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Tech Review: Apps to keep kids busy in holiday recess

Apps that help users stay connected.

Apps that help users stay connected. Credit: AFP / Getty Images

If you have young children or grandchildren, the pitter-patter of little feet may become deafening this week as most Long Island schools close for holiday recess. These apps will keep the little ones entertained and occupied, at least for a little while.

Toca Hair Salon 2

(iOS, $2.99; Android $0.99)

Developer Toca Boca has been producing well-received kids' apps for a while, and its latest offering is one of its most popular. In this sequel to Toca Hair Salon, kids use a variety of hair salon tools, including combs, scissors and curling irons to get the perfect look on both male and female characters. Don't like the color of a character's hair? Dye it any color you want. Toca says the app is aimed at children ages 9-11 but is suitable for kids as young as 4.

SpongeBob Moves In

(iOS, $3.99)

Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob SquarePants" is must-see TV for kids 2-11, and this app is a hot seller aimed at that age group. The mission: Construct buildings and neighborhoods to attract denizens to Bikini Bottom -- SpongeBob's undersea hometown. If all goes swimmingly, players make the inhabitants happy and earn points. The app has been updated to include Christmas themes and characters. Be aware: The game offers in-app purchases as high as $99. While "SpongeBob Moves In" is iOS only, there are several SpongeBob games available for Android devices.

Where's My Mickey

(iOS, Android; free)

This sequel to Disney's popular "Where's My Water" takes Mickey Mouse on adventures where he must collect water to complete several tasks. The game play features smooth animations and more than 13 clever puzzles as everyone's favorite rodent is joined by his faithful dog, Pluto. There's additional fees to unlock puzzles featuring Goofy and hints packs. The app is aimed at kids 9 and older.

Dress Up! Hello Kitty

(iOS, Android; free)

The iconic feline who adorned many girls' backpacks in the 1990s has made the leap to mobile devices. In this app, aimed primarily at girls 4 and older, Kitty gets a makeover as users dress her up in stylish clothes and present her with her favorite toys. An in-app purchase for $1.99 unlocks all items.




Tablet for two, please

Applebee's is installing tablet computers on the tables and in bar areas in its more than 1,800 restaurants, allowing diners to order their meals and drinks, pay their checks and share their dining experience with Facebook friends. Applebee's is rolling out the tablets in a pilot program but expects to have the computers at all its restaurants by the end of 2014.-- Peter King

Cheaper by the dozen

IPhone and iPad users have a lot of holiday cheer to look forward to after they unwrap their Christmas presents. Beginning Thursday, Apple is offering "12 Days of Gifts" from its iTunes store. Each day until Jan. 6, Apple will offer a gift for users to download. The gift could be a song, app, movie or book. Each gift will be available for a 24-hour period. -- Peter King

Google pulls Android privacy feature

Google has been blasted by privacy advocates after removing a feature from its Android software that allowed users to block apps from collecting personal information. Google said the feature was included by accident. But Peter Eckersley, a spokesman for digital- rights website Electronic Frontier Foundation, said, "We are suspicious of this explanation and do not think that it in any way justifies removing the feature."-- Reuters

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