Children are able to use and understand technology at an early age. They know how to operate smartphones and tablets correctly and get into their favorite apps before they can speak. There are a sea of apps available for every platform, but not all of them are appropriate for children. We have compiled a list of apps for kids, some are silly games while others are educational, but all of them are completely child-safe and fun.
Many of these apps come with in-app purchases. If your children don’t understand that they are paying with real money every time they tap one of these, it can cause real problems. Before handing a phone or tablet over to a kid, make sure they don’t know the password for your account, and that they need to ask before they click. You can also avoid any mishaps by following our guides to turn off in-app purchases in iOS or disable in-app purchases in Android.
Tynker Coding for Kids (free/in-app purchases)
Tynker is quite simple to work with, as it’s very visual — you move the blocks to build your code. With Tynker, you can play coding games, take courses to learn to code, and you can even program drones. This app works with connected toys such are Sphero, Lego WeDo2.0, and even the Philips Hue and Lux lighting systems. You can download Tynker for free, but if you pay for the subscriptions, you will have access to mobile courses, more than 350 puzzle levels, a private Minecraft server, 18 online courses, and over 100 guided tutorials. If you want your kids to get serious about programming, then Tynker should be on your shortlist.
Nancy Drew Codes and Clues Mystery Coding Game (free)
This app is a great way to learn the basics of coding. Instead of just learning to code with out-of-context isolated commands, you will need to use the code to move along a story. It’s interactive, it builds reading comprehension skills, and kids will have a lot of fun trying to find the clues to solve the mystery. Some of the skills learned are sequences, loops, pattern recognition, and algorithmic thinking. Follow the story, find the clues, and collect the charms to finish a great adventure. The first chapter is free, and if you like it, you can unlock the entire game with a one-time purchase of $4.
Think & Learn Code-a-pillar (free/$4)
A little caterpillar, named code-a-pillar, needs your help to make it to the end of the maze. Can you help? The game encourages kids to think through obstacles that will get harder as you finish each level. It helps kids with learning things like planning and sequencing, problem-solving, and number recognition.
Bee-bot is very simple app that helps children develop skills in directional language and programming. Use directional arrows to move forward, backward, left, and right. The app has 12 levels that encourage you to get better and faster, as faster you can finish a level the more stars you will get. It’s suggested for children age 4 and up.
Kodable – Coding for kids (free/in-app purchases)
Educational (Math, Science, and Language)
Shapes Toddler Preschool (free)
This app gets kids ready for preschool with puzzles and games involving shapes, colors, numbers, and letters. The app is laid out so that a young child can click around without getting out of the game or ending up at a menu, and the controls are easy enough for anyone to use. There are four ways to play but all of them are educational and should help with development. Shapes Toddler Preschool features over 30 categories, which include shapes, colors, money, symbols, colors, and numbers. The game has puzzles, games, and flashcards to make learning easy.
Endless Alphabet (free Android, $9 for iOS)
Endless Alphabet is a unique, interactive, educational app that teaches kids their ABCs. The app uses adorable, colorful monsters to teach kids the alphabet and build their vocabulary. There are more than 50 words to explore and learn, each of which features an interactive puzzle with talking letters and short animations designed to illustrate the definition. Endless Alphabet is a fun and engaging way to teach your kids the alphabet without any pressures or limitations. The app allows kids to learn at their own pace, without any stress or pressure.
Rosetta Stone Kids (free)
Rosetta Stone Kids Lingo Letter Sounds is a fun, educational app that teaches preschoolers how to read and speak. This game is perfect for parents looking to teach their child more than one language, as the Rosetta Stone app reinforces English reading skills while simultaneously introducing Spanish. The app casts the child as a savior for trapped toys. Kids have to speak Spanish to control the actions of different characters on screen, matching the correct starting letter sound to release each toy. It’s a clever way to get them interested in speaking Spanish.
BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week (free/$3/$7)
This app brings you different animated movies every week with related quizzes and learning activities. The app is made for children ages 6-8, and the movies cover many topics from Science to Social Studies, Math, Reading & Writing, Arts, and Technology. The app aims to get kids to develop their critical thinking skills, ask questions, and make connections. For older kids, you can also download the BrainPOP Featured Movie app. You can pay $3 per month for an Explorer subscription which includes the Movie of the Week, plus unlimited access to all the movies and bonus features at any time. There’s also a Full Access subscription at $7 per month.
Ubooly, which can be described as a less terrifying Furby, is essentially a far more advanced version of a Teddy Ruxpin. But rather than cassette tapes, you can insert your iPhone or iPad into the Ubooly plush toy ($30), which will interact with your kids. It can learn names, birthdays responds when spoken to, and walks kids through various lessons and games. Kids can enter math problems into the iPhone/iPad and Ubooly will work with them toward the correct solution. Ubooly also teaches children science by walking them through easy at home experiments, which make hands-on learning at home easy and fun. The toy covers a range of lessons from the human body to Spanish and has enough content to keep a kid of any age interested.
Super Why! ($1 for Android, $3 for iOS)
The Super Why! app features characters from the popular PBS show by the same name to help kids with reading and writing skills. It features three games that are led by different characters. Kids can help Alpha Pig follow the alphabet path to create words, Princess Presto lays out words kids can trace with their fingers to learn how to write, and Wonder Red teachers children how to find words that rhyme. The app also includes interactive storybooks where kids are instructed to plug in the correct words to complete sentences.
