Kids love mobile technology don’t they? I don’t think I’ve ever met a child that didn’t want to get their hands on my iPad, and what’s more impressive is that these devices are so intuitive to use that kids get the hang of how to operate them really quickly. And that’s when the conflicts begin – kids love these devices, but as parents we are constantly trying to balance their screen time with their “unplugged play” time. But did you know there are some apps out there which actually encourage kids to put the mobile device down and do something else instead? Install these apps on your tablet or phone and you’ll give the kids plenty of reasons to step away from the technology and play in more traditional ways…
KidsCraft – Afisha Media (iPad only – £1.49): This is a visually beautiful app which showcases a selection of craft activities that you and your child can undertake together (or an older child could do on their own). There are currently 20 different craft ideas within the app, and you simply select the one you are interested in to be shown step by step instructions on how to make it. There’s also a nice full screen picture of what the finished item should look like. The crafts are a good selection of toys and games, all of which should have good play potential once the making is finished and the tablet is switched off. The crafts would be good for pre-schoolers and primary school kids.
Foldify – Pixle (iPad only – £1.99): This app makes it really easy for you to create and print your own 3D paper models. You can choose from one of 16 basic shapes (this includes basic geometric shapes as well as more advanced shapes like cars, houses and buses) and then you are presented with a designer view where you can colour, draw and add clip art to your shape in its flattened form on one side, and see what it will look like when folded into its 3D shape on the other. When your design is complete you can either email it to yourself in PDF format to print, or print it direct to an AirPrint printer. Once your shapes are created, turn off the tablet and play! Great for all ages.
Hello Kitty Interactive Cookbook – Castle Builders (IL) (iPad only – £1.99): A very simple cookbook app which contains 20 recipes, presented in an easy to navigate format. Each recipe is provided in both written form and video, which means that even pre-schoolers can enjoy this app. The video presenters are blonde, American and beautiful, which I must confess I find slightly grating, but they don’t seem to bother my daughter at all. There is the option to switch the units of measurement for each recipe between US and European measures, but the European measures still include cups, so you’ll need to either own some or work out your own conversion. The majority of the recipes are for sweet things, so it’s not the most healthy of selections. All that said, it’s the first app that has prompted my daughter to put the iPad down and ask to cook something, so that’s why it’s on my list. This app is probably best for pre-schoolers and primary school kids. If you child is not a Hello Kitty fan, the same developer has also produced a Kung Fu Panda 2 Interactive Cookbook which appears to be the same style of app (and seems to have more savoury recipes in it), however I haven’t tried this one yet. For you Android users there appears to be a “LITE” version of the Kung Fu Panda 2 Interactive Cookbook available, but I can’t comment on how it compares to the iPad versions I talk about here.
Geocaching – Groundspeak Inc. (iPhone/iPod Touch, will run on iPad in compatibility mode – £6.99 – Also available on Android): Geocaching is the modern day version of treasure hunting. Thousands of little treasures, or “caches”, have been hidden all over the world, and this app will show you the locations of your nearest ones, and help you navigate to them. Don’t think for a minute though that that will make them easy to find – these caches are generally very small and very well hidden. The app will show you a hint if you’re struggling to locate your chosen cache. Once you’ve found the cache you can tap the “found it” button on your device and it will be added to your “found” count. Geocaching is a great way to get the whole family out and about. If you’re unsure about paying £6.99 for an app, there is a free version, Geocaching Intro – Groundspeak Inc., which will allow you to find three geocaches near your current location – a great way to see if it’s something you’re likely to do more of before investing in the full app, which allows you to find as many geocaches as you like. Great for all ages
LEGO® Life of George – The LEGO Group (iPhone only, will run on iPad 2 and newer in compatibility mode – FREE but also requires the Life Of George playset which retails for £30): There are many LEGO apps on the App Store, but this one is unique in that it gets you building real models. Prompted by the on-screen picture your challenge is to build it as quickly as you can. You then check your work by taking a photo of it against the play mat that comes in the set, and the app tells you if you got it right or not. Thus your child gets to build all sorts of LEGO creations, and hopefully this will lead into more and more building. The playset has a suggested age of 8 years and above, but if your child is old enough to play with LEGO they’re old enough for this app.
Do you know any other apps which encourage unplugged play? Leave me a comment and let me know!
This blog post is also available in enhanced audio format – you can listen in the player below, or, if it’s not visible, click on this link to listen on the Audioboo website.
Disclosure: All prices correct at time of writing. iOS app links include my iTunes affiliate code – if you make a purchase I will receive a few pence.