When my oldest was little I used to wrap tiny treasures in tissue paper when we traveled on a plane to help pass the time. I remember that some people on the plane thought I was brilliant and others thought I was an over indulgent parent. All I knew was that travel became less of a challenge for everyone when I had those little packages with me and no matter how many things to do for my daughter I had brought on the plane, those little packages broke up the monotony for everyone. And after all, my critics weren’t sitting next to my child on the plane and weren’t going to come to my rescue when she was less than happy or I had just plain run out of fun things to say or do. (BTW – she turned out just fine and is now in a doctoral program and has no trouble keeping herself amused.)
You may get the same reaction when you hand your little one your iPhone or iPod Touch with applications on there just for them. Let’s be honest. You are not expecting this device to keep them happy forever. This is just a stopgap that you can turn over to them for a couple of minutes and everyone breathes easier for a bit. Even your critics who claim that there are better, less digital ways to keep your kids amused
So what are some apps I recommend for those moments when a distraction might be needed? (All of these are available at the iTunes Store under Apps.)
Koi Pond - Need a moment of tranquility? This application turns your screen into a mini fishpond. Dangle your finger in the water and the fish either scare off or rub up against it. A single touch also causes ripples. Shaking the phone adds fish food to the water. Cost - $.99
Bubblesnap - If your kids are like mine, they are highly amused by popping the bubbles on the sheets of packing material. Someone has actually turned that into a game and it is as addicting as the real thing. Cost – Free
iSteam – This app lets kids uncover hidden pictures as they wipe away steam on the screen. Cost - $.99
Scoop – Tilt the screen right and left to sort falling scoops of ice cream. You can make patterns with the same colored scoops while avoiding a rain of veggies. Cost - $.99
Scribble – There are lots of drawing apps available and you should definitely have one onboard. This one lets kids draw with a variety of tools or enhance (like drawing horns on Dad) pictures that you can import from your photo library. Cost - $.99 Older children love Crayon Physics Deluxe ($4.99, for 9-up) which turns scribbles into moving puzzles.
Family Car Games – Looking for a way to use your iPhone or iPod Touch to find or enhance family car games? There are over 100 ideas here. Cost $1.99
iChalky- There is nothing like making someone else have to dance. Chalky is a stick figure who you can make jive by pushing him around with your finger or by giving your device a tilt or a shake. Chalky can also dance to the sound of music – from the radio – or try singing to him. You can also add a head from your photo library if you really want to make someone else dance. Highly addictive. Cost $.99
And here are some other useful parent survival tips. Put all of your kid-friendly apps on the same page on your device making them easier to find and minimizing the risk of kids getting into other apps they shouldn’t. Also put your iPhone into airplane mode before passing it to your toddler, which will keep them from calling out. There are also excellent books and podcasts on iTunes for kids so be sure to explore those as well. Kid friendly movies and an album of family photos are also excellent way to create a distraction.
Got toddlers? Try the Top 10 Toddler Essentials List at the Apple app Store on iTunes.
Other reviews of apps are also available on the iKids blog.