Top travel apps for toddlers that teach and entertain

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MILWAUKEE -- The iPad is helping parents keep their toddlers entertained for hours on long trips, but there are so many apps to choose from. We talked to expert Sue Thotz of Common Sense to get some picks for apps that provide both entertainment and education.

One thing to keep in mind when you download these apps – be sure to run them for the first time when you’re still at home and have an internet connection on your tablet. Some of them require additional downloads upon the first launch or setup – you don’t want to get stuck with an app you can’t use on the plane or road because you don’t have a WiFi connection.

Here are some picks to get you started from Common Sense – keep in mind their website at https://www.commonsensemedia.org/ has a ton of great information for parents – including unbiased reviews of the latest movies, apps, video games, TV shows and more.

Reading Rainbow offers a library of books to users, themed according to a child’s interests (action adventures, magical tales, etc.). Kids can choose to have a book read aloud to them or to read the book themselves.

Age rating: 4
Quality: 5/5 stars
Learning potential: 5/5

Why we love it: Reading Rainbow keeps the focus strictly on the joy of learning. Beloved host Burton guides kids through the app, but lets the books and the users be the stars.

Lazoo Art Box is a simple drawing tool that also animates kids’ creations. There are inspirational prompts to get imaginations running, or kids can use a blank canvas.

Age rating: 3
Quality: 4/5 stars
Learning potential: 3/5

Why we love it: It’s an appealing drawing app because of its simplicity, its super kid-friendly design, and its prompts that engage kids without limiting their creative expression.

Bogga Vacation takes kids on a preschool-friendly beach vacation, from packing to flying to playing on the beach. Kids practice preschool skills such as matching and get to express some creativity too.

Age rating: 4
Quality: 3/5 stars
Learning potential: 3/5

Why we love it: This sweet, summery app walks kids through each step of the trip: packing a suitcase, boarding the plane, and doing fun vacation activities. And each activity is short enough for a preschooler’s attention span.

Peg + Cat: The Tree Problem is an interactive, mathematical reasoning-based game. Cat keeps getting stuck in trees, so kids must build bridges or steps for Cat to jump down and into Peg’s waiting arms.

Age rating: 3
Quality: 4/5 stars
Learning potential: 4/5

Why we love it: Kids use spatial reasoning, measurement, problem solving, and planning to build bridges, roll snowballs, grow plants, move geysers, and more in six “worlds” that present different versions of the problem. Each world has five difficulty levels, so kids are continuously challenged as they play.

LumiKids Park by Lumosity, Early Learning Play for Kids allows kids to practice core cognitive skills with fun, playful critters. (Rich’s Pick!)

Age rating: 3
Quality: 4/5 stars
Learning potential: 4/5

Why we love it: Each game focuses on a different basic cognitive skill such as attention and memory, sorting, and visual motor coordination, and the game adapts to your kid’s progress.