With Christmas fast approaching, I’ve put together a list of my favorite holiday-themed apps and websites that are guaranteed to provide entertainment for the kids and the whole family alike. You won’t be able to put them under the tree, but you can play with them on your iPhone or tablet. From games to Santa trackers to holiday ringtones, you won’t want to miss these goodies!
1. Elf Yourself
This website is a fun and free way to turn yourself and up to four other people into dancing, singing elves. You upload a photo, choose a dance style (think disco, winter wonderland and dancing penguins!), and then watch as your elves strut their stuff on the dance floor. You can share the videos with family and friends, or send them as e-Cards.
2.Norad Tracks Santa
Tracking Santa is favorite Christmas Eve pastime in our household. My kids log on to Norad and follow Santa and his reindeer as they set off from the North Pole and travel the globe. This website was set up by the North American Aerospace Defense Command years ago. In addition to the website, which includes games and a Christmas Countdown Clock, there is also a Santa Tracking app (for iPhone and Android) that lets you see where Santa is around the world and read posts from the jolly man himself.
3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas eBook
Dr. Seuss’ holiday classic is now available as an interactive eBook that kids can read to themselves or have read to them. Your kids can explore the beautiful pictures, learn new vocabulary, and personalize the story with their own narration. For kids who are just learning to read, individual words are highlighted as the story is read and words zoom up when pictures are touched. The app is not free, but the cool interactive features make it well worth the cost.
4. iTree Snow Globe 3D
I’ve always been fascinated by snow globes. With the iTree Snow Globe 3D, you can now get the magic of a snow globe on your iPhone. You activate the snowfall by shaking your phone. The app works through the year, allowing you to watch the tree grow from a seedling into a full-blown fir tree. As Christmas approaches, the tree gets “chopped down” and appears in a living room setting. Keep your eyes open for other changes, with gifts appearing under the tree on certain days and the tree lights going on when the sun goes down. The snow globe is accompanied by Christmas carols such as “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
Available for iPhone from iTunes for $0.99?
5. Pandora Holiday Stations
Okay, I admit it. I get really excited when the easy-listening radio stations start playing Christmas music. With Pandora, you can have all of the holiday music at your fingertips, with no need to download, store and make playlists. Pandora does the work for you and offers a number of holiday-themed options. You can also see the lyrics if you want to sing along!
6. Holiday Sounds and Ringtones
Want to jingle some sleigh bells outside your kids’ rooms as they sleep on Christmas Eve? This app provides a number of festive holiday sounds, including sleigh bells, Santa’s Ho Ho Ho, champagne corks popping and hand bells ringing. It also plays some traditional songs and carols– perfect for warming up for carol singing!
7. Santa Spy Cam
A sure-fire way to build the excitement in the run-up to Christmas, the free Santa Spy Cam app lets you record “sightings” of the elves and Santa in your own home and play it back to your kids! In addition to the app itself, parents can also read their kids the “Seven Nights Before Christmas” story, with each verse including specific “sightings” to add to the magic of the experience.
Available for iPhone on iTunes (free)
8. Capture the Magic
A slightly pricey option, this website allows you to upload a photo of your Christmas tree and add Santa to the image. Your kids will love to see “proof” that Santa was actually in their house in front of their tree!
Capture the Magic is available for $9.95 and includes 3 images.
9. 12 Days of Gifts App
This app will appeal to older kids and adults, alike. From December 26 through January 6, Apple will be giving away a a free “surprise” gift each day—songs, apps, books, films and more. (Sorry, no iPads or MacBooks!) Previous year’s gifts included songs from One Direction, Lady Gaga and Coldplay; TV shows like 30 Rock and House; and games from Electronic Arts and Sega. Each day’s gift will only be available for 24 hours, but the app will push out a “reminder” that your gift is ready for download. This promotion has been a hit in other countries for the past few years. This is the first time it’s being offered in the U.S.
Available for iPhone and iPad on iTunes.
10. Hello Santa
If you’ve ever wanted to video chat with Santa Claus, you can now do so using Hello Santa, a website and iPhone app that gives your kids a real-life interaction with the big man himself. You have to schedule your call ahead of time (Santa is a busy guy!) and fill in some basic information about your child – his name, age, etc. Santa will then call you back at the scheduled time. The price tag is high– $14.99—but there is no time limit on the call, and the app records a video of the call with Santa that you can share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.
What are your favorite holiday apps and websites