Just like adults, it can be easy for kiddos to get sucked into passively watching videos on iPad or TV. But what about more engaging digital experiences that encourage creative and fun learning? Follow along for a look at some of the best apps for young kids.
Balancing kids’ screen time can be challenging. As the parent of two young boys, I know how addictive YouTube Kids and other similar passively-watched videos can be. There’s certainly a lot of great video content like that available, but I think it’s important to make an effort to keep things balanced.
For my wife and I, finding engaging, fun apps that naturally encourage creativity and active participation has been super helpful.
Best apps for young kids
Pok Pok Playroom
This amazing app for kids launched two years ago and has seen constant updates and improvements since. After starting with 6 great toys that encourage open-ended play, exploration, and self-led learning, Pok Pok now features 15 unique toys.
The app has won an Apple Design Award, Editors’ Choice Award, and earned many more accolades.
- Designed for kids ages 2-7
- No ads or in-app purchases
- No winning or losing
- No adult help required
- Wonderful variety of experiences
My family has been a paying customer of Pok Pok since it launched and my boys both love it and have learned and grown so much with it. Check out more details in my original review along with all the updates released since.
Pok Pok Playroom is available from the App Store with a free 7-day trial then goes from $6.99/month or $45.99/year.
LEGO Duplo World
LEGO Duplo World combines a variety of great learning experiences into one app.
- You’ve got the creative and exploratory nature of LEGO but in digital form that can help with fine motor skills
- Collaborative aspects
- Sorting and numbers, reasoning, and problem-solving
- Imaginary play as well as real-world skills like practicing when to cross streets, how to wash hands, and much more
- Made for 2-5-year-olds (but may be fun for kids older than that)
LEGO Duplo World is a little pricier than some apps out there, but in our experience, it’s totally worth it. It’s a free download to try out and you can unlock parts or all of the app starting from $5.
LEGO Building Instructions
Speaking of LEGO, if you haven’t checked out the LEGO Building Instructions app, it’s a really neat experience.
- For many of the newer LEGO sets, the app features 3D instructions that are a lot of fun. My son has a blast doing free-play with LEGO, but the 3D instructions are also great when there’s something specific he wants to build.
- The 3D nature is really helpful for spatial reasoning skills.
- You can use the 3D instructions even if you didn’t buy a specific set and want to use with the Lego you already have (note: not all instructions are available in 3D)
LEGO Building Instruction is a free download from the App Store.
If you’re looking for a fun way to help your young child learn the alphabet/phonics, read, and write, Duolingo ABC is a phenomenal app.
- Designed by literacy and early-education experts to develop children’s skills in phonics, sight words, reading comprehension, more.
- Works offline
- Free app and ad-free!
You can get Duolingo ABC for iPhone and iPad for free on the App Store.
This has become a go-to for many parents, teachers, and libraries with a massive 10,000+ educational and interactive activities in over 850 lessons.
- Focus areas: reading, math, science, art and colors, music
- Designed for kids ages 2-8
- 4.5-star average rating on over 700,000 reviews
- Can use the app and the web
- Free for 30 days to see if you like it
You can download ABCmouse for free from the App Store and start a 30-day trial and then it runs $12.99/month.
If you want to introduce your kids to coding, Apple’s Swift Playgrounds is a great place to start.
- Totally free
- Designed with an “interactive puzzle” approach
- Apple mentions ages 12+ but kids younger than that may enjoy it as well
Here’s how Apple describes Swift Playgrounds:
Swift Playgrounds is a revolutionary app that makes it fun to learn and experiment with code. You solve interactive puzzles in the guided “Learn to Code” lessons to master the basics of coding, or experiment with a wide range of challenges that let you explore many unique coding experiences.
Swift Playgrounds is free download from the App Store.
This is a really fun app for curious kids. BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. feature animated short videos that do a great job explaining various concepts across science, reading, math, social studies, art and tech, and more.
- Great app to explore and find answers to questions
- Humorous and fun characters
- Includes movies, quizzes, and other educational activities
BrainPOP Jr. and BrainPOP are free downloads from the App Store with in-app purchases to unlock all the content.
This app offers 10 fun, educational activities aimed at kids from 2 to 7 years old. Another neat aspect of downloading Lil Artist is the app is made by Arima, an Apple WWDC Scholar, and her brother Aman who have a passion for education.
Lil Artist activities include:
- Sight words
- Math games
- Letter tracing
- Shape Match
- Memory game
Lil Artist is a free download from the App Store for iPhone and iPad with a $9.99 one-time purchase to unlock all of the app’s content.
If you’re ready to invest a bit more money than the apps above and think your kids would enjoy an augmented reality approach, Osmo is a really neat experience.
- Variety of sets available with focuses on math, phonics/reading, drawing, creativity, communication, spacial reasoning, coding, and more
- Options for kids ages 3-10+
- Highly rated: most Osmo kits have 4.7-star average rating or higher on Amazon
Read more about Osmo in our reviews here:
Additional great apps to check out for your young kiddo include:
Best apps for young kids wrap-up
Among all of the options above ranging from totally free to paid, hopefully you’ve found something new to try out to encourage some intentional screen time focused on engaging learning with your kid.
Do you have a favorite app for creativity and learning that we didn’t cover? Share your thoughts in the comments below!