By Tracey Dowdy
Are we there yet? How much longer? When is it my turn? How many minutes is “soon”? I’m boooooored.
Whether you’re waiting to see the doctor or on a road trip to grandma’s house, I guarantee you’ve heard all of those statements at one time or another. And whether you need your kids to hang tight for ten more minutes or two more hours, the following apps can keep your kids entertained and many of them will even teach them a thing or two along the way.
Toca Pet Doctor
Toca Pet Doctor allows kids to choose an animal from their virtual waiting room to treat and nurse back to health. Kids learn empathy and caring for others as they care for the animals and even help them to fall sleep. Kids can wake up the animals when they want to care for them again. Like other Toca Boca apps, the idea is no rules and no stress, so there are no points to earn or rewards, just free play that encourages compassion and may even reduce your child’s fear of going to the doctor. (iOS, Android – $2.99)
Wallykazam! Letter and Word Magic
Based on the Nickelodeon show, Wallykazam! Letter and Word Magic lets your child interact with Wally Trollman and his friends to learn letters and words by going on adventures through the forest, tracing words in the night sky, or building towers out of rhymes. The 3D graphics are outstanding and the even the reward activity is educational and fun. The app gives your pre-schooler a head start on phonics and sound combinations, while entertaining him for hours. (iOS, Android – $3.99/$6.99)
Little Fox Music Box
Little Fox Music Box offers just three songs but don’t let that deter you. Each song is animated with its own interactive world, so kids will enjoy searching the landscape to see what surprises are in the hidden in the background. Kids can change the season by turning the wheel during “Old Mac Donald Had a Farm” or paint the Northern Lights during “Evening Song.” Parents can turn off the music and switch to the karaoke version, so you and your little ones can sing along or play your own music and record it in Fox’s Studio. Note: In-app purchases are still enabled even when turned off, so parents should be mindful if little ones are playing unsupervised. (iOS, Android – $2.99 with in-app purchases)
Reading Rainbow is everything you loved about the TV show – including beloved host LeVar Burton – transformed into an app. The focus is on books and the joy of reading, and kids can choose to read themselves or have a book read aloud to them. Reading preferences are customized to the child’s interests – action, adventure, animals, fairy tales, dinosaurs – so kids are sure to stay engaged. Finishing a book earns rewards and parents can track progress through the app’s dashboard. (iPad, Kindle Fire – Free but with in-app purchases)
Art of Glow
How much did you love your Lite Brite? How much did you hate trying to keep track of the little pegs? Or better yet, how many did your mom suck up in the vacuum cleaner? The Art of Glow is basically your old Lite Brite transformed for this generation. Kids can finger paint using shapes, colors and animation, and designs can be simple or complex using original artwork or adding animated twinkling stars or fireworks. (iOS, Android – Free/$.99 Pro version)
Voted one of the best toys of 2014 by Parents Magazine, Lego Fusion brings all the fun of Lego without the terrifying possibility of stepping on a piece barefoot in the dark. The app requires purchasing a Lego Fusion product from the Lego Store or Toys R Us and then downloading the corresponding app. The child can then design and build their own town, battle towers, or resort within the app, and then capture the design to create a virtual world that they can explore. The possibilities are limited only by your child’s imagination and that guarantees hours of creative play. (iOS, Android – Free)
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.