educational apps for kids
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Having two kids about three years apart, I've noticed that the number and quality of educational apps for children has increased exponentially over the past few years. When my oldest was a toddler, there were hardly any apps that I found truly appropriate and enriching for him, and he used my iPad and phone infrequently. My second child though gets much more screen time and has honestly learned a ton from the apps that we've downloaded for her. There are a couple of reasons that led us to change the way we use digital media.

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A few years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced that it had made updates to its screen time recommendations for children. The organization formally recognized that digital media is now a normal, everyday, and even valuable part of life for parents and children. The changes allowed for longer screen time limits and proposed suggestions on how to manage media usage for children. For many modern parents--myself included--this signified an important shift in what methods are considered acceptable for teaching and entertaining our children.

Secondly, when my first child started kindergarten, I learned that technology has truly become an integral part of academic instruction, even at the elementary level. In our district each kindergartner and first-grader gets an iPad for daily use and many assessments are conducted on the devices. Since my son had so little technology time up to that point, he basically had to learn how to use the iPad efficiently before he really hit his stride academically. I totally wasn't expecting that challenge and I realized it was time to loosen up a bit and start taking advantage of the incredible academic resources that are available on digital platforms. These are some of our favorites.

Starfall is like an all-in-one preschool app. 1

Starfall is like an all-in-one preschool app.

Google Play

A friend clued me in on the awesomeness that is Starfall a couple of years ago, before my son started kindergarten. I was doing homeschool preschool with him a couple of days a week, and Starfall proved to be a great supplement. The app was created by the nonprofit Starfall Education Foundation and primarily focuses on reading and phonics skills for preschoolers through second graders, but also features lots of math and science lessons. New home memberships are $35 for the year and include access to the desktop and mobile content. The app is free to download and is available on the App Store, Google Play, and Kindle Fire.

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The Kids A-Z app is full of free leveled readers. 2

The Kids A-Z app is full of free leveled readers.

Google Play

The Raz Kids app, Kids A-Z is an excellent resource for school-age children and is commonly used in the classroom. If your child's teacher has an account for the classroom, you can connect and your child will have access to hundreds of free fiction and nonfiction leveled readers. The app is fun because through listening to, reading, and taking comprehension quizzes, your child can earn points to use to buy gear for their alien avatar. Kids A-Z is available on App Store, Google Play, and Kindle Fire.

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PBS Kids offers trustworthy educational content. 3

PBS Kids offers trustworthy educational content.

Google Play

Public Broadcasting Station (PBS), which is known for the quality of its educational programming for children, has an entire suite of apps for playing and viewing and was one of the first apps that I introduced my children to as toddlers. The Games app offers over 100 learning games based on popular PBS characters, including math, science, and creative arts games, all geared toward children between the ages of 2 and 8. PBS Kids Games is free and available on the App Store and Google Play.

Toddlers will love the PBS Play and Learn app. 4

Toddlers will love the PBS Play and Learn app.

Google Play

If you have a toddler, the PBS Play and Learn app is a great nonbranded option. This educational app can help your child learn more about the world about him. The games on this app are meant to be played with some parental interaction and feature every day scenarios like visiting the park and going to the grocery store. PBS Play and Learn is free and available on the App Store and Google Play.

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Alphabet Aquarium is excellent for letter recognition. 5

The Alphabet Aquarium app is perfect for teaching toddlers the alphabet. It features four animated letter puzzles in fun and colorful aquatic settings that little kids are sure to love. It uses reptition to help children learn the shapes and names of all the letters. The Alphabet Aquarium app is available on the App Store and Kindle Fire.

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Your kids can enjoy adventurous reading with LeVar Burton's Skybrary. 6

Your kids can enjoy adventurous reading with LeVar Burton's Skybrary.

App Store

LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow fame has a wonderful reading app for children that features access to tons of e-books and "Video Field Trips," that turn each story into an adventure. Kids can choose to read themselves or be read to, making it great for all ages. The app is free to download on the App Store, but after the first month a $4.99 subscription fee is charged. If you pay for an entire year up front, it's only $39.99.

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Monkey Word feels like an adventure. 7

Monkey Word feels like an adventure.

Google Play

Monkey Word School Adventure is an app designed for young learners to master sight words, learn phonics, and understand spelling concepts including digraphs, consonant blends, irregular vowels, and more. The app is available for $1.99 from the App Store, Google Play, and Kindle Fire.

