Everybody loves a family vacation! But in order to have fun, you first have to travel to the fun. Keeping kids occupied -- and perhaps more importantly, somewhat quiet -- during a lengthy car or plane ride can be difficult; counting blue cars loses its luster after the hundredth one passes by, after all. Don't panic! These 10 kid-friendly apps come author tested (and young daughter approved) for transforming road trips into part of the vacation rather than just another chore.
The apps listed are arranged by age appropriateness; the first titles will appeal to youngsters, while apps further down the line are better for older children. What apps do you let your kids play? Would you even trust your children to play with your phone or tablet? Leave a comment and let us know!
1. Zoodles Kid Mode: Free Games + Lock (free, Android and iOS devices)
This gem lets you create custom profiles on your smartphone for each of your children, then dishes out age-appropriate games, songs, videos and activities for kids up to eight. Some content is locked behind a subscription paywall, but there's more than enough free content to keep kids happy. Even better, the app includes a locking function that prevents children from exiting out and playing around with, say, your banking app, instead.
2. Baby's Musical Hands ($0.99, Android and iOS devices)
Baby's Musical Hands is great for entertaining children who are too young to play with apps involving letters, shapes or numbers. Your device's screen fills with multi-colored squares, each of which makes a different sound when pressed. It's simple, but kids love it.
3. Monkey Preschool Games ($0.99, Android and iOS devices)
The three Monkey Preschool games are all colorfully animated, fun and full of educational learning games for kids between two and six. The games in "Lunchbox" focus on colors, letters, counting, shapes, differences and matching, while "Sunshine" is more math-centric. (But still fun!) "When I Grow Up" is a dress-up game with interactive backgrounds and toys that vary depending on the profession picked.
4. SUPER WHY! ($2.99, iPad and Android devices via the Amazon Appstore for Android)
To be honest, $3 seems a little steep for the four basic reading games included in this interactive and amusing app, but kids who love the SUPER WHY! show on PBS Kids will go ga-ga for it. Be warned: the title works well on the iPad, but owners report poor compatibility with some Android devices, especially tablets.
5. Mixamajig ($0.99, iPhone and iPad)
By far the best dress-up-style app around, chock full of funny parts and the ability to import pictures and make you or loved ones into a "Kook." Even I have a lot of fun with this app! You can share your creations via email and social media if you want to show family members that you've transmogrified them into wacky robot princesses.
6. Colorama ($0.99, iPhone and iPad)
Colorama has over 500 black-and-white pictures just waiting for your kids to color them in.
7. Nook Kids (Free, iPad)
The Nook Kids app contains virtual shelves stocked with all of the kids' e-books and kids' "Read to Me" e-books you've bought through the Barnes & Noble Nook ecosystem. You can't shop in-app for new e-books, though, due to Apple restrictions -- you'll have to use your browser for that.
8. Fruit Ninja (Free and up, iOS and Android devices)
Now for some apps that'll entertain you and your older kids alike! Fruit Ninja's fruit-slicing gameplay is addictive and seemingly simple, but it becomes much more difficult the longer you survive. Watch out for those bombs -- and for the easily tapped ads in the free versions.
9. Cut the Rope (Free and up, iOS and Android devices)
Use your finger to cut ropes and guide candy into precocious Om Nom's mouth, snagging stars and avoiding baddies along the way. It's good for hours of fun.
10. Angry Birds, any version (Free and up, iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Nokia Ovi devices)
Ah, Angry Birds. It's almost a cliché, found in every gaming-related app round-up -- and for good reason. The various titles are lengthy, fun and amusing. Older kids will spend hours popping pigs and freeing eggs.