As the number of “cool” apps for kids grows, it’s no easy task to choose the 10 best educational ones. Many apps help support basic reading or math, or even increase scientific learning such as the wonders of the galaxies!
Did you know that according to recent surveys the most popular app searches by parents were for math and language apps (35 percent)? Art apps grabbed second place at nearly 15 percent, with science and other subjects following closely.
To find out which apps are in the “top 10” really depends upon the age of your child, what type of educational experience you’re looking for, and who’s doing the rating. KinderTown, an educational app store, found that most parents (nearly 38 percent) bought apps for kids who were age 3 and younger! For ages 4 - 6, the percentage of apps bought was around 25 percent. Only 14 percent of apps were purchased for ages 7 and 8. Parents tend to select apps mostly for the iPad.
Top 10 Picks for Learn-to-Read Apps
Common Sense Media, a popular nonprofit that provides information about media and technology, gave top ratings to these apps for kids (Pre-K to Kindergarten):
All of these apps are available for iPad platforms.
APP NAME STARS “LEARNING” RATING
1 Elmo Loves ABCs for iPad (age 3) 5 of 5 stars 5 books (out of 5)
2 Starfall (age 4) 5 stars 5 books
3 Montessori Letter Sounds HD (age 4) 5 stars 5 books
4 Bob Books #1 – Reading Magic (age 4) 5 stars 4 books
5 Bob Books #2 – Reading Magic (age 4) 5 stars 4 books
6 Speech with Milo: Interactive Storybook 5 stars 3 books
7 Wubbzy’s Pirate Treasure (age 3) 4 stars 3 books
8 Smiley Sight Words (age 4) 4 stars 3 books
9 Word Wagon – by DuckDuck Moose 4 stars 3 books
10 Word Wall HD (age 5) 4 stars 3 books
Apps with Engaging Learning Approaches
Here are more apps with top tier ratings from Common Sense Media (for ages 3+):
Little Digits - An entertaining way for tiny fingers to interact with little numbers.
Platform: iPad, app, 2013
Bubble Guppies Animal School Day - This is a game in which cute little friends assist preschoolers in learning about animals.
Platforms: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch app, 2012
Morton Subotnick’s Pitch Painter - An exciting, innovative music app encourages preschoolers to start composing
Platform: iPad app, 2012
Elmo Loves 123s for iPad (“Editor’s Pick”)- The popular character Elmo uses his charm to show young kids how to explore numbers
Platform: iPad app, 2013
Super Home Hero - This app can even make doing the laundry look like fun!
Platforms: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch app, 2013
Leo’s Pad Appisode 1 - This enchanting story helps preschoolers get excited to learn
Platforms: iPad app, 2012
LetterSchool (4 stars; rated “very good”) - An easy method and animations help kids learn to write letters.
Platforms: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch app, 2012
Understanding How Kids’ Educational Apps Are Rated
Ratings for kids’ apps are based on key considerations, such as:
- Is the child who uses the app learning a new thing?
- Can the child practice skills or learn facts?
- Is the kid being challenged to approach problems in new ways or use strategies to find solutions?
- Is the app working to maintain the child’s attention?
In addition to Common Sense Media, there are many other organizations that rate kids’ apps. For example, MindLeap serves as a clearinghouse for educational apps. It organizes them by grade level and checks for easy navigation. It rates apps based on these criteria:
- Educational Value (encourages problem-solving and teaches in a challenging way, including practice)
- Engagement Factor (outstanding graphics and/or catchy themes that maintain interest)
- Shelf Life (users enjoy using this app time and time again and/or they continue to benefit from it every time)
Best Apps Rated by Moms and Dads
Below are some favorite apps in 2013—rated by readers of Parents magazine:
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (2011 Parents' Choice Award - Silver Medal; Gold star - Kirkus Reviews; 2010 Best App Ever Awards - 3rd Place) This app is great for pre-readers and young readers who will be able to interact with objects shown on each page (ages 2-8).
The Magic School Bus: Oceans by Scholastic (LeapFrog Ratings: 4.8 out of 5 stars; "The Best Children’s Books on the iPad – Honorable Mention" / The New York Times) The popular Ms. Frizzle and her students go on an aquatic adventure in this app story, which features pictures and games (ages 4 and up).
Fish School HD by Duck Duck Moose (Parents’ Choice Gold Award winner - Parents’ Choice Foundation; Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice Award) Beautiful fish show your preschool child various shapes, numbers and colors within their sea world (ages 3 to 5).
More Top iPad Apps for Kids
Apps that keep kids entertained and informed were selected by Time magazine. All the apps below are for age 4+:
Angry Birds Space HD - Piggies hijacked the Mars rover “Curiosity,” and the birds must come to the rescue. Kids explore NASA vehicles and read about NASA missions.
Trucks HD (from Duck Duck Moose) - Preschoolers can drive police cars into a car wash, serve treats from an ice cream truck and collect trash with a garbage truck. Includes “Wheels on the Bus” song, too!
Toca Hair Salon - Using virtual barbershop tools, kids can learn to trim hair using standard scissors and an electric razor.
New & Noteworthy Apps
The Apple “App Store” is not necessarily “right on” every time with its recommendations; however it is an excellent place to begin if you’re searching for a new app that has some educational features.
Montessori Numberland HD (Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner 2011; highlighted in an iPad ad campaign in Canada, Germany and France) - This is an interactive app—great for learning math. “Geek Mom,” Wired and bestappsforkids.com gave it 5 of 5 stars.
Scribblenauts Remix – 59,975 Apple store ratings = 4.5 of 5 stars (ages 9+) Platforms: iPad and iPhone
Ice Age Village – 52,356 Apple store ratings = 4.5 out of 5 stars (ages 4+) - As the “official” Ice Age game, this app takes the user on a learning adventure. Platforms: iPad and iPhone.
Clash of Clans – 180,710 Apple store ratings = 4.5 out of 5 stars (age 9+) - A combat strategy game that involves building trains, villages, and more… Platforms: iPad and iPhone.
You know your kids love playing games on digital devices, so why not keep them engaged with an app that actually helps them LEARN something?
Top Apps for Older Kids:
Scribblenauts Remix (age 11) 5 stars 4 books
SpellBoard (age 8) 4 stars 3 books
Apps for Kids with Special Needs
There are also a variety of apps such as Power Up! for kids with special needs or learning differences. They are available for all ages at levels from beginner to advanced:
Proloquo2Go (age 5) 5 stars 5 books
Baby Hear & Read Verbs (age 2) 4 stars 4 books
Speech with Milo: Sequencing (age 3) 5 stars 3 books
Scene Speak (age 6) 4 stars 3 books