Best Educational Apps for Kids: A Parent’s Starter Guide

It’s hard to find the best educational apps. There are more than 80,000 in the App Store; KinderTown can help.

So You Have an iPad and Some Kids…

 
Whether you just received a shiny new iPad for Christmas, or finally got comfortable with the idea of your child playing with your iPhone, you probably noticed it’s hard to pick out great educational apps. There are more than 80,000 educational apps in the App Store; no one is judging you.
 
You’re probably wondering things like:
 
• What makes an app great?
• What features should I consider?
• What is a universal app and how do in-app purchases work?
• Just tell me what the good ones are!
 
Okay, we hear you, which is why we put together this list of the best educational apps to get you started. You can jump straight to the list below, or, we offer up a few things we’ve learned so you can start separating the great apps from the duds yourself.
 

Teach Me How to Fish for Apps

 
So you’re a do-it-yourselfer type? You want to know our secrets for finding the best apps? Well, they aren’t secrets really, but here are a few tips that will help shorten your App Store learning curve:
 

Tip #1: Search the iTunes Description for Important Keywords

 
• “Settings” and “options” means there may be a place for customization in the app. This is good because it often allows you to adjust the app to your child’s skill level, which means not wasting money on apps that are too easy or too hard. Also, these apps can grow with your child and have a longer shelf life.
 
• “In-app purchases” means getting the full game will cost you more than what you’re paying at the time of download. Sometimes this is good because it allows you to try a game before committing a lot of money, other times it can feel like you’re being “nickel and dimed.” Worse yet – your child can start authorizing purchases without your knowing.
 
• Developers will often include in the description “reviewed by” sources or quotes from app review sites. These can be more informative than user reviews. Sure, developers cherry-pick only positive reviews to showcase, but these reviewers tend to be more thorough, and at least you can visit the source to judge their credibility for yourself.
 

Tip #2: One-word – Screenshots

 
• Note the graphics. Do they seem high-quality even to your relatively amateur eye? You can’t always judge a book by its cover. Everyone knows that. But need we remind you there are more than 80,000 educational apps in the App Store? You can be choosy. Plus, great apps tend to have great artwork.
 
• However, great artwork doesn’t always mean a great app. This might seem obvious, but you’ll fall for this trap at least once and be disappointed in yourself.
 
• Don’t just look for pretty pictures. Search the screenshots for functionality. You should get an idea of what activities your child will do with this app. For instance, does it look like a game that transforms and strengthens the learning experience or just an animated workbook?
 

Tip #3: Get Your Money’s Worth

 
• If you own both an iPad and an iPhone/iPod Touch (or aspire to), Universal apps essentially give you two apps for the price of one. What’s a Universal app? Well with a few exceptions, apps are categorized as iPad – which means they only work on the iPad, iPhone – which means they work for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad (although, “working” on the iPad means it will show up small like it was an iPhone) or Universal – which means the app was specially built to work at iPhone size and at iPad size, sometimes with different functionality depending on the device. (KinderTown is an example of this. Just look at the difference between the screenshots for the iPhone and iPad)
 
• We mentioned it above, but we’ll reiterate it here in the “money” section – apps with settings that allow you to adjust the difficulty get used longer and have more value than apps that are static and possible for your child to easily grow out of.
 
• It’s a somewhat rare feature, but some educational apps are starting to embrace the idea that multiple kids may be using the same app by allowing you to save different points in the game or multiple scores. Again, this feature essentially gives you multiple games – one for each kid – for the price of one.
 

The Educational App Starter Guide

 
It’s one thing to find apps that your kids like playing, it’s another to find apps that they like and teach them something at the same time. Until app developers stop making fun apps that also teach (they won’t), KinderTown will only ever show you the latter, which is why you don’t need to think twice about downloading any of these apps because each one…
 
• has a “wow” factor that will delight both you and your child
• has significant educational value as determined by KinderTown’s experts in early childhood education
• was approved for its design and ease of use
 
Best Apps for 3 Year Olds
Best Apps for 4 Year Olds
Best Apps for 5 Year Olds
Best Apps for 6 Year Olds
Best Apps for 7 & 8 Year Olds
Best Apps for Everyone!
 
Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!




Starfall Gingerbread | App Review & Activities

Starfall Gingerbread is a creative way to learn about shapes and patterns.

Starfall Gingerbread

Starfall Gingerbread by Starfall Education is a creative way to learn about shapes and patterns.

 

Children learn shapes as they are prompted to decorate a boy or girl gingerbread cookie with different shapes and colors, all done in a story format. Your child saves their gingerbread cookie creations on a baking sheet and then chooses a favorite cookie to run through a maze, jumping along on the same shape or on repeating shape patterns. Challenge is added as the maze changes each time you play.

 

Read KinderTown's review of Starfall Gingerbread.

Starfall Gingerbread introduces beginning repeating patterns for your child to follow. Looking for patterns prepares the mind to search out and discover similarities that bind seemingly unrelated information together. Starfall Gingerbread encourages young children to see relationships between parts of an objects and the whole.

 

A child with experiences looking for patterns becomes a more persistent and flexible problem solver. They expect a problem to be solvable. When the first solution does not work, they keep looking until they find one that works. Their calmness is based on the knowledge that there is an answer to be found. This is a good “Lifetime Learning” skill.

 

Starfall Gingerbread is truly learning disguised as fun.

 

Find out how well your child understands shapes and patterns with these two hands-on activities.

 

Activity 1: Gingerbread Shape Book

Create a Gingerbread Shape Book for your home library!

 

What You’ll Need:
• Paper
• Markers or Crayons

 

The text for each page is:

 

Gingerbread, Gingerbread, run, run, run.
I give you a (add shape name here) just for fun!

 

Make a page for each shape. Draw the outline of a gingerbread cookie with a smile on each page. Have your child choose a shape and then add that shape for the eyes, nose and buttons. Have your child write or trace the shape word in each sentence blank. Create a colorful cover page and add this book to your child’s home library!

 

Activity 2: Potato-Stamped Paper

A traditional craft project to help your child learn more about patterns! Use this time to see what kinds of patterns your child is most comfortable with.

 

What You’ll Need:

 

• Paints
• A sponge, cut in half
• A knife
• A potato or sponge to transfer the paint print
• Paper

 

Step 1: Cut the potato in half.

 

Step 2: Draw a shape onto a piece of paper that is the same size as the round part of the potato you just cut (make it easy by tracing the outer rim of the potato onto the paper for the right size).

 

Step 3:  Place the paper on the potato and cut around the outside of the shape. Cut far enough down so that the shape stands out away from the rest of the potato.

 

Step 4: Place the sponges on small plates and add paint to each sponge. Have your child tap the shape side of the potato in the paint and create patterns on large sheets of paper, newspaper or butcher paper.

 

The first patterns that children usually can repeat are AB patterns. They might repeat colors (red-blue-red-blue-red-blue) or shapes (circle-square-circle-square-circle-square). Other patterns your child might use are ABB (red-blue-blue), AAB (red-red-blue) or ABC (red-blue-green). Patterns can be anything your creative child decides they want to make! The important thing is that the pattern repeats over and over without changing.

 

Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!




Jewel River | App Review & Activity

Jewel River combines vibrant artistry and game play with a meaningful educational experience.

Jewel River

Jewel River combines vibrant artistry and game play with a meaningful educational experience. Your child will feel like they are playing a game while practicing the important skill of subitizing. Subitizing is the ability to instantly recognize how many are in a set without counting.

 

Read KinderTown's review of Jewel River.

Jewel River provides supported practice for young children to make and recognize sets of 3, 4, and 5 jewels. This app blends together one and two player options, thoughtful hints, and increasingly challenging play into an important number sense experience. Jewel River is an app you need to have for your young child.

 

Activity: Domino Train

After your child plays Jewel River, use this activity to extend and demonstrate their learning.

