Best Kids Apps

So, what about free apps?

 

In the Apple world, many developers offer apps for free, then make money with ads or in-app purchases.  For Android, it’s different.  We don’t list them all, but you’ll have a lot more free apps to choose from.

 

For both platforms, there’s really no right answer.  Some parents prefer to avoid free apps.  Some don’t mind a little marketing.  Do what works for you.



Best Halloween Apps of 2013 for iPhone, iPad and Android

If you love celebrating the holidays with new apps like we do, these fun Halloween apps for your iPhone, iPad and Android are big hits. Some of them are good for your kids to play on their own, and others are fun for the whole family to read or play together.

1. Haunted House – 3D Pop Up Activity Book
3D Halloween fun with lots of games and activities.
iPhone, iPad, iPod| Age: 5+ | Price: $1.99

The 3D is terrific in this book and I was surprised at how much there was to do. Search a Haunted House for hidden pumpkins and let friendly Halloween monsters cheer you on. Help a witch make a magic potion with creepy ingredients from bugs and garlic to burps and monster feet. Tickle Frankenstein and watch his parts fall off, then put him back together again. That’s just a few of the many games and puzzles in this well-crafted book of Halloween fun.

 

2. Hello Kitty Edition. Halloween Dress Up
A sweet dress up app for Hello Kitty fans.
iPhone, iPad, Android| Age: 4+ | Price: Free



Whether your child is a long time Hello Kitty fan, or brand new to the classic icon, this is a fun costume app to play with. Help Hello Kitty get dressed up for Halloween. You can give her a pre-made bee, bunny, and skeleton costume or pick and choose your own outfit for her from an assortment of Halloween themed dresses and accessories. And of course she needs a pet.  Give her a kitten or teddy bear. When you’re done, click on the camera to send your Hello Kitty as a postcard to a friend via email, Twitter or Facebook.

3. The Little Witch at School
A cute Halloween story with educational activities
iPhone, iPad, Android| Age: 4-10 | Price: $3.49 (Android) -$3.99

A delightful animated storybook where a little witch and her friend take their first witch and wizardry examination. Help the witch find letters to form magic words, fill in a coloring canvas by doing math (easy, medium and hard levels) and even play with a magic crystal ball. The book runs 25 pages deep and can either be read to you or allow you to read by yourself. The illustrations are top notch and charming. Read this one to your younger kids or let older ones play by themselves. There is also a “Lite” version if you want to test the first six pages. 

 

4. Make a Zombie
Wicked fun for older kids.
iPhone, iPad, Android| Age: 7+| Price: Free

If your kids love talking about the zombie apocalypse, here’s a less “real” app to let them turn cartoon creeps into the messiest of zombies. Simple ghoulish fun that will have them laughing for hours. This app actually came out last year, but since it missed our list we wanted to make sure we had a fun app for the older kids on this year’s list. Watch out for in-app purchases though.  You can even print out your zombie and order clothes with your custom zombie design too.

 

5. Mr. Shingu’s Paper Halloween
A creative digital art project that turns into a game too!
iPhone, iPad, Android| Age: 5+| Price: Free

Watch out moms, you might be fighting your kids to play with this app. Mr. Shingu teaches you how to fold six origami Halloween characters with simple folds. After you make your Jack-o-lantern, Dracula, Frankenstein, Ghost, Skull or Witch— color it the way you want it before it turns into a game where the child collects candy before the monster gets them. Fun!

 6. Room on the Broom Games
A creative digital art project that turns into a game too!
iPhone, iPad, Android| Age: 3-7| Price: $4.99 (Android)

We couldn’t resist this app because we adore the Halloween book with the same name. It’s great to see the characters from the book animated on the digital screen but some of the games took a little figuring out for my iPad savvy Pre-K daughter. If you are giving to younger kids, play it first or with them. Hopefully they’ll add a some tutorials for a future release, but in the meantime have fun creating star maps for the witch to ride or help the frog, bird and dog find hidden objects the witch has dropped.

7. Spider Way
An addicting spider game that makes you think on your feet!
iPhone, iPad, Android| Age: 4+| Price: Free (Android)

Lead red, blue and yellow spiders to their homes. Draw web bridges to help them find their way and tap them to make them crawl faster. It starts off easy enough for preschoolers to play…and slowly progresses to harder levels. The app is free but if I like an app, like this one, I pay to remove the ads ($0.99). Especially if I intend to let kids play the app on their own. This is a fun and addicting game that makes you think.

