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Four apps to keep the kids busy over holiday vacation

Winter Break is in full force for us here in Denver, with weeks of "How do I entertain my own child without taxpayer supported public schools to do that for me?" looming ahead. If you, like I, believe each child deserves two proper parents (namely public school and television), here are a few suggestions for items you can pick up in the App Store.

Apps to play with during the holiday vacation are a great investment. They are cheaper than actual human babysitters, and help develop your child's most meaningful relationships -- i.e. with technology and gaming systems.

(Ed: She's kidding here -- we think. But after the link below, you can find four solid family app recommendations to play with the kids over the holiday break.)

MONOPOLY for iPad

At $9.99 Electronic Arts' MONOPOLY for iPad (their capitalization, honest, not mine) isn't part of their current application sale, although the iPhone version is. The latter is now selling for just $0.99. Spending the extra money is worth the investment though because the higher definition graphics and animation are really spectacular.

My 8-year-old gave this game two thumbs up, saying that it really matched the live board experience. My 11-year-old wasn't as impressed, preferring the more social nature of the real game. I'm not a big Monopoly fan in either form and I found the animations a little self-indulgent and the auction interactions incredibly tedious. The iPad game relies a lot on auctioning and the constant enter-a-number, click ok, confirm cycle really got on my nerves.

MONOPOLY for iPad provided a well-built and solidly playable experience, which was better enjoyed by my children than myself.

Sonic Spinball

Sonic Spinball ($2.99 at the App Store) from Sega got mixed reviews from my kids. Feeling like a mid '90's app suddenly transported to the 2010's, its graphics are a bit weak and its controls even weaker. It's a basic side-scroller using on-screen controls to move your character throughout the game.

My 11-year-old gave it thumbs down for its limited game play, saying that it needs a lot more content and that it feels like you're doing everything over and over again. My 8-year-old liked it a lot better, saying it was fun but even he felt it wasn't a game he'd be coming back to over and over.

SCRABBLE

Scrabble got thumbs up from all my children, both on the iPhone and the iPad. Each version is currently selling for $0.99 during the Electronic Arts sale. The kids liked the gameplay and the familiarity.

I was surprised that they liked the iPhone version as much as the iPad one, with my 11-year-old explaining that using it on the iPhone meant that they didn't have to fight me for iPad access. She felt the gameplay was just as good even on the smaller screen. Even my grumpy teenager loved the game and gave it a "ftw".

SCRABBLE was a winner all-around.

Doodle God

I was completely unaware of the existence of Doodle God until my eldest begged me to buy it from App Store after having become hooked testing out the online version. Giving it huge thumbs up, I can assure you that it has entranced a teenager. My younger kids haven't had a chance to give it a try yet -- nor have I for that matter -- but if one teen's recommendation is to go by, this $0.99 game is well worth the money.

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