Before Apple CEO Steve Jobs negotiated a deal with wireless carrier AT&T in 2006, cell phones were viewed primarily as tools for mobile communication. Customers were more concerned with the connection they got from their wireless service provider than they were with the phone they used. Then something happened, something that shook the industry and changed the way customers view cell phones. Apple introduced the iPhone.
It's safe to say few people could foresee the meteoric rise in popularity the iPhone would have. Third-party developers have revolutionized the devices with an ever-growing catalogue of applications. With thousands of apps to choose from, you'd be hard-pressed not to find something for everyone in the family. If you have the courage to let your little one play with your prized possession from time to time, it's only fitting you find some cool apps they'll enjoy.
With so many options in the App Store and unique personalities of kids from all over the world, it's hard to narrow down what everyone would like. That's why this is a comprehensive list of cool apps that encompasses a little bit of everything from education to art and music with plenty of creative fun sandwiched in between. And make no mistake, these apps are cool. The bottom line is you have tons of application options for children. We've put together a list of 10 that kids are sure to enjoy, listed in no particular order. Who knows, some of these you may even enjoy yourself.
"Tappy Tunes," as you may have guessed by its name, is a musical application. By touching the screen on your iPod touch or iPhone, you or your child becomes the maestro.
First, choose a song from more than 80 available tunes (more than 100 if you add the holiday package). Songs are categorized for easy navigation. For example, if you're looking for children's songs, choose that category and see what's available. Next, you can either start playing your version right away or push the play button to hear the tune first. It's that simple. Some songs even have the lyrics scroll across the top of the screen so you can see the breaks in the notes. The enjoyment comes from trying to match the proper tempo of the song. For instance, you tap your fingers to the rhythm of "Jingle Bells" and if your timing is good enough, the song will sound perfect.
Once you've chosen a song to play, you tap away and "Tappy Tunes" does the rest. Each song is programmed so the chords will play in unison. That means you can speed up or slow down the tempo of the song depending on how you touch the screen. Little ones will really get into this since they'll soon realize the faster they tap the screen, the more music they'll hear, even if they don't know the tune. Tappy Tunes is fun for everyone and a great way for children to learn songs from the "Star Spangled Banner" to "B-I-N-G-O."
Tappy Tunes is as simple as it gets. A version containing many of your favorite holiday songs is also available. Just be careful with your device. Little ones can get pretty rough when they hear a song they know and excitement takes over.
Cost: Free (lite, five songs only and holiday lite), $1.99 (Full), $.99 (Holiday Full)
Sometimes parents don't want their children simply wasting time by playing a mindless video game or watching T.V. Sure, kids need stuff to do to stay occupied; however, that doesn't mean you can't offer them something to do that can be fun while also stimulating their mind at the same time. That's where "Bookworm" can kill two birds with one stone.
"Bookworm" has been around for a while. A similar version of the popular computer game is available for download on your iPhone or iPod touch for $2.99. What you get is a game with endless possibilities.
Each time you play a game in "Bookworm," your goal is to score points by linking letters to form words. The board is made up of letters in columns placed next to one another. To make words, you trace your finger from letter to letter. You aren't restricted to vertical and horizontal movement to form your words -- as long as the tile is adjacent to the ones you've already touched, you can use it. You can't jump any letters and you have to make sure to use the fire tiles that appear before they reach the bottom of the board. Once you form a word, you tap submit to score it. Then Lex, the library worm, chomps away at your newly formed word and you're ready to continue on with a full set of new letter tiles.
"Bookworm" utilizes the iPhone's motion sensors as a way to mix your letter tiles. By shaking your Apple device, you can scramble the letters if you get stuck and are out of word combinations. "Bookworm" is yet another app sure to appeal to adults and children alike.
What child doesn't like a good game of tic tac toe? Because it's one of the easier games for children to learn and play, tic tac toe has an almost universal appeal. Not only that, the classic game transcends generations. It's the perfect app to take on road trips or have handy when you know you may have some time on your hands.
