There are lots of fun things to do at Christmas. Celebrate, do a countdown timer, read about Charlie Brown's Christmas, track Santa's progress in flight and bake cookies, to name a few. I've put together a nice collection of iOS apps that I think will help you get organized, celebrate and eat!
There is a metric boatload of Christmas-themed apps available for iOS, the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. It would be a major project to collect them all, categorize, rate, and present them all. Instead, I looked around and tested a few that I liked, starting with snow globes, and soon it became clear that I could collect a few good ones in some other basic categories.
Here's what I came up with: 1) A snow globe, 2) a Santa tracker, 3) a Christmas book/video, 4) a tree decorator, 5) a Christmas gift shopping and list maker, 6) a countdown to Christmas, and 7) Christmas cookie recipes. The goal was to find a decent app in each category that's free or free with a modest ad banner or free with some modest In App Purchases (F-IAP), usually to remove ads.
I can recommend each one of these because I've either used it before, reviewed it or it has generally good customer ratings in the App Store. Ready?
1. Snow Globe—shake it Merry Christmas — iPad & iPhone. Free.
Many of the snow globes I've looked at have some kind of gimmick. You need to load photos or buy additional themes and so on. I looked for a simple snow globe with low-key, built-in music for, say, an iPhone that I could just shake and enjoy. This is one of those.
2. Santa Tracker — North Pole Command Center 3.0 — iPad & iPhone. US$2.99 with IAP.
Of course, your kids will want to be able to track Santa on Christmas Eve to make sure he's properly on his way. There's a map of the Earth with various presentation options, and it shows your location as well as Santa's when he's in flight. Plus there's a Christmas countdown timer, data about the sleigh, and a Elfball game. In App Purchase adds a bunch of cool features: a 3D globe, Christmas carols, a test flight mode, and realtime reports from Santa's sleigh while in flight, just to name a few. Kids will love this one.
3. A Charlie Brown Christmas — A Peanuts Holiday Classic Interactive Pop-up Book for All Ages — iPad & iPhone. US$5.99
Reading Christmas stories to your kids by the fireplace is a time-honored tradition. It's also cool when you can walk through a classic Peanuts story, a Charlie Brown Christmas - on an iPad. I reviewed this enormously popular app few years ago and it was rated Great! (4.5/5). It remains one of the great, must-have Christmas stories. The recent In App Purchase has been removed, and all tree ornaments are now free. For six bucks, you'll get an app that you and your kids will treasure for a long time.
4. Christmas Tree — iPad & iPhone. Free
While decorating a real tree is a treat, there may be times when it's not possible. Or perhaps you just want to cuddle up with the kids and have fun also decorating a virtual tree. A palette of ornaments drops down, and you can dig in, placing them anywhere on the tree to your taste. Favorite ornaments can be saved. After the tree is decorated, you can light the tree, start some snow coming down and play some music. Menu options include setting the tree's basic theme, saving the tree, starting a new tree, saving your tree to the camera roll, emailing the complete tree image to a friend. It's brilliant. If I were formally reviewing this app, it would receive high marks.
5. Santa's Bag — Christmas Gift List — iPhone (2x mode on iPad works great). F-IAP
This app allows you to 1) import recipients, 2) Set a budget, 3) Plan gifts, 4) Create wish lists, 5) Track your progress in stores and online, and more. Plus, you can set a passcode to keep your shopping list a secret. You can also archive your lists, share selected info, and view a Christmas countdown timer. This app has everything you need to manage your Christmas gift lists. This is a very feature complete app.
6. Sleeps to Christmas 2 — Christmas Countdown with Animated Characters — iPad & iPhone. F-IAP
Some apps with countdown times are part of a more complex app. For kids with only one thing on their minds, "how long until Christmas?" this apps does just a few things and does them well. There are several basic basic displays to swipe to, each with a minor graphic (tap it), but the music, from a built-in selection of five, stays the same. Tapping on the status board shows the time in various ways. There's no on-screen mute. You'll have to use the volume buttons. Even so, this is delightfully simple for the very young.
7. Christmas Cookie Recipes — Easy Homemade Christmas Cookies and Biscuits for Kids and Family. iPhone and iPad. Free.
From the developer: "Find 100+ free christmas cookie recipes in this application that will inspire your Christmas party ideas to celebrate your holy Christmas Day. This is free application that contains collection of the best free baking recipes that will guide you how to make Christmas cookie and biscuits with easy baking.... All the christmas baking recipes in this app are served in quick and easy way. So, you will also have a time for your family. Give your little kids with yummy sugar cookies and your family with all christmas cookies recipes."
With this list, you and your kids will have most everything needed to accompany your Christmas celebration: counting down, shopping, virtual decorating, cooking, and tracking Santa's progress. I hope you find them fun and useful, even as we all remember the true meaning of Christmas.