Children: they are angels when they behave and are well mannered, but beasts when they are mischievous and bored. Children tend to be easily occupied by many things; a lot of times, that’s the only way to keep a kid calm. A problem arises when we are not at home and child’s favorite toy or game isn’t in arms reach. What about then?
The Android BBQ is coming in about 2 weeks, we are a family of three with a sixteen month old on a limited budget and with a lovely wife who also loves Android (and is making Android Beanies). That means we are driving to this very first mass gathering and celebration of all things Android. This drive is estimated by Google Maps to be 18 hours and for me, that’s a sign that we will need plenty of entertainment for our 16 month old daughter to keep her occupied in the car during the trip.
Along with all the children books, Wiggles DVDs, laptops with Netflix streaming, our last form of defense from tantrums and melt downs is our Android phones. The Android Market carries many hidden applications that can keep a child entertained. Here’s a list of some of my favorites in no particular order.
A simple game with a very simple mechanic of throwing items to knock down a building. My 16 month old was able to score a three star game (highest reward) on one of the levels. She learned the word “birds” on the same day, wanting to play the game again.
A simple game that scrolls animals across the screen. A simple touch on an animal resets a timer that counts down, when the count down ends, or after too many wrong press on the screen, the game ends. There are no complicated menus to go over and it even has options for toddlers by disabling the game over mechanic.
Five Pumpkins is a developer found by two ex-Googlers. They created a whole suite of apps to help children learn words and logic. The suite include mostly flash card games for shapes, words, colors, pictures and numbers. This is an excellent suite with enough included to be worthy of it’s own devoted article.
I admit, my child can unlock Android phones and iPhones. It was only until recently, with the Vibrant’s side power button, that she has finally stopped random dialing and texting on her mother’s phone. For those of us who are less fortunate and need something to keep the screen locked, Toddler Lock is a savior. Toddler lock will lock the hardware buttons and play colorful shapes to keep your child occupied. The app can also optionally enable airplane mode to keep cellular radiation to a minimal. To exit the app, simply press on the four corners of the screen to exit, similar to the “Welcome to Android” setup on your device.
ToddlePhone is a game that has a child asking the player words and colors on the screen and has the player choose it on the board. It is very encouraging and rewarding for the young player to be told “great job!” in another toddler voice. The application also has a non-game mode where a child can push the different buttons on the screen for words and sounds. The full version of ToddlePhone adds other languages, button lock and sound recording to replace the current sounds.
Those 5 apps have been tested with my 16 month daughter and have received great response from her, to the point of her wanting to hold the phone all the time. Some of these applications do not have hard keys lock, and can be exited relatively easily, so make sure you keep an eye on your kids when using them, not like you shouldn’t already!
Other suggestions for me? Sound off in the comments, I would love to try out other ones!