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We’ve scoured the internet and found some of the best apps available on this topic.
In our list we have tried to include only those that are currently available and can be downloaded from the app store.
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best apps for 4 year olds educational
1. Thinkrolls Play & Code
In today’s digital world, teaching your kids pre-coding and problem-solving skills will set them up for success early! Created by the educational app experts at Avokiddo, Thinkrolls Play & Code is an award-winning educational entertainment app for kids ages 3-8.
Thinkrolls Play & Code allows young kids to solve puzzles, work through complex challenges, and create their own adventures with a wealth of pre-coding concepts baked into every move! Young ones will build their critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills by playing their way through over 1000 Arcade Logic Puzzles and maze courses. Kids will work out solutions to math and physics challenges as they roll and bounce their way through different mazes.
The app also offers a collection of Brain Games that will entertain your child while building their reasoning skills, memory, and fine motor skills. Brain Games include options like “Find the Odd One Out,” “Sort A Lot,” and many more games designed to help kids recognize patterns and shapes.
Thinkrolls Play & Code encourages kids to never give up and think a few steps ahead as they guide different creatures through obstacles and challenges. If at first, your kiddo doesn’t succeed at a puzzle, Thinkrolls lets them experiment with multiple opportunities to try out different solutions until one fits!
Beyond the countless games and logic puzzles to experiment with, Thinkrolls Play & Code also lets kids bring their own puzzle ideas to life. Players can build their own Thinkrolls with an easy-to-use drag and drop interface, and customize their creations with accessories they earn during gameplay.
Kids will learn spatial awareness, discover the importance of planning multiple steps ahead, and be well on their way to becoming coders all while immersed in a bright, captivating cartoon world. Unlike other basic educational apps, Thinkrolls Play & Code includes collaborative play options that let them safely share the puzzles they make with others in the community. Your child will gain confidence and feel like a real-life inventor by challenging others to try out their puzzle!
2. Fact Monster
Fact Monster is an excellent option for educational games. Learning games and videos range in topics, from science to language arts to math and so much more! Fact Monster also combines essential reference materials, flashcards, fun facts, and homework help for kids. Kids 5 years old and up will love how Fact Monster makes learning fun. Check out Fact Monster to learn more.
This free story-based game allows kids to customize their own characters, complete quests and play with friends in a safe environment. Kids love creating their avatars and finishing quests for prizes. This app is best for ages 6 to 12, and it is for Android and iOS.
4. Coolmath Games
Coolmath Games features math activities and games for anyone ages 13 to 100. Coolmath Games is a brain-training app, where logic & thinking meet fun and games. These games have no violence, no empty action, just a lot of challenges that will make you forget you’re getting a mental workout! Escaping pigs, flying zombies, a bear who loves riding scooters, and much more! This app is for iOS and Android.
5. Khan Academy Kids
Khan Academy Kids is one of the most popular math apps providing a free, fun educational program for children ages two to eight. It was developed in collaboration with learning experts at Stanford and aligned with the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework and Common Core Standards. It also focuses on the whole child and incorporates social emotional learning skills. Learn more about Khan Academy Kids here. You can find it in the Apple App Store, on Google Play, and in the Amazon Appstore.
6. Fish School
Fish School exposes your preschooler to important concepts like letters, numbers, shapes, colors, matching, and more. Brightly colored schools of fish form letters, shapes, and the numbers 1–20, and your child can make the fish swim and do funny things with a simple touch and drag. Fish School is the winner of a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and a Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice Award. This app is best for ages 2 and up, and it is for Android and iOS.
7. PBS Kids Games
PBS has created hundreds of games based on their popular children’s shows. The games for each show fit in with their learning theme. Learn math with Peg + Cat. Explore creature powers with the Kratt Brothers. Or go on a space adventure with the kids from Ready, Jet Go! If your child loves PBS shows, they’re going to love learning with their favorite characters. This app is best for ages 2 and up, and it is for Android and iOS.
8. Pizza Fractions 1
Does your elementary-aged kid need some extra help with fractions? What more delicious way to illustrate the concept than with pizza? Pizza Fractions 1 gives your child a visual approach to fractions with denominators 1–12 (excluding sevenths and elevenths), and adjustable difficulty levels let beginners start with the basics and progress as they learn. Math has never been so tasty! This app is best for ages 6 and up, and it is for iOS.
