Whether you observe the holiday or not, the whole point of December, it seems, is the countdown to Christmas. The shops will remind you. Friends will remind you. And the kids will demand advent calendars.
So, to get you through the first 25 days of December, here are 25 cool holiday apps. Some have to do with Christmas or travel, others simply keep the children occupied. The good news? It’s not like chocolate: you don’t have to limit yourself to one app a day.
advent calendar 2014
Available on iTunes, this app unlocks a different animation every day from 1st to 24th of December, with a special visit from You-Know-Who on the Big Day.
Android has a slightly different take: you get to visit the North Pole and help Santa with 24 interactive tasks and games, such as growing magic carrots for the reindeer, baking gingerbread men with Mrs Claus, making toys with Santa, and playing a game of Elf golf.
There are lots of Christmas Carol apps available for all platforms. You can choose traditional, children’s, sheet music, lyrics only, or sing-along versions. Some are even free.
christmas cookies with martha stewart
Make Christmas cookies with Martha Stewart using this app for iPhone and iPad. Don’t feel intimidated by her reputation: Martha is a patient teacher and she doesn’t assume you know anything about baking. In this app, she shares over 90 cookie recipes together with instructional videos, baking tips, and packaging ideas.
christmas glass ball
Available free on Android devices, this live wallpaper looks like a glass ball, complete with a Christmas tree and snow. Shake your phone to set off a virtual snowstorm.
On Christmas Eve, you can track Santa’s progress on your iPhone using NORAD Tracks Santa app by the folks at North American Aerospace Defense Command. Google Earth also enables you to track Santa using the tour guide feature on the Google Earth iOS app.
There are many apps to choose from: electronic cards, print-a-card, video Christmas cards featuring singing elves with your family’s faces Photoshopped in. Most of the apps are free. There is also an app that allows you to design real cardboard-and-ink cards and have the Cyber Elves send them to a physical address anywhere around the world – the app is free, but the service will probably cost you around $2-3 per card.
Free on iTunes, this app allows you to make and decorate your own gingerbread cookies. They come to life on the screen – sadly, not in your real kitchen! Still, you get to devise your own gingerbread man from scratch by choosing from hundreds of different decorating combinations. Once you’ve finished, there is a bonus game you can play.
santa’s christmas village
This app employs the Christmas theme in many classic games, such as Checkers, Sudoku, and Memory. 17 activities and 25 Christmas tunes to get you relaxed for the holidays.
santa’s merry band
This iTunes app allows children to explore numerous instruments and enjoy an assortment of holiday songs.
baby’s touch christmas app
Touch the magic sky to create stars, candy canes, gingerbread men, holiday ornaments and special gift boxes. If you drag your finger across the screen, you will create a trail of moving shapes. Touch a shape to make it pop with a gentle sound.
draw and tell HD
Calling all budding storytellers! The Draw and Tell HD app offers 27 crayons, paintbrushes, glow-in-the-dark pencils, and over 150 virtual stickers. The kids can draw the story and watch as the app animates it. They can also record their voices to make their own movies.
Puppet Workshop allows you to craft a variety of hand puppets out of socks and gloves on-screen. You can decorate them with yarn, buttons, and felt shapes. This app is free, but you can get more goodies with a paid upgrade.
Fill menu orders while you learn to shuck corn, cook eggs, and chop onions without slicing your fingers.
This app appeals to young children who enjoy creating music. The onscreen keyboard simulates a variety of instruments, encouraging the kids to sing and play along. They can also learn how to layer instruments to build a song.
This free app introduces a character who repeats everything you say in a silly voice (microphone needed). You can poke and tickle him, too. If you don’t like the poor Gugl, look for similar apps featuring cats or dinosaurs.
dots: a game about connecting
Connect the dots: a free fun app for the whole family (ages 10+).
From the creators of Angry Birds, this puzzle game makes kids use prearranged supplies to build contraptions in order to overcome obstacles. They can also create their own puzzles and share them with other players.
make a martian
Mix and match alien body parts to create unique space monsters.
Find words in a grid of lettered tiles – horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Once you complete a word, those letters disappear and get replaced by others, so the board keeps changing.
fisher-price photo studio
Customise your photos with a wide variety of drawing tools, stamps, frames and special effects.
Handy if your car doesn’t have a GPS system or if you get lost while out walking.
Travel guides for New Zealand, including activities, attractions and events. Examples include nature walks, waterfalls, lighthouses, farmers’ markets, picnic and fishing spots.
Over 10,000 locations of free and paid camp sites, toilet facilities, wifi spots, police stations, petrol stations, supermarkets, etc.
Never forget your toothbrush again.
This app uses the camera flash LED as a torch. You can adjust the brightness. Warning: it uses the battery up really fast.
don’t bother with this app
You’ve probably heard of apps that emit ultrasonic sounds to repel insects. The idea sounds awesome: no nasty chemicals, no mosquito nets, no itchy bites. Sadly, several studies confirmed that these apps don’t do the job. Not only don’t they lower the number of bites, they actually attract mosquitoes to you.