It can be challenging to keep kids appropriately occupied sometimes, especially when school is out. Today’s kids are spending a good chunk of their days on tablets, phones and other electronic devices and finding apps that provide kid-friendly, developmental content in bite-sizes pieces can be difficult.
The technology and parenting experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute know very well just how dizzying it can be to figure out which kids’ apps are worth downloading and buying (and which are safe and truly kid-friendly) — which is why we tested to find the best ones on the market. We consulted our consumer panel made up of real parents and their children to whittle down the field to the apps that are age-appropriate, easy to use, informative and fun. Our experts evaluate each app to see how easy it is for children to use independently, how engaging the content is, whether or not it’s worth its price, how long and effectively it can keep children interested, any tech pitfalls and whether it aids children’s development in the ways it indicates.
These are the best of the best for engaging, entertaining and educational content to help support and aid gaps while keeping your kids entertained, whether they’re in pre-school or high school. Grab your charger (or portable battery) and download the best apps for kids in 2022:
1. Best Overall App for Kids: ABCmouse.com
This pick is an overwhelming favorite among all of our testers. ABCmouse.com is available both as an app and a website. It uses fun storyline-based videos, quizzes, and activities — there’s even a virtual map outlining your child’s learning path to keep kids engaged. Our parent testers said they loved ABCmouse.com even before we started testing the best apps for kids!
2. Best for All Ages: Khan Academy
Teachers, parents, and kids are all a fan of the Khan Academy app that features thousands of free resources on everything from early math to art history. From preschool to high school, children of all ages can enjoy and learn on this non-profit’s platform. All of its programming is entirely free, so you don’t have to worry about subscription fees. Parents of our testers say that the videos helped each kid learn at their own pace. For those with kids under 4, check out their child-friendly counterpart, Khan Academy Kids on iOS or Android, which features a lot of the great elements of the older app at an age appropriate level.
3. Best Reading App for Kids: Epic!
Epic! is an app for kids with an e-book library that contains over 35,000 children’s books (and it includes a read-to-me feature for little ones who are still learning to read). One of our parent testers says it’s “a great app to have when the kids want screen time, but you don’t!” This app is a perfect way to take reading wherever your device goes, and it’s great for families with kids of various ages.
4. Best App for Kids in Pre-School: Hungry Caterpillar Play School
This app is perfect to help kids learn the skills they’ll need for starting school. Hungry Caterpillar Play School has five main areas of learning for kids to play in — shapes and colors, alphabet, numbers, book reading, and arts and puzzles. The app’s design has beautiful realistic and 3D details, while staying true to the bright colors and style of the beloved Eric Carle book it’s based on.
5. Best App for Kids in Elementary School: Quick Math Jr.
Kids know that math can be boring, but this app transforms numbers into something more creative and interactive. Quick Math Jr. is an app for kids with 12 different math games that feature fundamental math skills and concepts. It has unique graphics and buildable characters to keep kids engaged, and all answers are handwritten or drawn on the screen so kids can also practice handwriting.
Get it for: iOS
6. Best App for Kids in Middle School: Stack the States 2
Part game, part educational tool, Stack the States helps kids learn geography and general knowledge about different states through a game. Each right answer leads to winning a state to add to your stack, and the ultimate goal is stacking your states to a certain height. The app keeps itself fun and fresh by offering three other games that kids can unlock as they complete different rounds. There’s also a version for countries.
Get it for: iOS or Android
7. Best App for Kids in High School: Duolingo
The Duolingo Owl (the app’s mascot and icon) has been popping up as a meme all over social media in recent months, so chances are your high schooler knows what Duolingo is. Encourage them to take it one step further and download the app so they can learn a different language.
They can practice through audio, word identification, and oral exercises for over 30 languages — it’s a great way for your child to keep their language-learning skills sharp over the summer. P.S.: Parents can use this app, too!
8. Best Dress-Up App for Kids: Toca Hair Salon 3
Toca Hair Salon 3 is perfect for kids who are always wanting to play dress up or get crafty. Kids can use this app to imagine, explore and express their creativity because they can style hair any way they want (think: cut, style, color, curl, braid and shave) on various characters. There are no instructions, so kids are free to experiment as they want.
9. Best Beginner Coding App for Kids: Lightbot: Code Hour
Lightbot: Code Hour introduces kids of all ages to the basic concepts of coding and the logic that computer programmers use to write code — all without having to actually code! Instead, the app has kids get Lightbot through different pathways by using functions commonly found in code. This app is a great way to get your kid interested in coding and computer programming, without overwhelming them.
