Fun apps for the whole family

Fun apps for the whole family

The biggest Apple iPad fan in your family might also be the youngest.

Tablets and smartphones - with their bright, colourful screens and easy-to-use touchscreen controls - have quickly replaced more traditional toys as a playtime favourite for many children.

App makers have cottoned on to the trend.

Log into any app store and you will find thousands of apps designed specially for children, ranging from kid-friendly games to educational titles.

Boy-boy or Girl-girl may find a new playmate in your iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab, but this does not mean that you have to be left out of the fun.

Here are four apps for everyone to enjoy.

Disney Karaoke: Frozen

iOS, $9.98

The Disney movie, with its now indelible theme song, has captured the hearts of many a tween girl and even counts some parents as fans.

If Let It Go is on constant replay at home, this app will probably be an instant hit.

Featuring nine songs from the animated blockbuster, this app lets you sing along to music videos, with footage taken from the movie.

Each song comes with the original vocal performance, as well as a music-only mode to sing along to.

Even though the littlest Frozen fan in your family is likely to have memorised every song, parents unfamiliar with the lyrics can now join in.

Just as in a true karaoke system, each track comes complete with lyrics, while a bouncing snowflake guides you along.

The app even includes a recording mode, which lets you mute the vocal performance and record your own voice instead. This can be saved to the in-app gallery for viewing, or exported to your iTunes library.

My only gripe is that this is quite a lot of money to pay for an app with relatively few features.

PaperChibi

Android, $3.77; iOS, $3.98

Remember those Cubeecraft paper dolls which were all the rage a few years ago?

Made from A4 print-outs, the DIYs were must-have decorations for your desk, sporting designs such as Hello Kitty, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Iron Man. While they were fun to make, fans had to rely on professionals for new doll templates.

With PaperChibi, even kids can design and customise their own 3-D paper dolls without special image-editing software, making this app a perfect starting point for a family craft project.

Designing your own is as easy as selecting the hairstyle, facial features, clothes and accessories from a huge list of options. Selections can be further customised by changing colours and adding patterns. The simple tap-to-select interface means that even young children will be able to create fully customised paper dolls.

Once your design is complete, the app generates a series of templates to be printed on card stock, cut out and glued together. They are simple enough for most tweens to assemble on their own, but smaller tykes may need a parent's help.

Besides customisable mini-people, the app also offers extra papercraft props, such as a car and a T-Rex, which you can design, print and assemble.

Easy Studio

iOS, $4.98

Playing with basic shapes is not just for kids. Easy Studio looks simple, but inside this shape-builder app is a great animation tool which teaches kids how their favourite cartoons are made.

Its well-designed interface and tutorials make it easy for anyone to create their own animated clips.

Easy mode offers a step-by-step guide for making one of several pre-designed animated clips. Images, such as a train, airplane or accordion, are first created by snapping together basic geometric shapes according to the guidelines on the canvas.

Once each image is complete, the guidelines will move to that of the next image in the animation sequence, which will have to be filled in by dragging and dropping the shapes into their new spaces. This process is repeated until the animation is complete.

For tweens and parents who are animation amateurs, the app's Expert Mode gives users free rein to create all sorts of animated shorts.

You will still have to work with basic shape pieces, but dozens of available shapes, resizing and colour options give you lots of creative space.

Fun enough for parents to tinker with on their own, this app is also perfect for creating custom animated bedtime stories.

Move The Turtle: Programming For Kids

iOS, $3.98

Geeky parents who want their kids to be programming whizzes can start them young. Part-game and part-teaching tool, this app introduces children to basic computer programming logic.

As its name suggests, the game's goal is to move a cute cartoon turtle across the screen to collect a diamond which represents the goal. However, instead of using traditional D-pad game controls, players have to use programming commands to tell their turtle where to go.

As your turtle moves, it draws a line of its path. While earlier stages require you to plan only straight-line paths or ones which map out simple shapes, higher-level challenges will see you programming your turtle to draw complex geometric patterns.

Each completed stage can be saved as a programming procedure, which can be loaded and used in more complex stages later. Users can also share with others procedures which they themselves have devised.

The first few stages start off easy, but the higher-level programming puzzles will be fun even for parents.

While this app will not teach your kids programming languages, such as Java or C++, it schools them in programming skills, such as designing conditional instructions and planning complex activities by linking simple elements together.

Jasmine Osada is a freelance writer

This article was published on Aug 27 in Digital Life, The Straits Times.

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