The National Science Foundation’s Science360 app (for tablets only) brings cutting-edge science and engineering news, images, and video right to your child’s fingertips. All content is either produced by the NSF or gathered from scientists and universities around the world, so you can be assured that your child is receiving the best quality information out there, and new content is added every week. Your kid will love the cool 360-degree view that lets him explore images from every angle. This app is best for ages 12 and up, and it is for Android and iOS.
10. NASA Visualization Explorer
NASA Visualization Explorer, or NASA Viz, is the coolest way to explore the latest news and stories about the Earth, the sun, and the universe. The app features stunning images and video from space and animations that can make challenging concepts easier to understand. Older kids will love diving into everything this app has to offer on their own, and your younger ones can begin learning about the planets and stars with your help. This app is best for ages 7 and up, and it is for iOS.
11. Toca Kitchen Monsters
Toca Kitchen Monsters is the free version of the popular Toca Kitchen app. Cook up food for two hungry monsters using eight different ingredients combined in various ways. But be careful not to season the food too much, or the monsters just might spit it back at you! Like other Toca Boca games, the emphasis is on free, open play, where your child’s imagination can run wild. Note that while Toca Kitchen Monsters is available on iOS only. Toca Kitchen 1 and 2 are available for free on Android devices. This app is best for ages 3 and up.
12. Vocabulary Spelling City
Spelling tests can be stressful at any grade level, but Vocabulary Spelling City makes learning vocabulary and spelling fun with games like Word Unscramble and HangMouse. Students of all ages can use the free app to play nine games with 10 of the app’s most popular word lists. You can even upload a customized word list to Vocabulary Spelling City’s website for your child to use in the app. For families who want a more expansive experience, a premium version of the app with five student accounts is available for a yearly subscription. This app is best for ages 6 and up, and it is for Android and iOS.
13. Todo Math
Designed for kids in pre-K through second grade, Todo Math takes your child on a daily math adventure. There is a 10–15 minute practice drill available each day, a Mission Mode for tackling early word problems, and a Free Play mode. The app has won multiple awards, including a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and a five-star rating on Common Sense Media. The free app contains a basic version of every game, and the full version is available on a subscription basis. This app is best for ages 5 and up, and it is for Android and iOS.
14. Scratch Jr.
Scratch Jr. teaches children as young as five the basics of coding. Designed by researchers at Tufts University and MIT, the app was inspired by the Scratch programming language, redesigned for a younger audience. Your child can make the app’s adorable characters move, jump, and even dance and sing by snapping together different programming blocks. In addition to learning how to code, he’ll also be learning problem solving, design, and how to create his own story. This app is best for ages 5 and up, and it is for Android and iOS.
15. Endless Numbers
A follow-up to the popular Endless Alphabet, Endless Numbers helps preschoolers learn number recognition, patterns, sequences, and more with the help of adorable monsters. Five numbers are included in the free app, and you can purchase additional number packs for numbers up to 100 ($6.99 for numbers 1–25 and $11.99 for 26–100, or $14.99 for all numbers 1–100). This app is best for ages 3 and up, and it is for Android and iOS.
16. Pet Bingo by Duck Duck Moose
Pet Bingo is a fun and cute way for your kids to develop math skills through play. The problems slant toward an older audience, with bingo games designed to test math skills through primary school (e.g. 4-digit addition and subtraction). There is a free and premium version for this app. This app is best for ages 4 and up, and it is for Android and iOS.
17. Endless Reader
Endless Reader, by the makers of Endless Numbers, uses nifty graphics and fun word puzzles to bring sight words and short sentences to life for early readers. The app offers a pack of six words for kids to learn, with additional “Reader Packs” available to buy within the app ($4.99 per pack; $11.99 for a bundle of packs). This app is best for ages 4 and up, and it is for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
Your youngster will be speaking Spanish (or French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and much more) in no time! PC Magazine awarded this app the Editors’ Choice for Language Learning. It’s full of bite-sized lessons geared toward visual learners. Kids (and adults) win badges for words learned and other achievements. Some languages even include conversation exercises with Duolingo’s bots to help learn speaking skills. This app is best for ages 6 and up, and it is available as a website and for Android and iOS.
19. SAT Word Slam Free
Gearing up for the SATs can be tricky! Help build her SAT vocabulary with this interactive app based on the popular book The SAT Word Slam. It provides helpful mnemonic hints in the form of rhymes, audio, and signature “Remember This” clues that help users recall word meanings for years to come. This app is recommended for ages 14 & up, and it is for iOS.
