30 Best Apps for Kids
Kids love tablets. In fact, according to Nielsen, 7 out of 10 children in tablet-owning households have used a slate. The big question is what apps you should download for Junior, whether you’re looking to give your children a head start in math or reading, an app to get their creative juices flowing or a family-family game to kill some time on the way to grandma’s house. We combed through all the app stores for every platform (from iPad and Google Play to Kindle and Windows) to name the best tablet apps for kids. Plus, we broke our picks down by age, so parents can quickly and easily find the content-appropriate apps for their child.
Baby Monitor (Baby)
Why buy a stand-alone baby monitor when you can simply turn your smartphone into one using this app? Simply place your iPhone near your child, and Baby Monitor will call or send an SMS message to a number of your choice when it detects noise. You can even use the app with your older children, by receiving updates on when they get home from school or go into an area that’s off-limits. Plus, the app syncs with FaceTime, so you can see your baby while they’re waking up to make sure you don’t miss a second.
Relax Melodies HD (Baby)
Sadly, babies don’t enter this world with a perfect sleep routine. Most kids need some extra comforts to calm themselves to dreamland, such as cuddling with parents, pacifiers, stuffed animals or soothing music in order to fall and stay asleep. Relax Melodies HD is our go-to app for helping baby sleep, and it provides 50 soothing sounds, such as river, rainfall, campfire and white noise. Each sound can be looped to run all night, and you can mix and match up to 10 sounds to create the perfect mix for baby.
Peekaboo Barn (Baby)
Taking a new spin on the classic Peekaboo game, “Peekaboo Barn” features animals that pop out of their barn stalls, playing a game with your baby. Designed to teach infants animal names and the sounds they make, the app also simply acquaints small children with fun animations and cause and effect. Parents can record their own voice within the app, and there are children and adult built-in narrators.
First Focus: Ladybird Baby Touch (Baby)
Ladybird Baby Touch is an interactive experience for even the littlest of babies. Ladybird Baby Touch features high-contrast images in black, white and yellow, which research suggests babies under 1 year of age can most easily distinguish between. Parents can choose animals, patterns and shapes, sea and vehicles for their infants to view, and each cycle has animations that help your baby move their eyes to keep their focus on the image and sounds that help baby associate the right sounds with the right image. Of course, you’ll want to limit screen time for the littlest kids, so no more than a few minutes and be sure you’re interacting with your baby as well.
White Noise Lite (Baby)
Have trouble finding the time to sleep with a baby, and when you can actually lay down you constantly stress about your infant? Recommended by Dr. Oz, White Noise Lite helps you sleep with its soothing sounds of the environment, including thunderstorms, waves crashing on a beach and chirping crickets. Plus, a volume fader and timer ensures that the app will automatically switch off after you’re out to save battery, and you can mix sounds to create a unique listening experience while falling asleep.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Play at Home with Daniel (Ages 2 to 5)
Adorable tiger Daniel helps teach your children about everyday experiences such as the doctor, bedtime and bathroom routines. Doctor Daniel shows kids the instruments doctors use, which will hopefully make going to the doctor less stressful for them. Daniel teaches kids how to get ready for bed with certain bedtime routines, as well as the proper bathroom routines. When they’ve conquered a certain routine, you can reward your child with access to the digital sticker book, which includes dozens of stickers in Daniel’s house and neighborhood.
Sprinkle Junior (Ages 2 to 5)
Sprinkle Junior is an addictive, physics-based water game where kids can shoot streams at various things. There are 30 fun-filled levels which make for hours of gameplay, and realistic water physics helps kids understand how liquids behave in the real world. Once they’re old enough, your kids can upgrade to the full Sprinkle app where they add challenging puzzles and fighting against the clock.
Drawnimal (Ages 2 to 5)
Drawnimal is an app for kids and parents alike. It teaches children how to draw while learning the alphabet at the same time. Simply put your iPad on a piece of paper and follow the on-screen cues to draw an animal, and watch it come to life on the iPad complete with narration and guides for every letter (and animal) of the alphabet. Best of all, the comes in English, French, Spanish, Dutch and Italian, so you can teach your child in multiple languages.
Dr. Panda’s Restaurant (Ages 2 to 5)
“Dr. Panda’s Restaurant” is a modern take on house. Instead of setting up shop in a fake kitchen and making fake goodies, kids learn all the basics of dining. Dr. Panda’s cookbook introduces children to food from all over the world, and they help prepare the food through slicing, mixing and baking. When their masterpieces are ready, kids serve a table of eight animal guests. Plus, mini-games teach your child the basics of cooking-related housework.
