Traveling with kids is a big part of diplomatic life and so far it’s been hard for me. My kids are 1 and 5—too young to understand what’s going on and how to behave. While both of them find travel exciting, neither can sit still. Finding activities that will make them sit still has been a major challenge.
I started looking for apps to use on my Apple devices for years. The problem is that many require an Internet connection, cost money (or offer annoying in-store purchases), or are flat-out terrible.
Good recommendations for kids apps are surprisingly hard to find. So now that I found them, I thought I’d better share my findings with other parents. It’s such a pain to download a whole bunch of apps only to find that they’re incredibly boring once you try them.
I organized the apps by age but that’s tricky because some kids are much quicker at navigating them than others. My son was a little slow to understand apps and he’s not very interested in them, while my 1-year old daughter really likes playing with apps and already understands a lot.
And there’s the issue of cost: of course, free is best. On the other hand, free apps typically have “in-app purchases” which can be really disruptive and confusing for the kids, so sometimes it’s better to spend a few of bucks so you don’t have to worry about it—but only if they’re actually worth it!
Fisher price app. It looks very basic but my kids enjoy it because it’s cute and funny. Baby can tap or tilt the screen to set a learning world in motion. Designed for babies 6 months & up.
DUPLO trains FREE
Your child will play the role of the train driver, loading cargo, building bridges, stopping at crossings, helping passengers, refueling, and laying new tracks to steer the train safely around obstacles.
Disney Color and Play FREE with in-app purchases
I have an old version of this app so I’m not sure how this new one is, but my kids especially love the game where they can make cupcakes.
An evil sorceress has cast a wicked spell, leaving everyone’s mouths to rot and be overrun by cavities. Now it’s up to you to help Toothy and the Toothsavers save everyone’s teeth!
Wheels on the bus - FREE or $7.99 for the full version
The full version has 12 games including the sing along and 11 verses of the classic “The Wheels on the Bus” song. If you don’t pay, you only have access to part of the games.
Miffy’s world - FREE or $3.99 for the full version
Guide Miffy through her day. Help her explore, create and play, making art and reading books with her friends and family. Based on the Dick Bruna inspired Nick Jr. hit series.
Fish school FREE
A playful underwater experience with 8 educational activities: watch colorful fish create letters; recognize numbers and learn to count from 1 to 20; follow the fish as they form shapes; touch, tap and drag to make fish and other colorful sea life do funny things; and listen to classical variations of the ABC Song.
Toca band 3.99
Toca Band is getting ready for their big concert and needs your help to mix beats and sounds together for their hit song! Toca Band is a fun and easy toy that encourages children to explore music.
Pokemon Playhouse FREE
Kids can interact with many Pokémon as they explore various locations, featuring activities created just for younger Pokémon fans.
FruitNinja classic $2.99
Slice fruit, don’t slice bombs – that is all you need to know to get started with the addictive Fruit Ninja action!
Bugs and Bubbles $2.99
The uniquely detailed graphical styling, beautiful music, and advanced interactivity is designed to engage, entertain, and educate. 18 games and activities.
Bibi pet jungle FREE or $1.99 for the full version
The funny little animals that live there have particular shapes and speak their own special language: the Bibi’s language, which only children can understand. You can learn and have fun with them with colors, shapes, puzzles and logic games.
Cook and play with food for two hungry monsters. Pick any ingredient and prepare it in your own way! Slice, boil, fry, cook, microwave or mix? And wait for the response from the hungry monster...
Toca Kitchen $3.99
Toca Kitchen lets you cook and play with food for four hungry characters. Pick any ingredient and prepare it in your own way! Slice, boil, fry, cook, microwave or mix? And wait for your hungry friend´s response…
Toca Doctor FREE
Be a doctor for a day! Examine and help your patient by solving 21 fun puzzles and mini-games that take place in the human body. Don’t miss the beautiful artwork and fun sounds!
Phonics fair $3.99
Parents' Choice Award Winner! 60 word families available to help your child learn to read and spell.
AGES 4-5 (basic reading & math skills required)
Montessori preschool FREE with in-app purchases
The complete version of the Montessori Preschool app covers phonics, reading, writing, numbers, colors, shapes, nursery rhymes, coloring and even coding.
Abby preschool FREE
6 educational mini games
This game will help your kid to learn numbers, numbers order, multiplication and subtraction through interaction with engaging funny aliens and everyday objects in 6 different games.
Little digits $3.99
Little Digits displays number characters by detecting how many fingers you put down. Children learn to associate the numerical figure on the screen and there are also games that introduce small addition and subtraction calculations.
Tic tax toe FREE
Supports one player and two player gameplay, so you can play against another human or against your iPhone.
Ages 3-5 (Membership & Internet connection required)
The below subscription apps are, I think, some of the best apps you can find on iTunes to entertain and educate little kids. But they require uninterrupted Wifi while using, so they don’t really work for travel—which is a BIG downside.
Story bots 1 months for $4.99 or 1 year for $19.99
This is super cute, educational and hilarious! We took a year membership and really enjoyed it.
Skybrary 1 months for $9.99 or 1 year for $49.99
Nice selection of books (with interactive elements) and educational videos. We took a year membership from when my son was 3 and used it very often to read a few books before going to bed.