 

Dominoes is a classic game that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Young children love sitting together with the family and playing traditional games like chicken foot or Mexican train. Set aside some time to play a children’s version of dominoes and help your child to become a better subitizer.

 

What You’ll Need:

• A set of dominoes (if you do not have dominoes at home, create your own or print this sheet of dominoes).
• An open space to build your domino train.

 

Show your child the dominoes by laying them all out face up. Have them notice the dots and colors. To help them understand how to play the game, model matching the same colored dots to each other. Play with the dominoes in a straight line. When your child is successful matching the colors move to matching the dots. Encourage your child to count the dots and to see if they can tell you “how many” without counting.

 

As your child becomes familiar with dominoes you will need to add more challenge. Divide the original large pile of dominoes into two piles, or one pile for each player. Explain that each player can only use their dominoes and if they can’t make a match to say “pass.” Continue to play in a straight line or start creating new tracks for your train.

 

Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!




Show & Tell: iLearn with Poko: Seasons and Weather!

iLearn with Poko: Seasons and Weather!

Subject: Science

Concepts: seasons

Target Age: 3, 4, 5, 6

Device: iPhone

Price (as of publishing): $1.99 (iPhone) and $2.99 (iPad)

View iLearn with Poko: Seasons and Weather! on the App Store (also view the iPad version)

iLearn with Poko: Seasons and Weather is a top-notch Science app for children ages 3 to 6. Tribal Nova has out done themselves with this interactive, engaging and authentic app that teaches children about seasons and weather while boosting their vocabulary and comprehension skills. With three levels of different activities that get progressively more challenging based on your child’s responses, you can be sure that your child will remain absorbed in this complete learning experience.

Show What You Know

Activity 1: Tracking the Weather

Enjoy discovering how weather changes!

You will need:

  1. Camera or paper & crayons
  2. A calendar to record your data: Use a calendar, cookie sheet and magnets OR push pins and tag board

December is a great month for watching the weather. Depending on where you live you might notice snow, rain, sun, clouds and wind all within a two week time period. Enjoy tracking the weather with your child and seeing them make connections with the concepts taught in iLearn with Poko: Seasons and Weather.

Plan a set time each day for about two weeks to record what is happening outside. You will need to create or use a calendar where you can keep track of a picture each day. Your child will especially love using a camera to take the picture or drawing their own picture. Talk about what your child notices as the days pass. Encourage them to make connections about what clothes they might want to wear or not wear each day.

Activity 2: Good Reads About Seasons and Weather

Here are some beautiful and educational books to enjoy with your child. Many can be found at your local public library and a few in the app store!

 

Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!




Eddy’s Number Party! | App Review & Activities

Eddy’s Number Party! creates a learning environment for children to explore numbers without realizing they're learning.

Eddy’s Number Party!

Eddy’s Number Party! creates a learning environment for children to explore numbers without realizing they’re learning. This is not just a math app. Eddy’s Number Party! demands listening attention, memory, and concentration. It engages your child to use critical thinking. Different levels continuously adapt to keep your child challenged. One feature of the app called “Grown-Up Central” has an overview of the apps goals and objectives. There is a parent tour of  the levels and a visual report card with the child’s progress, help and support. Unfortunately, only one child’s information is tracked.

 

Read KinderTown's review of Eddy's Number Party!

Show What You Know

Activity 1: I See Numbers, What Do You See?

Numbers in the grocery store? Numbers while in the waiting room? Yes, you can play with numbers EVERYWHERE!

 

What You’ll Need:
• Absolutely Nothing!

 

When I was a child and now quite a few years later in the classroom, one of my all-time favorite games is “I see, what do you see?”. A new spin on this traditional game is to play with numbers instead of colors. Look around the room you are in. Notice that often we gather items in small sets. You might see one computer, two speakers, three pictures on the wall.

 

Challenge your child to find a group of items that have just one, two or three items in the group. This is not easy! Our children are very inventive and creative. Watch as they find the most unusual groups. We might not notice the three apples that have stems, but they see these groups everywhere.

