Big Learning Apps for Little Kids

Screen time for toddlers and young children is one of those hot-button topics that often sparks debate in play circles. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued guidelines for screen time. They recommend babies and toddlers up to 18 months old have no screen time that is not video chatting. For toddlers 18 months to 24 months, they recommend some screen time with a parent or caregiver. If you do decide to introduce your young one to the world of apps, the choices can be pretty overwhelming. Here are a few free or low-cost educational apps that offer a wide range of skill-building.

Fish School

Fish School is designed for preschoolers and is a winner of a Parents’ Choice Gold Award as well as a Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice award. This app offers traditional early academic concepts like letters, numbers, colors, shapes and some problem-solving. The fish are comical and interact with your child as they play. The use of whimsy and bright color makes this a great choice for a first app.

Pocoyo Playset

Love him or hate him, parents rarely have lukewarm feelings about Pocoyo and that ever-so-catchy theme song. The vivid colors of this app make it visually stimulating and very engaging for little ones. In addition to skill-building games like sorting and matching, this app differentiates itself by having games that explore emotions and feelings. It is also multi-lingual, offering Spanish and English vocabulary skill-building.

Phonics Ninja

Phonics Ninja jumps into the world of letter sounds and diagraphs and adapts to your child’s growing skill level. One of the coolest features of this app is that it allows you to record your own audio. This allows your child to hear your voice as they play. You can also have your child record their own voice — great for language development.


Peek-a-Zoo is a unique app that at first seems focused on learning animal names and actions. But it has so much more to offer. It also helps players dive into the world of emotion and teaches skill-building in regard to social cues. This is a great game to play alongside your little one.

Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame

Designed for children ages 2-5, the Breathe, Think, Do app has all the fun you expect from a Sunny Day on Sesame Street. It introduces young ones to lots of social situations that may lay ahead. One of my favorites happens to be when the adorable little monster gets frustrated trying to tie his shoes. Your little one has the opportunity to help the monster calm down and succeed. They also tackle social situations like going to school and separation anxiety. This app is great for developing early problem-solving skills and reinforces appropriate self-regulation.

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

The Monkey Preschool Lunchbox app focuses on developing visual and special awareness with fun puzzles and adorable silly monkeys. It is great for developing shape recognition, sorting skills, and motor skill development. The puzzles increase with complexity as your child plays.

Handwriting Without Tears: Wet-Dry-Try for Capitals Lowercase and Numbers

Handwriting Without Tears is a widely used teaching curriculum. This app exposes you to some of the early concepts of letter formation and the methodology of that program. You can use this app both with your finger or with a stylus to emulate writing with a pencil.

Montessori Crosswords

One of the best features of Montessori Crosswords is the way it intuitively teaches letter sounds and introduces word building and phonetic awareness. This is a great app for the emerging or early reader. It offers a parent section that allows you to adjust the app to your child’s needs and developmental level.

Endless Alphabet, Endless Numbers, Endless Reader

These apps are actually three separate apps — Endless Alphabet, Endless Numbers and Endless Reader — notable for their depth and attention detail. The series uses fun graphics and engaging topics that grow as your child develops. Each of these apps offers a limited free version and add-ons at a hefty cost of $6.99 and up. If your child responds to the free and early versions of the app, you will likely not be disappointed by upgrading.

We hope you enjoyed our list of little apps. Do you have a favorite app for young ones that we forgot? Let us know in the comments!

Stacy Mcdonald-Taylor
Stacy, a former health care program manager, came to the first coast by way of Charlotte, NC. Passionate for community and creative arts. Stacy has worked with families and educators through Parent Education & Outreach Programs. Since welcoming the births of her and her husband’s two delightful, energetic sons, she has worked from home, always seeking to find new ways to provide a joy-filled, creative environment, nurturing a love for people, learning, nature, and healthy, natural/organic foods. Stacy shares tidbits of her “life learnings” on her blog, Wasting Nothing


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