It’s school vacation week here in Boston — which always makes me think about taking trips. The app 52 Fun Things to Do on the Plane (Oceanhouse Media and Chronicle Books, 2013), created by Lynn Gordon with illustrations by Susan Synarski and Karen Johnson, will come in handy for parents looking for activities to occupy their children while traveling.
The app is based on an entry in Gordon’s 52 card deck series, which now has over 80 titles — and counting — in print for kids and adults alike. With the series moving to a digital platform (52 Cool Tricks for Kids, 52 Things to Do in the Car, and others are also available as apps), you won’t have to worry about losing cards while you’re traveling. What you do need to consider, however, is that you will need some extra supplies to get the most out of Plane. The app recommends you bring along plain paper, tape, crayons and colored pencils, pipe cleaners, magazines, coloring books, a favorite story book, modeling clay, chewing gum, a snack, markers, and plastic scissors (whew!) for use in a variety of games and activities. But if you’re running late to the airport and forget to pack those supplementary in-flight supplies, don’t worry; your child will still be able to enjoy some of the cards in the deck.
The app opens with a scrolling panel of fifty-two cards offering activities such as “Songs About Travel,” “Airsick Bag Puppets,” “Safety Instruction Sillies,” and “Magazine Memory.” (Some of the titles on the cards are more self-explanatory than others.) To give you an idea of the types of activities included: The “Songs About Travel” card asks you to think of as many songs as you can that mention some form of transportation. Once you’ve made a list, you can play a game of charades using those song titles. And the “Airsick Bag Puppets” card requires some of those extra supplies. You’ll be asked to draw and color a face on the airsick bag in the seatback pocket, decorate the puppet with images cut from a magazine, repeat the process to make more puppets, and then put on a puppet show using the tray table as your stage.
When you tap a card in the menu, it fills the screen; you then have the option to flip it over and see the instructions on the opposite side. Younger children may need help reading the instructions (there is no “read to me” feature with this app) and completing some of the activities (especially those which require supplies), but generally the instructions are easy to follow and enjoyable for all ages. The activities sometimes require more than one person, but for the most part you could play them by yourself. When you’ve completed an activity, just tap the back button to return to the main screen or hit the shuffle button to refresh the cards. The on/off sound option will help keep your fellow passengers happy. You can also email the activity card to a friend or save a snapshot of it in your photo library.
Simple navigation coupled with the wide range of things to do will provide young travelers with hours of entertainment (and provide parents with a less stressful trip). Safe travels!
Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 5.1 or later); $0.99.