While many of us dream of road trips and flights to exotic places, traveling with kids in tow can feel less like a vacation and more like a chore. Thankfully, we live in a modern world with the technology to keep kids entertained for long haul car and airplane journeys. Here are some of the best apps to keep your kids happily engaged instead of asking, “Are we there yet?” for the hundredth time.
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Favorite Apps for Entertaining Kids on the Road
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Features of a great kids’ app
While smartphone and tablet app stores are equipped with thousands of kid-friendly games, puzzles, and apps, sifting through them to find the very best seems nearly an impossible task.
Jen Leo, co-founder of Best Kids Apps, suggests that depth is a must in travel apps for kids. For an app to be truly great, it must hold the attention and interest of a child for an extended period of time. (source: Best Apps for Family Travel)
Similarly, the best kids’ apps involve open-ended and free play rather than timed games and winners versus losers. If you can find an app with this kind of play sequence, your kids are more likely to be entertained and less likely to get frustrated with their performance.
Lastly, while downloaded movies and television programs are great, they only last so long. Quality learning apps can be educational and might just make you feel a little less horrible about keeping your kids cooped up in the car all day long.
Best open-ended (free-play) apps
Toca Boca apps
These high-quality kids’ apps focus on open-ended play with no scores or time limits (perfect for travel). Because there are no rules, they instead focus on creativity and problem-solving. The best part about these apps is the fantastic graphics, so grab one or all of them while you can!
In this simple but stimulating open-ended dollhouse play app, your kids can explore the rooms in a house. Available on Android and iOS, the app costs $2.99 but is a bargain for the playtime your kids will get.
Sago Sago is the sister studio to Toca Boca, and their apps come at various prices (with no in-app purchases) and are aimed at preschoolers and younger children. Also, open-ended, super creative, and boasting fantastic graphics, the Sago Mini apps all feature the same characters and will get your kids involved in all kinds of adventures. (The Road Trip app is perfect for car journeys!)
Best travel/geography-themed apps
This US state geography game is aimed at grade school-age children and is best for older kids and families. With timed mini-games, quizzes, and flashcards, everyone can get involved with playing and learning about the states. Also available is Stack the Countries, which is perfect if you’re traveling further afield with your kids.
Bogga Vacation is a travel-themed kids’ app fit for the youngest tablet users, boasting a high-quality interface and interactive play. Voted the Favorite Road Trip App of 2015 by BestAppsForKids, no one can argue with this winner.
Best puzzle/game apps
If you’re looking for a standard puzzle game, this app is perfect for even the youngest users. With voices and brightly colored animations, your kids can play over 90 puzzles (not jigsaws like the name suggests) and mini-games to their hearts’ content. The only negative here is that the app offers in-app purchasing, so make sure you have this disabled during your journey.
Best art apps
Crayola Color, Draw, and Sing
It’s hard to find a bad open-ended artistic app, but this one from art giants Crayola links artistic creations to music and will keep your kids entertained for hours, as long as they enjoy being creative!
Best learning apps (literacy/numeracy)
For those of us who struggle with letting kids use screen time for anything less than educational, never fear. The Endless apps offer super cute graphics and animations while teaching letters, numbers, and even the basics of reading. Interact at your own pace, but beware that the free features stop after the initial five or six levels in each app.
Best TV-based apps
Disney storybook apps, Disney Junior
If you have a child who is Disney-obsessed, one of these apps is a must. On the upside, your kids can read and play with familiar characters in these interactive apps with high-quality graphics. On the downside, your Disney purchases can quickly get expensive, as you’ll have to download each storybook individually (but it’s still cheaper and more interactive than watching a movie online).
PBS apps: PBS Kids, PBS Parents Play and Learn
In terms of TV based apps, PBS pretty much have the market cornered. There are tons of apps offered by PBS Kids, including favorites like Daniel Tiger, Super Why, Wild Kratts, Dinosaur Train, Sid the Science Kid, Arthur, as well as PBS’ own characters. The Parents Play and Learn app is built for parents but is fantastic for kids as well, with 13 interactive games and a free play sticker area that will keep everyone entertained for at least a few hours.
Do you have any favorite apps for entertaining your kids on the road?
Thank you to Kaitlin Krull at Modernize for providing this post.