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This Digital Life: Making the most of children's playtime

It's a touchy subject: when is swiping good for kids and when is it not? We pick our top 10 favourite apps and games for young ones

By Staff Reporter

As any technology-literate parent will tell you, there is no limit to how long a child can spend with an iPad. If allowed, kids will fritter away hours surfing YouTube, Netflix or delving into the essentially infinite selection of children's apps now available.

In certain quarters this has caused soul-searching. On the positive side, at least children are less likely to be plonked in front of the television, brainlessly binging on Peppa and Ben and Holly.

And yet, the technology in question is so new some experts have voiced misgivings as to the long-term developmental impact.

The good news is that, amid all the low-rent distractions you can access via iPad, iPhone or Android device, are many applications with a firm emphasis on education, but also an understanding that, to keep kids hooked, fun is paramount.

Here are 10 of our favourites:

1. The Lonely Beast ABC, The Lonely Beast 123

(iPad, iPhone)

Created by writer and illustrator Chris Judge, the Lonely Beast is a fuzzy monster (pictured right) with sad, pin-prick eyes and a melancholy air. As the hero of two kids' books, he has become a cult phenomenon internationally. Now, children can experience this likeable character via two apps for iPad and iPhone.

2. Endless Alphabet

(iPad, iPhone)

Another reading application and, again, one your kids will enjoy. The emphasis, once more, is on fun. Arranged in alphabetical order, each word comes with an explanation from a friendly monster.

3. Hakitzu: Code Of The Warrior

(iPad, iPhone)

Even pre-teens can pick up the fundamentals of computer programming, if presented in the correct context. Here's one of the best coding apps, in which children learn about the JavaScript language. You build a robot fighter and, by putting your coding knowledge to use, fight online.

4. Mystery Math Town

(iPad, iPhone)

Who said maths had to be boring? In Mystery Math Town kids get to set their numerical skills to good use as they investigate a number of haunted houses, collecting "bonus" numbers as they go.

5. On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects

(iPad, iPhone)

Dr Seuss comes to the iPad. with this quirky app in which kids learn all about insects. It of course "stars" the Cat In The Hat, popping up to sprinkle his trademark crazy rhymes.

6. Grimm's Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood

(iPad, iPhone, Android)

This combines storytelling charm and brain-teasing interactivity. Bouncy in appearance, breezy in tone, these well-loved tales are presented as virtual pop-up books.

7. All Aboard The Ninky Nonk

(iPad, iPhone, Android)

In The Night Garden's vivid colours and squeaky dialogue make it a big hit among the under-threes. Of the several Night Garden apps, this is the best.

8. Trucks, Duck Duck Moose

(iPad, iPhone)

One of half-a-dozen excellent apps from kids specialists Duck Duck Moose, Trucks teaches you all about cars. With immersive play, the application will engage the child's attention fully.

9. Bridge Constructor

(iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows)

For slightly older children, Bridge Constructor (pictured left) lets you put your knowledge of physics to the test as you design and build bridges over an ever-more challenging selection of chasms.

10. Jungle Time

(iPad, iPhone)

Children can be baffled by time-keeping: even the brightest four-year-old may struggle to make sense of a traditional watch-face.

Here's a really great way of learning about it.

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