8 iPad Apps to Keep the Kids Busy on That Long Drive

Got a long drive ahead of you, and a backseat full of unruly kids? If you also have an iPad(s aapl), you’re in luck. There are apps that can help you maintain your sanity. We’ve narrowed down the wide selection available to eight key apps for different age demographics to make things easier for you.

Toddlers (Aged 2 to 6)

Fish School HD ($1.99)

This great-looking app teaches your kids their letters, numbers, shapes colors and provides a selection of games that will keep your inquisitive young child amused for hours. The developer behind Fish School HD, Duck Duck Moose, has a strong history of delivering quality kids’ content for the iPhone platform, so you can rest assured you’re in the hands of experts with this one. A free-form playtime mode provides an interactive environment for kids to just have fun with when the learning aspects get old.

Color & Draw ($1.99)

Color & Draw has all the fun of finger painting, but without the mess. This versatile app features a library of 50 custom images to choose from, and has a drawing feature that allows them to sketch and complete partial images, guided by voice over instructions. Another great feature allows you to import your own images, so mom and dad can create their own images once the library gets boring.

Tweens (Aged 6 to 12)

Story Patch ($4.99)

I used to love writing stories and making picture books when I was a kid, and Story Patch brings that to the iPad with additional tools that should make story time enjoyable for all. The app includes more than 800 illustrations to choose from, and also features customizable characters, the ability to import from the iPad’s photo library, and PDF sharing. You can use Story Patch’s guided mode for younger children, which has users answer questions and generates a story automatically, or kids can take full control themselves.

Strip Designer ($2.99)

In the same vein as Story Patch, Strip Designer lets you create your own tale, but this time you use your own photos and create comics. You can add text balloons and sound effects, choose from a number of layout templates, and even import your own fonts. It’s a great distraction for comics-crazy boys and girls, and very easy to use.

Teens (Aged 12 to 16)

Beejive IM or IM+ ($9.99 or Free)

Oh, the messaging. When will it end? At least if they’re chatting with friends, your teenage kids won’t be fighting amongst themselves or complaining of boredom. Both of these apps provide access to most major IM services, including AIM (s aol), MSN (s msft), and, most importantly, Facebook. This one requires data access to use.

VEVO HD (Free)

When I was young, we had MTV for music videos. Nowadays, MTV basically just shows reality programming and the occasional award show. VEVO HD is the dedicated iPad app for the YouTube/record label partnership that sees music videos available for online streaming on the web. I find the app to have a relatively limited library, but it does have a lot of today’s chart-toppers. This is another app that needs a data connection, but the app itself is at least free. Be warned that some of the content here may not be suitable for all audiences, so exercise your own discretion.

Apps for Everyone

Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 ($4.99)

This game is great for all ages, especially now that there’s a virtual D-pad, introduced in a recent update. It provides hours and hours of gameplay, and does so without managing to feel too repetitive or boring. Plus, it makes unique use of the iPad’s touch interface, and it’s a universal app, so it works on both iPad and iPhone.

Fun Felt ($2.99)

Some teens might scoff at this one, but everyone else, from small kids to adults, will probably love it. Basically it lets you create your own virtual felt crafts, by combining different shapes and colors creatively. You can even add text and share your creations via email or save it to your device’s local library.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):