5 Best Kids Apps
Seeing elementary schoolers equipped with smartphones is nearly as common these days as watching teens text. But while kids bum the device for a round of Angry Birds, Mom and Dad enjoy the peace that comes from something occupying their kids’ time.
A fall 2011 study by Common Sense Media reported that half of all children (from birth to age 8) in the U.S. have access to a mobile device at home. More than a quarter (29 percent) of all parents surveyed had downloaded apps for their children. And schools across the country are using apps in their teaching. (Hey, it beats learning cursive).
With thousands of apps for kids available, you’ll need some advice. So, we bring you The Recapp’s picks for the best kids apps, as tested by a handful of sticky-fingered 6- to 10-year-olds. We aimed for a mix of gaming, creation and education, all with full-on diversion in mind.
As with any apps that you let your children use, be sure to take measures to limit in-app purchases on your credit card. These include checking your device’s settings and restrictions, or attaching a virtual credit card or allowance to your app-marketplace accounts.
Spark your child’s creativity with a relaxing spin on a virtual pottery wheel. This kids app starts you out with a block of clay. Sliding your finger along the clay will lengthen or shorten the block. Gently tapping or swiping the sides allows you to shape it into a vase or pot.
You can fire it, paint it and add stencils, or try different materials from the start. Either collect your creations or sell them for pretend money in order to buy items such as paint colors, brushes and design patterns. And if your child isn’t inspired, there are additional challenges to create specific shapes and designs.
It’s a good app that kids can learn quickly. And the best part: no gooey, clay-laden hands.
Yes, there are way too many fishing games on the market. But we remember spending hours playing Shark! Shark! on Intellivision as a kid, so underwater adventures have a special place on our smartphones.
In the Planet Fish app for kids, dive in a submarine and use bubbles (how humane) to catch fish, which number 200 different kinds, ranging from the common goldfish to the exotic Picasso triggerfish. Whatever fish you catch are moved to your virtual tank, where you must feed them regularly and watch them grow.
Whichever fish your kids can bear to part with can be sold for pretend money that can be used to trick out their tanks with coral, plants, rocks and larger tanks. They can also purchase more exotic locations to fish in. (Just be sure they don’t buy extra rubies and coins with real money through in-app purchases.)
This is by far the most basic of our apps for kids, and it requires the most patience, but it’s great for a wide range of age groups (and highly addictive for Mom and Dad, who feel they are always one move away from winning).
The goal of this game is to free one red block from a maze of other blocks by moving them all horizontally and vertically. There are thousands of puzzles to pick from on several skill levels. You can play in a mode that rewards your for completing the puzzles in as few moves as possible, or in relax mode where you can take your time. When you get stuck, there are a limited number of hints available.
If this were a real alligator, you’d probably want him to stay underground…without any water. But Swampy isn’t your average sewer monster—his sole goal is to take a shower (if only your kids were this eager for one).
Your task is to keep the water flowing by guiding it through dirt, tubes and more. The puzzle game becomes increasingly challenging with bombs, toxic ooze, traps and some of Swampy’s adversaries along the way.
This game reminds us of Cut the Rope in that there is a lot of physics involved to be successful. Sometimes you are digging through dirt to guide the water; other times you are trying to figure out a pattern of valves to guide it. And often, we find ourselves out of water with an angry alligator.
There has to be at least a little learning involved on any best kids apps list, and Rocket Math provides a good mix of education and fun.
In the app, you launch a rocket. Get it high enough and you are challenged with a variety of problems, including numbers (such as tapping the odd ones), time (reading clocks), money (counting change), shapes/patterns (tapping 3D objects), and multiplication/division. The more questions you answer correctly, the more coins you get to purchase new things for your rocket, such as engines, boosters, fins and other decorations.
There are several difficulty levels to pick from, and you can earn medals along the way. Best of all: The app allows for several different user profiles, so brothers and sisters won’t accidentally alter each other’s rockets.