Dr. Seuss's ABC (Ages 2 to 5)
What would a childhood be without Dr. Seuss? Now kids can bring their favorite author to their mobile device with “Dr. Seuss’s ABC,” which guides readers through their ABCs with fun words and pictures. Listen as the narrator reads, while each individual word is highlighted and words zoom in if readers tap on an image. Kids can choose Read to Me, Read it Myself and Auto Play, depending on their comfort zone.
Mickey's Paint and Play (Ages 2 to 5)
Mickey’s Paint and Play is a fun 3D coloring app that lets your child color and paint Mickey and Minnie Mouse and the Mickey Clubhouse, then watch as drawings come to life. Once your child is done customizing the characters and location, the 2D creations will magically turn into 3D, and the characters will start exploring the environment around them. And as with any good kids app, there’s all sorts of music to keep Junior entertained during playtime.
Meet Biscuit (Ages 2 to 5)
Biscuit, the star of the children’s book series with more than 16 million copies in print, now has his very own app. “Meet Biscuit” introduces children to the puppy with a story that tells how he got his name, as well as a digital coloring book, memory game and puzzle. Kids will learn to read in a fun way, with three modes: Auto Play, Read to Me and Read to Myself.
Nick (Ages 2 to 5)
If your child can’t get enough of their favorite Nickelodeon characters, this is the app for them. “Nick” gives access to videos from Nickelodeon stars as well as animated shorts featuring such hit characters as SpongeBob and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Kids can play fun games as well as view photos of their favorite Nick actors goofing off onset.
Download: Windows 8, iOS and Android
PBS Parents Play & Learn (Ages 2 to 5)
With more than a dozen games parents and kids can play, the PBS Parents Play & Learn app offers hours of fun. Each activity is themed around a location such as the grocery store, kitchen, in a car and many others, so you can use those daily activities to teach your child about various things that will help set them up for daily life. There’s also a free-play sticker area that lets your child’s imagination run wild.
Zoodles (Ages 2 to 9)
Zoodles is another app equally beneficial for parents and kids alike. The Zoodles app puts your iPad or Android tablet into a locked kids mode, complete with games, books and other means of entertainment that will keep your child entertained with age-appropriate activities. Added features we like include video messaging where family members near and far can interact with your child, and a section that lets family members read to your child with a video recording.
The Human Body (Ages 6 to 9)
The Human Body is a cool app from Tinybop that lets kids explore a working model of the human body. The body itself is interactive; the heart beats, the lungs breathe, the gut gurgles and so forth, so your child starts to really learn what each body part does and how complex the human body is. A recording mode lets kids and parents ask and answer general questions, and you can manage these conversations within the app’s parent mode.
Doodle Jump (Ages 6 to 9)
Let your kids guide Doodle the Doodler up a page of graph paper in a quest to collect jet packs, avoid black holes and eliminate enemies. Players can see whose scores they’ve beat in real-time, and 11 worlds of challenging fun will definitely keep your kids’ attention. Warning: They may not be able to put it down.
Price: 99 Cents (iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
Fruit Ninja (Ages 6 to 9)
Although this app appeals to all age groups (we’re all grown up and play on a daily basis), kids this age can start enjoying the game. It seems simple: Slice through fruit with your ninjalike grace. But as you get better, fruit starts coming faster and you have to avoid bombs, which will stop the game if sliced. “Fruit Ninja” is great for when kids are impatient, such as on a car ride or while waiting in line.
Price: Free (iOS, Android), $4.99 (Windows 8)
The Winston Show (Ages 6 to 9)
Created by ToyTalk, a startup founded by a Pixar-alum, The Winston Show is a new iPad interactive entertainment show where kids and on-screen characters engage in real conversations. It’s part educational TV program, part trivia game and part playing make-believe. With new episodes coming to the app every week, the content never gets old.
Slice Fractions (Ages 6 to 9)
A fun, addictive game, Slice Fractions teaches your child all about fractions without them really knowing they’re learning. It’s part "Cut the Rope" and part "Fruit Ninja" in that you slice the various shapes to create new arrangements that conform to the fractions that appear on the screen. There are 60 levels with fun, challenging puzzles that help your child understand how fractions work, without the standard drills and homework-like fare. Best of all, it’s developed in line with the Common Core State Standards to cover seven concepts your child will need to know.