Epic does have a cost, but many families can access it for free through their school systems. Educators can also access the app for free. Epic helps to personalize daily reading with age and level appropriate recommendations fueled by kids’ interests. There are endless books, videos, and more to fuel their curiosity and love of reading. This app is for kids 12 and under. You can use it as a website or you can download it on the Apple App Store or on Google Play.
21. The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Friends – Play and Explore
The beloved characters of Eric Carle are now available in The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Friends – Play & Explore, a stunning 3D pop-up app featuring games and activities for tablet and mobile phone. Younger kids will love seeing all of their favorite characters from the Eric Carle books, and they will also learn counting, sorting, and memory skills. This app is for little ones, and is available on iOS.
Best apps for 4 year olds free uk
The best apps for 4 year olds free uk
There are many apps for children, but you need to know which ones are the best. These are some of the best apps for 4 year olds free.
- My ABC Phonics – This is a great app for children who want to learn how to read. It has an easy interface that makes it easy to use, and it has many different activities that help children learn letters and sounds.
- Kids Songs & Stories – This is a great app for children who like music and stories. The songs are very catchy, and they make learning fun!
- ABC-3D Alphabet – This app teaches children about letters in a way that’s fun and engaging! It features 3D animations that make learning interesting instead of boring or tedious like some other apps might be.
- Kids Games: Farm Animals – This game allows kids to explore different farm animals in virtual reality environments! They can interact with them by feeding them or petting them if they’re feeling lonely! It’s great for kids who love animals!
The best apps for pre-schoolers
Imagine Populous merged with a children’s nature book and that’s Toca Nature. Your tiny person can build hills and dig channels for rivers and lakes, all without getting their hands dirty. Trees are then planted with taps, whereupon rabbits, bears, fish and beavers start mooching about their respective habitats.
Your youngling can then observe their creation from above, like a miniature god, or use the magnifying glass to get up close and personal, lobbing acorns and fruit at their adoring furry and fishy subjects.
Download Toca Nature for iOS (£3.99)
Download Toca Nature for Android (£3.99)
Pok Pok Playroom
The idea behind Pok Pok Playroom is to create a safe exploration-oriented play environment for children that echoes what they might find in the real world. Its games are therefore open-ended and risk-free, but afford young children the means to experiment and grow as they discover new things.
From a visual standpoint, its colourful and minimal aesthetic comes across as friendly and offers great clarity. On the larger display of an iPad, it’s friendly for smaller fingers still discovering their dexterity. The subscription is a touch ambitious, but the app does regularly receive new toys, and at the very least it’s worth trying for a few months to see whether it clicks with your younglings.
Download Pok Pok Playrooom for iOS (£3.49 per month)
Thinkrolls: Kings & Queens
All of the entries in the Thinkrolls series are great; but this latest slice of gentle gaming fun brings a regal air to its dozens of logic and gravity puzzles (in the sense the roly-poly protagonists wear crowns, unless you decide to – for some reason – play as a chicken).
The goal is to clear a pathway so the rotund hero can continue progressing through a massive maze. The snag is this involves figuring out how to work with all kinds of contraptions, like gears, bridges, hatches, and even a harp that makes an otherwise ravenous crocodile sleepy.
Just the thing to get tiny minds working overtime, while sneakily getting them interested in videogames.
Download Thinkrolls: Kings & Queens for Android (£free + £4.99 IAP)
Out of this world: Thinkrolls Space
With Thinkrolls Space (Android / £3.49 • iOS / £3.99), the trundling heroes head for the stars. Your nipper must contend with goo monsters, bleeping robots, moon monsters that munch their way through moon cheese, and teleporters that blast protagonists between locations. Star Trek was never this exciting.
If you’ve tiny humans toddling about, chances are you’ll own some wooden puzzles where letters are slotted into a board. If you’re very fortunate, you’ll still actually have a few of the letters, rather than a sad infant pointing forlornly at gaps.
Endless Alphabet should take their minds off of such losses, with dozens of words to sort by dragging letters about, and a bunch of amusing animations when each word is completed. There’s the odd Americanism lurking, but if you can hold yourself back from hurling your device from a moving car on seeing ‘odour’ lacking a ‘u’, you’ll be fine.
