Appy Times during the Holidays! iPad Activities for Family Fun

By: Dana Cappel 15, December 2014

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Winter has arrived and holiday season is quickly approaching. For some, this conjures up images of roasting chestnuts, warm cozy nights by the fire, and mugs of hot chocolate. For many families, though, this time also brings many hours cooped indoors with the kids searching for things to keep them entertained and busy. There will likely be arts and crafts projects, and TV time, and playdates, and hopefully play time in the snow. But you will also likely find yourself struggling to pull your kids away from their iPads and other devices. For families with children with disabilities, who often tend to spend even more time with their digital devices, these hours can be even harder to fill.
Since screen time is likely unavoidable during the holidays, I’ve come up with a few creative ideas to encourage family interaction and fun while using your iPad.

Funny Holiday-themed Photos


Doodle Bomb is an excellent photo decorating app, providing a variety of fun animated stickers to dress up your photos. They have recently come out with a Jolly Holiday Edition that comes with a nice selection of Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve stickers. In app purchases for each holiday are available but the Lite version definitely has a sufficient selection.

Holiday Sing-a-long

Who doesn’t love to sing holiday songs? The iPad can be your karaoke machine, setting the stage for hours of sing-a-long fun. Make sure your phone or video camera is ready because the kids will definitely want to watch themselves over and over. Add a few costumes to make it even more fun. A quick search of the App Store revealed over 50 karaoke apps for Christmas carols.

Christmas Karaoke App Lite had some nice reviews and comes with a paid version as well.

Holiday Photo Albums

With all the picture taking you will be doing over the holidays, a fun activity to do together with the kids is to make digital photo albums. There are many kid-friendly digital albums apps. Each child can have their chance to make their own, and they can all later be shared with the family.
Story Creator
Story Creator is an excellent app to make albums with. The Pro version comes with different page templates and you can add video as well from your camera roll. You can type a caption and record it for each page. The sticker collection is somewhat limited, but this is an intuitive app for kids to use.

SPOKEnPHOTO has a more elegant feel to it and allows recorded messages for each photo.

Tiny Tap is always an excellent app to use for creating photo albums. It comes with a holiday sticker creation pack and provides many options for customizing text.


Life imitates Art (on the iPad)

Kids love cake and cookie decorating apps. Why not give each child a chance to create and decorate a cookie on the iPad and then go into the kitchen together and bake those cookies into reality? Holiday themed cookie cutters can add a special twist.

Easy-Bake Treats
There are many free cookie decorating apps out there. Easy-Bake Treats! by Hasbro is a great one. You can choose different types of goodies to bake including cookies, cakes, cake pops and pretzels, and you can even blow the candles out at the end. They also have a selection of Christmas themed cookie cutters to choose from.

iPad as Dreidl

The candles are lit, the latkes are all eaten, and the kids are ready to play dreidl, a fun and competitive game where kids spin the dreidl to collect coins. A game made even more fun when playing with chocolate coins. It’s unlikely that you won’t have a dreidl or two on hand, but maybe you have some children with you with limited motor skills or some who have not yet developed the motor skills required to spin a dreidl.

iGevaltiGevalt is great simple app that simulates the spinning of a dreidl and requires only a touch of the screen to get the dreidl spinning, allowing everyone to participate.

Adaptations to Encourage Participation

To encourage greater participation of children with disabilities in these activities, you can take screenshots of the various menus, then enlarge, print, and cut them out, as appropriate, to allow for easier choice making. If your child is able to use switch scanning and external switches then you can turn on those features in the iPad settings and allow them to choose their options themselves. If your child uses a communication device with voice output make sure to add appropriate phrases or even links to songs so they can participate in the voice recording options as well. In addition, the switch settings in the iPad allow for switch control of the camera so children that use switches can also participate in taking family photos. Using a mount or stand that keeps the camera lens clear gives the child even more independence if they can’t hold the iPad themselves.

Enjoy your family time and please let us know how YOU use your iPad for family fun.

Happy Holidays!.
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