With "Tic Tac Toe Free" on your Apple device, you no longer need to scrounge through your purse or the car for a pencil and paper. It's all right there at your fingertips. Gameplay can be either single- or two-player. If your child wants to play against the computer, you have the ability to choose between three difficulty levels. That way your little one won't get discouraged from losing too much. It also allows adults to bump it up and make it a more challenging game. You can even setup your game to play on the network. Utilizing either a WiFi or 3G connection, you can play "Tic Tac Toe Free" over the Internet with friends or strangers.
If you should get a call while in the middle of a game, don't sweat it. Your game is saved and ready for you to make that final move. This feature ensures your child can finish you off as soon as you're done with the call.
Do you have a future engineer roaming around the house? If so, you might want to check out "Build a Robot." This fun app is perfect for creative kids and might even appeal to teens and adults. Perhaps it's because of the endless possibilities and freedom you have when creating your own personalized robot.
"Build a Robot" is a lot like playing with a Mr. Potato Head. You can select arms, legs, body, head and facial features to create a unique robot every time. When you're done, you can choose to color your creation or leave it black and white.
After your little one has satisfied his or her Dr. Frankenstein fix for the moment, you can save pictures to your photo album and use them as a background or you can even transfer them to a PC or Mac to be used the same way. From there, you can print out your child's creation and maybe even start compiling a picture book to catalog their imagination.
If you've ever stopped off at a Cracker Barrel restaurant for a meal while traveling throughout the eastern United States, chances are you've played with that addicting triangular peg puzzle often found sitting on each table. You know, the one with all of those colored golf-tee looking pegs in it? It's perhaps one of the simplest games to play yet the hardest to put down. Thanks to the "Pegs" app by Samir, you can play it anywhere at any time.
Pull this application out for your children anytime you're looking for some quick fun. "Pegs" is similar to the wooden peg game in that you hop over a peg to remove it in attempt to leave just one peg remaining. What makes "Pegs" even better is you have more than one challenging configuration to work through. In fact, like many video games, you make your way through levels. You can play shapes ranging from a diamond to the classic pyramid. Once you defeat each level, you're all done. But the levels are challenging enough to keep children occupied for quite a while. It's free, so you have nothing to lose except disk space.
You may be familiar with those books that have buttons with pictures of animals that when pushed, make the corresponding animal sound. They're great fun for children. Give one of those to a toddler and you've just made a friend. Or, you can download "AniMatch" and let them play on your iPhone or iPod touch.
"AniMatch" is an animal matching game perfect for toddlers. Each new game consists of 10 pairs of random animals scattered on your screen. From there, you touch each matching animal to complete the pair and score points. When you touch the pictures, you'll hear corresponding animal sounds. "AniMatch" is a memorization game. While it isn't challenging for adults, if you've ever seen the look on the face of a two-year-old when they're trying to figure out a matching problem, it's intense. It's also fulfilling to see that intensity turn to joy when they find the matching animal.
Games are timed, which is where the scoring comes in. More than that though, AniMatch is easy and fun and best of all, will provide hours of simple entertainment. Chances are you'll probably slip in a few games yourself. It's sort of addictive.
Okay, admit it. You used to enjoy splattering paint onto paper by any means necessary with no regard for a mess, in order to create masterpieces to proudly display on the museum wall (better known as the refrigerator). "SpinArt," created by Brian Smith, is handheld nostalgia at its finest. It's also great to introduce to your little ones.
"SpinArt" is an app that creates colorful art on a spinning canvas. You start with a blank sheet of paper, a palette of vibrant paints and your imagination. With a spin of your finger you can create colorful art. You can change the color of your canvas or even start by using a picture from your photo library. "SpinArt" has six control buttons including three sizes of splatter brushes for you to customize each print. All you do is touch the spin button and swirl your finger on the screen then touch the canvas and lo and behold, wild and crazy art appears. When you're done, save the artwork for printing or use it as a background on your device. Think "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" meets finger-painting in kindergarten class. What's more, "SpinArt" is fun for the whole family. Not only will your kids enjoy it, the adults are sure to get a kick out of it, too.
