My home grows a little noisier this time of year because my children are on their summer break from school. You might be in the same boat.
So here’s an idea: Instead of occupying the children with a television or handing them an iPad and sending them on their way, try using technology more creatively. Many apps are jammed with arts-and-crafts ideas for children and families to share.
$4 on the iPad
Foldify (right) helps parents make something tangible with their children. It has many shape templates ready to be printed, cut, and glued into temporary toys, like a cube-shaped person or a car. Inside the app, children can color the templates to their hearts’ content using a digital painting interface.
They can even drop their own photos, cartoon eyes, and other amusing extras onto the template. The app displays how the final assembled 3-D item will appear as you paint.
Once the template is complete, it can be shared via e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook, or printed for assembly. The app even has an online database of templates that other users have designed that can be downloaded and printed. This app is really easy to use, but its features mean younger children could use some supervision from their parents.
$3 on Android
This 3-D app (below) with paper templates is more limited. Instead of free-handing designs on its main screen, you pick from set options for eyes and hair color and so on.
The templates are limited, as well, including a person, car, and dinosaur.
For printing, the app lets you choose different complexities for the final model, from a simple box to a highly detailed figure that would easily take a half-hour to cut out and glue. Though it can make fun toys, the app has a menu system that is a little frustrating.
Dorling Kindersley’s Kids’ Crafts
$7 on the iPad
Dorling Kindersley’s Kids’ Crafts is based on the publisher’s successful books. It’s simply designed, in bold colors and with straightforward graphics, and has a few nice touches, like a jingling-bells effect to appeal to children. The app is a mix of games to play on-screen and instructions to make playthings.
For example, the “Cross-Stitch” game lets you color in a virtual cross-stitch square without having to lift a real needle and thread, but “Pirate Pete” (left) has step-by-step instructions on how to make a simple fabric pirate doll. The app’s various projects are a delight, but there are just six of them; that’s not much for $7. It also helps if someone in the family already knows how to knit to “Make Ted.”
Have fun, and remember: Most of the joy in doing crafts with children is making things up and being creative.
Kit Eaton writes on technology for The New York Times.