This is a new series we’re starting off for 2014 – a quick list of five apps, websites, tech tools or other resources for the digital age to help families connect, balance and nourish their relationships in a world prone to ‘digital distraction’.
While we strongly encourage families to consider the overall number of hours their children spend with ‘screens’ (especially passive viewing like television programming), these lists are meant to help families choose the highest quality content for the times they do decide to plug into the digital realm, with an emphasis on being together.
Each post will have links and a few sentences to describe each resource. We welcome guest posts for this series.
Take 5 to Puzzle it Out Together!
For the first post, I have chosen five game apps that are fun for kids but challenging enough to share with an adult or older sibling. All of the games can also be played alone, but they are even more fun when shared.
Each game has a focus on solving puzzles and brain teasers with different clues or strategies necessary to solve each level. All the titles are available for Apple’s iPad, along with several games that are also available for Kindle Fire and Google-Play devices (Android OS). There are also a couple available for PC and Mac computers, giving users lots of options to access the titles on this list. No matter what device you own, at least one of these games should be available for your chosen format.
This list is our family’s personal favorites, specially selected by my husband Marc and our 7-year old son, with a range of difficulty levels, for families with kids ages 4-10+. The list is in order from those most appropriate for the youngest kids to those with increasing levels of challenge.
We have listed the iTunes age restrictions, along with my own recommendations for each title. Several of these games are rated 9+ and even one is 12+, but we found all five games to be appropriate for our child when shared with an adult. As with all media, we suggest previewing the material briefly, first before sharing anything with a youngster. All five of these games have stood the test of time in our family, too, providing not only hours of shared playtime, but also a game experience worth returning to months later. If you play these with your child, let us know what you think!
Five Game Apps for Sharing on the Family Tablet:
1. Roxie’s a-Mazing Vacation Adventure – OCG Studios
Recommended for Ages 4 and up (no adult assistance needed, although adults may need a kid to help them!). Rated 4+ on iTunes.
From Digital-Storytime.com‘s 5-Star review:
“Based on the print books by Roxie Munro, this game app is a unique title that offers literally hours of entertainment to children (and adults) with a variety of challenges that require attention to detail and problem solving skills. … There are 16 different segments to the map that you can drag a little car through or even get out and walk to explore. The illustrations are delightful and so detailed that you notice something new with every replay of this extraordinary title. Offering enormous replay value, this little app can keep a child occupied for hours.” Read more …
2. Rube Works: The Official Rube Goldberg Invention Game – Electric Eggpant/Unity Games
This is a personal favorite of mine, featuring the cool, retro-styled inventions inspired by Rube Goldberg, delivered in a way that stays true to his original contraptions. This is also a great app for homeschooling families and classroom use, with dozens of great lesson plan ideas available online to build on a variety of themes.
From TheiMum.com‘s 5-Star review:
“In each level you are presented with a scene and an objective. You can pan around the room and also zoom in for more detail. A toolbox at the bottom of the screen holds all the objects you have available to build this invention. Tapping on an object tells you what it is and gives hints on how it can be used. You can switch hints off in settings if you want to heighten the challenge. To use an object drag and drop it where you want to place it. A ball of string with a number on it shows you how many pieces of string you can use in the invention (other connectors such as fan belts may also be available). Imagine you need to carve your Thanksgiving turkey and you have at your disposal a penguin, a rooster, an ice cream churn, a sponge, a bucket, a seesaw, a container of sand and a perch; how can you attach them together using string and pulleys to carve the turkey ? The results are totally hilarious and definitely involve thinking outside the box!” Read more …
3. The Room/The Room Two – Fireproof Games
This series includes The Room & The Room 2, puzzle games. They have had a lot of critical acclaim, including Editor’s Choice from 148Apps.com, who said the game …
“(l)eaves you thinking about how to solve its puzzles even when not playing; a sign of a classy game, which this most definitely is.”
This game, like many we recommend for kids, has an iTunes rating of 9+ so adults selecting a game to share with a child should be aware that this title has some creepy music and spooky themes that might be scary for some children. I liked The Verge’s review, saying that this is …
“(a)n incredibly compelling experience with clever puzzles, gorgeous visuals, and a spooky atmosphere; absolutely brimming with new ideas.”
The Room (1), iPad: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id552039496?mt=8
The Room (1) Pocket, iPhone: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-room-pocket/id573156739?mt=8
The Room (1) Kindle Fire: http://www.amazon.com/The-Room-Kindle-Tablet-Edition/dp/B00C7TAF3Y
The Room (1) Google-Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.FireproofStudios.TheRoom&hl=en
The Room Two, iPad: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-room-two/id667362389?mt=8
The Room Two, Google-Play/Kindle/iPhone: Coming soon!
4. Tiny Bang Story – Colibri Games
This title is rich and complex, along with beautifully detailed graphics. It has been one of our family’s favorites for a long time and well regarded by critics. From Gamezebo:
“While it was the Big Bang that created our universe, it took just a Tiny Bang to create a stunningly magical gaming experience. The Tiny Bang Story is a carefully crafted concoction of hidden item finding and puzzle-solving sown into a beautiful hand-drawn world of make-believe, and you’ll want to scour every nook and cranny to reap as much enjoyment as possible.” Read more …
“The Tiny Bang Story HD is a wonderfully serene experience. With no dialogue in the game whatsoever, the player is left to their own devices to explore areas and figure out how to progress to the next level. Each level has a main goal, but to succeed the player has to complete a number of mini-games which can range from finding puzzle pieces that are cleverly hidden, to fixing a train which then transports the player to a new location.” Read more …
iPad Picture Book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/how-tom-recovered-time/id501067923?mt=8
5. Machinarium – Amanita Design
Recommended for Ages 8 and up (with supervision/assistance from adult or older child). Rated 12+ on iTunes for: Infrequent/Mild Cartoon or Fantasy Violence, Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References
Of all the apps on this list, Machinarium is the only one to get a 12+ rating from iTunes, which can be a bit misleading. I would suggest that many of these game apps are a lot like PG or PG-13 movies, where the more ‘mature’ content is not necessarily inappropriate for younger children but features themes that might be objectionable for some families or emotionally/socially complex in ways that make co-viewing ideal. When my child sees something questionable in any media experience we share, especially if the issue is “infrequent and mild”, it can be a great opportunity to start a conversation and stay attuned to potential teachable moments. In many cases, while the conversations can be uncomfortable, I am grateful for having the opportunity to bring difficult topics up in a natural way. This app was rarely objectionable, however, so don’t be dissuaded by the 12+ rating. From CommonSenseMedia’s review:
Parents need to know that Machinarium is an adventure/puzzle game that requires the user to solve brain teasers in order to advance. The game uses no dialogue and minimal instruction, but it’s easy to figure out the objective, thanks to very clever animation and sound effects. The game is a major resource drain, though, and will only work on the iPad 2. While there is mild violence and the threat of more, the game is a love story at its core. The puzzles can be quite difficult at times, though, which might frustrate some players. Read more …
What are your family’s favorite apps to play together?
If you have a list to suggest, let us know.
For inquiries to author a guest post in this series, please contact:
Carisa Kluver, Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for taking five for family engagement with us!