Entertaining children is not easy in these days in which you are not allowed to let kids get bored. Entertaining children so that you can slack off and watch the telly even harder. And the hardest thing of all is to entertain and educate, whilst grabbing back a bit of time for yourself. I have good news for you reader: your smartphone and tablet are your friend. Kids love playing good apps on smartphone and tablet.
There are literally thousands of kids apps for Android, iPhone, smartphone, tablet and iPad. But not all apps are equal. Some will entertain your kids for only a short while. Others will push them to make expensive in-app purchases. And there are some 'kids' apps that aren't really appropriate for yong people.
We've spent time trawling through many popular apps, and present here the best of what we found. But this is where you come in: we'd love to know which apps your kids love. Let us know in the comments below what great apps your kids love to play with and we'll keep updating this story with your additions.
Best apps for babies
if you're doing pre-speech Sing & Sign with your baby, this offers a visual dictionary. Great fun for parent and child and it helps with development, too. See also: Best Android apps for new smartphones and tablets.
This 69p iPad app by Gabaduck for younger learners is based on the traditional learning tune 'Jenny Jenkins' that teaches kids about different colours using song, games and great animal graphics. As it’s for younger children we wouldn’t expect them to sing along to the karaoke-style lyrics but they’d soon pick up the words if a parent sings along with them. If you can’t sing, don’t worry as the app includes vocals by Grammy-nominated Lisa Loeb. Alongside the sing-along songs are fun memory and colouring games and activities, making it great value for money. There’s a free memory game version (Music Matching with Lisa Loeb) to try out first.
Best apps for pre school children
If your children like Peppa Pig, you have little option but to get them this app, even though it costs a couple of quid. And although we're not entirely enamoured of it, at £1.99 you won't be disappointed. All of the P2 Games apps featuring Peppa Pig- and Fireman Sam are good, and as there is a lot of over-priced rubbish bearing the names of Peppa and Sam it is worth looking out for that publisher.
A virtual colouring book for younger children, Potato Head Color makes up in simple free fun what it lacks in UK SPELLING. Cough. Rant over.
All the Toca Boca games for kids are great (except Toca Band, which will drive parents round the bend), but Toca Hair Salon is seriously a must-have on any family's phone or tablet. Toca Boca games are great - hey have the design aesthetic of Swedish wooden toys and 'feel' a lot like real world toys that encourage imagination. Critically, they are great fun too.
A game that is fun and captures the imagination, but is slow enough for younger children to play succesfully. Snail Bob is a physics-based strategy game, your goal is to guide the snail to the exit. Press buttons to control various mechanisms and the snail Bob, try to get to the exit as quick as possible. Rinse and repeat (hopefully long enough for Mum and Dad to have a break).
Simple, charming identify-an-animal games. Younger kids love these, especially as the developers release updates each Christmas that Christmas-ify them.
If you want to teach your kids the phonic pronunciation of letters and how to write them PocketPhonics is the only app you need, but only when you're not near pen, paper and a flat writing surface.
A similar plea. There are so many rubbish Thomas games it's good to know that those by Callaway Digital Arts are good and to be trusted.
A great free app that turns any iPad into a colourful drawing pad, without ruining the wallpaper or table. Good times.
A fun and colourful to help develop children's motor skills and imagination. A game of imagination and ingenuity for tablet users. Your child plays by helping out a company of funny animals.
LEGO DUPLO Train
Your toddler will love to drive a colourful LEGO DUPLO Train from station to station. Choosing and loading wagons, building bridges, stopping at crossings, refueling and laying new tracks around pesky rocks. A toddler's dream.
See also: Best maths apps for children.
Best apps for primary school children
A game of imagination and building skill, LEGO App4+ is aimed at children from ages four to seven years. Build your own truck, then use it to bring your cargo to its right destination, and collect coins to earn more LEGO parts. fun, educational and satisfying. And that's just for the parents.
Hairy Letters is helpful in learning to write letters, and Alphabetic is sort of educational as you have to spot the each letter of the alphabet in increasingly hard animated patterns.
A challenging and fun hidden object game via which you can teach your child letters without them realising. Stealth education is the best, right?
Find things in shapes made up of thousands of objects with this beautiful and addictive free app for children.
A free game enjoyed by children from a surprisingly young age. You suit up with a selection of jetpacks and take to the skies on an exciting adventure.