Download Endless Alphabet for Android (£free + £7.49 IAP)
BBC iPlayer Kids
We love BBC iPlayer, but it’s a wee bit easy for kids to ‘accidentally’ end up watching something horrifying that will possibly scar them for life or, worse, get them interested in EastEnders. Hence BBC iPlayer Kids, which cunningly limits nippers to shows broadcast on CBeebies and CBBC.
Like standard iPlayer, there are no adverts, the interface is elegant and simple, search is fast, and you can download shows for offline playback. Which means, naturally, we felt honour-bound to thoroughly test the app for inclusion in these pages by watching 20 episodes of Danger Mouse back to back.
As we all know, ‘A is for apple’, usually badly illustrated and, for most kids, followed by ‘B is for BORED NOW’. But Metamorphabet brings new life to learning the alphabet by way of imaginative, surreal and frequently disturbing animations.
It begins with an ‘A’. Tap and it sprouts antlers you can ping about. The ‘A’ then transforms into an arch and goes for an amble. And that’s just the start. Next, you’re watching a giant ‘B’ with a bushy beard and a beak belching an endless stream of colourful bugs. It’s weird, creative, brilliant, and usable enough even for an 18-month-old to try their tiny hand at.
Download Metamorphabet for iOS (£4.99)
My Very Hungry Caterpillar
The world’s most loved and gluttonous larva stars in a range of books with holes in, some of which have been awkwardly shoe-horned into apps. But this one’s different, coming across like a virtual pet.
It starts with an egg, which when hatched reveals the titular wriggler, who merrily scarfs down any food plonked in front of him. Then it’s playtime, which, depending on the season, might mean belly-sliding on an icy pond, frantically smacking a bouncy ball around, or popping bubbles. It’s all very charming, and once the caterpillar becomes a butterfly, we imagine your own little critter will want to start all over again.
Download My Very Hungry Caterpillar for Android (£free + £4.99 IAP)
Touchscreens are more intuitive than old-school PCs, but that doesn’t mean interactions from very young children amount to more than them mashing their hands against the display. With Little Digits, though, such actions at least become productive over time, with the app cunningly using multitouch to help a child learn to count.
The mechanics of the basic mode are simple: touch the screen with some digits, and the app chirps the relevant number, while displaying a cuddly number monster. Beyond that, you can delve into basic sums, and even record your own audio for the voiceovers.
Download Little Digits for iPad (£2.99)
Sago Mini Friends
There are loads of Sago apps for kids, but Mini Friends is particularly good. You choose a character and scoot about a neighbourhood, barging into people’s houses and then playing little mini-games.
These are simple enough for most kids – fix a birdhouse by smacking some nails into it; play dress-up; eat some snacks – and they cunningly promote empathy and sharing. For example, when two animals are sitting before a feast, lobbing all the noms at one of them makes the other look like it’s going to burst into tears. Only by sharing is everyone left in a happy place.
Lego Duplo World
We’re not suggesting you should replace all your kid’s real-world toys with virtual ones. But just as Duplo is superb for improving real-world dexterity, so too can this app help younglings navigate touchscreens.
For free, you get access to ‘Number Train’, which features a chunky plastic train and activities based around colour sorting, counting, and using animal blocks to create terrifying creatures that’d even make Doctor Moreau run for the hills.
Unlocking other scenes sets you back a fiver each – or £22 for them all. That might seem a lot, but there’s many hours of play here – and the added advantage of not painfully stepping on a block in the middle of the night.
Download Lego Duplo World for iOS (£free + IAP)
Download Lego Duplo World for Android (£free + IAP)
This single-screen app features a bunch of cartoon animals and initially looks a bit basic. But it’s really quite sneaky, offering a surprising amount of depth. The basic game involves your wee nipper identifying the correct cartoon animal, based on a simple clue. This might be a name, emotion, action, position or sound.
Once the correct character is prodded, a new scene appears. These won’t fail to bring a smile to a supervising parent’s face (assuming they’re not dead inside), such as a seal trying to make a phone call on a banana, or a pig ‘hiding’ on a pink background.
Download Peek-a-Zoo for iOS (£free)
Like the idea of your kid eventually blasting out Beethoven’s Fifth? Tiny Orchestra offers a starting point. The first of its three mini-games showcases a range of musical instruments – give each one a prod and it makes some noise. Next up is ‘ear training’ – a multiple-choice quiz where children try to identify what’s playing, and are awarded with up to three stars, depending on how well they do. Then it’s time for your nipper to create their own orchestral performance, by dragging and dropping characters to the stage, mixing and matching performers to fashion their own sound. It’s simple stuff, but effective and breezy fun.
