Nothing ruins a car trip more than being asked “Are we there yet?” a half dozen times before even reaching your halfway mark.
Keeping the kiddos entertained during a family road trip is a top priority, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy a bunch of new toys or invest in a portable DVD player before hitting the road. Here are 11 free apps that’ll help make your next long car ride go a little smoother.
11 Free Road Trip Apps for Kids
Download some of these apps to your phone or your kid’s tablet to squash the backseat boredom. You don’t even have to feel guilty about the extra screen time. All 11 of these apps are also educational.
If your local library uses the Hoopla app, you can check out audiobooks at no cost. There are hundreds of titles for kids and teens. There are even children’s audiobooks in Spanish. Hoopla also offers access to music, TV shows and movies — but you don’t have to tell the kids that.
OverDrive is another app that public libraries offer to patrons for free. It’s similar to Hoopla (and also provides access to streaming videos). Contact your local library to see if it partners with this app.
3. PBS Kids Games
If your little ones are into shows like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Wild Kratts or Peg + Cat, PBS Kids Games is the perfect app to keep them busy. Kids can choose from a variety of games featuring their favorite PBS Kids characters. Without even realizing it, they’ll also be gaining math, science and creativity skills too.
4. Khan Academy Kids
The Khan Academy Kids app is designed to make learning fun for children ages 2 to 8. Kids can read stories, play games, watch videos and complete activities all while increasing their literacy and math skills.
The Duolingo app uses games to teach children (and adults) how to speak over 25 different languages. It even has a course in Klingon for “Star Trek” fans. Make this a learning opportunity for the whole family, because even with headphones on, your kids will be repeating words and phrases aloud.
6. Stories by Gus on the Go
This language learning app uses classic children’s stories to help kids learn Spanish, French, Greek or Hebrew. Though this free app was built as a sequel to the original Gus on the Go app (which costs $3.99 to download), it can be used by kids who already understand some words in another language. It’s only available via Apple’s App store.
7. Mad Libs
Adjective? Adverb? Your kids can practice using the right word choices with the tech version of the classic Mad Libs game. The goofy stories they create will elicit lots of back-seat giggles.
8. Money Pieces
This app from The Math Learning Center will help your future Penny Hoarders understand the value of different pieces of currency while reinforcing basic math skills, like counting and addition. The Math Learning Center also has a variety of other free apps to teach more advanced math skills, like fractions and geometry.
9. Geo Touch
Going on a road trip is the perfect opportunity to teach kids a little geography. Young travelers can learn about U.S. states, state capitals, state flags and other countries around the world with the GeoTouch: Learn Geography app. This app is available to download only via Apple’s App store.
10. Toontastic 3D
Kids can tap into their inner storytellers with this free app from Google. Using Toontastic 3D, they can draw and animate characters, come up with a plot and narrate the dialog.
ScratchJr allows kids to create their own stories and games using coding — with no coding experience necessary. Rather than following along with a video game, they’re in control of the action.
Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.