Best played on a tablet you're a mouse evading cats while you try to drag cheese around a house. More tense than you'd expect.
What child doesn't love trains? Train Conductor 2 lets them guide trains to their destination while avoiding disastrous collisions (or not, depending on the child in question). To play kids must simply drag each train to the correct track with the swipe of a finger. The free version of the game will keep kids entertained for hours, too.
Featuring artwork by illustrator Christoph Niemann, this is very silly but fun. And great to look at. You pet cartoon animals, they do funny things. What's not to like?
Wombi Treasures is a basic but fun and graphically rich treasure hunt game for kids, available as iPad, iPhone and Android apps. It engages young children in scouring locations to find hidden artifacts, rewarding perseverance, and keeping kids gripped with their challenge. While the graphics are rich the gameplay is relatively basic but keps children excited to keep playing again and again.
A geography quiz (countries, flags, cities, landmarks) combined with a game to try to stack scale country outlines on top of each other without the pile falling over. Surprisingly good fun.
Hoopa City developer TribePlay creates games with fun and interactive educational values, letting kids role-play and use their imaginations. Hoopa City is a character game for primary school children. It features Hoopa the Hippo. Kids must combine together elements to help construct cities. Children must build roads, houses, and more. It also features pioneering new mechanics so kids can combine elements to find secret combinations to unlock different building.
An interactive game that lets kids role-play and use their imaginations. Children drive around two different cities, exploring the roads and discovering hidden surprises. Kids can explore by driving a fire truck, police car or even a boat.
Best apps for teenagers
With Tap Tap Revenge you tap the targets on your touchscreen to the beat of music from a variety of beat pop combos (it's young people's music). Tap along well and you score points for accuracy and timing. There are multiple diffculty levels, hundreds of songs and live online battlegrounds. Our teenage correspondent said she likes how you can choose different songs for the game and tap along to the beat.
A useful free tool for music study/practice. Our teenage app fan told us she finds this app useful for finding a specific note, before auditioning for a drama or music performance. And for the post-Glee generation that is high praise indeed.
Best apps for kids of all ages
Providing you can wrestle your phone or tablet from your kids, here's an app that you can enjoy just as much as they do. It won't teach you how to become a real potter but Let's create! Pottery HD is a great-looking and surprisingly fun game which everyone can enjoy. The full gaem costs £2.99, but if you're not convinced, try the free Lite version first.
You know that bit in every adventure film where the hero or heroine gets their hands on the treasure but has to navigate a maze of booby traps to get out alive? That's this game in a nutshell. It's free, and according to our panel enjoyed by kids aged from four upwards.
Enough with the education. Let's finish with some fun. Bike Baron is the ultimate motorbike game for iPhone and iPad, and a firm favourite with children of all ages.
One of the most beautiful and captivating games ever released Monument Valley isn't cheap (for an app) at £2.49 but it will keep children and adults engaged for hours working our how to help the silent princess Ida through mysterious and mind-bending, fantastical architecture, uncovering hidden paths, unfolding Escher-like optical illusions of impossible geometry, and outsmarting the barking Crow People. Monument Valley is both surreal and serene exploration through and will surely go down in game history as one of the unique greats.
Originally conceived as a public safety animation for an Australian metro company Dumbs Ways To Die morphed from a brilliant cartoon and maddeningly catchy tune that kids love to sing into an equally fun game of 15 potentially lethal possibilities. Kids love it and learn how not to get themselves killed at the same time. All together now: “Set fire to your hair, Poke a stick at a grizzly bear. Eat medicine that's out of date, Use your private parts as piranha bait.”
You love Despicable Me, right? Minion Rush is a great action arcade game where the little yellow Minions jump, fly, dodge obstacles, collect bananas, ride the Fluffy Unicorn, and defeat villains in a variety of different missions. You can customise your Minion with costumes, weapons, and power-ups. Earning new locations and different Minions makes this free game a lot of fun for Despicable Me fans and anyone who likes bananas. There are in-app purchases available but not buying any doesn’t affect game play in any way.
Letting your kids have fun running around on train tracks doesn’t sound like safe advice but Subway Surfers is great fun when restricted to phone or tablet, and not real life. The aim is to help Jake, Tricky & Fresh escape from the grumpy Inspector and his dog. There’s hoverboard surfing (think Back To The Future) and paint-powered jetpacks to speed around on. Addictive.