Any of you who have an iPad will know it’s a lifesaver when travelling with kids. On a recent flight home from Alicante, my wife and I actually managed to read the inflight magazine, enjoy a cup of tea (as much as you can enjoy an inflight cup of tea) and write a shopping list whilst our children played on the iPad and my iPhone.
Yes, I know we shouldn’t be turning our children into techno-zombies and iPad time needs to be rationed. But as far as I’m concerned, on a flight – or indeed in any situation that requires waiting a long time in a confined space – the gloves are off. There are hundreds of apps available now for kids and I haven’t even scratched the surface. Here, however, are five apps that reliably divert my both my 4 year old and my nearly-2.
1. Build a Train – FREE, with additional maps from 69p.
Excellent for train-obsessives like my son. Build your train, choose a track layout and then guide your train round the track, collecting packages as you go. Your free download includes 3 or 4 tracks; but you are tempted with a selection of cooler ones (“Airport”; “Cargo Island”) for an additional charge of 69p. Yes, in-app purchases can be dangerous and result in whining (“but I want the Airport, Daddy!”). But on the flip side, if used as rewards, they are a relatively cheap incentive for good behaviour that doesn’t involve sugar.
2. Peppas Party – £2.99
What’s not to like about Peppa? Daddy Pig is my hero!
Lots of fun to be had here, with 7 games to play. Favourite with my two are making the birthday cakes (you mix the ingredients, as Peppa licks her lips longingly, then bake and decorate your creations); and pass the parcel (poor George never seems to get it). Your kids can actually play against each other in a number of the games. I say ‘can’ as it has never actually happened with my two. They want Peppa all to themselves.
3. Postman Pat – Special Delivery Service, £1.99
“Pat Pat” as my daughter calls this is perhaps our longest serving app. Installed before our daughter was even born, this app is like a knitted cardigan that is passed down to each child in the family. My eldest still plays it but my youngest is obsessed by it. 8 games means you get good value for money and each one has 3 difficulty levels, helping to maintain the appeal of this app as others’ charms wane. A couple of the games are bit buggy but for the price and hours of distraction granted, I can forgive these.
4. Robot Lab – 69p
Cheap and simple. Assemble a robot by choosing it’s head, body, arms and legs. Then float around collecting stars (what else do robots do?). My son delights in telling me every time he collects all 3; it’s really very sweet.
5. ScoopShoppe – 59p
This one falls into the ‘educational’ category. You see a picture of an ice cream and then have to match it by choosing cones, ice cream flavours and toppings from your ‘shop’. The more you match successfully, the more ingredients get added to your shop and the more complicated it all becomes. This ‘reward’ element adds a competitive dimension to the game and it’s actually been lovely watching my son get better at it – when he reached the cylindrical wafers, I knew the app had done its job.