Kids can enjoy unlimited reading on Epic! 8

Kids can enjoy unlimited reading on Epic!

Google Play

Epic! is a fantastic e-book library app for children 12 and younger, featuring more than 25,000 children's books. Find out if your child's school or classroom subscribes to Epic! and connect at home for free, or download Epic! and sign up for a home subscription for full access. The first month is free and then the subscription rate is $7.99 per month and totally worth it. Get the app on the App Store and Google Play.

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This app has over 5,000 learning games and activities! 9

This app has over 5,000 learning games and activities!

Google Play

The Kids Academy Talented and Gifted app is a wonderful supplement to formal education for children between the ages of 2 and 10. It features thousands of learning activities and games based on early learning topics like reading, writing, math, and phonics and allows parents to use a personalized learning plan for their children. Get the app for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Endless Reader is perfect for mastering sight words. 10

Endless Reader is perfect for mastering sight words.

Google Play

Endless Reader is an adorably fun app that helps toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary schoolers become familiar with, and eventually master, a large number of sight words. The app not only helps the children how to recognize letters, letter sounds and complete words, it also helps them understand that letters make up words and words make up sentences. Get the app for free on the App Store and Google Play.

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Monster Math teaches kids Common Core in a fun way. 11

Monster Math teaches kids Common Core in a fun way.

Google Play

Monster Math is for children in grades kindergarten through fifth, and helps them practice over 70 math skills, with presets that align with Common Core standards. This app is especially helpful for kids who need some help with "fast math"--knowing basic math facts from memory. Levels progress with your child's aptitude and everything is in a fun, video game-like format so children actually enjoy doing math. Monster Math is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Handwriting Without Tears helps kids learn to write in the simplest way. 12

Handwriting Without Tears helps kids learn to write in the simplest way.

App Store

Learning to write can be a huge challenge for some young children. The Handwriting Without Tears app takes some of the pressure off by helping kids to learn through a simple format with audio cues from a digital personal coach. The app allows kids to build on their skills as they go and earn rewards. Handwriting Without Tears is available for $4.99 on the App Store.

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Moose Math helps kids learn Common Core math. 13

Moose Math helps kids learn Common Core math.

Google Play

In conjunction with Khan Academy, the Moose Math apps is designed to help kids in kindergarten and first grade practice a number of Common Core math skills and concepts. However, even my preschooler enjoys playing and learning with it. Moose Math is available on the App Store, Google Play, and Kindle Fire.

Todo Math has more than 700 activities. 14

Todo Math has more than 700 activities.

Google Play

Todo Math is for kids between the ages of 3 and 8, and features over 700 activities on topics including number recognition, arithmetic, time and money, and geometry. Todo Math is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

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Mathway is like a personal math tutor. 15

Mathway is like a personal math tutor.

Google Play

If your child gets stuck on a complicated math problem, they can plug it into the Mathway app--or upload a picture--and get the answer instantly. Sort of like a calculator, except they'll also get step-by-step instructions, so they can actually learn how to solve the problem themselves. Mathway is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Give your kids a head start on algebra with DragonBox Algebra. 16

Give your kids a head start on algebra with DragonBox Algebra.

Google Play

Children as young as 5 can start learning algebra with DragonBox Algebra, an app that teaches children how to solve linear equations via an engaging and interactive game. There are several versions of DragonBox for different age groups available on the App Store and Google Play. Cost varies.

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Kids can learn to code with RoboGarden Playground. 17

Kids can learn to code with RoboGarden Playground.

Google Play

RoboGarden Playground is an app that can teach your kids how to code using gamified missions. It helps kids practice their planning and problem-solving. RoboGarden Playground is available for free on Google Play.

Kodable helps kids learn computer programming. 18

Kodable helps kids learn computer programming.

App Store

Kodable Coding for Kids is a computer programming app that is commonly used in elementary school classrooms across the country, but there is also a subscription-based app available for at-home use. The app helps children learn all about computer programming and coding from the most base level, through various games and activities including maze-building. Kodable Coding for Kids is available on the App Store.

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Minecraft lives up to the hype. 19

Minecraft lives up to the hype.

Google Play

You might be thinking, "Wait, Minecraft is a video game, right?" And you would be correct, but Minecraft is a video game that introduces kids to a bunch of skills without them even knowing that they are actually learning. Minecraft teaches kids some coding basics, fosters creativity, and also helps them work on survival skills and problem-solving strategies. Plus, they really do love it! Minecraft is available for $6.99 on the App Store and Google Play.

