There are all sorts of apps and games that children can enjoy either alone or with their parents. Who knows, they might even learn something.
However, letting your child loose with a smartphone can be dangerous. If you can’t monitor their use all the time, it’s important to set the correct restrictions so they don’t see any unsuitable content.
To make your phone or tablet child-friendly, not for profit e-safety organisation Internet Matters has our guides for Android and iOS devices. That way, you can ensure your child has a fun, educational and completely safe experience.
Sesame Street Family Play
Available on iOS
With more than 150 ideas for games to play, this app is guaranteed to keep the kids entertained for hours. Games are broken up into categories depending on where you are, be it at home, in the car, or even in the doctor’s waiting room.
The games involve real-world objects too, so your child won’t stay glued to the screen. They help improve your child’s critical thinking, self-regulation, memory skills and more. Plus your favourite Sesame Street characters are on hand to introduce each one. Game on!
Peppa Pig: Paintbox
If your child has a penchant for Peppa Pig and painting, this is the app for them.
They can choose to paint with Peppa or George, and then get daubing their masterpiece onto the canvas. Or, if they don’t fancy drawing, they can pick a background or character to colour in. Once they’ve finished, their picture will be exhibited on the wall at Peppa’s school. It’s great fun, without any of the mess that usually comes with painting.
KidloLand – Nursery Rhymes, Songs, Phonics & Educational Games
This is a one-stop shop for all your child-entertaining needs. It comes with more than 360 nursery rhymes, 120 original songs to teach the alphabet and names of foods, vehicles, animals and numbers, as well as 100 educational games, puzzles and activities.
Some of these you have to pay for, but some are free too. And you can always take the seven-day trial to see if it’s for you.
Toca Life: Vacation
This app captures all the excitement of going on holiday, from jumping onto the aeroplane to digging for treasure on the beach. And it puts your child in the director’s seat, letting them record and narrate their very own film featuring their adventures.
With four virtual environments to explore, and tons of secrets to uncover, it’s all the fun of a holiday without leaving the house.
BBC iPlayer Kids
Now the little ’uns have their own version of iPlayer, and it’s free of all the boring programmes grown-ups like to watch. It’s a veritable treasure trove of CBBC and CBeebies shows, all available to download offline, so your child can watch in the car. That should stop them asking “Are we there yet?”
It suggests suitable programmes based on your child’s age, and lets them pick a monster to represent them in the app. With hundreds of hours of shows to watch, those long car journeys will just fly by.
Teach your kids about staying safe online from an early age, and you’ll instil in them good habits for their whole adolescence. This app is aimed at children aged between eight and 10, and helps them think about how to act in certain situations online.
It features a split-screen collaborative mode so you can help them learn. Plus there are quizzes and games centring on subjects like cyberbullying and sharing content with strangers online.
Space adventures don’t come more hectic than this. It’s a co-operative game for between two to eight players, that sees them co-ordinating with each other to input instructions in an attempt to outrun an exploding star. Oh, and your space ship is falling apart, too. Gulp.
But the best bit? All players have to be connected to the same wi-fi network or connected to each other’s phones over Bluetooth, so they can’t simply play over the internet. Which is a great excuse to have your child visit a friend, encouraging them to be more social.
If you haven’t played Heads Up! yet, you’re in for a treat. Place your phone on your forehead facing out, and it displays the name of a famous person, film, animal or character. The other players then have to give you clues so you can guess what’s written on your phone.
There are 18 themed decks to choose from too, so you can test someone’s knowledge on a subject of their choice. Not only is it a great way to keep the kids entertained, it’ll bring the whole family together.
Lego City My City 2
The aim of the game is to build up your city, but in order to do so, you’ll have to complete missions to earn building blocks. One such mission involves chasing down crooks who have escaped from prison – once you’ve done so, you’ll have the requisite blocks in order to build jet skis and stop the ne’er-do-wells escaping form the island prison again.
It’s all presented in the typically fun Lego style, and it lets you build your own vehicles. The only problem is you’ll want to play it instead of letting your child have a go!
Why limit your kids to activities based here on Earth? Why not expand their horizons and let them explore outer space, all from the comfort of home?
The NASA app features more than 14,000 images, with more being added every day. It also offers the latest space news and feature stories, videos, and the ability to live stream either NASA TV or footage from the International Space Station. Who knows, it might inspire them to become the next Tim Peake.
A Dark Room
A text-based adventure might sound old-fashioned, but what this role-playing game lacks in visual pizzazz it more than makes up for with intriguing plot twists. And as many a writer will attest, language is a powerful tool in creating imaginary worlds.
You wake up in a dark room and are prompted to light a fire. From there you’ll go on adventures, face enemies and explore worlds in one of the most engrossing and interactive games around.
Escoffier Cook’s Companion
Available on iOS
If your teenagers are getting bored, why not teach them how to cook? This elegant and simple app contains all the tools they need to get started: there’s a timer, units of measurement converter, glossary of terms, list of ingredients and more.
By getting them hooked early, you’ll get them eating healthier and taking better care of themselves. Who knows, you might even get a meal out of it.
For further information about sexting and other online safety concerns visit Internet Matters' website - an online safety organisation offering a wealth of free, practical advice to parents and carers to help keep children safe.