Fun Apps to Keep Kids Engaged
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How Solo Moms can use apps as parenting tools
As a Solo Mom, there are times when you just need the kids to be still and quiet. Have you ever noticed that kids have “Mom’s on the phone” radar? Trips to the doctor’s office can be a challenge, wrangling kids while trying to pay attention to the task at hand. And road or plane trips can seem nearly impossible. It should come as no surprise, then, that smartphones and tablets have become such an important tool. We all know we need to limit our kids’ screen time, but there are moments in our lives as Solo Moms when some well-chosen apps can save our sanity. And if you take time to research and choose the right apps, you can even make it educational.
Apps that help your children learn and create
Get their creative juices flowing and keep them calm at the same time. There are tons of parent-recommended apps for kids of all ages that will expand their horizons. Fresh Paint and 123 Color are two great apps that let your kids express themselves through art. My kids love Cookie Doodle, an app that lets kids mix, bake, and decorate their own cookies while earning stickers and badges for their work. For preschoolers, apps such as Peekaboo Barn are a fun way to learn about everything from animals to letters and numbers. And for your aspiring writer, there are several apps, including the Notes app that already comes with your phone or tablet, that will give your wordsmith an endless blank slate for plotting his or her adventures.
Strategy games that make entertainment challenging
Some of the best apps for keeping your kid quiet and engaged are strategy games. These can be found in many forms and for a wide variety of age ranges. Apps such as Bubbles and Fruit Ninja test your reflexes and speed. I downloaded the award-winning game Blek for myself, and it turned out to be one of my kids’ favorite games. Where’s My Water? lets kids stretch their thinking to solve puzzles. Angry Birds, which comes in several versions, challenges kids to use angles and speed to achieve their goals. And Oregon Trail: Settler is a great take on an old game that lets your kids become pioneers, surviving and thriving on the Oregon Trail.
Games they can play together
Have more than one kid to keep occupied? If your kids are Minecraft fans, the Minecraft Pocket Edition app allows people to play together. You just need Internet access. Of course, this option requires everyone to have his or her own device. Another multiplayer option is Fruit Ninja, mentioned earlier. This game has a two-player mode that can be played on one device. Keeping the kids engaged in an activity together can be a real lifesaver!
When traveling, put on a movie
For long road trips and flights, you’ll want a variety of things to keep the kids entertained and quiet. And if your kids are anything like my kids, they flit from activity to activity like busy little bees. Making kid-friendly movies and television shows available can keep the kids absorbed. If you have Internet access, the kids can easily stream Netflix or Amazon Instant Video movies on a smartphone or tablet. If you’ll need to have movies available offline, a little preplanning can make a big difference. The night before a trip, download rented or purchased movies directly onto your child’s tablet so he or she can view the movie on the go. Just keep in mind that movies take up a lot of space. You may want to delete them as soon as your child is done watching them.
Things to think about when choosing apps for your kids
Does the game require Internet access? Some games won’t play without the Internet. My daughter loves playing Hay Day, but since the game requires WiFi access, it’s not an option on the road. Make sure you check whether the apps you pick can be played offline.
Will your child need headphones? Most games can be played without sound, but when your child is watching movies or playing some interactive games, he or she may need volume to get the full experience. Luckily, kid-sized headphones are easy to find in toy stores and online.
Does the game allow in-app purchases? If so, make sure you turn them off. I, like many Solo Moms, learned this lesson the hard way. Most in-app purchases can be made without requiring a password, so if you’d like to avoid financial ruin, make sure you turn off this option in your child’s device or your account settings before your child buys $89 worth of golden eggs.
Be prepared for those times when you’ll need your kids to be quiet by choosing the right apps to keep them engaged, absorbed, and preferably learning. Obviously, these are tools to use sparingly and only when necessary, but they can sometimes make life as a Solo Mom a whole lot easier. The apps I’ve mentioned above are just a few of my favorites. A quick search will reveal numerous apps recommended by parents and educators, including descriptions, reviews, and testimonials. So the next time you think you might need a little quiet time, build up your app arsenal and give your kids something fun and educational to do while they wait.
Amy Rivers is a writer and mother of two. She has a master’s degree with concentrations in psychology and political science, and enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction pieces about women and women’s issues. Her debut novel, Wallflower Blooming, was released in August 2016. You can follow her on Twitter at @WritingRivers and learn more about her work at her website, www.amyrivers.com.
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