Download for iOS (£2.99)
The best apps and games for primary schoolers
If you’ve a youngling that finds it tough to find their voice, Chantlings might be able to help. It’s an endearing singing app, but rather than demand you laboriously croon scales or blast out pop songs, it has you coax sounds out of mysterious adorable creatures peering through the leaves of a forest clearing.
If you just use a device, the app has a call-and-response vibe, responding after a brief pause to a sound taken in through the mic. But add headphones and the critters harmonise in time with whatever they hear. Interaction is simple – tap any Chantling to turn it on or off.
In all, this is a cartoonish but magical slice of musical interaction a kid can have fun with while building confidence.
Download Chantlings for iOS (£2.49)
If you’ve a youngling of 4 and up who’s obsessed with stompy monsters that used to roam the land millions of years ago, Dino Dino’s a must-have. It tasks you with finding 21 dinosaur cards by completing educational mini-games.
These games aren’t dry and dull fare. Instead, you entertainingly get to match a dinosaur’s weight by plonking it on a colossal set of scales and comparing it with diggers and elephants. Other games include colouring in, feeding time, and digging up fossils in seconds by using a finger. (Sorry, palaeontologists – we realise things aren’t quite so simple in the real world!)
Note: If this one kicks off in German, scroll the nav bar to the left and tap the rightmost button to switch language.
Download Dino Dino for iOS (£free + IAP)
Download Dino Dino for Android (£free + IAP)
Hiro Kamigaki’s Maze Detective books are joyful creations – imaginative finding books packed with intricate details. Surprisingly, this videogame adaptation doesn’t follow the example of Hidden Folks and replicate that experience on screen. Instead, it marries pathfinding and observation.
Each level tasks you with directing the titular maze detective around mazes, in hot pursuit of nefarious types. Along the way, you can explore your surroundings and find clues, secret treasures and mini-games.
For adults, there’s less here than a straight port of the books would have created. But our resident school-age tester has been glued to the screen for some time, suggesting this one’s ideal for its target market.
Download Labyrinth City for iOS (£4.99)
Kids tend to like the outdoors, hence many parents finding a collection of pine cones and tiny grubby handprints in their house after a walk in the woods. But the weather doesn’t always like kids. When it’s being uncooperative, you can feed interest in plant life with Namoo.
This interactive book has a gorgeous minimal art style and succinct text. Most importantly, the scenes encourage play and exploration, such as a proddable plant cell that makes beepy sci-fi noises, and a fertilisation section that leaves you with a futuristic-looking angular apple you fear would break your teeth if you bit into it.
Download Namoo for iOS (£3.99)
Weather by Tinybop
Given that the British are legally obliged to complain about the weather at least 50 times per day, you might as well start your kids off early learning about all things rain, wind, sun and snow.
In Weather by Tinybop, you tap icons, to discover hot-spots that unlock little interactive scenes you can fiddle about with. Kid in a good mood? Watch as they melt ice to help someone fish, or cool things down for a panting dog. A tiny Trump in waiting? Get concerned while they rip apart a house with a tornado, while laughing maniacally and yelling something about climate change being a hoax.
Download Weather by Tinybop for Android (£free + IAP)
Universe in a Nutshell
Want your kid to fully understand their place in the scheme of things? Then Universe in a Nutshell is a must-install. Via the magic of pinch gestures you can zoom from the Planck length all the way up to the observable universe, comparing the sizes of over 250 objects in between.
Along with being a beautifully illustrated and tactile modern take on a size comparison chart, there’s some learning to be done here as well: tap on an object and you get a bit of writing about it. All this is backed by a suitably chill-out soundtrack that further helps immersion.
Got kids that are dino-mad, to the point it’s making your ears dino-sore? (Oh, just go with it.) This app provides a solution, transforming them into palaeontologists via the power of AR.
Whether you’re in the woods, your garden or your kitchen, point your iPhone’s camera at the ground and with this app you can tap away to unearth fossils. Once enough of your find has been uncovered, hot-spots reveal handy facts about it.