Cost $ 0.99
With "Balloonimals," an iPhone becomes a clown's best friend. This nifty app takes advantage of three of the iPhone's features to create balloon animals like the ones you see clowns make. To make the balloon animals, you start by choosing an animal. Then, you blow into the microphone to inflate virtual balloons (you'll need an external microphone if you have an iPod touch). Once your balloonimal is inflated, you shake your iPhone and the built-in motion sensors do the rest. Shaking your phone twists and turns the balloons into animal shapes. You can make a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a unicorn or one of seven featured balloonimals. From there, you can play with your newly created balloon animals until you're ready to pop them. That's right, with a touch of the screen, you can pop your balloons.
Perhaps the one drawback is lasting appeal. Kids may burn through this app relatively quickly as once you create the seven available balloon animals (only the T-Rex is available in the free lite version), you're done. You have nothing new to play with. Also keep in mind that since you shake your iPhone or iPod touch to shape your animals, that in itself could pose a danger to your device if your young one drops it.
Cost: Free (lite version), $1.99 (full version)
Application developers have made sure to even include the youngest iPhone or iPod touch users. That doesn't mean the young ones aren't enthralled with yours when you're playing "ESPN Freeze Frame" or "Trism," but maybe that's why you should consider downloading "Wacky Safari."
"Wacky Safari" is a simple puzzle app perfect for toddlers. With a swipe of a finger, users cycle slices of photographs of wild animals through until a perfect match and complete photo emerges. The app features five game modes utilizing 40 color photos. The appeal of "Wacky Safari" is based on its combination of bright colors and unique sounds. Along with colorful photos, "Wacky Safari" is full of animal sounds and even a drum machine. With a tap of a finger on one of three animal's paws, you get drumbeats and animal sounds. "Wacky Safari" is also full of animal facts and jokes. Two characters, Safari Joe and Safari Jane, offer insight and educate users on all sorts of animal trivia.
One of the coolest features of "Wacky Safari" your kids are sure to enjoy is the animal phone calls. That's right, your kids can even call some of the animals and listen to prerecorded messages. Kids will also surely love the challenge of finding the blue-footed bird Charlie who pops up in each animal picture. Find Charlie and watch him dance. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you can turn the music on or off depending on your preference.
Cost: Free or $0.99 (full version)
Sometimes your kids just need to have some plain old zany fun. That's where "Wheels on the Bus" by Duck Moose comes into play. Based on the popular children's song of the same name, "Wheels on the Bus" is an interactive application designed to offer kids hours of creative bliss. By simply touching various objects on the screen, users initiate movements and sounds corresponding with the selected parts. For instance, if you touch the windshield wipers, you'll hear a swoosh sound. Touch the doors and they open. Touch the wheels and they spin. You can even make a dog bark. Think of this app as a virtual children's book that doesn't fall apart.
If you get tired of hearing the song played over and over again, you can mix it up by changing the settings to hear the instrumental version. Instead of the words running around through your head, you can replace them with the violin, piano, or if you can stand it, a kazoo. Kids will really get a kick out of the recording feature. Much like adults who have to indulge in the occasional karaoke concert, you can record your kids singing along to the song. "Wheels on the Bus" has a global appeal, too. The app is available in English, Spanish, French, German and Italian.
Price: $.99 to $2.99
For more on the iPhone and its applications, see the links on the next page.
Are you glued to your phone chasing down a MewTwo? HowStuffWorks Now investigates how Niantic is selecting all those in-game locations.
- Beam, Jennifer. "Bookworm is the Defining Word Game App." AppCraver. March 29, 2009. (Feb. 13, 2010) http://www.appcraver.com/bookworm/
- Gamespot. "Wacky Safari Review." (Feb. 12, 2010) http://www.gamespot.com/iphone/puzzle/wackysafari/index.html
- Macworld. "AniMatch: Animal Pairs and Sounds Matching Game." (Feb. 13, 2010) http://www.macworld.com/appguide/app.html?id=69734
- Morris, Christine. "Wheels on the Bus Review." 148Apps.com. Feb. 18, 2009. (Feb. 12, 2010) http://www.148apps.com/reviews/wheels-bus/
- Vogelstein, Fred. Wired "The Untold Story: How the iPhone Blew Up the Wireless Industry." Magazine. Jan. 8, 2008. (Feb. 12, 2010) http://www.wired.com/gadgets/wireless/magazine/16-02/ff_iphone