So many blogs share tips for travelling with toddlers, and most of them suggest taking an iPad. But what should you actually put on that iPad to keep your little one busy and happy during the journey?
We’ve been travelling with James since he was very little, and I’ve been using my phone and iPad to entertain and amuse him since he was not much older. The iPad is full of his apps, and seeing him whizz around with confidence makes me wonder what technology will be like in the future, because children can so intuitively use tablets. I do get new apps from time to time, and some do become favourites, but some are played with once and never again. These are some of James’ perennial favourite apps, which have been in use regularly.
Lego Duplo Trains – FREEYou are a train driver in this app. You load up your trucks or carriages (you choose) with goods or passengers, and transport them where they need to go. If you’ve got passengers then you stamp their tickets as you pick them up from the station, which James loves to copy in real life with a hole punch and receipts. You also build bridges and draw track, along the way, and fill the train up with fuel. A brilliant app, and it’s free!
Toca House – £2.49
This is a cute little app, with approximately 3-5 tasks per floor of a tall town house. For example, in the entry door you can sort the letters into the correct letter box, help with the sort berries into the right boxes or recycling (compost?), or ensure each character gets the parcel they’re meant to have. Further up the house you can do the ironing, clean a window, bath a monster, and light a fire among many other household tasks.
James loves this app. He really enjoys housework in real life, so I’m not sure if that’s helped his enjoyment of this app or it just so happens that he likes them both.
Sago Mini Pet Cafe – £2.29Here you have three characters – a cat, a dog, and a bird. You basically sort biscuits into colours according to each character, pour a drink from a fountain for each to eat, and match the food to the silhouette so that the dog can eat. It’s fun, and simple, with clear illustrations and characters that travel across the Sago Mini apps.
Toca Robot Lab – £2.49In this app you first design a robot, by giving it a head, body, arms and legs as you travel along a conveyor belt. Each time you pick a body part, you select it from three choices before moving to the next part. Then, when your robot is complete, you use your finger to make it fly through a platformed area, where blocks and balls get in your way of collecting three stars before heading to a magnet which whisks your robot away and ends the level. The first few times James played this he didn’t understand about collecting stars, then he was happy if he got one. Now he tries to find all three before he heads to the magnet. His absolute joy when the app randomly says “hello robot” is so sweet to witness!
Pepi Tree – £1.49 The music in this app is delightful, and the little characters are so sweet. It’s a tree (the name gave it away) with different characters on different parts of the tree, with an activity for each. For example the caterpillar at the top of the tree is very hungry (aren’t they all!) and you wiggle your finger around the leaf or piece of fruit to guide it until it eats it all up, then it spins a cocoon for itself before becoming a beautiful butterfly. Then you take a photo of it, and start again with the next caterpillar. On another level of the tree, you shine a torch into the area around an owl in the dark, and find creatures, which you sort into the silhouette along the bottom of the screen. This is a lovely app, which has opened discussion about plants we can eat in the woods, why spiders make webs, among other things.
CBeebies Storytime – FREE We only got this app about six months ago, and James has played with it increasingly more often recently. To start with he only liked the Show Me, Show Me story, in which Miss Mouse wonders if the moon is made of cheese and she goes up to have a look. You have to help Miss Mouse by tapping her nose at the various points in the story, and that’s it. Occasionally I think you have to shout into the microphone to help her out, but it moves along in the story after a little while if you don’t understand what a microphone is, and stay quiet! There are a lot of the CBeebies characters in this app, all with a little story, with a cartoon and a voiceover who will read the story to you, or you can choose to read it yourself.
Fiete – £2.49Oh I love this app! I love the illustrations, and I love the little games you play! You have a landscape, with jaunty sea-shanty-type music in the background, and you pick the game you want to play by selecting a little picture. A mini game opens up, and you do simple activities, like cracking an egg into a frying pan, putting the tyres on a car, and collecting apples from the tree into baskets. In one of the mini games, you really simply have to pass a man his umbrella because it’s raining. It’s really cute, and perfect from around 18m and up. There is a Christmas version too, with advent boxes, but that wasn’t quite as satisfying for me or James, though the illustrations were delicious, too.
Nighty Night – The bedtime story app for children – £2.99This app is well illustrated with the idea that all the animals are still awake and need the light to be turned off to help them sleep. You go into each room, and switch the light off. Simple as that! You can interact with the animals, for example you can stroke the sheep and he jumps in the air, which a 13 month old James giggled and giggled at. At the end, when you’ve put all the animals to bed, there voiceover says, “somebody’s not in bed. Can you guess who that is? Yes, it’s you!” and there’s a little boy in his pyjamas waving to you. Don’t forget to turn out the light!
So, some of these are pretty expensive. My top tip is to use AppShopper, which allows you to create a wish list of apps, and then sends you a notification when they drop in price. It also lets you know when they’ve been updated, which isn’t that handy if you’ve got auto-update switched on in the App Store, but it doesn’t happen that often, so it’s okay. Also, follow Toca Boca, Fiete, and Sago Mini on Facebook, as they very often let you know when one of their apps is free for a limited time. Plan ahead, and entertaining your toddler with apps on the iPad need not be expensive! Although, what price is a bit of peace?!