Toca Lab (Ages 6 to 9)
Chemistry may not sound like fun, but Toca Lab is ready to prove you wrong. This is a colorful game that lets your child “meet” and experiment with all 118 elements from the periodic table. Your child will learn basic facts about each of the elements while having fun. They’ll experiment with bunsen burners, cooling agents and oscilloscopes in the element lab, spin elements in a centrifuge, and add mystery liquids to learn how the elements interact. Toca Lab is a great, fun way to get your child interested in science.
Mini Piano (Ages 6 to 9)
Let your child explore his or her musical genius without investing in an expensive instrument. “Mini Piano” is a two-octave keyboard that plays the piano as well as other instruments like the electric guitar, violin, harp and trombone. The app teaches your kid popular songs such as “Amazing Grace,” and various background beats lets them beef up their song to sound like a pro.
Minecraft (Ages 6 to 9)
What 6- to 9-year-old hasn’t heard of Minecraft? This highly addictive crafting game lets kids team up to create vast worlds out of blocks of various materials (dirt, grass, stone, etc.). Of course, building is only half the fun, as there are various weapons available to help protect you against creatures that wander the world at night. We like Minecraft because it helps kids use their imagination to build things and teaches them that they need to gather the right materials to build the right structures.
Minion Rush (Ages 6 to 9)
Minion Rush is an endless runner game throws you into the popular Despicable Me universe where you control one of Gru’s lovable minions. You’ll avoid obstacles while collecting bananas and other power-ups to get as far as you can go in the map without crashing. Because each game only lasts a few minutes, Minion Rush is the perfect way to make a short car ride or homework break much more fun, and you can set it to an age-appropriate range by adjusting the difficulty setting..
Angry Birds Star Wars 1 & 2 (Ages 10 to 13)
May the force be with them! Rovio keeps finding new ways to keep its Angry Birds franchise alive, and the “Angry Birds Star Wars” games are arguably the best mashups yet. The birds take on such characters as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, while the evil piggies are transformed into Pigtroopers, Pig Vader and all your other favorite Star Wars villians. Use special tools like lightsabers and the Force to conquer levels and blast away those evil piggies.
Price: 99 Cents (iOS), $2.99 (Android), $4.99 (Windows 8)
Discovery Channel (Ages 10 to 13)
The Discovery Channel is one of the best ways to learn the mysterious workings of the world and everything in it. The Discovery Channel companion apps let your kids watch clips and full episodes from top Discovery Channel shows such as Mythbusters, Deadliest Catch and Gold Rush, and provides a programming guide so you can quickly find when your favorite shows air on the Discovery Channel so you can tune in.
Magic Piano (Ages 10 to 13)
Your child could be the next Alicia Keys with a little bit of help from “Magic Piano.” The musical app teaches your kids the hottest songs out on the piano, and new free songs are added every week, plus kids can earn new songs just by playing. Just touch the beams of light, and kids can control the notes, rhythm and tempo of each piece. Plus, they can share their masterpieces with friends via Facebook, Twitter, Google , email and SMS. (You might want to supervise that part.)
Duolingo (Ages 10 to 13)
One of the fields of study most kids don’t spend nearly enough time on is learning languages. Duolingo is a 100 percent free way kids can learn Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian and English, all from the comfort of their tablet device. Users get points for completing lessons and answering questions correctly, and the app is updated regularly to add content and ensure every lesson remains high quality.
Lego: Star Wars: The Complete Sage (Ages 10 to 13)
What happens when you take a favorite toy franchise and mix it with a favorite sci-fi universe? Well, you get Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, where you play lego versions of your favorite Star Wars characters and navigate them through key scenes from the six movies in the Star Wars series. It’s highly addictive fun and helps your kid engage in the Star Wars movies in a fun, interactive way.
The Room 2 (Ages 10 to 13)
If your child is a fan of mysteries and is looking to immerse herself in one instead of just reading a book, “The Room 1 & 2” is for them. The apps sets a moody tone while players assess goals and obstacles and solve challenging puzzles. Rated as the App Store Editor’s Choice in 146 countries for iPad, this mystery puzzler takes children on a journey with realistic graphics, natural touch controls and pick-up-and-play design.
Price: $0.99 (Room 1), $2.99 (Room 2)
Download: iOS, Android