Rain. Wind. Cyclones. Children whining. If all that is happening around your home then it is undoubtedly the school holidays. Being housebound with bored little people can feel like an eternity, can’t it? Here are a few suggestions that I tried out on my kids that might be useful during the wet weather days.
A few new apps. While we all love free apps, they often come with the hidden consequence of either pricey in-app purchases or loads of pop-up ads that little fingers are forever clicking on. I sometimes check out the paid apps and for less than the cost of a takeaway coffee – and waaaay less than a Frozen colouring-in book – you can actually get some great educational, entertaining, well-designed games. My kids absolutely love these two apps from TinyBop. I asked Miss 7 to chose which one she loved the most and she said “Ohhhhh… I CAN’T DECIDE!”.
Plants introduces kids to how the biological world around them works. Control the seasons, make trees grow, learn about animals in their natural habitats, even create lightning by pinching two clouds together. Available for iPhone and iPad $2.59 (US$1.99).
Human Body is the first app from TinyBop which has gone on to be #1 in the Educational category in the App Store, and was named one of the App Store’s Best of 2013. Together with your kids you can explore a working interactive model of the human body. Every body part is animated: the heart beats, guts gurgle, lungs breathe, the skin feels, and the eyes see. It’s designed for kids to discover what we’re made of and how we work – with lots of laughing at the sounds the body can make! The Human Body is available for iPhone and iPad and is just $3.99 (US$2.99).
Learn to Code. Another great activity for kids is to introduce them to coding via An Hour of Code. This free website takes kids through a series of games starting with Angry Birds characters, and progressively building on coding concepts such as simple loops and IF/ELSE statements. The drag and drop interface makes it simple to use and is designed for everyone ages 6 to 106! You can even make your own iPhone game at the end. My kids tinkered with this for ages, each going at their own pace and thoroughly enjoyed it. Good sense of achievement at the end, and the game interface makes learning easy and fun. Celebs like Mark Zuckerberg and will.i.am talk you through each section, explaining the concepts and how to use them.
Make silly photos sillier! If you want something a bit less serious then Chatterpix for Kids unlocks kids’ creativity by making photos talk. Simple and endlessly entertaining. You can even send the finished clip to Granny! Free on iOS.
Free books. Don’t forget your local library! Borrowing e-books or audiobooks via your computer is super easy and does not involve driving around in the rain endlessly looking for carparks or fending off demands for icecream. And it is free! The Auckland Library has an online section especially for kids, take a look here. You can read books in your browser while you are online, or download for offline reading on your tablet (more FAQs here). If you are doing any travelling over the holidays, then an audiobook can help pass the time in the car or while waiting at airports, and you can borrow these from your library too.
Lastly, if the weather breaks, then head outside for some fresh air and try out geocaching! Here’s my earlier review of this fun, free outdoors family activity.
I’ll be chatting to Vaughn Davis about these and other tech-enabled school holiday activities on his Radio Live Sunday Social show this week. If you have other suggestions to add, let me know in the comments and I’ll include the best ones on air!