While parents are learning more about the dangers of inactivity, there are also times—such as while waiting for an appointment or traveling long distances—that having apps ready to entertain the kids can be a lifesaver. Keep the kids happy and healthy by focusing on age-appropriate apps—and limiting the amount of time kids can use them.
While not technically a kids’ app, Game Time Limit for Parents eliminates the bargaining that comes with saying, “Time’s up.” Grown-ups set up the app on the device, set a password and time limit, and launch it when it’s time for kids to play. A message pops up on the screen when it’s time to stop playing, and kids can’t access apps anymore (parents enter a PIN to use the device). If kids need to pause the time while playing, they can; but they have to restart it before resuming play.
The creator of Angry Birds has taken the popular game to Mars in this collaborative effort with NASA engineers. Angry Birds: Space features pigs that have taken over the Mars Rover, Curiosity. Those familiar birds have to save the mission, all while the child playing the game unwittingly learns all about Mars exploration and NASA vehicles and missions. Read Amazon user reviews here.
Trucks HD by DuckDuckMoose (Ages 4+)
DuckDuckMoose has taken two favorites of preschool-age children—vehicles and kids’ songs—and combined them in a simple, but popular format. The child can “drive” vehicles in the game through a car wash, work out of an ice cream truck, or even pick-up trash while listening to a soundtrack celebrating wheels. Read AppAnnie reviews to see if Trucks HD is download-worthy.
Where’s My Perry? by Disney (Ages 4+)
Disney inserts Phineas and Ferb’s own platypus, Agent P!, into a game that will crack kids up as they solve puzzles and learn physics. Agent P! awaits an elevator ride that will only operate once the player creates a water-delivery system. Higher levels explore the properties of water as ice and steam, along with some explosive chemistry for good measure. Kids collect goodies as they advance through the levels of play and can even connect with other players through Apple’s Game Center. For more on reviews and safety, visit the Google Play Store.
Maily for iPad (Ages 4+)
Sending an e-mail to grandma has become child’s play thanks to the simple e-mail app, Maily. The secure app features a preschooler-friendly menu that includes a drawing board and artists’ tools. Parents control which contacts pop-up in the contact list, and can also select to have all sent and received messages copied to the parent’s e-mail account to monitor use. Kids can even use the app to take a photo of themselves with the iPad’s camera and send it in the message, along with brightly colored stickers and stamps in what is a very visual e-mail program. Visit the Apple AppStore for reviews and information. (ED: Maily images)
While monitoring your kids’ app-playing can help keep them safe and healthy, so can limiting their ability to spend a lot of money inside some apps. In-app purchases don’t involve real currency, so kids don’t understand that they cost real money. Parents who pay the bills, however, could be in for a nasty surprise when that smartphone data bill includes hundreds of dollars in “power-ups” from a child’s game playing purchases. Before handing over that smartphone or tablet, learn how to disable in-app purchasing on your iOS or Android device to preserve the peace and the family budget.