Every geek and his mother has tried to make a buck out of kids’ app development in recent years… but not all of them are worth the money. Here’s our pick of the best apps for kids under 10.
Most of us will know the feeling of paying $6.99 on Apple store for some app that caught your kid’s attention on the iPad (often advertised within another app) only to discover it’s glitchy and good for only about 10 minutes of entertainment.
Whether it’s for interactive educational purposes or a less brainy game that merely keeps ’em occupied for a while, we’re doing the hard work for you in suggesting some apps that are actually worth the money.
Best Apps For Kids 2018
AGE: 2-4 years old
It’s more about keeping them entertained at this age than shoving edu-ma-cation down their little throats. But the best apps for kids will be teaching them the basics of letters, numbers and hand-eye coordination while allowing you to get some domestic chores done.
The range of Toca games are ever-reliable for keeping the attention of youngsters, both toddlers and older school-age kids. Most offer a really good free option with the option to buy an expanded version and are mercifully free of other in-app purchases and annoying pop-ups spruiking other games. This is a good one for the littlies, teaching kids about bones and body parts via mini-games.
Devices: Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch
Good for either pre-schoolers or school-age kids, this game lets kids food to make and prepare, and then feed to customers and gauge their reactions—it’ll be different every time. Highly interactive, Dr Panda teaches children which kitchen utensils do what while making pizzas, burgers, pasta, smoothies, gauging the reactions of customers to each.
Devices: Android 4.1 and up
Price: $1.49 – $7.99 per item
Highly popular colouring app which offers more than 160 colouring pages in 20 different themes and more than 100 colours to use. A cool multi-touch option lets toddlers learn the value of sharing —with siblings, friends or dad. Save, share and print your young Picasso’s best works.
Devices: Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
Price: Free but with a number of in-app upgrades available (extra themes, colours, patterns and images) ranging from $3.99-$17.99.
Oldie but a goodie in which kids help Swampy the Alligator re-direct water from his bath when he has trouble with his pipes. There’s physics involved (don’t ask us which bit of physics) with kids having to use logic and reason to help Swampy get wet. There’s also other stories available with Allie, Cranky and Mystery Duck, and more than 500 different scenarios. There’s a reason this app is enduringly popular.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Chromebook, Kindle Fire, Nook HD
Price: $2.99, with in-app purchases to access the other stories and other features.
Charlie and Lola by Lauren Child is an immensely popular kid’s series from the BBC which appeals both to little ones and older kids. BBC turned it into an app a couple of years back, taking the form of a board game which kids can play by themselves or three others. It’s a surprisingly layered game, with 50 mini-games inside the main game… and you know what that means? Time consumption. The board also changes each time you play it to keep things fresh.
Devices: Android; no 3rd party ads; no in-app purchasing.
One of the best reading apps for littlies from the Teach Monster series. It’s a full phonics curriculum provided by the Usborne Foundation (who also do great educational kids’ books) divided into three stages. Children create a monster and take it on a journey over three games, meeting colourful characters along the way. Stage 1 focuses on simple alphabet phonics.
Devices: Requires iOS 6.0 or later; compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Also Android through GooglePlay.
The choice of maths apps for young kids is kinda overwhelming. This one focusing on the essential foundations of maths – counting, addition and subtraction, place value, writing numbers, etc – is a winning combo requiring adaptive skill and creativity in making a monster character who helps the child win new features. The can write answers directly on-screen, progressing from multiple-choice to handwritten answers.
Devices: Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.
Price: Free, with in-app purchases for extra features from $7.99 ($14.99 for full game).
Good, solid game to help 2- year olds develop problem-solving skills which taking charge of the Lego train, loading cargo, building bridges, watching out for stop signs at crossings, helping passengers safely to their destinations, refuelling and laying new tracks to steer the train through the landscapes.
Devices: iOS and Android.
Unique and lovely interactive picture book from author and illustrator Christoph Niemann. Kids tap and swipe the 21 available drawings of animals to create humorous reactions. The hand-made animations are beautiful and simple, with playful, musical sounds for each animal and entertaining reactions, making for a more enjoyably idiosyncratic experience for your child.
Devices: Requires iOS 9.0 or later; also Android.
Price: $5.99. No ads, no in-app purchases.
