Apparently, when books first became common, parents were reluctant to let their children have them, fearing that they would spend all their time reading, and rot their brains. Today our digital gadgets have the same bad rep. But electronic devices can be helpful for developing coordination, for learning, for safe entertainment… or just for keeping kids quiet for a little while. If you’ve got a child and an Android device, these 30 apps will help with all of those.
This is an interactive eBook that you can read with your kids, or let them read by themselves. It features “Read to me”, “Read by myself”, and “Auto Play”. The words are read out aloud as they are touched, helping to further reinforce communication skills and pronounciation.
Thoroughly praised as being a great way to promote reading, this type of educational eBook may be worth a look if you have quite young children. If green eggs and ham are not for your child, there are several other interactive eBooks available from Oceanhouse Media Inc (link below).
I suppose this could best be described as a neon version of Paint in your hand.
MagicMarker is a simple touch-to-draw painting application which kids can use to make doodles, write messages and so forth. For them it is a notebook with a set of hundreds of glowing pens which never run out of ink.
Sometimes kids aren’t nice. Some of them are persistently cruel and unkind: bullies.
The aim of Bullyblock is to allow a child to record messages and calls so they have evidence to present to a parent or teacher. Having something available to use as evidence could be the motivator to stop kids from hiding up and keeping quiet about bullies, and giving them that little extra courage to tell someone about it.
This is a simple game we are all familiar with: matching pairs. Uncovering the tiles reveals items, and the child has to remember where the first one was when they find the second. When both are found at the same time, those tiles are unlocked and stay revealed.
The aim of the game is to unlock all the pairs of tiles on the board. This should be relatively fun for very young kids, and serves as a memory training exercise too.
If you want your kids to play about with something educational, Google Sky Map is ideal. It is a compromise between entertainment and learning, a cheaper alternative to a telescope.
The application uses the accelerometer and GPS to allow you to point your phone at the sky and use it as a window of sorts to see into space. All of the planets, stars, and constellations are clearly labelled, so your children learn a bit about the stars while enjoying the miracle (from their point of view) of being able to see through the atmosphere.
Kid mode is the most unusual application in this roundup, and yet the most appropriate one. Claiming to accommodate children from ages 1 to 8, this application can go so far as to stop children toggling out of it (with certain settings enabled) to protect your other applications.
All of the games within this application are designed to be puzzling and educational whilst maintaining the childs focus and interest. Topics taught include phonics, mathematics, pronounciation, logic, decision-making and language.
This application is supposedly one of the best available for children. It allows them to enjoy all the perks of the technology on your phone, while being as educational and beneficial as possible.
Bug Village is a game in which the player is placed in charge of a colony of ants and bees. Structures can be bought and skills taught to enhance and advance your community. Think of a very child-friendly version of Sim City.
The aim of the game is to expand and grow your colony to be a vibrant and self supporting insect city.
[Editor's Note: Reader Brian Hanifin has warned us that Bug Village times out and forces you to wait fifteen minutes to continue playing... unless you pay some real money, in-game. There's no password protection, so your child could merrily charge a huge amount to your credit card without either of you even realising.]
PapiJump, PapiRiver, PapiMissle, and many more are in this series. All of these simple and addictive games feature the same character, ‘Red Ball Guy’. In each game, he faces a new challenge and gameplay style for kids to enjoy. In PapiJump he is ascending floating blocks, in PapiRiver he is trying avoid the twisting riverbanks.
All of these games are fun and addictive, with extremely simple graphics; they are ideal for children.
Our best wobbly-walking wide-bellied friend, The Android, has his own wardrobe in this application! Kids (and yourself of course!) can dress him up however they like, give him hair, and adjust his body proportions to better represent whoever they are thinking of.
Once an Android replica of someone is complete, it can be exported using any of the sharing applications your phone has to offer so it can be shared.
Jewels is a fantastic Bejewelled clone, with almost identical gameplay. The aim of the game is to switch the positions of two neighbouring jewels to create a straight line of three or more identical ones. When you achieve this, the jewels are removed and the ones above fall down, creating new opportunities.
With several gameplay modes to suit you whether you have 2, 5, or 20 minutes free, this application is a fun timewaster which kids will love. The gameplay is quick to pick up and understand, and could provide hours of entertainment.