Toca Builders is like Minecraft for younger children. 20

Toca Builders is like Minecraft for younger children.

Google Play

Toca makes an entire suite of apps and children seem to love all of them. Toca Builders is rated for ages 4 and up, and is similar to Minecraft in that children use blocks to create objects and scenarios. Toca offers a bit more ease of use and customization, which is awesome for younger learners. Toca Builders is available for $3.99 on the App Store and Google Play.

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Young kids will have tons of fun with Piig Labs Science Experiments. 21

Young kids will have tons of fun with Piig Labs Science Experiments.

App Store

My children are constantly asking if we can do science experiments. With the Piig Labs Science Experiments app they can choose from a dozen interactive digital experiments including volcano eruption, building a light bulb circuit, and growing a venus flytrap. Piig Labs is available for $2.99 on the App Store.

The NSF Science Zone app is perfect for kids curious about science. 22

The NSF Science Zone app is perfect for kids curious about science.

App Store

If you have a kid obsessed with all things science, you have to download the NSF Science Zone app. The app is basically a collection of videos and photos that explore a variety of scientific topics from space to biology, engineering, physics, and everything in between. The NSF Science Zone app is available for free on the App Store.

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This middle school science app is great for test prep. 23

This middle school science app is great for test prep.

App Store

Science Bear is an app designed to help middle schoolers review physical science concepts and to test their knowledge prior to taking standardized tests. There are also dozens of in-app links to videos explaining concepts that your child may need more help with. Science Bear is available free on the App Store.

Toca Elements is great for budding scientists. 24

Toca Elements is great for budding scientists.

Google Play

In the Toca Elements app, your child will learn all about the elements in the periodic table and conduct digital experiments with them. How cool! They'll learn all about lab tools like the centrifuge, Bunsen burner, and the oscilloscope, with plenty of room for creativity and fun. The Toca Elements app is available for $3.99 on the App Store and Google Play.

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Duolingo is an easy way for everyone to learn Spanish or any other language. 25

Duolingo is an easy way for everyone to learn Spanish or any other language.

iStock

My family and I use the Duolingo app to practice speaking Spanish. Though the app isn't specifically designed for children--it can be used by the whole family regardless of age--kids love the interface. You can even challenge family members to encourage them to practice more frequently. The Duolingo app is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

The Spanish Schoolbus app is great for younger children. 26

The Spanish Schoolbus app is great for younger children.

Google Play

Younger children--even toddlers and preschoolers--can use the Spanish Schoolbus app to learn Spanish language skills and vocabulary like letters, numbers, and everyday words. It's simple enough that it can be used independently. The Spanish Schoolbus app is available free on the App Store, Kindle Fire, and Google Play.

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Your child can practice basic cooking skills digitally! 27

Your child can practice basic cooking skills digitally!

Google Play

Cooking with kids is fun, but it's not always practical. Now with the Kid e-Cook app, your kids can get extra practice in without the mess. The app helps kids learn how to follow a recipe and a bit of the science behind certain cooking techniques, like weights and measures and mixing. The Kid e-Cook is available for 99 cents on the App Store and Google Play.

This cool geography app makes learning fun. 28

This cool geography app makes learning fun.

App Store

The Barefoot World Atlas allows children to explore world geography using an interactive 3D globe. The app teaches children loads of facts and interesting information on topics including culture and society, architecture, natural resources, wildlife, and more, complete with hundreds of videos and animated illustrations. Barefoot World Atlas is available for $4.99 on the App Store.

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Wolfram Alpha is useful for older kids and teens. 29

Wolfram Alpha is useful for older kids and teens.

Google Play

If you have older kids, teens, or even college students, the Wolfram Alpha app could prove to be an invaluable educational resource. The app has massive data collections on nearly every academic-based topic you can think of, including algebra, trigonometry, physics, weather, geometry, and much, much more. The app is available for $2.99 on the App Store and Google Play.

Dot makes learning fun in the Dotopedia app. 30

Dot makes learning fun in the Dotopedia app.

Google Play

Dot is an adorable cartoon character that my pre-schooler has recently become obsessed with--she's adventurous, curious, and brave and now she has an app. Dotopedia allows kids to explore any number of topics with a database of more than 300 articles that can be explored through games and activities. Kids can even make notes on the articles with text, images and audio clips. Dotopedia is available free on the App Store and Google Play.