10. Best App for Kids Learning the Alphabet: Starfall ABCs
This app gives kids a fun, animated introduction to learning letters, vowels, and words. It also includes the sign language alphabet. If you upgrade to the paid version of Starfall ABCs, you’ll get some extra perks like lessons on math and social skills — but the free version is still pretty impressive!
11. Best App for Learning Piano: Simply Piano
Whether you’re a novice pianist or someone who wants to brush up on lost skills, Simply Piano is a fun, interactive way to learn the piano. All of our testers found that the app helped them learn piano and found it to be a motivating, enjoyable way to learn to play. One tester lauded the program saying she “loved its accessibility and simplistic nature of the lessons.” Another noted her appreciation for the highly guided program, providing the discipline and accountability she needed.
12. Best App for Multiple Kids: Homer Learn & Grow
Homer Learn & Grow is great for families with lots of littles, since you can add up to four kid profiles on your account and not have to worry about messing up your customization. Testers love how personalized the learning experience is — while onboarding, you’ll fill out a series of questions about your child’s task performance skills. They also enjoy the cool features like the “record your voice” option in phonics. Kids get to learn thoughtfully about numbers, letters and social skills. Note, the free trial can be difficult to cancel if you’re not interested in paying for the subscription.
13. Best Video App for Kids: Brainpop Jr. Movie of the Week
For 20 years, Brainpop has been providing kids all over the world with in-depth, yet easy to understand educational videos on everything ranging from Mozart to food allergies. Brainpop Jr. Movie of the Week is an app that gives younger kids access to these videos, plus short quizzes on them.
You’ll need a subscription to access to the full library of videos, but the free version still gets you the movie of the week, plus more free videos on internet safety, bullying and other subjects. Brainpop also has a version for older kids too!
14. Best Kids’ App for Coding: Swift Playgrounds
Swift Playgrounds is an app for older kids (and adults!) that was created by Apple to introduce people to the coding language that app developers across the globe use. In the app, you can learn the basics of coding language through puzzles, targeted lessons and dynamic visuals. The app is gorgeous to look at and fun to play, but it works best on iPads.
Get it for: iOS
15. Best Video App for Preschool Kids: Nick Jr.
Nick Jr.’s app offers parents the chance to let their kids enjoy their favorite shows on the go — no TV required! The app has videos from all of Nick Jr.’s shows and a collection of games (both educational and not-so educational) based on Nick Jr. shows that feature your kids’ favorite characters.
To unlock some parts of the app, you’ll need to enter your cable provider’s information. Even without it, your kid will still be able to use the features they’ll be most excited about: full episodes and lots of games!
16. Best Kids’ App for Entertaining Videos: Youtube Kids
From toddler Instagram influencers to 8-year-old YouTube stars, so many kids are getting into social media and video nowadays. YouTube Kids is an app that screens YouTube content and only shows what’s appropriate for kids ages 2-12. However, parents remember that no algorithm is perfect — they should still make sure to set the parental controls and check their child’s watch history regularly. But still, our parent testers said they regularly use the app for their kids.
17. Best Kids’ App for Games: Hopster
Hopster is a great tool that lets preschoolers engage in fun games and watch educational TV shows. Your kids will love catching up with some of their favorite characters on shows like Earth to Luna and Pingu, and enjoy learning about math, phonics, decision making, empathy and more through a series of entertaining games.
When you sign up, you have the ability to cater a learning plan specifically for your child’s needs on this award-winning app. Parents of testers appreciate the LGBTQ+ content that helps introduce kids to diversity in an age-appropriate manner, and the convenient bite-size chunks of kid-appropriate information the app provides.
18. Best Kids’ App for Daniel Tiger Fans: PBS Kids Games
The PBS Games app allows your kids access to a full collection of educational games based on PBS shows, anywhere and anytime. Games cover all types of subjects, from math to reading and much more. It’s a great companion to PBS Video, which is another free app with a library of PBS show episodes and clips.
19. Best Kids’ App for Sesame Street Watchers: Elmo Loves 123s
Elmo Loves 123s uses everyone’s favorite character to get toddlers and young kids excited about learning their first numbers. The app uses videos, games, and drawing to help kids memorize number shapes and learn how to count. This app purposely makes it hard for kids to exit the app on their own, meaning toddlers won’t be messing around on your phone or tablet! There’s also an Elmo Loves ABCs app for learning the alphabet.
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