Trusting your toddler with your tablet or your offspring with your phone can be a risky undertaking - we’ve had several screens smashed by over-excited infants - but it’s worth investing in a good case, because Android can make an excellent tutor, entertainer and occasional babysitter. Here are some of our favorite Android apps for kids.
Peppa Pig, the pre-school porcine phenomenon, is perfectly suited to mobile devices: the simple artwork and cheerful soundtracks work brilliantly as apps. There’s Peppa Pig’s Golden Boots for feeding ducks and, er, visiting the moon; interactive storybooks such as The Great Egg Hunt; stargazing with Peppa Pig Stars; and drawing with Peppa’s Paintbox. We’ve just introduced our second toddler to the joys of Peppa apps, and it almost makes us feel bad about the bacon sandwich we had for lunch.
The UK’s national broadcaster, the BBC, has two children’s channels: CBBC and for younger kids, CBeebies. Both channels have a range of apps available, and the CBeebies Playtime app is a great example of what’s on offer. It ties in tightly with the TV channel and features puzzles, games and coloring in, and there’s a grown-ups mode offering advice on how to help your children learn.
There are lots and lots of drawing apps in the Play Store, but Drawing Pad was there long before most. Its selection of realistic brushes, pencils, pens and stickers make it a lot of fun - and it works well with Samsung’s S Pen too.
If your satellite or cable broadcaster doesn’t offer Baby TV, this app is the next best thing: for $4.99 per month it provides access to over 100 programmes aimed at babies and toddlers up to the age of 4. Many of the shows have been created in partnership with educational experts, and it’s all ad-free so you don’t need to worry about anything inappropriate popping up - unlike certain other TV channels who pack their ad breaks with ambulance-chasing lawyers and other undesirables.
If you have younger children, you’ll love Toca Boca’s output. Its gentle, colorful apps are great for pre-schoolers and not so noisy that you’ll want to throw your device in the bin. Titles range from Toca Hair Studio and Toca Pet Doctor to Toca Builders, which is essentially Minecraft for 5-year-olds. On the subject of which…
Aimed at seven-year-olds and older, Minecraft is the LEGO of the 21st Century, and it’s different for every child who plays it. You can explore others’ worlds or build your own, build structures or craft weapons, and the Pocket Edition supports multiplayer over Wi-Fi. It’s the perfect app for children with just enough peril to be exciting and not enough to cause nightmares.
The nice people at Oceanhouse Media have brought the legendary Dr Seuss books to life - but not too much life, so they’re not too exciting for bedtime reading. The titles are best suited to 3-5 year-olds, but we’re a good bit older than that and we loved them too. All together now: I do not like green eggs and ham! I do not like them, Sam-i-Am!
We described Minecraft as LEGO for the 21st Century, but LEGO would quite like to be LEGO for the 21st Century. Its LEGO City My City includes 14 mini-games including space expedition, deep sea explorers, police, fire and coast guard. It’s free to play, suitable for ages 5-12, and free from in-app purchases and in-app ads.
As many parents know all too well, many kids’ apps are cynical attempts at parting parents from their cash: some games’ interfaces are packed with triggers for in-app purchases, while others are effectively unplayable if you don’t hand over a bunch of cash for a wheelbarrow full of dangleberries, or whatever the in-game currency is. Hurray for Disney, then: games such as Where’s My Water offer hours of fun without constantly demanding money.
Chillingo is another developer that isn’t too heavy on the monetization (there are in-app purchases but the game doesn’t depend on them), and its Feed Me Oil is a cute and surprisingly educational physics-based puzzler. The idea is simple enough - you have a creature, you have some oil, and you need to get the latter to the former - but actually making that happen involves platforms, windmills, fans and all kinds of bits and pieces. The soundtrack’s pretty good too.
Duolingo promises “totally fun and 100 percent free” language learning, with Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Swedish and English all covered. It’s racked up countless awards and it’s been praised by the likes of the Wall Street Journal and TIME magazine. It’s based around very simple multiple choice tasks and feels more like playing a game than learning. It’s great stuff.
What about you? Do you have favorite Android apps that your kids and you love? Let us know below!