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Welcome to part 2 of our Top 6 Mobile Games for Young Kids. Did you miss the first three? Click the link above!
4. Where’s My Water/Perry Best for ages: 4+
Not to be outdone in the kid game department, your good old pal Disney has released a multitude of “Where’s My…” games. While the games each have their own central character, and a smattering of cut scenes for plot – they are all based around the same light weight physics puzzling gameplay mechanic. You use your fingers to touch and remove dirt, and in doing so you guide the path of various fluids and gasses toward collection points. Collect a certain amount of fluid and/or gas and you win. This seems easy at first, but each level is its own puzzle to be solved, and the interactions get more challenging as you progress into higher levels. You are also incentivized to achieve “perfect” results on levels in order to unlock more levels to play, and there are various collectible items you can find within the level – both of which add to the challenge and replay value of the game.
To me the “Where’s My…” games are a fun game concept, with a bit of learning about fluid and gaseous physics. I really like the fact that there isn’t really a “right” way to solve levels – instead you have to reason out the physics of how the fluids and gases will move, and make a plan to achieve the objective. Even better, things often don’t go exactly as planned, and you need to fine tune your strategy based on how things actually happen. Your kids won’t realize they are learning all of this as they play, and that’s the beauty of it.
5. Cut The Rope Best for ages: 4+
Another kids game that has become a dynasty in it’s own right, Cut the Rope is solid series of titles for young kids. Your objective… stay with me…. is to cut.. the rope. You do this by swiping in a cutting motion, and it happens that there is a piece of candy at the end of the rope which you are trying to drop into the hungry maw of your puzzling companion Om Nom, who makes no mystery of his feelings on the matter.
The earliest levels are fairly straightforward, but also fun – and younger kids can replay these for quite some period of time without getting bored. Even as an adult you’ll find yourself grinning when Om Nom gets the candy and disappointed when it falls into the abyss. As things progress, new elements are added to interact with – teleporters that pass the candy through while maintaining momentum, air bubbles that must be popped at the right time, and air bladders that push the candy around with an amusing, if slightly rude, noise that sounds a bit like breaking wind. Like the “Where’s My…” games, the Cut The Rope series has plenty of levels to keep your kids entertained – and the loose physics concepts that are included add some educational value to the fun.
6. Lightbot Best for ages: 4-5+
While the other games in this list are fun, and some have some fringe benefits in educational concepts, Lightbot goes the extra mile and explicitly teaches your kids a skill: programming. Having played a decent number of “learning” games in my tenure as a capital “G” Gamer, I can say that most either suck at teaching or suck at being a game. It can be a hard line to walk, but it makes me wonder if teachers just don’t tend to be gamers – because a bad game is pretty easy to spot. But I digress, Lightbot is a fun series of programming lessons wrapped in a game where you control the actions of a cute little robot. Using a simplistic “tile” programming language, your kids will learn the basics of commands, conditions, loops, and a lot of other stuff. My kids really enjoy the game itself, but also get a lot out of trying out “failing” programs which don’t achieve the victory conditions but still make the robot do entertaining routines.
While there is always a “best” program for solving each puzzle (and you are rewarded with more stars for figuring it out), there are often multiple other successful approaches, and a few tricks to figure out. This will give your kids a lot of opportunity for trial and error and some exposure to learning how to improve iteratively (which is something I do professionally all the time). I also find that there are some really pleasing “refrigerator moments” when your kids presents to you a complicated program that they’ve figured out that sets the Lighbot to business blinking, jumping, and turning until all objectives are complete. The Lighbot games are more than just a time killer – they are a learning-fun mashup that is unfortunately all too rare on the App Stores.
Is there a game your kids love that we missed? Leave a comment and tell us about it!