As I write this week’s column, I’m sitting in my kitchen on an impossibly bright, bitter cold Saturday morning. It’s about 10 degrees outside, the fifth straight day of what used to be considered normal winter conditions.
I have three kids, all of them under 10 years old, and I’m trying to figure out what we’re going to do today. Anyone in my situation understands that when the temperatures plummet around here, your outdoor options also take a major hit. You can only kill an hour or so at the Bridgehampton K-Mart. Agawam Park loses its charm after about three minutes. And the wind at Coopers Beach stings harder than the news that my fake internet girlfriend has dumped me.
Parents are faced with these seemingly winter-specific problems during the summer too, especially when it rains.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and here’s my advice: be patient, keep your wits about you, and search for creative ways to entertain and occupy your kids.
In other words: buy some apps.
Go To Temple
Temple Run is a super-simple mobile game that’s great for kids and highly addictive for grownups. The first version became a true viral sensation. My kids loved the Indiana Jones-style of adventure and the howling gorillas relentlessly chasing them around the Mayan temple.
The Mayans were wrong about the world ending in December 2012. But the tech gods must have been listening to my prayers, because Temple Run 2 was released in late January—just in time for this cold snap. There were 20 million installs of Temple Run 2 in just its first week, and it’s easy to see why: the game is free to download and includes all kinds of new layouts, accessories, and game levels. And since it’s non-violent, you won’t have to monitor your kids while they play—a huge factor to consider here. So what are you waiting for? Get it now and hand over the phone.
Let’s Make a Video
I recently discovered a very fun music application called Audish.com. It’s a free, video-driven karaoke app that lets your kids record and upload video duets alongside pop stars such as Kelly Clarkson, One Direction and others.
To use Audish, all you need is a Facebook account and a computer with an embedded video camera. It also works from your mobile phone or tablet. First, you browse through a catalog of artists and music videos. Then, you pick a song you like, and as soon as the video loads, you click a large record button. Really simple.
The music video plays, with subtitles to guide the lyrics, and your kids sing along as your camera records. The magic comes about 30 seconds later: Audish captures the video of your kids and mixes it right into the original music video by the pop star. The result is a really cool video mashup that toggles back and forth and makes your kids look and sound like stars.
Soon they’ll be making props, building mini sets, and calling grandma to check out their videos and vote for them in a contest. As more songs become available, your kids can burn hours on this app.
If your kids are very young (or if your wife threatens to call Child Welfare Services for child abandonment), then you should probably consider downloading some interactive books for tablet.
I’ve written previously about my love for Mo Willems’ Don’t Let The Pigeon… interactive book and game, and the folks at Sesame Street have also gotten into the act. Check out The Monster At The End Of This Book in iTunes or the Android Store. For $3.99, you receive a colorful, talking, wholly modern version of the classic Sesame Street book—featuring Grover, one of the more underrated Sesame characters in history, right behind Count Von Count. But I digress.
The great thing about this (and other) interactive readers is that your kids can do so much more than just read the book. For this book, Grover erects all kinds of obstacles at the end of each page to prevent you from reaching the end of the book. There’s a brick wall to break, a series of ropes to untie—and you even have to tickle Grover to move forward in the book.