Need to Distract the Kids? There's an App for That

Filed under: Activities: Babies, Toys, Gadgets, That's Entertainment

'Where's Gumbo?' is a digital lift-the-flap book. Credit: Jacob Favre

Used to be that a long flight, long line or long wait at the doctor's office was a frazzled parent's worst nightmare. But thanks to the iPhone -- and the thousands of apps designed for kids -- a quick distraction or instant activity is just a tap away. Here, our faves for every age. Find them in the iTunes app store.

Toddler and Preschool

  • Where's Gumbo?: A digital lift-the-flap book that asks kids to help find a lost puppy. It's better than analog because the animals behind the "flaps" change each time you play. $1.99. Lite version available.
  • Old MacDonald: From the designers of acclaimed app "The Wheels on the Bus," this new interactive sing-along storybook has more than double the pages and touch features as "Bus," with the same appealing animation. $1.99.
  • Shape Builder: Preschoolers will be endlessly entertained by this drag-and-drop puzzle game, and you can feel good that they are learning all the while. 99 cents. Lite version available.

The Colorama app comes with quirky drawings. Credit: Colorama

Younger Kids

  • Colorama: A wide selection of rich colors and 50-plus quirky drawings set this apart from the coloring-book pack. Kids can save and send their masterpieces. 99 cents.
  • Animatch: A top-notch matching game that works junior's memory with adorable animal illustrations and funny sounds that aid in recall. 99 cents.
  • TappyTunes: Kids can play their favorite ditty (choose from 20 children's songs) simply by tapping the screen to the tempo. Cute lyrics-inspired graphics add to the fun. $1.99. Lite version available.
Older Kids

  • Skee-Ball: Just like the arcade version and just as addictive, use a finger to fling balls at the target. Part of the well-designed Flick Sports series (Flick Fishing is also great). 99 cents.
  • Wooden Labyrinth 3D: The iPhone is perfectly suited to this real-world game adaptation; you tilt and rotate the device to move a ball through a maze and avoid pesky holes. With 180 levels, it'll keep them busy for hours. $2.99. Free version available.
  • Wurdle: Much like family favorite Boggle, players search for words in a randomly generated letter matrix. So engaging they'll forget it's educational. $1.99
All Ages

  • Face Melter: The perfect time-killer, choose images from your photo library and let your brood manipulate them by dragging, pulling and pinching the screen. Hilarious results guaranteed. $1.99. Lite version available.
Love an app you don't see here? Tell us about your family's top picks.

Related: iPhone Puts Fitness at Your Fingertips

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.