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Nine apps to keep the kids occupied on holiday this December

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Family vacations are as much a part of December holiday season as peanut butter and jam are to the school lunchbox (eeewwwww – ed.) but perhaps you don’t want to be subject to the age old question of “are we there yet?” as you make your way to your destination.

To save you from being interrogated by your children to no end about the progress of your journey why not load up your tablet with child-friendly apps that will keep them occupied long enough to save you a migraine.

To help you out we’ve put together a list of applications that you can load onto your tablet or smartphone. To save you from getting an unexpected bill on your credit card we’ve also outlined how much these apps cost and whether they contain in-app purchase.

Watch and listen


Streaming can be pricey and if you happen to be travelling the constant signal change can mean your little ones are more frustrated than entertained. For that reason we recommend ShowMax which allows you to download 25 movies or TV shows and keep them for up to 30 days. Once you’ve started watching your downloaded content you will have 48 hours to finish watching it.

What’s more is that ShowMax offers a smorgasbord of content for children that is constantly being updated.

Available for Android and Apple iOS

In-app purchases No

Price App is available for free but you will need a ShowMax subscription which costs R99 per month.

Apple Music

Video is not the only thing that you can stream or download. While services such as Spotify are not officially available in South Africa we do have other services we can use to satisfy our ear drums.

One of these is Apple Music which has a Family Plan that allows you to pay for one subscription and share that subscription across six devices. There is even the option to stop your children from hearing explicit music with Parental Controls.

If you want to keep data costs down or avoid streaming altogether Apple Music allows you to download music so you can still listen to music even if you’re in the middle of nowhere this December.

Available for Android and Apple iOS (comes pre-install on iOS devices)

In-app purchases No

Price App is free to download but you will need an Apple Music subscription which varies in price from R59.99 per month for an individual membership up to R89.99 per month for a family membership.


If you’re looking for free content there’s no better option than YouTube. The platform is burgeoning with content that caters to children be it educational or purely for entertainment purposes. What you might not know is that you can download content from YouTube onto your Android smartphone or tablet.

It’s important to note that not all videos are available for download but those that are will remain on your tablet or smartphone for up to 48 hours after you download them.

If you’re looking for video content to keep your children occupied without having to subscribe to a new service, YouTube is a create option.

Available for Android (comes pre-installed on Android phones) and Apple iOS (Offline not available on iOS)

In-app purchases No

Price Free


Given that most smartphones and tablets have a built in video player this seems like a silly suggestion. However, if you happen to be sitting on some VHS videos you converted to digital formats, or DVD’s you’ve ripped to mpeg formats you might run into a few problems with your tablet or smartphone’s native video player.

The app allows you to browse your device for content VLC can play be that music or video and gives you additional controls such as locking the screen so you don’t pause or scrub through the video unintentionally.

Available for Android and Apple iOS

In-app purchases No

Price Free

Play something

Minecraft Pocket Edition

The hugely popular Minecraft is available for mobile and lets you build and explore massive worlds right from your smartphone. Players can choose to create endlessly in creative mode or pit themselves against the elements in survival mode crafting weapons and armour to fight of enemies.

The game is not free and varies in price on iOS and Android. It’s also worth pointing out that the app contains in-app purchases with prices ranging from R5 up to R119 per item.

Available for Android and Apple iOS

In-app purchases Yes

Price Android R89.06 and iOS R109.99

Angry Birds Star Wars II

With Rogue One: A Star Wars story hitting cinema’s this December hype surrounding the sci-fi space adventure is expected to reach fever pitch. So why not get the kids throwing birds and pigs?

Angry Birds really needs no introduction. Simply put the player aims a selection of digital birds in an attempt to defeat an army of pigs. This Star Wars themed version of the game includes more than 30 playable characters including Yoda, pod-racing Anakin and Mace Windu. The game can be purchased on Android but there is also a free version which contains adverts. Be warned however, the game does include in app-purchases.

Available for Android and Apple iOS

In-app purchases Yes

Price Android R13.17 and iOS Free

Pokémon GO

The app that took the world by storm is getting an update very soon that will introduce some new pocket monsters. Given that you have to be moving this might just be the perfect app to keep the kids occupied and you might just find them convincing you to stop at monuments and other attractions to catch the little pocket monsters. The app is available for free on Android and iOS but does contain a number of in-app purchases.

Pokemon GO business

The game is both addictive and gets folks moving so why not give it a download and turn your December vacation into a family quest to catch ’em all.

Available for Android and Apple iOS

In-app purchases Yes

Price Android Free and iOS Free

Learn something


This one is not just for kids, in fact if you’re planning a trip overseas this app falls under the “Essential” tab. The app teaches you to speak a language in bite-sized lessons. The lessons have rewards that can be earned and unlock new levels. Languages that can be studied include Swahili, Korean, Russian and French. Sadly there don’t appear to be many African languages which is a pity but come 31st of December you can learn to speak Klingon, if that’s something you’ve always wanted to do.

Available for Android and Apple iOS

In-app purchases Yes

Price Android Free and iOS Free

Book Dash

Sadly we were only able to find a version of this app for Android devices. The app however is great.

Book Dash allows you to download free children’s books in English, Afrikaans, Sepedi, isiXhosa, Sesotho, isiNdebele, Setswana, Siswati, Isivenda and Xitsonga. All you do is select your preferred language and start reading. The app also allows you to download books for reading offline and new books are constantly being added.

The books are written by creative professionals and can be freely translated and distributed under a Creative Commons attribution license. The goal of Book Dash is put 500 books in the hands of a child by the age of five. You can read more about this cause on the Book Dash website.

Available for Android

In-app purchases No

Price Android Free

[Main Image – Pixabay]



Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.