 

Make sure to have your child show and describe the groups they find. Encourage them to be as wacky and imaginative as possible, as long as they are still finding the true amount of objects.

 

Activity 2: Clap and Create

A quick and fun game that allows your child to have an opportunity to learn while also playing the teacher!

 

What You’ll Need:

• A noise maker (such as instruments, a puppet or toy that makes a short noise, your hands clapping)
• A collection of items that are not too distracting (such as stickers, small toys, marker and paper)

 

To start this game you will need to set up a working space where your child can sit with a small collection of items. Explain to your child that they are going put one item from their collection out every time you make a noise. Clapping is the easiest way, but using an instrument or a toy that makes a squeak or other short noise is fun too.

 

Start with a few sounds, just two or three. See if they can match one item for every sound you make. There is no need to count or write a number yet, just have them match one item for one sound. If they do not do it perfectly, that is okay because next you are going to show them how well you can listen and make groups.

 

Switch roles and have your child make the noise and you put the items out. Now they get to be the teacher! If your child was struggling matching one item to one noise this is where you can really help them learn. By watching you listen to their sounds and match items your child will learn more than any explanation you can give.

 

Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!




Show What You Know: WordConnex

You just played WordConnex? Try these activities to have some more fun with your child.

Activity 1: Scavenger Hunt

Challenge your child to a fun, active, and engaging game of scavenger hunt.

You will need:

  1. Timer on your iPad
  2. Categories for sorting (borrow the ones from the app!)
  3. Lots of energy

Together decide on a group of items you would like to hunt for. You might enjoy hunting for anything that starts with the letter T, items you see at Thanksgiving time, or if you have lots of toys, all the toys that can fly!

Set the timer, try 3 minutes and see how it goes. Gather as many objects as you can find around the house that would belong in your group before the timer goes off.

Too easy? Gather some items that do not belong and see if your child can tell you what they are and why they do not belong. Encourage your child to defend their choices by pretending to not understand or debating with them. You might also challenge your child to a race to see who can collect the most!

Activity 2: Active Reading

Need a little quiet time? Grab your child’s favorite book and settle in for some snuggle and learning time.

You will need:

  1. Any book or magazine your child is interested in
  2. A willingness to get creative

The experience you want to create for your child is one of using a book or magazine to practice identifying concepts, words and letters. Get creative and enjoy discovering how well your child is learning to identify, categorize, and describe!

The activities will vary depending on your book and what your child needs and likes to practice. If your book is about farm animals have your child identify and talk about the different farm animals they see or where the animals are such as in a pasture, barn or farmers porch. If your child is working on learning letters have them point out a specific letter while you are reading or have them stop you when they hear a specific letter sounds. Your child might enjoy giving a thumbs up or a special action when they hear the sound you are working on. Older children enjoy hunting for ending sounds, sight words, and patterns in stories.

 

Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!




Show & Tell: WordConnex

WordConnex App Icon

WordConnex

Subject: Language, Social Studies

Concepts: vocabulary, phonics, spelling, sorting, holidays

Target Age: 5, 6

Device: Universal

Price (as of publishing): $0.99

View WordConnex on the App Store

WordConnex practices sorting, a researched based learning activity, to encourage discovery of patterns. This unique learning app is designed by a teacher with many years of experience in the classroom.

With WordConnex, your child will “hear, see, and touch” words.  Players first see and hear a word. They must determine which category it belongs in.  Then they drag the word to that list.  When the word is dragged it makes a sound. WordConnex takes advantage of touch screen technology and promotes kinesthetic (physical) learning. There are at least 30 exercises within each of the 3 levels. There are over 70 Word Sorts and over 1000 words.

This is an excellent app for families with several young children.  It’s also ideal for playing alongside your child. Early reading skills are helpful but not necessary if you are playing with them. There is a count down with % scores following each game. It has many setting options for all types of learners. Voice is computerized.

