Entertain the kids during winter break with these iPhone apps

Nov 30, 2009
Games

I say the same thing every year when it gets to be a few days before my kids’ winter break from school.  “I can’t wait!”  I cry.  “A break from the daily schedule!”  Blah, blah, blah.  Two days in and I’m tearing my hair out and wondering if it’s legal to drug them with Benadryl […]

I say the same thing every year when it gets to be a few days before my kids’ winter break from school. 

“I can’t wait!”  I cry.  “A break from the daily schedule!”  Blah, blah, blah.  Two days in and I’m tearing my hair out and wondering if it’s legal to drug them with Benadryl for two weeks.

This year, I’ve decided that my trusty iPhone is going to save me from frustration (and prison).

One of my favorite things to do with my kids is to go on “adventures.”  These adventures started when I’d lost every bit of patience and I couldn’t think of any other way to entertain them other than to throw them in the car and start driving, but they turned out to be awesome.  We’d drive along and look for stuff we wanted to check out — neat nature museums, working farms — and we’d tumble out of the car and do just that. 

Install Museum Mate, a free app that searches for museums, and you can save yourself the hassle of endless driving.  You can search by location, zip code, or city.  And afterward, when you’re famished, use Yelp to find some nearby food.

If you don’t live in a cold climate and want to explore some national parks over the holidays, you must get FlyToMap, which in addition to marine and travel maps, also provides detailed maps of national parks.

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Get Everlater-Travel Journals to document your travels.  The app will allow you to use maps, photographs and stories, and is sync-able with everlater.com, so you can review the trip with kids later.

Need some entertainment on the drive?  Try distracting them with a game.  If they’re in no mood to take turns playing with your iPhone, try Yahtzee or Monopoly so they can play against each other.  Artisan, Ragdoll Blaster, and Ocarina are less annoying and mindless.  Little kids will enjoy Curious George Coloring Book, Mister Rogers’ Make a Journal, and the Sprout Player, which will play short shows for preschoolers. 

My kids can be kept occupied for hours with Google Earth.  For a while, I got mine to try to find our car driving.  They weren’t happy with me when they figured out it was impossible.

For older kids, get Stanza, a free e-book reader that lets you download from a list of some 50,000 free classics.  Seadragon contains thousands of beautiful high-resolution images that can suck even the crankiest kid into a lull.

Had enough of the whining?  Turn on Ambiance and crank it up.  Somebody will fall asleep (though be careful if you’re driving).

Every kid likes to make weird noises.  Give them Voices – Fun Voice Morphing, which lets them record themselves and then morph their voice into one of 17 different choices, including Cyborg, Exorcism, Dark Side, Helium, and Reverse (I can’t promise you won’t want to throw your phone out the window if this goes on too long).

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I love to spend time with my kids baking, especially around the holidays.  It’s the best way to learn fractions and polish up those home-ec skills, and there’s something yummy at the end.  Get Bake-Guru, which contains some 250 cookie recipes, with more being added at every update.

Rest assured, winter break will end.  With any luck, and your iPhone, this year, you’ll enjoy it.

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Viki Gonia

Viki Gonia writes a column for her local paper, teaches writing at Columbia College of Chicago, and has had her iPhone surgically attached to her hand.

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