Each skeleton requires a few digs to compile a complete beast, which is then automatically assembled to tower above you in AR. To finish things off, a screenshot button makes it a cinch to snap your budding dino-hunter alongside their hard-earned prize.
Download ARcheology for iOS (£4.99)
Mission To Mars AR
Too often, augmented reality apps are gimmicks or frustratingly short. Mission to Mars AR is neither. Instead, this is an ambitious app that marries fun, exploration and a pile of facts, making it suitable for any wannabe NASA director. You can launch a rocket or have fun driving scale-model rovers across a desk or down your street. There’s a portal you can confidently stride through to then amble around the Red Planet. And if you think you’ve got what it takes, you can tackle a nail-biting ‘7 minutes of terror’ landing sequence and see if you can better robotic automation. (Spoiler: Stuff couldn’t. Things all got a bit smashy.)
Download for iOS (£free)
Download for Android (£free)
Minecraft is great, obviously, but it’s also vast, slightly intimidating and hard to master for the younger end of the gaming spectrum. Toca Blocks is none of those things, while still offering a creative sandbox within which youngsters can let their imaginations run wild.
Like Minecraft, it’s all about digging and building, but because it’s all in 2D it’s a lot easier for younger kids to visualise where their blocks should be placed. Blocks of different types can be very easily combined – just mash them together – to make all manner of different textures and objects and one world can very quickly end up looking completely different from another.
There’s no objective as such, no survival mode, no dangers, so it probably won’t hold their attention past about age five or six – but that’s hardly a problem, as they’ll be ready to level up and move on to Minecraft then anyway.
Download Toca Blocks for iOS (£3.99)
Download Toca Blocks for Android (£3.99)
If you’ve played Underworld and Orbital 24/7 for months, attempting to brainwash your younglings into making electronic music, chances are dumping them in front of ProTools will merely result in bafflement and wide eyes. Enter: Loopimal, essentially ‘My First Sequencing App’.
You drag coloured shapes to empty slots, which trigger canned loops performed by a cartoon creature. Master that and the screen can be split, enabling an animated Fab Four to smash out oddball beats. There’s no going wrong, all songs are in C-major so others can play along, and the funky bass-playing octopus and stompy mammoth need their own record contract immediately. And if you’re hungry for more – or want something a little more advanced – check out the equally awesome Bandimal.
Download Loopimal for iOS (£3.99)
Toca Life World
This app mashes together a slew of existing Toca Life apps and a bunch of additional locations, to make for the biggest and best virtual playhouse on mobile. The quirky scenes are vibrant and imaginative, packed full of figures to dot about and Easter eggs to find.
There’s loads to do, from having evil babies take over the city to, erm, flushing loads of animals down a toilet. But also, Toca Life World deals with IAP fairly. You start off with eight locations and 39 characters, augmented by content from any standalone Toca Life apps you already own; and all other IAPs are one-offs, rather than the app mugging your wallet with a monthly subscription.
Download Toca Life World for Android (£free + IAP)
Download Toca Life World for iOS (£free + IAP)
Busy work: Toca Life: Office
If you just fancy one Toca Life app, Toca Life: Office (Android / £3.99 • iOS / £3.99) lets your kids imagine what parents get up to when they go to that exciting-sounding place called ‘work’. Only their office is much more exciting and colourful than yours – and even has a helicopter. Jealous yet?
We admire the ambition in DNA Play. It aims to introduce kids to the concept of DNA, by way of a puzzle-based interface that results in a monster receiving constant mutations. In reality, we imagine the nuance will be lost, but that doesn’t mean DNA Play isn’t fun to mess about with.
Once your monster’s got all of its parts, further pokes and prods result in radical transformations. Monsters can be further messed with by plonking them on skateboards, scaring them by turning out the lights, and having them dance flamenco (presumably while actual monsters look on, slowly shaking their heads).
Download DNA Play for iOS (£2.99)
Download DNA Play for Android (£2.99)
Zen Studio: Finger Painting
Instead of freeform colouring, Zen Studio offers up a canvas with a grid of triangles. When any slot is tapped, a sound plays. The result is like creating modern art while Brian Eno noodles away in the background. It’s relaxing and thoughtful in precisely the manner scrawling at random with crayons is not.
For kids that prefer more guidance, the app provides a range of template-based tutorials, which are akin to stencils. For free, you get a limited selection of everything (and no white paint, which doubles as an eraser); but the ‘pro’ version is a one-off purchase and is well worth the outlay.
