A decade ago, I would buy a few, cheap toys for vacation and throw them in my bag. Something new to entertain little ones on a long road trip, plane ride, or in a motel room (we didn't even have dvd players in cars then). Now, for the same price (or even less), I can buy a few new apps and keep everyone happy. Though some apps require internet access (save those for the motel), most do not. My smart phone is slowly replacing most of my diaper bag. Here are my children's top 5 list.
#1--Age 3-10: Where's My Water
In the Disney game Where's My Water, you dig tunnels to connect a water source so the alligator can shower (a "good guy alligator" as my son calls it). This is a maze type game with obstacles in creating the tunnels including bombs, switches, plants, etc. Easier levels are perfect for younger children and the more advanced levels are challenging for older kids. Let your children explore on the free version and then upgrade for $1.00 when they love it. This game is really a physics lesson in disguise for budding engineers.
#3--Age 0-2 1/2: Sort Sliders
This cute baby app shows an object in the middle of the screen and then has you tilt the object left or right to match between the two choices. If you are correct, a dog appears and gives a friendly bark. If you are wrong, nothing happens until you tilt to the correct answer (at which point the dog appears). Young children go crazy for the dog. With only 2 choices and simple objects, this app is perfect for the littlest ones. It also teaches hand eye coordination, shapes, and matching. Emerging talkers will enjoy naming the objects and colors.
#4--Age 8-Adult: The Moron Test
The name kind of says it all. Tweens love challenging adults hoping to watch them fail. The puzzles appear simple enough, but are actually deceptively difficult. Pass them all and become a genius; fail, and well, you might be a moron. Can you pass the moron test?
#5--Ages 6-Adult: Cut the Rope
As the name implies, the simple levels require a perfectly timed cut of the rope but as the puzzle levels progress it becomes increasingly more difficult to get the candy into the mouth of the Om Nom monster. Though this game becomes somewhat repetitive, many players find it happily addictive. This game provides a happy alternative to Angry Birds.
With thousands of apps, there is something for everyone (including an an e-book for mom). So next time you are headed off, skip the dollar store and surf the app store instead. A few new apps will be well worth the money.