all played when we were younger! Player one types a well known phrase, such as “The early bird gets the worm.” Player two illustrates the phrase with a fingertip drawing. Player three captions Player two’s drawing without seeing the original phrase. And so on.
Don’t think it’s only for travel either. My kids beg me to play every night. Can’t think of a good phrase? The developers have thought of that — just tap the suggestions button.