8 Educational Apps Every Kid Should Have

By Laura Carlson

There are countless apps on the market that can engage and educate your children. From learning ABCs and another language to SAT prep and word-building activities that help them describe their emotions in a positive way, your kids can use apps to enhance their cognitive development, improve their motor skills, and work on social-emotional development.

But because not all are created equal in entertainment and educational value, we decided to wade through the sea of apps, bringing you more than a half dozen “must-haves.” These were chosen from among those with high consumer ratings. Most selected rank at least 4 out of 5 stars and have been given age-appropriate rankings from iTunes and others. A few top picks also won KAPi (Kids at Play Interactive) awards for innovation in children’s media.

"Must-Have" Apps by Grade Level

Preschool

1. LumiKids Park

This is an app by Lumosity that was created for pre-readers. Winner of a KAPi award, the app helps kids further develop core skills, ranging from cognitive to motor. Over 200 hours of research into children’s play patterns were devoted toward developing this app. In LumiKids Park, users intuitively explore a “digital playground” filled with various features. Your child can choose from three mini-games, and each focuses on a variety of basic skills, such as memory and attention, visual-motor coordination, and sorting. It’s also flexible in that it adapts to every user’s ability level, so it keeps each child engaged!

Age: 2 to 5

Devices: Android 4.0 and up; iPadiOS 7.0 or later

Price: Free

4 stars on Google Play and by Common Sense Media

4.5-stars on iTunes App Store

2. Angry Birds Space HD

This app, made by Rovio Entertainment, Ltd., is extremely popular among preschoolers. There are over 300 levels for 10 planets—one of the planets is made of junk food and there are others from our own solar system. This app is truly a learning experience. Imagine this: piggies hijack a NASA vehicle (the Mars rover “Curiosity”) and the angry birds get on the case! Kids who use it can learn about NASA missions and explorations of Mars!

Age: 4+

Devices: Android (2.3 and up), iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Price: $3.48 Android; $2.99 iTunes (some other Angry Birds apps are free)

4+ stars on iTunes

4.2 stars on Google Play

3. Feel Electric!

This app can help your child learn how to express emotions and develop language skills in a fun, yet productive way. The app is chock-full of photos, videos, games, and word-building activities. Featuring actors from the PBS show The Electric Company, it shows kids how to use words to describe how they feel. Though this app was made together with Military Families Near and Far, which helps kids with parents serving in the military, it is designed to help all kids learn to express their emotions in healthy ways.

Age: 5+

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android

Price: Free

3.5 stars on Apple iTunes App Store

4 stars on Google Play

5 stars by Common Sense Media

Elementary School

4. Vocabulary Spelling City

Using engaging games like HangMouse and Spelling TestMe, elementary students can learn to spell and expand their vocabulary with a variety of word lists, the most popular of which are Sound Alikes, Compound Words, SAT Words, and Hunger Games. This free app includes 10 word lists and eight learning games and activities. Not only can your children work at their own pace, but they can receive immediate feedback once a completed test is submitted.

Age: 6+

Devices: iPhone, iPad, Android (2.2 and up)

Price: Free (in-app products = $1.99 or more)

3.4 stars on Google Play

4 stars on Amazon and Common Sense Media

4+ stars on iTunes

5. BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week Vocabulary Spelling City

This award-winning app covers subjects within math, health, science, reading, social studies, reading, and arts and technology. With relatable characters, Annie and Moby, your children are guided through each topic and is encouraged to formulate their own ideas. Intended to promote critical thinking, BrainPop Jr. urges your children to ask questions and make connections.

Age: 6+

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android

Price: Free

3.9 stars on Google Play

4 stars on Common Sense Media

4+ stars on iTunes

Middle School

6. Duolingo

Research shows that students who learn a second, foreign language excel academically, reap cognitive benefits, and are more culturally aware. So why not help your child take strides in the road to success with Duolingo? This award-winning app—iPhone’s app of the year a few years back and “Best of the Best” for Android—gives kids a head-start with learning other languages outside of the classroom—French, Spanish, German, and more. Users start with basic phrases, sentences and verbs, then progress daily with new words. They practice speaking, listening, reading, and writing in the chosen language. According to The Wall Street Journal, it's "far and away the best language-learning app." TIME Magazine hailed it as "the secret to the future of education." Now that says a lot!

Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android.

Age: 13+

Price: Free

5 stars on iTunes!

5 stars on Common Sense Media

4.7 stars on Google Play

High School

7. The Homework App

A student who is organized is more academically prepared. This app allows high school students to keep track of their homework. They can color code subjects, add subtasks, enter due dates, describe their assignments, and even receive homework help.

Age: 14+

Devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android (4.0 and up)

Price: Free

4.3 stars on Google Play

4+ stars on iTunes

8. Magoosh SAT Prep

Every student—and parent for that matter—understands how passing the SAT is vital. Along with the help they receive from teachers, SAT prep books and materials, your high schooler can benefit from Magoosh's SAT Prep app, which comes with 160 animated lessons, each of which thoroughly detail all SAT concepts. After completing a lesson, your child is given immediate feedback, letting her know which areas need to be worked on. Magoosh also has a SAT Vocab Flashcard App.

Age: 14+

Devices: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android (2.1 and up)

Price: Free

4+ stars on iTunes

3.6 stars on Google Play