Best Kids Apps


Jack Stalwart: Passport to Adventure

Do your kids want to travel the world, catch thieves, and find ancient artifacts? No duh!
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  • Age: 6+ |

  • $0.99

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.

Barefoot World Atlas

An interactive 3D globe for the iPad
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  • Age: 5+ |

  • $7.99

Barefoot World Atlas is a five-star app if ever there was one!  And at this price, it should be.

Younger kids will enjoy flying over oceans and continents, while older kids can really dig in by investigating petroglyphs in Kyrgyzstan, an African elephant in Botswana, and a geyser in Iceland (which the funny British narrator pronounces “geezer” — ha!).

It’s the most magical thing I’ve ever seen on a screen.

Why we like it:
Every.  Detail.  Is.  Perfect.  While you’re exploring Cairo, you get a Cairo soundtrack.  In Acapulco, you get the Acapulco soundtrack.  You can also listen to detailed descriptions and launch photos for most of the interactive features.

At the country level, you can see what time it currently is, how far away it is (you’ll have to turn location services on), the current weather as well as how many cars there are per 1,000 people.  It’s fascinating stuff.

If it’s all a little overwhelming, touch the eye icon and you can browse the features alphabetically from Aboriginal man to Zebras.

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Kids Maps

A U.S. map puzzle complete with fun facts
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  • Age: 4+ |

  • $2.99/1.99

Kids Maps for the iPad was created by a father for his 3-year-old daughter after he read in a parenting magazine that American kids have terrible geography skills.

This is obviously bad.

(Here I feel bound to defend American kids: 50 states is a lot of states.  Also, rote memorization of maps is sort of pointless.  Who really cares where Kyrgyzstan is when you have no data points for it?  Not that Kyrgyzstan is in the United States, because it isn’t.  Even I know that.)

But I digress.  This is a nice little app.

Why we like it:

Putting together map puzzles is a simple, timeless pleasure.  You don’t really need a lot of frills, and this app doesn’t have them.  See the state.  Drag the state to its correct place.  Drop the state.  Repeat 49 times.  This is a pleasant activity for kids aged 4-8 or so.

Another plus: this app is sometimes unintentionally funny.  Such as when it says, “North Dakota.  North Dakota is where lots of geese live.”  It just cracks me up that that’s the soundbite for North Dakota.  People in North Dakota probably don’t find it nearly as funny.

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We tested version 1.1, which is compatible with the iPad. Requires IOS 4.1 or later.  Developer Media Mechanic LLC. Read our disclosure policy.