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Eight great iPhone distractions for kids

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You're heading out for a doctor's appointment, long flight, dull social engagement, or other event packed with potential for serious boredom. You have to take the kids -- and you know they're going to get antsy. What do you do?

Once upon a time, the only solution would be to bog yourself down with books, crayons, card games, and other activities. But it's not 1980 anymore, and if you're carrying an iOS device, you're already halfway to the perfect solution. All you need to do is stock your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch with this collection of hit kid-friendly apps, and you'll have enough to keep them busy for hours.

Dinosaurs: The American Museum of Natural History Collection

American Museum of Natural History, Free

If you're the parent of a dino-crazy kid, look no further than this polished, paleontological pearl.

It opens with a beautiful picture of a T-Rex, but look more closely and you'll see it's actually a mosaic of over 1000 snaps of dinosaur exhibits from the museum's collection. Each pic hides a slew of facts and figures, while a story section will tell you all about the intrepid fossil-hunters that uncovered all those ancient bones.

Stack the States
Dan Russell-Pinson, $0.99

Another regular atop the App Store charts, Stack the States is a gem of an educational game, one of those rare games that's both fun enough to hold the kids' attention and instructive enough that they'll come away having learned something.

In this case, they'll find out all about the 50 states: their shapes, locations, capitals, abbreviations, and more. Who knew geography could be so fun?

Weird But True
National Geographic, Free

Did you know that slugs have 3,000 teeth and four noses? Did you know that your guts are 30 feet long? Did you know that it's impossible to breathe and swallow at the same time? Did you know that if you sit your kids down with this fascinating fact-packed app from National Geographic, they'll bug you with bizarre tidbits like these for weeks? Weird, but true!

The Jungle Book: Disney Classics
Disney, $1.99

Pack the kids off to join Mowgli, Baloo, Shere Khan and chums in this interactive experience based on the classic cartoon.

But it's much more than just an e-book. The Jungle Book: Disney Classics is loaded with mini-games, singalongs, puzzles, cool animations, and other extras that'll enthrall fans. There's even a voice-over, so kids too little (or too idle) to read for themselves can still enjoy the fun.

Foolproof Art Studio
Studio Mee, $1.99

Once the kids are done fooling with your phone's camera program, point them to this new painting app. It'll let them manipulate the photos they've taken, turning them into abstract masterpieces with a swipe of a finger. Or they'll laugh themselves silly as they turn a snap of your face into some sort of surreal Cubist nightmare. Either way, they'll be keeping busy.

Where's My Water?
Disney, $0.99

Appealing physics-based puzzler Where's My Water? has been one of Disney's biggest successes on the App Store, despite not featuring any of the classic characters normally associated with the company. Why? Because it's just that good, that's why.

No, there's little or no pretense at being an educational app, but not everything has to be mind-expanding  -- and hey, at least it's not yet another Angry Birds game.

Star Walk

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Vito Technology, $2.99

Humanity has been fascinated by the night sky for eons. Humanity has been fascinated by classic iOS app Star Walk for nearly as long.

It's easy to entertain kids with stories of the constellations or talk of galaxies, nebulae, and giant stars, but hand them an iPad with this magical, augmented-reality app, and they'll easily be able to locate the major sights themselves. Your only problem: getting them back in the house before bedtime.

Wonder Zoo - Animal Rescue

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Gameloft, Free

Great management games are few and far between on the App Store. Management games that appeal to kids? Even rarer, although this new offering from prolific publisher Gameloft is exactly that, combining cutesy animal graphics with gameplay that's decidedly reminiscent of PC classic Zoo Tycoon. Can your kids build a critter-friendly zoo, breed rare species, and steer clear of dastardly poachers? Probably better than you can.

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