This game is my personal favourite. You are presented with a bird’s eye view of an airport (you end up with several available) and have to guide planes along a route to their appropriate runways. The more planes you land, the harder the game gets, with more and more planes moving onto the screen at once. If they crash into each other it is game over, so the gameplay quickly turns into an exciting struggle to keep the planes as far from each other as possible whilst also attempting to land them.
The gameplay takes about two minutes to get the hang of, and the random nature of the game means the amount of planes and directions etc. are different every time it is played. This is one of those addictive games that can be played over and over without loosing its entertaining edge.
A huge hit on both Android and iOS, Fruit Ninja is a game to test reactions and speed in which you have to strike through pieces of fruit to earn points. Hitting a bomb or letting a piece of fruit fall to the floor causes you to lose lives. Three strikes (or rather not strikes) and you are out.
The graphics in this game are fantastic (a Tegra HD version is available for tablets) and the gameplay is addictive. An excellent choice to keep children entertained.
This is another game that is probably familiar to you; the same game type has appeared under countless names over the years.
The aim of the game is to shoot bubbles at other bubbles on the ceiling; three or more touching together removes them from the game. You are supposed to remove them all before the roof scrolls all the way down to the bottom and it’s game over.
This is a simple puzzle game. You have to manoeuvre blocks out of the mouse’s way to let him reach the exit. The problem is that moving one block may block the movement of another. It requires predictive thinking to move the blocks in the right order and sequence to allow the mouse to reach the exit.
This game would aid a child’s predictive thinking and puzzle solving skills, while also being amusing and enjoyable.
This is effectively a clone of Scrabble, and done rather well. This game maximises usage of screen real estate, whilst giving the player a feeling of minimalism and simplicity. The multiplayer network available spreads across Android and iOS so that you are never short of participants if you have some spare time for a game.
The obvious benefit to children is a boost in literacy skills such as encouraging a rich use of vocabulary. However children could easily get matched against a set of adults and have quite a low chance of winning. To solve this, download the application to another Android phone or iOS device and play the game with your child. (Though an obvious alternative in that situation would be to buy a Scrabble board.)
A vertical-scrolling game, the aim of NinJump is to ascend as high as you can between two buildings while fighting off things that will cause you to fall back down.
The gameplay is very simple, tapping the screen makes the ninja jump to the opposite side of the gap he is running up. Tap again, and he goes back to the first side. When he jumps, however, he is able to attack and eliminate these enemies. Your score is equated from how high you manage to go.
This is a sandbox game, the aim of which is to bridge gaps in valleys to allow a car to drive from one to the other.
You construct the bridge from different road pieces which stretch and adjust to however you like. However gravity and tension are all simulated, so the kid must think carefully about the bridge’s construction, otherwise the car will fall down into the valley below.
The graphics aren’t amazing in this, in fact they remind me of 1980′s arcade games. However it is a working tower defense game. The aim of the game is to place towers on a birds-eye map, as robots attempt to cross, they get fired at. When a robot is destroyed money is earned to buy new and upgraded towers. The strength of the robots increases as the game plays on, forcing upgrades to be purchased.
Though it doesn’t quite seem like it, this game could be used to teach the value of money. The kids have to buy the best suited towers for the task, whilst making the best financial saving to make others, frivolous spending would quickly bring about the end of the game. Basic competitive strategy is also taught through the placement of towers, and when/which ones to upgrade before others.
Angry Birds is one of the most popular games ever created for smartphones and is a delight to keep playing again, and again.
New releases every now and then help keep our interest up. However let’s be honest, although we see it for it’s fun sandbox game style and cute themes; it is a kids game at heart. We get bored of it after half an hour, but kids will carry on with these games for hours at a time.
For those who are amazingly unaware of Angry Birds, the aim of the game is to fling birds from a slingshot at boxes, ice cubes, glass, wood, stone, etc. You must destroy the fortresses of the egg-stealing green pigs, and them with it.
It is a fun game and always has been, if you haven’t tried it I strongly recommend that you do. The amount of levels will keep kids occupied for a ages.
This is another one you just knew was going to come up! The immensely popular vertical-scrolling platform-jumping game has been available on Android for quite some time. Why is it so popular? It is immensely addictive! The aim of the game is to use quick reactions and judgement to help the Doodler battle past monsters and various ledge-variants. The randomly-generated level gets more diffcult the higher you go.
