Even if you try to limit “screen time” for your young kids, there come those times when it is very very useful to be able to occupy them for a few minutes. When you are waiting for your food in a restaurant, or taking a long drive in the car, there are those moments when all else fails and just a few minutes of silence can help you hang on to sanity for one more day. It as at this point that you may think about that super powerful smartphone in your pocket. A lot of parents are okay with a few minutes of supervised phone play, but they worry about what their kids will get up to. Like most technology, it works best if you plan ahead. Having apps for young kids already installed and pre-screened on your mobile device will mean you are prepared for whatever new disaster decides to call itself “Wednesday” this week. In fact, there are a lot of great games for young kids out there, but I find that its not that easy to filter the good from the bad, especially when searching on the App Store itself. Check out the WOTS Top 6 mobile games for young kids and be prepared for whatever life throws at you.
Step Zero: Secure your device
Before you go any further, I implore you to put your device on lock down. While many game developers argue to the contrary, in-app purchases (IAPs) in kids games are deceptive at best, and a trojan horse into your digital wallet at worst. To some extent juries agree, as we’ve reported before.. In some cases refunds are possible, but rather than have one more thing to fight with a customer service rep about I recommend you disable or limit IAPs on your device. While you are at it, take a look around your specific devices controls. You may find several other parental controls that will be useful for your specific situation.
Top 6 Mobile Games for Young Kids
Now that you’ve got your device under control, here are six great games for young kids that I’ve “researched” extensively, including many hours of playing them with my own brood. I’ve organized them in order of accessibility from youngest to oldest, but I’ll also call out the age range I’d recommend for each.
1. Scoops Best for ages: Any
Scoops is simple mobile gaming at it’s finest. Your objective is to stack a “multi-decker” ice cream cone as high as you can. The controls are incredibly simple (just tilt your device back and forth), and the gameplay is fairly easy to understand even for kids just barely old enough to hold a phone: ice cream good, vegetables bad (at least when mixed with ice cream). The penalty for failure is also very low – lose all your lives? Just start again. Past the basics, the game is a very entertaining challenge for young kids and old kids a like. There are amusing noises when you have a “near miss”, the music is pretty good, and interesting changes happen in the background as your ice cream pile climbs higher into the clouds and eventually into space. High scores are also tracked, so your kids can show off new personal bests, and you can know who the reigning family champion is. Good, clean, simple, fun.
2. Doodle Find Best for ages: 2-3+ (with parent reading), 4-5+ (early readers)
Another simple work of art, Doodle Find is a matching game that challenges you to simply find things in a jumble of colorful doodles. The ability to read is a plus, but all you need to know are the few simple words the game uses to identify objects, and even before my daughter could read she had begun to memorize some of the more common words like “socks” and “owl”. If you can’t find the object for several seconds, a little sounds queues you and one of the objects of that kids will begin “jiggling” back and forth to draw your attention. This makes the game playable, even without reading, but is a little suboptimal as it eats up a lot of time on the short clock. Doodle Find is a great game to play together with your kids, especially on a larger screen, as you can team up and try and find all of the objects really fast to set new high scores. If you do this a few times, your kids will get the hang of it pretty quick, and it will make it easier for them to play independently later. I must confess I’ve done a few rounds of this with my wife before just to see how fast we could go, and we had a good time doing it.
3. Pocket Frogs Best for ages: 4+
You might not think that frogs would make for an interesting central character in a kids game, especially frogs that with no anthropomorphized comic hyjinks or witty banter. Pocket Frogs has a wholly different charm, as much an interactive aquarium as a game. In it, you start with a few plain frogs that you can go on to breed into a staggering array of different combinations. Small minigames are used to breed frogs, find new frogs, collect items, and even race your prized amphibians. Even just looking at the frogs in their different habitats can be entertaining for a few minutes as they hop around and make their froggy sounds. Its also a great game that you can put down for a long time and come back to, without having missed too much.
If you find that your kids enjoy the minigame aspect of Pocket Frogs, you might also try Pocket Frogs Splash (AKA Dizzy Pad). Another blissfully simple title, Pocket Frogs Splash brings the heroes of Pocket Frogs to a spinning lily pad. You must then time a jump off the pad so as to land on the next pad and not fall in the water. Easy to learn, hard to master, this is another really easy game to like for kids. For the younger ones frustration can set in with too many failed jumps, so I occasionally take a few “at bats” to help my daughter get a little farther. You get indefinite retries and the music has a catchiness to it, so you may find yourself splashing even after the kids are in bed.