Best Kids Apps


Bouncy eyeballs. Sinister robots. What's not to like?
  • * * * * *
  • Age: 8+ |

  • $0.99

Gluddle is a fun, and minimally frustrating physics game that your kids will definitely like.

But first, some backstory.  In a simple, appealing spacescape, the fun-loving gluddle (bouncy eyeballs) are being watched by the controlling Supervision (white and red bullseye bots who constantly monitor them, insisting on control and order).

The gluddles’ mission?  To bounce into the Supervision and knock them out.

Why we like it:
Lots of physics-based knock out games will really raise your blood pressure (Angry Birds and Cut the Rope are notorious for this).  For some reason, Gluddle doesn’t do this.  It’s mellow.

You sling gluddle.  You freeze gluddle in space.  You bounce other gluddle off the frozen gluddle.  You just keep moving forward, solving your problem, and trying new things.

Watch out for:
Maybe it’s the control freak in me, but I couldn’t stop obsessing about HOW MANY gluddle I had to accomplish each level.  It seems to be unlimited.  Once I got over this little hangup, I enjoyed the game.  Achievements were a little less rewarding, since I could keep playing until I vanquished the Supervision, but I still liked sticking it to the man.

The music and sound effects (“Oi!”) are funny at first, but after 15 minutes, I wanted to turn them off.  But couldn’t.  If your child is easily frustrated, take a few minutes to explain this app before turning them loose with it.

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Based on the Atari classic, but (of course) MUCH better
  • * * * * *
  • Age: 6+ |

  • $0.99

Pitfall is a fun treasure-seeking game for the iPad and iPhone that will appeal to kids and adults (though anyone younger than 5 will probably get a little frustrated).

Like the original, you are cast in the role of Pitfall Harry and your mission is to grab treasure and avoid hazards.  But this 30th anniversary reboot goes much, much farther than that.

Why we like it:
Once you master the controls, you can leap over some hazards, slide under others, swing across vines, and crack your whip at anything that looks at you sideways.  Along the way, you’ll collect treasure for level ups and power ups, while avoiding snakes, scorpions, crocodiles and — true to the original — gaping ravines.

Watch out for:
When you first pick this game up, you’re going to die a lot, so expect that.  And when you die, you’ll start over at the beginning.  Also, there are in-app purchases available, so be sure to disable in-app purchases if you don’t want your kids to be tempted.

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The 10 Best iPad Board Game Apps for Kids

For travel, family game night, and rainy or snowy days at home

A lot of people harbor a certain nostalgia for the game boards of their youth — I get that.  On the one hand, it takes us back to a simpler time.  On the other hand, have you set up the Game of Life recently?  Trust me when I tell you that you’ll be stepping on those little pink and blue peg people for weeks.

Sometimes you need a quicker, slightly more streamlined option.  And just because it’s on a screen doesn’t mean it’s not quality time.  Here are a few of our favorite board game apps for kids.

1.  Mancala FS5, $2.99

Count and capture your opponent’s stones in this updated version of one of the most ancient board games around (evidence suggests this one goes back to at least the 6th century AD).  Play at different levels, with a real world opponent, or against the computer.

This is a nice mellow game with no exploding aircraft carriers or impending bankruptcies.

2.  Boggle, $0.99

This was my favorite game growing up, until I got so good that no one would play with me.  I imagine the endless bragging might have been a factor too.

The only part I didn’t like was the earsplitting shaking of the letter dice (which isn’t a problem with the app version!).  This is a feel good game for parents too, since it’s a vocabulary and brain builder.

3.  Backgammon HD, $2.99

Another very, very old 2-player board game.  You roll the dice, move your pieces, and try to remove all your checkers from the board before your opponent can do the same.

As with any dice game, there’s a lot of luck involved, but lots of strategy too.  Young kids can play on teams until they get the hang of it.

4.  Battleship for iPad, $4.99

Once you’ve played the computer version of this iconic childhood game, you’ll wonder how those little plastic gray ships ever managed to capture our imagination.

The dramatic 3D action… the super weapons… it’s a hit!  Take that sibling on sibling violence and channel it, people.

5.  The Game of Life, $6.99

So, my daughter got the analog Game of Life for her birthday last year and holy CATS does it take a long time to assemble.  And you have to disassemble it to put it back in the box!

I laughed at the anachronisms (no out of wedlock procreation allowed!), but the kids got a serious kick out of it.  Save yourself the headache and get the app version.

6.  Blokus, $0.99

The beautiful, colorful territory-capturing game of Blokus is one of the best games to come along in a long time…until you start losing pieces (which in our house started happening pretty much right away).  If there’s one thing I hate, it’s putting my face on the floor to peer under the couch.  What if a spider runs out?

Blokus is a great game, but often it’s hard to rustle up three people to play with you.  Plus everyone in my house always wants to be green.  That’s another reason the app version is great — you can play against the machine if your family isn’t willing and able.  And you can be any color you want.

7.  Yahtzee HD, $4.99

Some people think Yahtzee is too simple to be a worthy board game, but I am not one of them.  On a Friday night, after a very long week, when my brain has been more or less reduced to oatmeal by the exigencies of raising a family, the last thing I want to do is settle down to a game of Risk.

I actually miss the noisy dice sounds, but this is a great option to have if you need to play kind of quietly…like in a restaurant or on a plane.

8.  Monopoly for iPad, $9.99

The problem with most apps is that they are a little isolating.  You launch Angry Birds, start playing, and look up blearily four hours later not having spoken a word to anyone in all that time.  No matter how you feel about Monopoly, it’s a social game.   Plus it’s got great graphics to keep modern kids engaged and helpful hints to make up for their lack of experience!

9.  Scrabble for iPad, $9.99

Words with Friends is fabulous, of course, but it’s more like answering email than actually sitting down and playing a game with a buddy.  The pass and play feature of Scrabble for iPad make it fun for families who want to sit down together, and of course set up is a breeze.  Another good brain builder.

Whether you play with people who lay down “zenith” on a triple word score or people — like me– who play words like “cow” and “pie”, it’s sure to be a fun and educational time for the whole family.


10.  UNO HD, $0.99

Did you think we were going to leave UNO off the list?  Not to worry.  It’s a low-stress game with quick game cycles which won’t blow out your kid’s bedtime if you start late.  Plus kids as young as 6 can get in on the action.  We love the real world version and we love this version too.