Tired of paying $2.99 for a supposedly fabulous app that does little to hold your kid’s attention for more than five minutes? Here are some of the very best free apps that not only teach toddlers early math and reading skills, but also engage at every level. Best of all, these apps warrant replay, over and over again.
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Much has been said about the benefits of creation apps over consumption ones. Here’s an app that’s all about open-ended exploration and creation. Kids first create images with easy-to-use tools: pencils, stickers, stencils. Once their artwork is completed, they can then record an accompanying story that it inspires, even moving elements of their image while talking. Your kid may need to work with you in the beginning before they get the hang of it, but once they do, be prepared to see some amazing creativity at play.
Here’s an extremely simple, entirely free app that gets kids familiar with the alphabet. Kids can listen to the well-known song as the letters appear on the screen. Their job is to fill in the missing letters. Limited in scope and yet charmingly illustrated and sung, this is a great app for letter learning, although parents need to keep in mind that there is just one activity available.
There are no shortage of ads on YouTube Kids, but if you can get past that, there’s plenty of great content to be found, without the horrible stuff making its way in. Divided into four categories — Shows, Music, Learning and Explore — YouTube Kids offers shows like Sesame Street, Thomas and Friends, on up to Minecraft videos.
Unlike other early-learning math apps that rely on drills and repetition, this park-themed adventure lets kids manipulate objects by moving them around in order to solve math challenges. Counting, addition, subtraction, patterning and sorting are all explored. Best of all, kids get to move around the park in an open-ended fashion, letting them discover different math zones and challenges as they go. As with all apps designed by award-winning developer Duck Duck Moose, graphics are excellent and there is no shortage of highly creative, interactive features.
One of the very best free art apps for toddlers, Lazoo: Squiggles offers great game play that lets kids watch their drawings come to life. Kids make their own squiggles on 15 “living” drawing pages, then hit “go” and watch their creations animate and interact with the environment. Cars drive, flowers grow and sheep bleat when squiggled upon. This app is not only highly satisfying, it’s also worthy of playing many, many times. Mom and dad may want to get in on the action, too.
Forcefield is an easy-to-use app that helps parents manage and monitor their kids online. With Forcefield, parents can block mature content and create schedules for when kids can access apps. Forcefield also offers a 500+ library of top educational websites and app recommendations for kids. The Forcefield Library has been curated and categorized by age appropriateness, educational topic and overall quality.