Christmas app round-up

Miranda West, Children's Editor

Our kids editor Miranda West takes a look at the best apps for kids around in the lead up to Christmas.

The Hobbit: Official Annual; Movie Storybook; World of Hobbits

HarperCollins

£4.99 each

We’re kicking off this year’s Christmas round up ‘Gandalf Style’ with three Hobbit ebooks to coincide with the worldwide release of Peter Jackson’s blockbuster. Oh yes.

Of the five ebook movie tie-ins released by HarperCollins, three are aimed at children: The Movie Storybook, The Official Annual 2013, and The World of Hobbits. The perfect companion for anyone bold enough to venture deeper into Middle-earth, these enhanced ebooks are full of stunning imagery, interactive maps, quirky hobbit-based facts, puzzles and games. Created using iBooks Author 2, they showcase some of its brand new features such as custom fonts and scrolling sidebars. And like an ever-resourceful hobbit, HarperCollins have ensured these ebooks aren’t just available for the iPad through the iBookstore, you’ll find parallel products available for Kindle Fire, Kobo Arc and Nook through their respective outlets.

Sticker Dolly Dressing Princesses iPad app

Usborne, £2.99/ $4.99

If your daughters are already familiar with the Usborne Sticker Book range, they’re going to love this latest digital adaptation. It’s everything a little girl could want from an iPad app: ballgowns, satin slippers, tiaras, poodles, and features like being able to name the beautifully-attired maidens after their own school friends.  Once this app had been downloaded my 4-year-old daughter jumped up – ninja-style – to simultaneously grab and swipe-on the iPad before backflipping into her room and shutting the door. She has not been seen since.

Rounds – Parker Penguin

Nosy Crow

£2.99/ $4.99

This is the second in Nosy Crow’s Rounds series of apps designed to introduce children to the life-cycles of animals. The first, Franklin Frog, went on to be shortlisted for ‘Best Children’s App’ at this year’s FutureBook awards – and I’m convinced that somewhere out there is a child still trying to reach the end of this circular tale.  Personally, I prefer Parker Penguin. There’s a touch of the Happy Feet about it as you guide Parker through the Antarctic landscape swiping and tilting the iPad screen to help him slide around the slopes on his belly or dive into the water then accelerate to chase fish. The graphics are first rate and I defy anyone not to feel a warm, seasonal glow as the chick hatches and stumbles about in the snow. Sniff.

Santa is Coming to My House/ Put Me in the Story

Sourcebooks

Free to download + free copy of The Night Night Book then in-app purchases at £2.99/ $4.99.

Very young children will be enthralled and delighted by this app that allows you to quickly and easily personalise specific picture books so your child is included in the story. The Night Night Book comes free, but for Christmas, you’ll be wanting to download Santa is Coming to My House. Another innovative element of this app is that you have the option to print your personalised version in hardcover. There are a limited number of books available to adapt at present but our sources at Sourcebooks tell us more are on the way!

Chewing Gum Adventures

Happy Ink Publishing ApS

Free then additional books in the series £1.99

‘Green in the Garden’ is the first of the Chewing Gum Adventures – a new series of interactive children’s books for the iPad from Happy Ink Publishing. Green, Red and Blue are sticks of chewing gum who – quite rightly – wish they were something grander like a sailor, an insect or ‘real food’. As Green tries to make this happen with life-threatening results, it’s his own bendy, stretchy, inflatable characterstics that save him and his friends. This simple tale that gently mirrors a child finding their own identity was written by journalist and non-fiction author Alan Emmins for his 5-year-old daughter as a way to encourage her to appreciate her own quirky characteristics.

Land of Me: Songs and Rhymes, Making Things, Story Time

Made in Me

£1.99

And lastly, Made in Me (the creators of Me Books <link>) have launched not one but three new apps for their BAFTA nominated educational game, The Land of Me. So if anyone deserves that extra mince pie, it’s probably them.

The Land of Me was a project of epic proportions that a took a dedicated team over a year to produce and went on to win awards for design, technical innovation and educational effectiveness. It’s a magical immersive world for children to explore, use their imagination and learn things. As they travel through the land singing songs, making things and telling stories, they’ll meet some charming characters, like Buddy Boo the bear and Eric the raccoon.  What’s great is the interactive nature of the apps, not all the pressing and swiping, but the choices children are asked to make that inform the style or direction of a song, craft or story. For example, whether a story has a happy, sad or funny ending or a song’s style and tempo.  These are fun, imaginative apps with an underlying sophistication that children will appreciate.

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