It’s summer, and that means you’re going to be seeing a whole lot more of the kids. Fortunately, zany Uncle Technology is here to help. There are tons of apps out there that will provide all the entertainment kids need until school mercifully starts again in the fall. And, who knows—you might even be able to trick them into a learning a thing or two while they’re having fun with one of these apps this summer.
Disney Movies Anywhere
Hard to go wrong here. If you’ve got a family road trip coming up, Disney Movies Anywhere is as close to a sure thing as you’re going to get when it comes to peace in the backseat. With this app, you can either redeem digital copies of movies on physical discs that you’ve purchased or buy movies straight from the app. It should please just about everyone—the selection includes everything under the Disney umbrella, including Pixar and Marvel movies. And, in case runtime doesn’t sync up with drive time, there are extra videos that can fill in the remaining minutes. Disney Movies Anywhere is available for iOS, and if you link your iTunes account, you can download The Incredibles for free.
Star Wars Scene Maker
Moving on to another Disney property, there’s the Star Wars Scene Maker, which puts your kids in the director’s chair. The app breaks down Star Wars to its essential parts, letting kids build their own stories from the ground up. They can use scenes and locations from the movies, and mix and match them with 3D models of ships, characters, lightsabers, and all that good stuff. There are even multiple camera angles to choose from, to really get into the art of filmmaking. After all that, it’s time to get the audio right—there are sound bytes from the movies, but kids can also record their own voices, with filters to make their voice work sound more Star Wars-y. The sweet sounds of John Williams tie the whole thing together. Star Wars Scene Maker is free for iOS, but expect the kids to be inquiring about in-app purchases.
Make sure kids don’t forget everything they’ve learned over summer. eCarrot is a new kind of parental control app, using a rewards-based system to coerce kids into practicing their math skills. Solving math problems of varying difficulty will unlock more game time or screen time on the device—how much is up to parents. The app also tracks kids’ progress, leveling them up to harder problems over time, so kids can’t just keep earning hours of Candy Crush time by answering ’1+1′ over and over again. eCarrot is available for Android for free.
Abby in Wonderland
For the younger kids, Abby in Wonderland is a cute storybook trip down Sesame Street. Putting Sesame Street favorites in the roles of Wonderland denizens (the Grouch of Hearts is my personal favorite), the app is a picture book with the story read aloud to beginning readers. There are also highlighted words that help young learners pick up new vocabulary along the way. Abby in Wonderland will cost you $1.99 on the Windows Phone Store, but hey, you can’t miss with an interactive, talking Elmo in the role of the White Rabbit.
No skipping or jumping required. Instead, Hopscotch will get your kids’ brains active, by introducing them to programming. Hopscotch has a simple, fun interface that introduces the logic behind most of the world’s programming languages, preparing them for the future computer science courses that this app just might inspire them to take (in the far-flung but closer than you’d like to admit future). The app includes a bunch of cartoon animals and characters—some free, some are in-app purchases—that kids can play around with to create games or artwork. They’ll be doing that by coding exactly what they would like their characters to do. The result is one of the most fun ways to keep young minds active in the academic off-season. Hopscotch is available for free for iOS.