Electronics gadgets in general and iOS devices in particular get a bad rap for supposedly distracting children away from the far more educational benefits of pen and paper. But the fact of the matter is, devices like iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads can be effective learning tools as well as entertainment gizmos for kids. And this is thanks in no small part to third-party educational apps.
There’s another fact of the matter, though: A lot of these apps don’t come cheap, perhaps in reflection of their high quality. Fortunately, there are a number of apps that are downloadable for free yet in no way of low quality. And in this article we’re highlighting eight of the best free educational apps for little kids, the rounding up of which, given the overabundance of kids apps on the App Store, has been no child’s play.
According to Apple’s rating system, these apps are rated “4+, Made for Ages 5 and Under.”
All of these apps are free to download, but some of them require in-app purchases for unlocking their full content. Also, these are free at the time of posting, and their pricing is subject to change without prior notice.
By the numbers
To start with, here’s an app you can count on to get your kids learning numbers. Get it? Count on? Numbers? OK. The app is called Endless Numbers, and it has colorful little monsters helping your very own little monsters learn number recognition and sequences along with elementary addition. Without further ado, here we go in 1, 2, 3 …
Friends you can count on
Kids are in good company as they learn about the basics of numbers with the help of the Endless monsters. Learning becomes more fun and numbers become less intimidating to kids as they’re kept fascinated by a cast of cute and colorful creatures.
Easy as 1, 2, 3
Kids are able to recognize numbers and become familiar with number sequences as they interact and establish addition equations with numbers that appear to have lives of their own. Short animations telling amusing stories are also included to help kids grasp the meaning of each number.
Have more fun with the Endless monsters in these other Endless apps
To the letter
Of course, your kids should also learn their ABCs as well as their 123s. And for that purpose, you could do far worse than starting with ABC Gurus, a fun app that helps preschoolers master all 26 letters of the alphabet and their corresponding sounds.
ABC Gurus is made by the same team behind Shape Gurus
With flying colors
With numbers and letters duly covered, you’d do well to get your kids immersed in the wonderful world of colors. And you’d do very well to tap into Toonia Colorbook in lieu of actual coloring books for that.
Kids can learn more about colors along with shapes and emotions with Toonia Jelly
Sounds like a lot of fun
Your kids’ early lives of learning wouldn’t be complete without the added magic — and mayhem — of music. With music, they’re able to learn about different sounds and the importance of harmony. And few apps are more fun in making kids engaged in the worthwhile activity of making melodies than Toca Band.
Meet the music makers
The titular group of Toca Band is no ordinary band. It’s composed of 16 characters, each of whom specializes in his or her very own instrument and style. There’s Bang Bang Chef on drums, Balooney on the balloon, and Stikk Figga with his mad rapping skills, just to name a few of the cool characters your kids can meet and play with in Toca Band.
On with the show
Kids can choose characters to put on stage to give their best performance. Different combinations of characters result in different beats and sounds. The creative possibilities are practically endless for your budding musical maestros.
Sago Mini Monsters
In case you haven’t noticed, many apps employ monsters to capture kids’ attention. Not the evil and scary kind, of course, but the colorful and adorable sort. These monsters serve as cute companions for kids as they learn valuable skills along the way. In the case of Sago Mini Monsters, kids can create monsters to help them learn about caring and sharing.
I've created a monster!
Kids can make a strange shape emerge from the slime and then paint it with colors and patterns before it transforms into a mini monster complete with horns, eyes, and a mouth. They’re then encouraged to care for the monster by feeding it with different treats.
Eat and say cheese!
After feeding the monster, kids might say, “My, what dirty teeth you have!” Fortunately, Sago Mini Monsters also teaches kids about the importance of teeth brushing as it asks them to brush the teeth of the monster. And once the monster’s teeth is back to being sparkling clean, it’s time to smile for the camera, but not before the monster has been decorated by kids with different accessories. The resulting portrait can then be saved and shared by kids with their friends.
You can also let your kids go on playdates with their real-life playmates and Sago Mini Friends
Look who's talking
Kids love to make things talk — their wild imaginations enable them to. But with YAKiT Kids, they can actually let their imaginations run wild and make their pets, toys, food, family, friends, and more come alive on iOS device screens by making their mouths move with spoken words and interjections — even if they don’t have actual mouths to begin with.
Lights, camera, app-tion!
Technically, YAKiT Kids makes images talk. Before they can make an image talk, though, they first have to shoot a new picture, load an existing photo, search for an image on the Web, or start with a pre-created scene.
That's what I'm talking about!
Kids can customize the image by adding stickers to it, including facial features, props, special effects, and even additional characters. They can then make the mouths move and the people and things in the image talk just by speaking into their iOS devices and recording their voices, whose pitches can be changed for added amusement. Multiple scenes can be combined to make animated videos that can be saved and shared.
YAKiT Kids is the kiddie version of the original YAKiT app
Watch and learn
Of course, kids need not make their own videos in order to enjoy videos and learn stuff in the process. They can just watch videos on YouTube Kids, which boasts easy navigation so that the little ones can quickly find and discover the child-friendly videos they want to see and may get addicted to, including content from the likes of Sesame Street and Mother Goose Club.
Let the videos begin
Kids can dive into and scroll through videos, channels, and playlists across the app’s four categories (Shows, Music, Learning, and Explore) or search for videos by having their parents type or speak keywords.
Oops, time's up!
Kids can watch (and rewatch) videos to their hearts’ content — or to the extent that their parents allow. Parents can turn off search to limit what children can watch to only those that can be browsed within categories. In addition, parents can set a timer to automatically stop kids from watching and make them do something else, like reading, playing or, as the timer animation suggests, sleeping.
YouTube Kids is of course the kiddie version of YouTube
Bedtime is fun time
After all of the hours spent on learning, playing, and watching, kids are likely to get tired and sleepy. But before they turn in, let them experience just how fun going to bed can be by having them complete their bedtime routine and develop healthy habits with Goodnight Caillou.
Go bananas over pajamas
Goodnight Caillou features different bedtime activities (including Dinner Time Fun, Count Sheep, Pajama Dress Up, and more) that help promote good personal hygiene and family bonding, among others. Kids can even take on the role of parents as they’re able to choose the order in which the title character performs his bedtime routine.
Make brushing more interesting
The app uses various interactive game mechanics. These include dragging and swiping fingers across the screen, as in the Brushing Teeth activity, where kids have to drag the toothbrush and toothpaste toward Caillou, swipe to fill the brush with toothpaste, and swipe to brush Caillou’s teeth.