Helpful hint: Turn off previous word sort or the game will replay the one you just finished.

New lists have been added for this holiday season. They include: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and more.

Have a great weekend,

Kay

P.S. We have a few suggestions for activities and games you can play with your child to reinforce what they’re learning with WordConnex. Check them out!

 

Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!




Park Math App Review

What I like best about Park Math is the addition and subtraction activities.

Park Math

What I like best about Park Math is the addition and subtraction activities. Children are able to visually manipulate as they move from concrete to abstract, as the visual operation is provided in the lower right corner. Carrying and borrowing are also introduced. It is critical that children use various computational skills in the context of their work rather that just memorizing meaningless “math facts.”

 

Read KinderTown's review of Park Math.

One strength of Park Math is that it offers an assortment of activities with three levels of difficulty. The same seven games are provided at each level, becoming increasingly more difficult. Additionally, it’s easy to navigate between these levels within the app.

 

Counting can be done with numbers up to 50. AB,AAB,ABB,AABC seashore patterns are included. This app has critters on a seesaw, introducing division operations that are equal and those that have one left over. This concept of “remainders” is introduced without the vocabulary. As a parent, this is a great opportunity for you to get involved by drawing attention to this. Another activity has the child arrange dogs in order from smallest to largest.

 

At KinderTown, we believe strongly that your off-screen activities at home build a true understanding of math patterns, language,and symbols needed to perform simple number operations. We encourage you to create your own number line (a yardstick makes a good one) and ask your child questions like:

 

• I am thinking of a number that is (three) more than (28)
• You have been in school for 29 days….I wonder how many more days until you have been in school for 50? How did you figure that out?
• What number is half of 6?
• What number is between 17 & 19?
• What number is before 12?
• What number is after 26?

 

I hope you and your children enjoy this app together. Please share any other ideas for activities you’ve developed that have worked for you and your child in the comments below.

 

Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!




FirstWords Halloween App Review

FirstWords Halloween is a fun themed app that houses games that are both educational and entertaining.

FirstWords Halloween

Learning Touch has done it again with FirstWords Halloween, launched just in time for the holiday. The app is made up of Halloween games that are as educational as as they are entertaining.

 

One of the features I love in this app and the other Learning Touch apps is the option of customizing the difficulty level to match different abilities, which is great if you have multiple children. It also increases the shelf life of the app since it stays relevant even as the child learns.

 

Read KinderTown's review of FirstWords Halloween.

Options the app supports include word length, which can be specified or chosen randomly; and letter names or phonics, where in the phonics setting children are encouraged to merge sounds into words. This app’s strength is its ability to teach letters and spelling while being reasonably calm and not scary (which is good, even if it is Halloween). There are 28 Halloween words for children to learn.

 

The only problem I found was once the game is started there is no way to exit or return to settings before the end.

 

Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!




abc PocketPhonics App Review

abc PocketPhonics provides a basic sound phonemic approach for children who are beginning to put initial and ending sounds together with a vowel filler.

abc PocketPhonics

(The lite version has the first six sounds and will show you an advertisement for the full version)

 

abc PocketPhonics is worth checking out if you are looking for a basic sound phonemic approach for children who are just beginning to put initial and ending sounds together with a vowel filler. abc PocketPhonics keeps track of a player’s score and will not let a player advance without mastery. It introduces sounds slowly. It presents letter sounds rather than the letters themselves and encourages the child to merge the sounds into words. This approach is backed up by research which shows that children can successfully learn to read before they know letter names.

 

Read KinderTown's review of abc PocketPhonics.

The multiple choice questions avoid putting more than one right sound alternative. ex: “c” and “k” and “ck” do not appear together.

 

You can adjust settings for writing styles, upper, lowercase or cursive. ZanerBloser style is most often used in schools, however DʼNealian is available. Cursive is usually introduced near the end of second grade; however, many children who have been identified with learning disabilities are exposed sooner. We recommend using lowercase first.

 

 

Download the most popular guide to finding and using educational apps for kids!