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox ($2)
One of several Monkey games, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox teaches preschoolers about shapes, counting, puzzles, and colors. Whenever he opens his lunchbox a new lesson comes out. The monkey asks for help in finding all the green fruit, grabbing only eight strawberries, or finding the fruit that starts with the right letter. You can’t lose points for messing up, so wrong guesses become part of the learning process instead of something scary. The bright colors and monkey mascot make it engaging for young kids, and the controls are easy for anyone to learn quickly.
Moonbeeps: Fireflies ($1 for Android, $3 for iOS)
Moonbeeps: Fireflies is a beautiful game that allows kids to discover luminous fireflies buzzing about the forest. The game is quite simple really — kids just need to catch fireflies and add them to their collection. You must tap a firefly to catch it, but it’s far more difficult than it sounds. There are four different fireflies to catch, each of which comes in a different color. You can also mix colors by catching different fireflies, and you can even tap on your screen rhythmically and the fireflies will tap back. The app features music from The Polyphonic Spree’s latest album, Psychophonic.
Cut the Rope (free for Android, $2 for iOS)
An alien named Om Nom has come to earth and all he wants to do is eat candy. It’s up to your kids to figure out what ropes to cut and what bubbles to pop to get the candy to the creature with the least amount of moves. Cut the Rope is geared toward older kids because it is a puzzle game but it does force the player to problem solve and think critically. Two skills that are useful at any age. Each level is a little harder than the last and it is easy to become frustrated. There are a few different versions of this game including a sequel, Cut the Rope 2, Cut the Rope: Experiments, and Cut the Rope: Time Travel, so the fun can keep going even after you’ve completed all the levels on the original.
Angry Birds (free)
If you haven’t heard of Angry Birds, you have successfully avoided popular culture long enough and it is time to come into the light. The object of the game is to slingshot birds at pigs sitting in small structures in order to kill all the pigs. No one knows what the pigs did, or even if they are evil, but for some reason, the birds are not happy with their presence. Levels are like puzzles and each one is harder than the last, but along the way, you unlock different birds with new abilities. If your kid is tired of the original Angry Birds, you can branch out to one of many sequels including but not limited to Angry Birds Star Wars and Angry Birds Friends.
DRAWNIMAL is an app that brings the simple tools of pen and paper to the iPhone. The app encourages kids to draw an animal on the iPhone screen based on the letter they choose. The app lets kids practice the alphabet, promotes curiosity for new technology, and, most importantly, teaches children to think outside the box. The app is suitable children of all ages, starting from preschool age on. The app is also compatible in five different languages, including English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian.
Artkive is the refrigerator door of apps. It allows you to take pictures of your kids’ artwork and share them on Facebook or send them to anyone via email or text. Artkive offers child-friendly navigation and lets anyone easily edit pictures for brightness or filters. Artkive lets you create a plaque for each picture that includes the child’s name, age, and date, so you don’t have to try to remember who painted what. You can also upload artwork you like onto the Artkive website and create calendars and books, which could be used to embarrass your children for years to come. Artkive can be used to preserve school work and projects as well
Little Fox Music Box ($3 for Android, $2 for iOS)
If your child likes to sing and listen to music, Little Fox Music Box is the perfect app. The user can sing along with the Fox and his friends to classics such as Old MacDonald and London Bridge. Each song is paired with a different scene with interactive animals and backgrounds. If your little one is tired of the standard basic songs, head to the fox studio where you can record original songs while Little Fox dances along.
Musical Me! (free)
Musical Me! is an award-winning app that teaches kids notes, rhythm, and pitch. Children will join Mozzarella the Mouse in a musical world and learn the fundamental components of music. They’ll work on their memory by listening to the notes and copying the pattern to train their ears to hear different pitches. Kids will also learn about rhythm, short and long notes, how to read music notes, and even how to create their own music. A handful of popular children’s songs recorded especially for the app are featured, including Mary Had a Little Lamb, Pop Goes the Weasel, and Skip to My Lou. Kids will also hear instrumental versions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Wheels on the Bus, Old MacDonald, and more.
Art of Glow (free)
Lite-Brite was a revelation of the ’90s that combined the glory of neon, art, and potential choking hazards. This relic used to be found in every suburban home, but now it has gone the way of Pogs and fuse beads. Art of Glow brings back the national past time digitally — without the choking risk. Every creation begins with a blank black screen and children choose which kind of brush stroke to use, such as stars, hearts, and circles. Choose a color, all of them neon, and draw away. It’s like finger painting without the mess. Some of the shapes are animated and will come to life, but all of them are bright and eye-catching, perfect for a young child. After the masterpiece is completed, you can then save them to enjoy later. And perhaps the biggest upside to this app: you won’t find those little Lite-Brite tabs stuffed in the carpet.
Update: We revised this article and added BrainPOP Movie of the Week, Tynker Coding, Nancy Drew Codes and Clues Mystery Coding, Think & Learn Code-a-pillar, Bee-bot, and Kodable programming apps.
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