Download Zen Studio: Finger Painting for iOS (£free or £2.99)
If your kid’s forever bugging you for yet another ‘finding’ book that’ll cost you a tenner and be finished/discarded in approximately 30 minutes, get them Hidden Folks instead.
With its animated hand-drawn black and white scenes and mouth-originated noises, the game has plenty of character. But also, due to the cryptic clues and often gargantuan levels, even the most skilled Where’s Wally? player will take many hours to find the 300 or so targets.
Neatly – and rarely for children’s games – it’s also a lot of fun for any adult folks wanting a game to relax with.
Download Hidden Things for iOS (£4.99)
Super Robot Bros
Kids today are growing up in a world where they’re surrounded by technology. Having them well-versed in logical thinking therefore provides a useful and relevant foundation for many areas of learning.
With this app, they drag actions to a playback bar, in order to direct robots towards a goal. This is a sneaky way of teaching them sequences, loops, events and conditions. And when your nipper’s mastered all those, they can work on their own challenges using a built-in level designer.
Most kids love to build, whether that’s with piles of plastic bricks or pixel-based equivalents in the likes of Minecraft. Townscaperprovides a meditative and thoughtful alternative, giving your child a huge expanse of water and just letting them play.
There’s no goal. The game’s all about discovery and joy, and its basic controls (tap to build; long-tap to delete) are simple enough for young children to master. They’ll love the surprises too, when figuring out how to create different building types, coax pigeons on to rooftops, or even make a structure fly.
Download Townscaper for iOS (£4.49)
Download Townscaper for Android (£4.49)
The best apps for bigger kids
Convincing kids to read the classics can be a challenge. Dusty old tomes on shelves hardly feel exciting in an era of TikTok. But Serial Reader cunningly repackages old books as bite-sized fare, serving them up as daily snippets that can be digested in around ten minutes.
This isn’t going to get anyone through War and Peace in a hurry. (In fact, by default, it would take a whopping 235 days.) But it’d let an older child armed with a phone check out War of the Worlds or Frankenstein across a few weeks, cunningly gamifying the process to the degree they might end up with several stories on the go at once. Just be ready when they ask whether you’ve read them too.
Apps have had a big impact on rote learning. Rather than using valuable classroom time to commit facts to memory, kids can play out exercises on a screen. In the case of Seterra Geography, there is limitless scope to dig into countries and flags.
The app includes a wide range of pre-canned quizzes, which you can customise and save. It’s then a case of blazing through questions given in speedrun style, aiming to crack the high-score table.
Its pace and immediacy makes it a good bet for kids – but we’d argue this app is ideal for parents wanting to brush up on geography too. After all, are you quite sure where Kyrgyzstan is, or what Bhutan’s flag looks like?
Some kids like books, but a heart may nonetheless sink when you say: “Hey, I just got you a great new iPad book about the Earth, which you can read while we’re travelling”. Any glum expressions should vanish when you add: “And you can make volcanoes with your fingers!”
That’s the magic of Earth Primer, which is a tactile interactive experience imagined into being by Chaim Gingold (Spore Creature Creator). A further slice of genius lies in the book’s sandbox: a tiny hunk of land you can build on, freeze, bake or drown – but only if you’ve read through the relevant chapters first.
Download Earth Primer for iPad (£9.99)
Journeys of Invention
For older kids fascinated by inventions, there’s no better digital book than Journeys of Invention. You browse interconnected pathways to discover the most extraordinary events in science and technology.
Many objects you find can be explored, spinning them around with a finger. But there’s more heavily interactive fare, too. You can examine a flea under a microscope, explore the inside of the Apollo 10 Command Module, and send messages using an Enigma Machine.
And if your kids start doing the last of those all the time, rather than sending you messages in English, you’ve only yourselves to blame for trying to educate the little blighters.
Exploring objects in 3D and taking them to bits is a useful way for children to learn. However, chances are they spend learning time buried in dusty tomes – plus you wouldn’t want them dismantling your headphones, toaster, alarm clock, or a human eye anyway. (Also: where did that eye come from?)
JigSpace can project such items on to a desk – and many more besides, including Coronavirus, a trebuchet, and the entire solar system. There, you can see what makes these things tick, move around them in 3D, and explore text labels, thereby infusing knowledge into your brain in a way a hunk of dead tree just can’t compete with.
