Being a parent isn’t easy at the best of times - but it’s especially difficult when it comes to dealing with kids and technology.
No parent wants their child to have their face stuck to a screen all day if they’re not benefitting from it. Sometimes, it’s so easy to give your child your phone or tablet to allow them to play games just to keep them quiet, but what are these apps actually doing?
This conundrum gets even worse when it comes to preschoolers. Preschool is an imperative part of a children’s life, and the lessons they learn shouldn’t just stop in the classroom.
Teachers follow curriculum guidelines, so it’s up to the parents to help their kids outside of school. But how is that possible when parents don’t have the resources or time to do so?
That’s where the beauty of apps comes in. There’s an abundance of apps designed for preschoolers available - from educational apps based on numbers and the ABCs to creative apps that help to develop fine motor skills.
If you’re looking for a good app to invest in for your child, here are the best apps for preschoolers!
OUR TOP PICK
It’s no secret that there is no better teacher than the outdoors. However, not every parent and child has access to the outdoors all the time - for example, you might not have a yard, you might live in a city, or the weather simply might be too bad to leave the house. That’s where this app comes in
Toca Nature is a gorgeous app that brings nature directly to your phone or tablet. It’s not designed to replace the wonderful outdoors - instead, it’s there to provide information and inspiration about the outdoors world for when your kid ventures into nature.
The visuals alone are a good enough reason to download this app, as each animation has been designed in a magical, memorable way. Thus music, likewise, is calming and mystical.
This is an incredibly creative app, as each child is given the opportunity to create their own outdoor space - from designing mountains to rivers.
Some reviewers have likened this app to an easier version of Minecraft! Each animal that comes into the game are animals native to woodland areas, such as rabbits, foxes, beavers, and bears.
Due to the creativity of designing each woodland area in the game, this app is better suited for older preschoolers who have established hand eye coordination.
- Magical game - Visuals and music are designed in a magical and memorable way that can bring peace to a child
- Creative - Encourages kids to design the trees, mountains, and rivers, which develops their hand eye coordination
- Age-appropriate - While this game has been likened to Minecraft, there are no aspects of violence.
- Not for all preschoolers - Young preschoolers could find this game complicated if they haven’t established their hand eye coordination
One of the main lessons taught in preschool is matching and finding patterns. The ability to match objects shows development in memory, visual skills, language, and concentration. Not only this, but matching games can often highlight the difference between kids who do and don’t have dyslexia.
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox is an app designed specifically for preschoolers to teach them about matching and counting in a safe and playful way.
Led by the adorable monkey cartoon character Milo, kids are rewarded with endless compliments for completing a task correctly. If they struggle to complete it, Milo is there to help.
This app provides a variety of activities, ranging from matching cards to jigsaw puzzles - all of which are designed to improve the child’s awareness of shapes, colors, and sizes.
Not only this, but the app encourages children to take what they have learned and apply it to their everyday lives, such as asking kids to look out for color patterns in fruits and vegetables.
This app is suitable for preschoolers of all ages and skill levels who need to polish their matching skills ahead of kindergarten.
- Variety of games - Kids can play matching card games, activities based on fruits and vegetables, jigsaw puzzles, and more
- Easy visuals - Adorable monkey character and simple animations make this app easy to navigate and use
- Doesn’t encourage kids to stay on the app - Milo (monkey character) encourages kids to use their new skills in the real world
- Random selection - Kids and parents can’t control which activity comes next as the games are randomly selected
The Montessori method is one of the most popular teaching methods in the world.
With emphasis on play as a form of learning, the Montessori method encourages children to be independent in a prepared environment under observation, where they can learn skills such as motor skills and respect to others.
Studies have shown endless positives about this method, which is why it is so important to introduce this teaching method into a preschooler’s life.
Busy Shapes is an app inspired by the Montessori method that is completely child-directed. With the aims of encouraging independence, creativity, and the development of fine motor skills, this app is all about shapes (as the name suggests).
The rules are simple - the child is to drag the shape into the corresponding hole on the screen, and the game repeats itself. Some levels of the game will have other animations to make the scenarios look more lifelike.
All the kids have to do is use their fingers to “drag” the shapes wherever they’re meant to go, so it’s not too complicated to learn.
While this might sound a bit too simple, remember that this game is designed for 2-year-olds and preschoolers. No instructions mean that they can learn the game by themselves, promoting independence and confidence.
Plus, the ability to match colors and shapes is brilliant for a preschooler. The shapes are shown in a 3D animation, with the hopes that children will be able to find similar objects to these shapes in real life.
- Montessori-inspired - App promotes play-based learning inspired by one of the leading educational practitioners
- Promotes independence - Completely child-directed learning with no instructions
- Simple gameplay - Simple animation and method of playing the game makes it easy to understand
- Not for all preschoolers - Some advanced or older preschoolers might find this app too easy
Every kid on the planet will be introduced to the iconic “Wheels on the Bus” nursery rhyme.
Singing and music is an excellent educational tool for kids, as it teaches them valuable skills such as creativity, timing, rhythm, and memorization. As singing is such a prevalent part of preschool learning, it only makes sense to continue this learning outside the classroom.
The Wheels on the Bus app is an excellent sing-along app that showcases the child as the driver of the bus. Kids can add a picture of themselves to the head of the driver, which is amusing for both the kid and parent.
Then, as you drive and play games on your “journey”, you sing along to the iconic nursery rhyme!
There are a variety of activities within this app, from memory matching card games to jigsaw puzzles. This means that not only will kids develop skills from singing the song on repeat, but they will also learn hand eye coordination and develop their motor skills by playing these games.
