Top 10 Apps for Road Trips
Our family recently moved cross-country here in Canada – from Alberta to Nova Scotia – clocking in a bit over 5000 km in total over seven days. I’ll be the very first to admit that we relied heavily on electronic entertainment to keep our children (and us!) sane during the long drive. Together with our portable DVD players, our iPads and iPods were called into use to provide mental stimulation for our older children and to soothe stir crazy toddlers. Most of the iPad time went to my toddler and preschooler though my oldest spent time listening to music on the iPad with the built in music app so you’ll likely find these recommendations best for the 2-6 crowd (our children are currently 1.5, 4, 6, and 9) and for girls (since we have 4!) With thousands of apps in our collection, you can be sure that these are winners .
While not all of these apps are strictly educational and may fall slightly outside the normal content found here on the site, since our move has been such a bit part of our life this summer, I wanted to share some of our favorites with you. Who knows – you too might have a long trip to grandma’s coming up or a cross country relocation!
Note: This top 10 is listed in random order, not in accordance with popularity.
Usborne Sticker Dolly Dressing, iPad – $4.99 – In a house full of four girls this is a perennial favorite. It brings all the joy of paper dolls to the iPad – but with no cutting, and no scattered paper clothes around the house! Your child can name the dolls, resize elements, choose from a variety of backgrounds, and create their own scenes using customized dolls and clothing. Very fun – my nine-year-old used this one the most on our trip.
Color Dots, universal (iPhone/iPod/iPad) – $0.99 – This very simple app for babies and toddlers adds colored dots to the screen for your little one to tap. With some gentle sound effects and moving dots this is a mesmerizing, soothing experience for fussy babies. I’ll admit – I used it to put my almost-2-year-old to sleep while we drove through Montreal on our trip east (call it cheating, but it worked)! Starting with one dot, each cleared level (dots disappear when touched) adds another dot to the screen until it is filled with moving, bouncing dots.
My PlayHome, universal (iPhone/iPod/iPad) – $3.99 (Free lite version also available) – A classic app for all ages at our house. Your child gets to choose a family of five – mom, dad, girl, boy, and a baby to position and interact with throughout the five rooms (and backyard) of a home. This digital playhouse lets your child prepare food, change the music, lighting, put characters to sleep, take baths, dry off, and oh so much more! My girls never, ever seem to tire of playing with this family.
iMommy, universal (iPhone/iPod/iPad) – $1.99 (Free lite version also available) – Purchased for my six-year-old who put in a request for a baby to care for on the iPod, this app lets you customize a baby (gender, skin, eyes, hair, sleeper) and care for it. Feeding, diaper changes, bathing, picnics, playtime, and putting baby to bed are all included activities your child can enjoy. With interactive objects and real baby sound effects, this is another app that all of my children enjoy.
Step by Story – Happy Family in the Kitchen, universal (iPhone/iPod/iPad) – $2.99 (A free lite version is also available) – My four and six-year-olds take turn concocting their own kitchen-based stories with this gentle, early language arts app. This app lets your child construct a very simple story by choosing the setting, characters, and events from a variety of picture elements along with onscreen words and then reads it back to them. They really like out-sillying each other with this one!
Musical Me! – iPhone/iPod or iPad versions – $1.99 – I’ve actually reviewed this app in full, so head on over to check out my thoughts. With five mini-games that let your child play with music using classic children’s songs recorded Duck Duck Moose style (always excellent), there’s quite a bit here to keep little fingers busy and toes tapping. My toddler enjoyed casually playing with and experiencing the music, notes, and rhythms on the different screens during our long driving periods.
Five Little Monkeys, iPhone/iPod – $0.99, iPad – $1.99 – With three musical styles to choose from (country, rock, and pop), this bring, humorous rendition of the famous five little monkeys story goes all musical and all interactive. Everyone loves this app (even mom and dad can’t resist tapping away on the monkeys and animated, interactive elements in the bedroom) but it was loved the most by our toddler and preschooler on our trip. There’s so much to tap on in the bedroom, and this musical countdown game is sing-along-icious.
Toca Tea Party, iPad, $1.99 – Well, what can I say? How can a little girl resist a virtual tea party on the iPad? My toddler is an official Toca Tea Party addict – she does the whole thing – picks the tablecloth, sets the table, picks (and eats) snacks, wipes up spills and tidies the dishes. She isn’t much into sharing the app yet, but her older sisters do get together for group tea parties around the iPad where they chat and ‘snack’.
Merry Cubes – iPhone/iPod or iPad – $0.99 – My four-year-old is the queen of iPad puzzles, and on our long road trip Merry Cubes was one of her favorites. This easy to complete, cube-based puzzle has two difficulty levels and asks children to rotate the pieces to make one fruity band member who breaks into a jubilant, animated song and dance once completed. Once all the members of the band have been assembled there’s a big party where everyone dances and plays! High energy puzzle fun, the older children enjoy this one as well.
Splish Splash Inn – iPhone/iPod or iPad – $0.99 – Combining elements of peek-a-boo as your child taps underwater hotel doors to reveal sea creatures behind each one, counting, and the ability to move and trigger animations with each animal touched, this simple app was surprisingly appealing. My toddler stacked and rearranged clams for some time!
Though most of us are done with our travels for the year, keep these apps in mind for extended field trips voyages and Christmas visits to relatives! There’s always next summer too! Bon voyage!
What are YOUR favorite apps for traveling with children (whether directly educational or not) – cut loose with your best recommendations for fellow travelers in the comments section!