Best in-car apps to keep kids entertained

Young children can find long journeys difficult and become restless, which in turn can cause distractions in the cabin for the driver.

One way to keep kids happy and entertained on these types of journeys is with apps on a tablet or smartphone.

To help, we’ve hand-picked a selection of apps for different ages – from traditional board game apps, to fascinating digital balloon animals – that will keep your kids entertained for the long haul.

BBC iPlayer Kids

Age range: 6-8 years

Price: Free

The BBC iPlayer app is a must for any television fan – but parents will be pleased to hear there’s also a version just for kids. It’s very similar to the regular iPlayer app, but easier to navigate without a chance of accidentally stumbling across episodes of Eastenders. Like the regular app, you can download programmes while you’re connected to wi-fi, meaning they’ll be ready to play on long car journeys.

Toca Life: Vacation

Age range: 6-8 years

Price: £2.99

If you’ve got kids under 12 who like to borrow your iPad, you’re probably already familiar with the Toca Boca series. Toca Life: Vacation is a great way for building excitement during the car journey if you’re off on holiday. Your children can control imaginary characters, taking them to the airport, beach, hotel and other holiday locations. They’ll be entertained for hours.

YouTube Kids

Age range: 4+

Price: Free

Like iPlayer, did you know there’s a dedicated YouTube app for children? All videos are split into one of four categories, making it easy to navigate – with full episodes of favourites such as Sesame Street and Thomas & Friends ready to watch. Features such as a built-in timer to prevent kids from watching for too long and a search that can be turned off means parents have full control.

Sago Mini Road Trip

Age range: 5 and under

Price: £2.99

“Go for a fun-filled drive with Jinja the cat,” says the description for Sago Mini Road Trip. “Pick a destination, select a vehicle and hit the road. What will Jinja drive today? Choose a sporty racing car, a jumpy jeep or a funny pickle car! Stop along the way to wash and fuel up. When the drive is done, a happy welcome is waiting for you!”

We don’t know about you, but it sounds brilliant to us. It’s aimed at kids aged 2 to 5, apparently, with more than 10 cars to choose from and no ads or time limits to distract your children. Perfect for keeping them entertained on a long journey.

Crayola ColorStudio

Age range: 6-8 years

Price: Free

It’s great to encourage your child’s artistic streak with crayons and paper, but that’s not very practical for car journeys. Fortunately Crayola offers an app which, when combined with an ‘iMarker’ digital pen, turns any iPad into a virtual drawing board. Whether it’s colouring in downloaded pictures or playing in free draw mode, any budding artist could enjoy this app for hours.

Magic Piano

Age range: 4+

Price: Free

This one is perhaps best paired with headphones. Older kids who love music are sure to love the Magic Piano app. It lets them play along to their favourite songs and experiment with different instruments. It certainly sounds easier than taking along a real violin or drum kit to us.

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Despicable Me: Minion Rush

Age range: 9+

Price: Free

Based on Despicable Me 2, who wouldn’t love a game that involves Minions running for, well, the sake of running? Run as fast as you can as Dave, Carl or Jerry while jumping, dodging and rolling through numerous levels. Collect bananas along the way, but be cautious of in-app purchases, which cost as much as £39.99.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Friends – First Words

Age range: 5 and under

Price: £2.99

Teaching your toddler the basics of language? The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Friends works like a book, introducing children to more than 80 words along with playful rhymes and 3D pictures. There are quizzes, too, and it’s possible to switch languages should your child want to learn a secondary language. All those hours on a long journey can be educational thanks to The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Monopoly

Age range: 4+

Price: 99p

Sometimes the old favourites are the best. While dealing with a Monopoly board, dice and paper money would be a bit of a challenge on a journey, the official app takes all the hassle away. If you’ve got more than one tablet, users can play against each other over Bluetooth – perfect for a bit of sibling rivalry on long journeys. And, just like real Monopoly, the app version can go on for hours.

Wheels on the Bus

Age range: 4+

Price: Free

How many verses to The Wheels on the Bus can you recite off the top of your head? This app knows 11 – and there’s another 10 games for your children to play once they get bored of singing along. There’s a colouring book, a bus ride simulator and a horn piano. Hours of entertainment.

Scribble Press – Creative Book Maker for Kids

Age range: 6-8 years

Price: £2.99

Want to encourage your child’s imagination? This app provides templates for them to create their own book using words, drawings, photos and videos. The app’s makers says it’s suitable for ages six to eight, but we reckon kids of all ages will love creating stories using Scribble Press.

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Rush Hour

Age range:  4+

Price: Free

This sliding block puzzle is a classic – and now it’s available in digital form. If you’ve not played Rush Hour before, it basically involves sliding blocks (or vehicles) around to free the red car. There are four difficulty levels, making it a challenge for all ages – and you can upgrade for a whopping 2,500 challenges.

Balloonimals

Age range: 5 and under

Price: £1.99

Who doesn’t love the idea of creating balloon animals? While doing so in the car might not be the most sensible idea, this app allows kids to play with their own balloon creations virtually. Blow into the tablet’s microphone to inflate and shake to move your creation around. All ages are guaranteed to love this app, and it’s intuitive enough to be used by the youngest of children.

Lego Duplo Train

Age range: 5 and under

Price: Free

All toddlers love the idea of being a train driver, right? The Lego Duplo Train app lets them drive a colourful Duplo train from station to station, loading up cargo and building bridges along the way. Lego says this app it suitable for ages five and under. We like that it doesn’t include any in-app purchases or third-party adverts, so there’s little to distract an entertained youngster.