Download JigSpace for iOS (£free)
Solar Walk 2
Kids are often captivated by the heavens. A couple of decades ago, they might have received a book to leaf through, with dodgy paintings of planets.
Today, they can hurl themselves across a virtual solar system, scooting between Jupiter and Venus, spinning Saturn about, and hitching a ride on a comet. For those who want to delve deeper, tap the info button to get all kinds of facts and figures about any given planet. You can also peek into its internal structure. (Saturn’s looks like a freaky eyeball – possibly worth the price of entry alone).
Download Solar Walk 2 for iOS (£2.99 + IAP)
Download Solar Walk 2 for Android (£2.99 + IAP)
Love You to Bits
This one’s an old-school point-and-click adventure reimagined for a world of touchscreens. Rookie space explorer Kosmo must search for his robot girlfriend’s components, which have been scattered throughout the galaxy. He visits planets to which her parts have been tracked, and gets them back by solving puzzles.
For kids and adults alike, there’s an ongoing charm offensive and deluge of pop-culture references that are impossible to escape from. The mix of clever puzzles and gorgeous visuals is intoxicating, whether you’re figuring out how to beat a 2D Monument Valley or lurking in a certain cantina in a galaxy far, far away.
Little Alchemy 2
It would be a stretch to claim Little Alchemy 2 would help any little human brush up on their science. There’s certainly a whiff of STEM as you synthesise objects by combining things you’ve discovered, having initially only been in possessions of basics like air, earth and the like.
But this is more a game about thinking outside the box and figuring out how real-world objects might be described in their most basic form. It’s whimsical – even surreal – rather than literal, where a plane is fashioned from metal and a bird. Creative thinking is the order of the day, then, in this safe, finger-friendly, oddball take on crafting.
The Room Three
Barely a minute into The Room Three, you’re scared out of your wits as a ghostly apparition sits before you in a train carriage. The lights go out, and you wake up in a dungeon, with a note from the mysterious Craftsman. Figure your way out (and then from the multi-room complex as a whole) or you’re done for.
Cue: hours of swiping, exploring, puzzle solving, and general weirdness with a dreamlike horror bent. One to (hopefully) captivate older kids for a few hours, while cunningly simultaneously flexing their brain muscles. The two previous entries in the series are also fab, as is spin-off Old Sins.
Download The Room Three for iOS (£1.99)
The other games in the section for older kids are intentionally thoughtful. They’re about puzzle solving and logic – and therefore educational. Ish. But Fancade starts off as a set of breezy mini-games that riff off of popular mobile fare. There’s one-thumb racing and isometric path-finding. One game finds ninja-like critters bounding about 2D platforming worlds, and another has the player urge a massive truck across undulating tracks towards a goal. What is educational is your kid can dig into any of these mini-games and find out what makes them tick. They can then fashion their own versions, or even start from scratch and craft unique game worlds within the Fancade universe. Top stuff for any budding games designers.
Download for iOS (£free)
Download for Android (£free)
It’s laying it on a bit thick to suggest coding will be the most important second language for any current schoolkid. But there’s also no doubt that an understanding of coding is beneficial, whether or not your kid has designs on topping the App Store charts themselves, or is just keen on logic and new challenges.
With Swift Playgrounds, Apple opens its programming language to all by way of split-screen lessons that feature interactive code on the left and a 3D world on the right that your commands directly affect. But this app is no mere toy: it’s in fact a mini Xcode, with enough features to build an entire app and submit it to the App Store.
There’s a ton of depth lurking in this oddball sampler, including a sequencer, drum patterns, sync capabilities with other iOS audio apps, sample clipping, and MIDI control. But if you’re a kid, sitting in the back of the car, it’s also a hugely entertaining means to make a soundboard from whatever objects happen to be nearby.
A donk on the window. A nearby sibling yelling “GERROFFF”. An amusing sneeze. Whispering the word ‘poo’. All these sounds are ripe material for a subsequent pad-bashing session. It’ll drive you nuts, but Samplebot could be the first step of your pride and joy one day topping the charts.
Download Samplebot for iOS (£3.99)
Yeah, we’re cheating a bit here in including Apple Arcade. But that’s because as kids grow, they tend to end up with three choices: unsuitable PC and console games; relatively expensive Switch titles; or frequently underhand and exploitative titles on mobile. Apple Arcade deftly cuts through such problems.