- Personalized - Kids can be the “driver” of the bus by taking a picture of their face to become the driver
- Great for memorization - Activities promote singing songs and remembering images to develop memorization skills
- No ads - Kids won’t get distracted and sidetracked by unnecessary ads and pop-ups
- Repetitive - Parents might want to invest in headphones if they don’t want to hear the nursery rhyme over and over!
It’s no secret that the best way for kids to learn is through creativity. Allowing a child to explore their imagination and intelligence is the best way for them to develop their skills and create new ones, so it only makes sense to feed their creativity with an appropriate app!
Khan Academy Kids is an app developed by early learning experts who have ensured protocol testing on kids and have had scientists prove the benefits of the app.
This app offers everything you could want your preschooler to indulge in - from creative expression to subjects like literature and math. The app features five whimsical animated animal characters who guide the user through each activity and game.
The best part of this app is that it creates a personalized plan for each child. The creators understand that every child has an individual journey in education, which is why the app automatically provides activities depending on the child’s progress and skill level.
Plus, the app promotes independence with its library filled with stories suitable for all skill levels, which your kid can read at free will.
- Promotes creativity - Kids engage with literature, creative storytelling, math, and language from a young age
- Individualized - Each activity is automatically chosen according to the child’s skill level
- Fuss-free - App is totally free with no annoying ads or pop-ups
- Narrator - Some reviewers have said the narrator has an annoying voice
Best Apps For Preschoolers Buying Guide
Trying to pick the right app for your kid isn’t always an easy task. Preschoolers are notoriously distractible, which makes it even harder to find an app that they can commit to - especially if you’re having to pay a subscription fee.
Here are the key factors to consider when looking for apps for preschoolers!
Price and ads
Unfortunately, not every kids app is free. Most apps nowadays involve some sort of subscription fee or in-game purchase to unlock new games, which can be a waste of money for kids who don’t like the app.
If you like the look of a particular app that will cost a few dollars, check if they offer a free trial to see if your kid is interested in the app.
Also, it’s best to opt for apps that don’t have random ads and pop-ups. Preschoolers don’t have the hand eye coordination of older kids or adults, which means they can easily accidentally press these ads.
Skill level suitability
Make sure that your chosen app matches the skill level of your child. Some kids will advance faster than others in some skills, which means it’s best to find an app that is suitable for their skill level rather than their age.
As well as this, opt for apps that have a clear progression of skill levels, so your child won’t feel like they’re learning the same thing over and over.
Clear visuals and audio
Animation is a wonderful tool for preschoolers, as it encourages them to understand and recognize colors and shapes.
However, for some kids, too much animation can be quite overwhelming - particularly those with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism who might find it too stimulating. The same goes for audio - is this app notoriously loud and annoying that it might overwhelm your child?
Plus, on a selfish note, how annoying is the app for the parent? Will you have to invest in a pair of headphones for your child so you don’t have to suffer listening to repetitive voices?
As the average preschool age in America is between 3-5 years old, it’s important to remember that these kids are too young to understand complex apps.
They will require gameplay that is simple for them to understand and do, rather than anything with a time limit that might frustrate them.
App to real life
It’s important to remember that you can’t give your child your iPad whenever they ask for it. Some kids might enjoy the apps a bit too much, and will forget that they can do everything in the app in real life.
We recommend opting for apps that can be replicated in real life, such as nature apps and color matching apps. Encourage your child to play 10 minutes of a matching app, then ask them to match each fruit together in a fruit bowl.
Not only will this teach your child valuable life skills, but it will also limit their screen time!
Are apps good for preschoolers?
There’s a popular debate among parents about the benefits of allowing preschoolers to play apps. The truth is that while there is still limited research on the benefits of apps for preschoolers, the evidence suggests that these apps are embedded with essential educational skills that are invaluable.
Educational apps can teach preschoolers a variety of skills, such as math, storytelling, the alphabet, nursery rhymes, matching, colors, shapes, and more. They are only designed to be played for 10/15 minutes a day, which is a nice amount of time for a child to be distracted while a parent is busy.
Apps are also played on phones or tablets, which can teach your child valuable life lessons in this mad world of technology, such as patience, sharing with others, how to hold delicate objects, and how to deal with anger in a better way than throwing your phone across the room.
However, apps shouldn’t be used in replacement for learning in real life. Some kids might enjoy educational apps a bit too much (which is why boundaries and time limits are so important), to the point where they don’t get to learn these skills in the real world.
Face-to-face learning is far more beneficial than any app, especially for a child at such a young age. Therefore, these apps should be used sparingly to prevent your child from becoming expectant of playing games on your phone when they’re home.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I keep my 4 year old busy?
There are an abundance of ways to keep your excitable 4-year-old busy! Here are some of our suggestions:
- Invest in an educational app that promotes independent learning and creativity for them to practice essential skills like matching colors and shapes
- Ask them to help you do chores around the house like cleaning and cooking
- Encourage them to draw or tell a story
- Make a treasure hunt around the house and yard
- Create a box of arts and crafts filled with recycled materials for them to get creative
- Ask them to draw members of their family
What are the best free educational apps for preschoolers?
Sadly, not all apps for preschoolers are free. Most apps come with a deceptive free trial followed by a subscription fee or in-game purchases to advance to the next game or level, which often feels like an unnecessary expenditure. However, that doesn’t mean that every app available on the market will cost money!
Our favorite free educational app for preschoolers is Khan Academy Kids. This app has been created by experts in the early learning profession, with a clear aim for encouraging children to be creative from a young age.
With no payments or annoying pop-up ads, this app is educational, easy to use, and won’t affect your bank account!