Are your daughters obsessed with their iPads? My daughter sure is, which makes it important to choose the right apps. From art to fashion to learning to singing, the app world is a wonderful place to expose children to all kinds of skills and hobbies. In this article I’ve chosen my favorite eight apps that are currently on my 9-year-old’s iPad.
Before we start, a few warnings.
My daughter recently downloaded a doctor app that wound up being a plastic surgery app encouraging girls to get nose jobs and liposuction. That wasn’t exactly a message a young girl needs to hear.
Also, when you look in the store, if the app has under 4 stars, chances are it’s either buggy and won’t work or just isn’t very good. Parents tend to review apps they approve of; reading their thoughts is very helpful in deciding whether or not to download an app.
Last, make sure your kids don’t have your iTunes password for in-app purchases. Kids tend to make tons of purchases, which means unhappy surprises await their parents when they get their iTunes statement. In some of these apps, you (or someone close to you) can easily spend a hundreds of dollars in a matter of hours.
Still, paying a few dollars for an app is absolutely worth it. Years ago, I worked for an app company in San Francisco and we were surprised that parents would pay $20 for a board game but would hesitate to spend $2 on an app that their kids would wind up spending more time on. It was especially frustrating because of all of the time and work we put into making each version more interactive and engaging.
Another reason to consider paid apps is the lack of advertising. If an app contains ads, there’s a chance your child might click over to something inappropriate or get locked out of the app you’re playing. I remember my daughter yelling for me to fix her iPad when she clicked on an ad and I realized it was for Deer Hunter – one of the most violent and graphic hunting apps on iOS. I was not amused.
Now, on to our current household favorites.
The Toca Boca suite of games is one of the most creative suites of apps in the kids section. These are my absolute favorite apps for my daughter. Her current favorite is the Toca Hair Salon 2. You can pick a character (they have a few girls and a few boys) and give them all kinds of wacky hairstyles. You start by washing their hair, then you get to color, cut, grow and comb it. Towards the left you can add bows or hats, then take a final picture to save your work for posterity. It’s unbelievably cute and engaging, for adults and children alike. This app is a bargain at $2.99.Do your kids want to help a medieval castle flourish? Of course they do. Little Kingdom, a wonderful strategy simulation game by Glu Games, lets players earn tokens by taking soldiers, residents and workers down to assigned floors from their elevator. Once they earn enough tokens, they can buy and build new floors, unlock dragons, create a fairy den and eventually build special floors. There’s a princess at the top who gives them challenges that can lead to more tokens and floors. You can easily enjoy this game free; there are lots of opportunities to earn currency simply by playing. But if you don’t want to put in the hours, you can buy currency for as little as $1.99.
Do your kids want to help a medieval castle flourish? Of course they do. Little Kingdom, a wonderful strategy simulation game by Glu Games, lets players earn tokens by taking soldiers, residents and workers down to assigned floors from their elevator. Once they earn enough tokens, they can buy and build new floors, unlock dragons, create a fairy den and eventually build special floors. There’s a princess at the top who gives them challenges that can lead to more tokens and floors. You can easily enjoy this game free; there are lots of opportunities to earn currency simply by playing. But if you don’t want to put in the hours, you can buy currency for as little as $1.99.
The road trip app Stack the States asks your child trivia questions about American states; if they solve them correctly, they can move the state and drop it onto a platform. The goal is to reach 70% correct answers and stack up enough states up to reach the bar. My daughter enjoys this game a lot and is learning about America in the process. It’s also fun to do with the whole family while driving. The app is free, but it’s worth paying $1.99 for the full version.
Cake Doodle is another app I find my daughter playing with a lot. This creative app lets the player choose a flavor of cake, combine the ingredients, crack the eggs, sift the flour, etc. Once the ingredients are mixed, you can pick the style of cake you want and pop it into the oven. Then there’s the frosting, tips, toppings and cake toppers. It’s a very creative app that challenges kids to make beautiful works of art (which they can then email to Grandma). The cost is .99, which includes frequent frosting and topper updates.
- Reading is another popular iPad activity in our house. We’ve tried several apps and our favorite is Read Me Stories, which invites your child to choose a story and read along with the narrator. Pages only move forward when an arrow is pressed, so the tale progresses at their pace. The stories tend to be really sweet, and my daughter like to use this app when we’re driving long distances. Read Me Stories is free to start — you get one free new book a day — and you can add additional books for as little as $.99.
- One of the funniest learning apps on my daughter’s iPad is Math vs Undead, which challenges young learners to solve math problems in order to fend off zombies. It’s a great way to challenge your child to solve problems quickly. The game is free to play but if you want to unlock all of the levels it’ll cost $4.99.
- Are you ready to sing your heart out? One of the best apps in the iOS store is karaoke superstar StarMaker. Your child can choose hit songs, sing them with lyrics flying by (using auto-tune if they choose) and record the result to share or just listen to. StarMaker has a full suite of options for your little singer to choose from, with easy-to-use design and lots of cute extras. It’s free to start and users can either earn free tokens to buy songs by unlocking achievements, or pay a monthly $4.99 subscription for access to the complete catalog.
- Did you play Sonic the Hedgehog when you were a kid? This next app, Mega Run, is very similar to Sonic but perfectly suited for your child’s smaller device. The goal is to get as many coins and jewels as possible, and each level gets more challenging, forcing your kid to get more creative. It’s free to start and you can purchase coins and mega-coins for as little as $1.99.
That’s our list for this year. Happy iPadding to parents everywhere!