AGE: 5-8 years old
At school age, you’re a little more interested in them spending time on devices for educational purposes, rather than purely entertainment. Thankfully there’s plenty of apps that manage to do both.
Another strongly designed Toca game with a Minecraft-like feel minus some of the complexity and low-level death and violence. Features six super builders where kids can drop, spray, lift and smash using individual, coloured blocks and controls including spin, roll, aim and move. Great time eater.
Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad (iOS 6.0 or later), Android, Kindle Fire, Apps for Windows, Windows Phone
This interactive app from Tinybop is awesome for giving kids an introduction to the miracles of the human body, allowing them to explore a working model of the body. Eight interactive systems helping them learn human anatomy with the aid of sounds and vibrations have made this one of the most popular learning apps available.
Devices: Requires iOS 7.0 or later, for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch
Design and physics inspired app, another one from Tinybop (its Digital Toys series) that lets kids build thousands of different robots from 100 parts. They can test their robots to see if they will (or won’t!) walk, run, hop, and fly, try out physics-driven robot parts in real-world situations, colourize their robots with nine different colour schemes and record their own robot sounds. Very good for creative-thinking, problem-solving, and storytelling skills.
Devices: Requires iOS 8.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Apple TV.
This Duck Duck Moose educational math game intended for kids ages 5-10 is free and covers addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, measurements, and geometry in a visually enticing way. By playing the mixed math mode, they can adapt to the appropriate level to make sure they’re understanding the concepts while still having fun.
Devices: Requires iOS 6.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Also Android, 2.3 or up.
You’ll find your kids return to this kinda epic, multi-layered game again and again, an honourable exception to the maxim that most movies converted into video games are duds. There’s a lot of reasoning and logic involved as you turn into multiple characters in the quest to join Hogwarts as a child prodigy. Great gameplay which better suits kids towards the 8-10 year old range but will also be picked up by those younger after a while. It’s more expensive but we’ve found, worth it.
Systems and devices: iOS/Mac
All the parents out there that would like to get their child interested in coding early should take a look at Lightbot Jr : Coding Puzzles. Essentially Lightbot Jr is an easier version of the popular Lightbot : Programming Puzzles. It is intended for children between the ages of 4-8. There are a total of 42 levels where your child can play as Boybot or Girlbot as they solve problems that are rooted in computer science concepts. And if you find that your kid enjoys this game, then you will also want to check out the rest of Lightbot’s fantastic catalogue featuring a host of great apps for kids.
Price: $2.59 / no ads / no IAPs
Lightbot Junior lets players gain a practical understanding of basic concepts like writing instructions, debugging problems, simple procedures and loops, just by guiding a robot with commands to light up tiles and solve levels. Teachers worldwide are choosing Lightbot first out of other games and software when introducing their students to programming.
If you are looking for a great interactive story to read to your kids or simply something to help them learn how to read, then look no further than Fox Tales – Kids Story Book: Learn to Read. Not only does it feature plenty of adventure game aspects for you child to interact with, but it makes for a great bedtime tale thanks to its heartfelt story. There are 45 pages with hand-drawn illustrations with a total of 84 hidden stars to be discovered, which should provide hours of entertainment and replayability for any child between the ages of 5-12.
Price: $1.49 / no ads / no IAPs
If you’ve played Underworld and Orbital 24/7 for months, attempting to brainwash your younglings into making electronic music, chances are dumping them in front of ProTools will merely result in bafflement and wide eyes. Enter: Loopimal, essentially ‘My First Sequencing App’.
You drag coloured shapes to empty slots, which trigger canned loops performed by a cartoon creature. Master that and the screen can be split, enabling an animated Fab Four to smash out oddball beats. There’s no going wrong, all songs are in C-major so others can play along, and the funky bass-playing octopus and stompy mammoth need their own record contract immediately. And if you’re hungry for more – or want something a little more advanced – check out the equally awesome Bandimal.
If you’re concerned your kids spend too much time glued to screens, Foldify cleverly makes them think beyond glass and aluminium. The app kicks off with you selecting a template – such as a blocky human form, car, or arcade cabinet. You then use the app’s tools to decorate your creation.
Whether you’re importing photos, painting like a junior Picasso, or adding more eye and mouth stickers than any one person reasonably needs, Foldify patiently builds up a 3D model of your masterpiece that can be twiddled with a finger. The best bit: you then print it out, cut and fold, and it exists in real life.