The British summer is not always sunshine and blue skies, and there are bound to be days over the long school holidays when you're cooped up inside with your kids waiting for the weather to break.
How do you keep unruly kids entertained and stop them from pressing their noses up against the window while it pours down outside? If you have a Samsung GALAXY S4 there are plenty of apps that can turn a bout of bad weather into a fun afternoon.
Games, colouring books, virtual pets and even a pocket-sized sandbox – plus all the apps you need to make sure they don’t delete your contacts or stumble across something unsavoury online.
Here are our picks of the best apps to save a rainy day and turn those frowns upside down.
99p – buy it here
Using Comic Strip It! Pro, you and your kids can build a comic strip from your photos, complete with panels, speech bubbles and ‘sound effect’ captions. Turn some old holiday photos into a pirate adventure or take some new snaps of their favourite toys with the GALAXY S4’s camera, then make up a story to go with them.
The app is very simple to use and no drawing skills are required.
£4.99 – buy it here
Minecraft is the ultimate ‘sandbox’ game. A free-roaming world to explore and plunder of natural resources that you can use to craft tools and weapons in order to survive.
The game can be played in ‘Survival’ mode which features monsters and natural hazards to battle against – this is fun but can be a bit scary for younger children, despite the chunky retro-style graphics. There is also the entertaining ‘Creative’ mode which gives you and your kids free rein to build whatever fantastic structures you want and then explore them. It’s creative, educational and tremendous fun for all ages.
64p – buy it here
Talking of sandboxes, Sand! is a curious app that is more of a toy than a game, but one that both you and your kids could easily sink hours into. The app simulates the physical properties of some real-world materials such as particles (grains of sand, salt or gunpowder), water and fire.
You can draw some sand on the screen and it will ‘fall’ downwards due to artificial gravity. If you draw some rock underneath it, the sand will collect in a pile. You can add water, grass, fire and many other substances and just… play.
69p – buy it here
A very silly app that is a great way to keep a small child amused. Tom is an anthropomorphic kitty who lives in your GALAXY S4. You can poke and prod him to get different reactions and hit different buttons and objects on screen to activate different actions and responses. Sometimes his naughty dog pal Ben will pop out and give him a scare with hilarious consequences.
The built-in actions are fairly limited but funny and well animated, and Tom’s best trick is that he will repeat anything you or your child says to him in his mewling catty voice. Endless fun for little ones.
Free, optional subscription 99p/month – get it here
iStoryBooks turns your GALAXY S4 into a portable library of colour picture books, many of which have voice tracks, with the iStorybook magically ‘reading’ itself to your child. Titles range from folklore and fairy tales to science, nature and history.
The free app comes with a big library of titles (new books are added every two weeks) or you can pay a 99p monthly subscription for more.
Free, optional premium subscription £29.99/year – get it here
Handing over your GALAXY S4 is all very well, but it is easy to forget that you are effectively giving your kids a portal to the internet, with all the potential dangers that implies. Norton Family parental control is a simple web filter that can block out adult sites and monitor what your child is browsing on your phone.
The app is able to monitor both the Samsung browser and Google Chrome and will even send you an email alert if they try to access something they shouldn’t.
For £29.99 you can buy a year’s subscription to Norton Family Premier, which adds the ability to monitor SMS messages, monitor and block certain app downloads and receive regular reports on your child’s online activities.
Free – get it here
The other thing to be aware of when giving a child access to your smartphone is that little fingers have a knack of deleting things they shouldn’t, or poking around in personal messages that you would rather keep private. Kids Place is a custom launcher for your S4 that lets you create a cut-down list of apps and games you don’t mind them playing with.
The app is lockable with a PIN code and you can have it take over the Home button so they can’t get back to the regular TouchWiz home screen without your approval.
Free – get it here
Kids love watching YouTube and mobile videos, but it’s easy for them to stumble across inappropriate material.
This handy YouTube and mobile video viewer is compatible with Kids Place and lets you create a list of videos that they can watch. It will even filter their YouTube search results so you can ensure things stay family-friendly.
Free – get it here
RollingTones is based on the Tenori-on sequencer – a musical gadget that lets you ‘draw’ on a grid to create a sequence of notes and then plays them back as a looped rhythm. Most Tenori-on style apps offer just one kind of synth noise to play with, but RollingTones has a palette of instruments including snare and bass drums, cymbals and handclaps, with multiple ‘pages’ to flip between for more complex compositions.
The app is so simple to use that even very young children can make something that sounds good and older kids (and adults) can create more interesting tunes.
£1.96 – buy it here
Staying in and painting was always a favourite way to pass a rainy day when we were kids, but now you can use the Samsung GALAXY S4 for mess-free creativity. And the Color & Draw: Super Artist app is really three apps in one.
The sketchbook will allow freehand drawing and painting using different colours and virtual pens and brushes. The colouring book has over 100 line drawings to colour in, as well as several incomplete pictures that come with voice instructions to help your child finish them off.
Finally, there is also a ‘photo decorator’ mode that gives your child pictures from your camera Gallery and lets them decorate the shots with stickers and freehand drawings.