With one foot in childhood and one in adulthood, kids 9-12 crave both guidance and independence. Ugh.
While you’re still (just barely) in charge, steer tweens toward puzzle apps, role playing games, graphic novels, and sports apps. Warn them about in-app purchases and ads, then try to loosen the reins a little.
Apps and travel go together like summer and pool time. There are so many app choices out there with very different uses when it comes to travel. I’m going to skip the travel booking apps and get straight to the apps that you’ll use while you’re actually in the car. From driving directions and dog-friendly restaurants to last minute hotels and crazy road side attractions your kids will love—pack these handy road trip apps to keep the drive smooth, steady and fun.
Waze | Free | iOS, Android, Windows
This is the superhero of navigation apps. Not only does it tell you how long it will take to get to your destination, and offer alternate routes if you don’t like the main one, but the info is derived from other drivers. Get warnings of upcoming police and hazards on the road. Older kids might have fun adding updates themselves. Just watch out, it’s a battery suck. Have it plugged in to battery juice from your car if you’re going to use it for any length of time.
Roadtrippers | Free | iOS, Android
Your road trip is way cooler than you think it is. Use this app to plan your route and your pitstops. From suggestions for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives to Route 66 Attractions and Offbeat hotels – this is a one stop shop road trip app whether you’re using it ahead of time or on the road. Check out the website before you download for lots of inspiration. I’ve used it to find great kid-friendly restaurants and parks.
Road Ninja | Free | iOS, Android
This app helps you find out what kind of services are coming up at future exits. Need a McDonald’s break? How about some cheap gas? I recommend setting this app up in advance of your trip so you can control the amount and type of options you want to see in your app for upcoming exits and budget travelers can even scroll through promotions for nearby deals.
Hotel Tonight | Free | iOS, Android, Windows
OK, I said I was going to stay away from travel booking apps, but I used this app on a road trip last year and I find it incredibly handy. Hotel Tonight helps you find a last minute hotel room at a discounted price. Handy, right?! I particularly love that they classify the hotels by easy to distinguish categories like Solid, Hip, Luxe. Check out all the different destinations they cover across the U.S. and worldwide. https://www.hoteltonight.com/
Bring Fido | Free | iOS
If you’re bringing your dog(s) on your next epic American road trip, you’ll want to find pet friendly hotels, parks, and dog friendly restaurants. This app has you covered. Find photos and user ratings of the hotels, too. Go ahead, make your life easier.
Tales 2 Go | Free trial (subscription $99.99/year) | iOS
What? Your kids get car sick looking at books and apps in the car? No sweat. Tales2Go is here to help. It’s the Netflix of audio books. Follow your favorite book characters, listen in Spanish, choose books by celebrity narrator or by grade level. It really brings the whole family together not to mention makes your road trip more educational. Win win. There is a subscription fee but they also give you a free 30-day trial.
Mad Libs | Free, $1.99 for 21 pack story additions | iOS
Bridge the gap between the old school road trip fun you used to have when you were a kid and the digital age version for your own children. Type in nouns, take pictures or use photos from your smartphone or iPad’s photo gallery, and watch the comedy ensue. It even saves your story as a photo for recalling the fun after the trip has ended.
Roadside America | $2.99 + $1.99 for certain sections or $5.99 all access | iOs
Ever wanted to take your picture next to a crazy large object on the side of the road? This is your app. Introduce your kids to the weird and wonderful across our United States of America. Editors review their favorites and you can check off which ones you’ve already visited. And there’s even a sunset alarm so you get the heads up for your last photo opportunities. They also make it easy to share your discoveries through Facebook and Twitter.
Visited States | $.99 | iOS
It’s OK if Dad said you couldn’t plaster a magnetic States map across your car. This app lets you mark off which states you’ve already been to. It’s a simple app but does the trick. And you can brag to your friends about where you’ve been by sending them images of your map.
Happy and safe travels!
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.
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.
1. 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).
2. 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.
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.
4. 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.
5. 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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