Top mobile games for toddlers
Simple fun to keep young kids busy on your phone or tablet
Older kids have no trouble finding the apps they want to download, but for younger ones it's going to be you who's doing the choosing - and you'd better get it right. Make the wrong choice and you may find yourself with an app that milks the freemium model to the max, with most of the game blocked off unless you make some fast in-app purchases. And explaining to a toddler that spending £10 of real money on a single new level of an app they'll probably play twice...well, it's never going to be easy. Not only will these apps keep your little ones busy, they're also mercifully free of ads or further costs.
Lego Duplo Train
Chunky Lego + trains = toddler win. There's a whole bunch of Lego Duplo apps, taking in everything from ice-cream shops to circuses, and this train-themed one is a winner thanks to its gentle simplicity and clear on-screen guidance of how to play. Kids are shown how to create their train and then drive it around the on-screen track, stopping off to pick up cargo and passengers. They even get their own train whistle to sound. A neat feature (although one that's likely to sail over your little one's head) is the way each game inhabits the same game world. The train from this game, for instance, can be seen rattling past in the background in one part of Lego Duplo Ice Cream. Attention to detail in a free kids app. Nice.
Fireman Sam Fire & Rescue
When you're downloading a game based on a TV series, it's important that the app does its source material justice. After all, the end user is likely to be a tough-to-please four-year-old who knows every character, episode and scene inside out. The good news here is that Fireman Sam Fire & Rescue is an app from P2 Games, a publisher that focuses pretty much excusively on knocking out high-quality TV tie-ins. As such, this has all the main characters from Sam (including, unfortunately, the endlessly irritating Norman Price). There are six different game modes and players can earn virtual stickers and video clips of Sam as they work their way through.
In the Night Garden: All Aboard the Ninky Nonk
Are you able to read the words 'In the Night Garden' without mentally humming the theme tune? Thought not - sorry. You'll be stuck with that going round your head for the next two hours now. This simple app does all you would expect of a game based on a TV show that's audience tends to grow out of it once they turn three. It's a collection of five mini-games where the gameplay is gentle and the experience of being 'in' the Night Garden world is the most important factor. There are starring roles for all the main characters, though sadly not for our own favourites, the criminally underused Haahoos.
Mister Maker – Let’s Make It!
This one's actually more of a creativity app than a game, but it's one that's truly packed with features and well worth the two quid download fee. The core activity is based around creating pictures - with hundreds of colours, patterns, stickers and special effects to choose from. The app works with your image gallery - so photos can also be imported, and it also enables emailing of finished pictures. Amid all that, there is also something of a gaming element to it - with the Minute Make challenges giving players the chance to race against the clock as they aim to complete a specific task.
£1.99, Android and iOS
Toca Kitchen 2
Toca Boca is a games publisher that only makes kids' apps - and only good ones, at that. Toca Kitchen 2 is recently released and is one of its best. It enables kids to do absolutely anything they like in the kitchen - from deep frying lettuce to making a fish and carrot smoothie - and then serve up the results to their virtual 'guests'. For kids, the fun of the game is in having free rein across all of the culinary gadgets they're not allowed to touch in real life - and also in the crude and amusing reactions of their guests to the bizarre food that's served up.