It's the dead of winter. Shoulder deep snow piles in drifts against all the usual exits from your home, leaving you stranded and forced to deal with ... your kids!!
Ok, Global Warming has evaporated not only the drifts, but the normal weather patterns that would have put and kept them there all winter. Nonetheless you still have wide eyed and rambunctious tikes to deal with.
You've fed them, clothed them, made sure they're clean and comfortable from top to bottom, but there's more to it than caring and feeding. Wee ones are mental sponges and those little minds demand stimulation, and sitting them in front of Little Geniuses won't do forever.
You ever see a kid use an iPhone? They instinctively know how to perform basic tasks and learn more complicated functions in no time. That's because the touch interface is intuitive. Touch and you get an immediate and mostly positive and very visual response, something that kids understand because that's how they learn. Because the response is generally positive then kids enjoy using touch devices. Don't believe me? Give a three year old an iPhone and let her play with it for 15 minutes, then try taking it back. (Good luck with that.)
So, here you are with tikes to entertain and perhaps you have an old iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad collecting dust somewhere. Invest in a sturdy case (LifeProof cases come to mind) then download some kid friendly apps. Tike entertainment problem solved.
Ahh, but what to put on that old iDevice? There are literally thousands of apps available for kids of all ages. While that's a good thing it does make it tough to find those gems that your youngsters will love. Oh, and the apps have to be free.
Well, you've come to the right place. I've got three such apps aimed at kids between three and seven and they will have a blast with them. So, let's get to it.
Endless Alphabet [43.1MB, all iOS devices running iOS 5 or better, Developer: Callaway Digital Arts Inc.]
As I mentioned, kids intuitively understand how to use a touch interface because it provides generally positive feedback. If you make that feedback funny then Junior or Missy will keep coming back to the app. Make it educational as well and you've got a winner. Such is the case with Endless Alphabet.
The app starts off with a parade of odd, cute, and colorful creatures marching across the screen to a catchy tune. So good so far.
Kid friendly characters abound in Endless Alphabet
Then a big purple horned beast appears with a smile that displays words. Touch a word and the letter are scrambled, your kid has to put them in the right place to get to the oh-so-cute animation that explains the word. But the fun comes when your child touches one of the errant letters and drags it back to its rightful position in the word. The letter wiggles under his finger and the sound it makes is the phonetic sound of the letter in funny ways. You've got to see and hear it to fully appreciate what I'm trying to describe.
Each word has unique animated shorts. Fun!
New words are added automagically so the app never gets stale. The interface was designed to be touched by wee digits. Once in the app the only option the kid has is to go to the next or previous word or go the home screen. Grown-up info is protected by a simple password screen. Best of all, there are no ads!
Endless Alphabet is available for free for a limited time, so grab it while you can.
GeoDash: Wild Animal Adventure [179MB, all iOS devices running iOS 5 or better, Developer: National Geographic Society]
There are few kids who don't get a kick out of animals. Take little Billy or Belinda to the zoo and watch his or her eyes light up when they see an elephant, giraffe, kangaroo, or marmoset for the first time. It stands to reason then that an app that combines animal facts and gorgeous photos with a cute and kid friendly game is bound to be a winner, right?
Right! GeoDash: Wild Animal Adventure is such an app.
Finish a level and get a card like this
Little Geo is a robot on a mission to unlock the secrets of wild animals. To do that your child has to help him explore the habitats and abilities of each animal. Complete the level and earn a card that has facts, pix, and jokes about creature in question. Dozens of levels to complete and cards to collect will keep your young one occupied and coming back for more.
The GeoDash series of games is created by National Geographic so you know you're getting a quality product. No ads interrupt the fun. This is a keeper.
Mr. Potato Head: Create & Play [148MB, all iOS devices running iOS 5 or better, Developer: Callaway Digital Arts Inc.]
There was a time when kids had to use real potatoes (or other vegetables) when playing with the real Mr. Potato Head toy. What was nice about that setup is that a kid could decorate the spud anyway he or she wanted. Of course there was a distinct chance that little Jill or Johnny might attempt to affix Mr. Potato Head's eyes to his own forehead. There's little chance of that happening with today's version of the beloved toy, and no chance with the iOS version.
Adorn the venerable virtual vegetable with appendages then move him to a playset to interact. Parents can purchase additional playsets and themed parts (with tickets bought via in-app purchase), and kids can then mix and match the parts however they want. Alien eyes, cowboy hat, and pirate boots? Ok!
Mr. Potato Head boogies down in a Playset
The app comes with enough tickets to let your kids grab several costumes and playsets, so you really don't have to buy anything.
In the playset Mr. Potato Head can perform several actions and photos can be taken of the spud's adventures to be saved or printed.
This is another quality product. No ads and a colorful and engaging interface. What's not to like? Grab it.
That's a wrap for this week. More free stuff next week. In the meantime, carpe diem.