Very similar to DoodleJump, the gameplay is pretty much the same. The only differences are that you collect pickups and reach a final objective, instead of going on and on to reach a high score. Oh, and you play as a spaceship-seeking cow!
This application is aimed at the very young kids, aged 2 to 5. Six mini-games teach colours, letters, counting, shapes, differences and matching. The kids are rewarded for their learning by the animated monkey giving them stickers.
The games are set in palm tree- and banana-riddled scenes in which the monkey serves as the children’s companion throughout their learning.
As opposed to the two other painting applications mentioned earlier, this one uses flat colours without brightened glowing effects. The result of this is an application which allows for more detailed and pleasing doodles.
The kids touch the colour wheel to select a colour, and can then apply it to several provided backgrounds, or they can draw their own landscapes to accompany the foreground drawings. The screen is cleared with an Etch-A-Sketch-style shake.
The application’s market description specifies that this application was designed with the kids’ interactions in mind, therefore it should be expected that the scrolling and selection options may feel inaccurate for adults.
Something kids always love on a phone is the camera, and taking many pointless blurred photos. PicSay may be able to save your memory card from being filled with random and indiscernable photos.
PicSay is a richly-featured photo editor. Tell your child to take a photo, and then open it up in PicSay for them; they can add stickers, speech bubbles, icons, and distortions to be creative and keep themselves amused. If you or your child would like to, you can also share the photo afterwards (e.g via Google Mail and Dropbox).
Racing games are always popular for kids. Reckless Racing is a beautifully detailed and designed off-road racing game.
There are three game styles to enjoy: racing laps; doing time trials; and delivery time trials, the slogan of which is “Beat other drivers or beat the clock!”. Sometimes chasing after ‘perfect’ ghost racers to set best lap times can be more fun than actual racing. Online multiplayer allows your kids to race against real drivers as opposed to AI ones. The gameplay uses a slanted top-down view with ‘precision controls’.
This game should definitely appeal to adults as well as kids, it was probably designed with adults in mind but happens to be a game kids will enjoy.
This is another popular application that was brought to Android from iOS, Talking Tom Cat repeats what you say, but in a silly voice. He can also be interacted with, by being stroked, petted, poked and so on.
This application would serve as a funny distraction, but may get quickly repetitive and boring, so don’t use it to keep kids amused for long periods of time. It’s probably one to show your nieces and nephews, so you don’t have to deal with the endless high-pitched talking.
This is a great application to aid getting up in the morning. We experience many phases of sleep, however we awaken more easily and comfortably in ‘light sleep’. You tell GentleAlarm when you want to be woken up and it sets itself to make a noise about 30 minutes before that time.
This relatively discreet noise brings you out of deep sleep and into light sleep, usually without waking you up entirely. Half an hour later, the proper alarm goes off, and you are woken from light sleep with far less disturbance than if you had been in deep sleep.
Whether this actually ‘works’, I don’t know. I have used it a few mornings, and I did feel a bit more energetic than usual. That being said, my brain was already subconciously preparing and expecting to feel better when I woke up, so it could all be one big placebo.
There are two versions: one is free and does everything the full version does, except it doesn’t work on Wednesdays.
This game is like Ninjump (see above), only horizontally scrolling. Rather than having to fight enemies, you have to switch gravity to above or below you by tapping the screen. If you don’t avoid obstacles they hold you back and coming between them and blades on the left side of the screen spells game over.
The gameplay is fun and keeps you coming back for more. Yet another game to keep kids amused for a long time.
Graphicly allows you to download and read eBook versions of comics on a range of devices. All kids love comic books, and being able to flick through the pages on a tablet saves you the trouble of going out to buy them, ordering them in, and having to deal with duller colours on paper. Now you can have vibrant strong colours on a tablet instead!
Overall, there are plenty of games and amusements you can get on your Android device to keep your children from being bored. They vary in suitability for age groups, though there should be something in the selection above that will be suitable for your kids.
Using these applications would be best when you are waiting for something since kids normally grow impatient quite quickly. Let them play on your phone when you are on a long car trip, chances are you won’t be wanting to use it yourself — perhaps when waiting for the boarding call at the airport on your next holiday. These applications would keep your children fidgetless and sat next to you, rather than running up and down besides the windows pretending to be the planes that they can see.