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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
KIDzOUT is a GPS tool for the iPhone that helps parents find the nearest (and cleanest!) diaper changing area, family friendly restaurant, park, or medical facility.
Why we like it:
Obviously, we all know where the good parks and children’s museums are in our own hometowns. But take us 15 miles in any direction, drop us off, and we parents are usually as good as lost when it comes to the essentials.
Sure, you can try to use Siri or the preloaded iPhone map app, but with its huge, curated database, this app just works better. Once you enable location, just tap Diaper Deck, Food, Play or Medical and you’re presented with an easy-to-navigate list of choices.
If you want to drill down, you can filter for various options like “kids menu”, “gluten free”, “playground”, “library”, “grocery store” and so on.
Need a park with a bathroom? Who doesn’t. This is the app for you.
Like this? Get our App of the Week newsletter.