 

8. Stella and Sam Halloween Band
>A sweet musical app for little kids.
iPhone, iPad| Age: Toddlers+| Price: $1.99 

If your little ones love touching, poking and clicking on dots, circles and xylophones to make musical sounds—this app will be a treat. If you’re familiar with the terrific story and activity book app Stella and Sam, you’ll recognize the characters dressed up in their Halloween costumes and playing music for you. Enjoy some easy, simple fun for little kids.

 

If you’d like more great Halloween apps (especially for younger app users), don’t miss our list from the last two years, Best Halloween Apps of 2012 and  Best Halloween IPad Apps of 2011.

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Fun Apps for Summer Travel

Backseat and airplane entertainment for family vacations? Check

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.

5.  StoryLines
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.



Best Valentine’s Day Apps for 2012

Sugar-free Valentine's Day treats for little kids

There are two good reasons for treating your kids to some Valentine’s Day apps:  1) You’d want to give them a non-candy treat to show them you care. Or quite possibly a more realistic reason—2) Your kids are in the throes of a Valentine’s Day sugar rush and you need to bribe them into calming down.

Download these cute apps and storybooks and try out the magic words, “I bought a new app for you!” It works for me every time.

1. COOPER’S BIG BEAR HUG
A sweet teddy bear finds a way to tell his mom he loves her

iPad, iPhone | Age: 2+ | Price: Free

Did you know that Hallmark had a line of interactive storybooks? They do! This is the latest edition to their line of stuffed animals + apps. The app is totally free but the stuffed teddy bear that reacts to your voice and the story is sold for $29.95 in stores. We enjoyed the app without the bear. You can read or have the storybook read to you, then play games like Cooper-themed jigsaw puzzles. The puzzle pieces don’t lock into place as nicely as the ones you might’ve seen on apps like Miss Spider’s Tea Party, but there are lots of puzzles to choose from.

 

2. BISCUIT’S VALENTINE’S DAY
Deliver valentines and play games with Biscuit the cute puppy 

iPadiPhone, Android | Age: 2+ | Price: $2.99

Leave it to Biscuit to celebrate another holiday with a storybook.  Follow Biscuit and the girl as they deliver the Valentine’s (but make sure to find the hidden bone for Biscuit on each page!) Much more than just a book—you can read the story or have it read to you. There are also memory games, a coloring book,  sticker activities and more.

 

3. DRAW WITH HEARTS – HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!
A creative design and musical app with glittering hearts 

iPadiPhone | Age: 1+ | Price: free

Touch your screen and watch dazzling hearts dance across the sky. Drag your finger in swirls and the hearts appear and follow your path on the iPhone or iPad’s screen. Make shapes and letters with the hearts too. Good for the littlest of app users who are happy with colors and music, or for kids who like to let their imaginations run wild. If your child likes Smule Magic Piano HD, they’ll probably want to play with this hearty app for Valentine’s Day too. Bonus: If you like your child’s creation, you can share their work via email, Twitter and Facebook.

4. CAKE POP PARTY
Little bakers unite! Make some yummy baked treats for your valentine

iPadiPhone | Age: 3+ | Price: free – $0.99

Everyone loves cake pops! Well these virtual treats are just as fun as eating the real one. The app is free to start, but then you can add on decorations and the “Valentine’s Day Kit”. It lets you play with a few free features, but it’d be nicer to have an app where you only have to pay once – but if you love Cake Pops, you’re sure to have fun decorating these stick desserts.


 5. ISNUGGLE VALENTINE
This is the cutest little Valentine’s maker around

iPhone | Age: 4+ | Price: free – $0.99

Create your own Valentine e-cards by combining baby animal characters (kitty, puppy, sheep, unicorn, chicks, lions, rainbows and more), kid-safe love messages (in the free version, full version untested), and little cheery animal sounds. There are a variety of backgrounds including three heart types for Valentine’s Day or create backgrounds from your photo album. You can send your card creations via SMS, email, Twitter, and Facebook when you’re done. School aged kids will love them.

NOTE: As always – read the iTunes descriptions and age restrictions for each app before you buy. On the left sidebar of the app description you’ll find details as to whether or not the app contains mature/suggestive themes; alcohol,tobacco,drug use references; frequent/intense profanity, crude humor. Several of the apps found in a “Valentine’s Day” search contain material you’d only want your older children to see.

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