The best apps to keep kids entertained over Christmas

toca-hair-salon-iconAt Christmas time many of us are often flung together with relatives we haven’t seen in years, so make sure you’re well prepared with anecdotes from the past year for your grandma, some silly jokes for your cousins and apps loaded onto your phone or tablet for the kids.

There’s something about super expensive gadgets that just turns younger children into technology magpies, who must play with your iPhone just like you do. So to ensure they’re not just mashing their hands against the screen or browsing through your texts, we’ve collected together our top apps to keep kids entertained over Christmas, including festive treats, silly games and even educational options.

For Christmas games and activities

The classic Christmas film The Snowman is being remade and called The Snowman and the Snowdog and there’s a lovely new app on Google Play to accompany the release. There’s lovely, classic Snowman-style illustrations, great music, a 3D world to explore and plenty of games within the app to keep kids occupied.

For the best simple games

Angry Birds (iTunes and Google Play for £0.69) needs no introduction, but the silly throwing and building game is always a firm favourite, no matter how old you are.

It’s very similar to Angry Birds, but Catapult Madness (iTunes for £0.69) is doing really well in the iTunes chart at the moment, just pick up peasants to catapult into a neighbouring castle. Charming.

If you’d rather not have the kids you’re with this Christmas throwing animals or people from catapults, then try something a bit more traditional. Bubble Shooter (iTunes for free) is similar to Tetris, shoot bubbles at others and when three appear in a row they’ll disappear. It sounds a bit boring, but it’s highly addictive, which is probably why it’s really popular in the app charts this week. There’s a similar version over on Google Play if you have an Android phone, too.

For reading

You might think kids won’t want to settle down with a good book over the crazy Christmas period, but in actual fact many books designed for smart phones and tablets turn reading into an exciting and interactive experience.

The Cinderella Nosy Crow Animated Picture Book (iTunes for £3.99) allows kids to delve into the popular fairy tale and see brilliant animations and lots of fun music along the way.

For another fun take on a classic, try Grimm’s Puss in Boots for Android phones (Google Play for £2.99), which allows kids to explore the fairy tale while taking them on a series of adventures with built-in games.

For educational activities

The Singing Alphabet (iTunes for £0.69) is a cute app for kids who don’t quite know their letters yet and need a fun and silly way to commit them to memory. Each letter becomes a character, that sings!

If it’s counting that you want to help the little ones with and not their letters, then fun numeracy app Little Digits (iTunes for £1.49) is ideal for those with an iPad, as it uses the multi-touch screen to detect how many fingers kids have put down.

For slightly older kids an exploration app like Barefoot World Atlas (iTunes for £2.99) could be a great idea, as it lets them work their way around an interactive 3D globe, finding out loads about different countries and cultures as they explore.

For creative kids

The highest ranking app in the “education” section of the iTunes store at the moment is Toca Hair Salon 2 (iTunes and Amazon for £0.69), a fun game that allows kids (and adults for that matter) to run their own hair salon. You can choose from four different characters and can cut, colour and style their hair in any way you like. Lots of kids have those fake heads full of hair to add colour to, cut in a fringe or smear make-up on, so just think of this as the modern day version.

Doodlecast for Kids (iTunes for £1.99) is a really fun app, which allows kids to draw doodles, colour them in and also record their voices over the top as they draw. You can then share the doodles and the sounds with others, which is really great to send relatives you haven’t seen in a while.

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About Becca Caddy

Becca is freelance writer specialising in all things tech, web culture and social media. She works as the Editor of Shiny Shiny and the UK Editor of Popgadget and has written for various print and online publications, including The Sunday Times, BitchBuzz and New Media Age’s spin-off publication, Reputation Online. Follow Becca on Twitter: @beccacaddy
  • Sarah Hartwell

    My kids love the Toca apps! Another creative app they love is Mister Maker – Let’s Make It. There are loads of materials and tools to choose from to help you create artwork – plus you can doodle over photos taken on the device and print the pictures.