In an ideal world, kids wouldn’t need apps. In an ideal world your little nippers would sit for hours poring over books and puzzles and playing imaginary games with their friends.
They would spend afternoons outdoors in the sunshine, taking in nature and letting its calming wisdom inform and enrich them. Then they would yawn and tottle upstairs to bed in the evening without complaint, where they would fall asleep for a full ten hours. In an ideal world…
In reality, kids want screen-time! And who can blame them? When they see parents and older siblings engrossed on phones and computers so much, it is no wonder that ‘I want iPad’ is an increasingly familiar cry, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny the request.
Afterall, technology is everywhere these days. Surely it is better that your toddler becomes confident and computer literate in the right way, rather than feeling baffled and overwhelmed by technology when they reach school age? And seriously, though some are loathed to admit it … apps are one hell of a handy bargaining chip!
TV has long been termed the ‘electronic-babysitter’, but apps are fast becoming the new electronic live-in nanny. Not only are they interactive and fun, but many of them are educational as well.
There are so many great, colorful and creative apps for toddlers that engage their problem solving, critical thinking and imaginative brains without them even realising.
More importantly, they will afford you periods of much needed calm when you can have a shower, brush your teeth, eat a banana, rotate the washing, call your mum and paint the guest bedroom… or whatever else it is you usually do with a spare 5 minutes.
If you monitor the apps that your toddler uses, and moderate the amount of time that they use them for, then you just might find that these technological gems become your new favorite thing! Here is a list of 10 of the best apps for toddlers, so you can make sure that you pick the best one for you and your child.
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
ABCMouse is an app that is incredibly popular among preschool and kindergarten teachers and is part of a wider online learning package. It is suitable for children aged 2 and up, and has plenty of educational value. It is packed full of quizzes, games, stories and videos that all subtly engage your child in introductory learning.
The activities cover maths, reading, art and even science, so your child will get a great all-round experience, and if they don’t take to one particular activity they are sure to find another that they do like.
The ABCMouse character is so sweet and kids love him, and better still, the app tracks your child’s progress so you will be able to see how they are getting on and feel very proud as they improve and grow.
This is a paid program, but they offer a 30 day free trial, which allows you plenty of time to try it out and see if it is for you. Plus, this app can be played on a desktop computer via the app, so it is really great if you have multiple kids who may want to play together on a bigger screen.
- Lots of educational value - multiple subjects covered
- Part of wider learning package
- Great characters and animation that kids love
- Can be played on desktop via app
The PBS Kids Games app is completely free and has tons of interactive games and activities that your child will love. The games are educational in a way that isn’t obvious or arduous, and the best part is that the characters are all familiar favorites from PBS TV shows, so your child will already know and love them.
Daniel Tiger, Arthur and the Sesame Street crew all appear, and you will be amazed how thrilled your toddler will be to see them. This app is constantly updated, which is great because the games are always changing so your kid won’t get bored.
There is also a PBS Kids TV app, which allows you to stream all these shows for free, and even includes fun educational videos on a different topic each week. The TV app is great for keeping your kids entertained, whilst the games app keeps them engaged. As a duo these two apps are priceless (literally!).
- Lots of fun games and activities with educational value
- Familiar characters from favorite TV shows
- Regular updates so your kid won’t get bored
- Free of charge
Now this next app is really bananas! It is suitable for toddlers aged 18 months and up and is great for teaching them the foundations of maths and counting. The monkey character is smiley and cheeky, and there are a range of activities on the app centred on memory, number recognition, basic counting, color matching and same/different puzzles.
These activities range in difficulty, so your child will not necessarily be able to do all of them straight away, but there are plenty of easy-peasy games too that will exercise their brains and coordination skills.
There are great rewards in the form of ‘stickers’ which kids absolutely love, and the music on this app isn’t too irritating as can be the case with lots of kids apps. This is just one of a range of Monkey apps so, if your child likes it, there are plenty more for them to choose from and enjoy!
- Simple games for toddlers aged 18 months +
- Develops maths, memory and recognition skills
- Fun stickers and rewards, plus really fun music
- Lots more Monkey apps to choose from
The Peek-a-Boo Barn app is brilliant for teaching your toddler all about farm animals. It focuses on animal names as well as the sounds that they make and is incredibly simple to follow and understand.
Some toddler apps try to offer too many activities, whereas the simplicity of this app makes it easy enough for kids to work out and play on their own and will keep them busy for as long as you need.
The illustrations are adorable, and the best part is that there are multiple versions of this app which focus on different settings, like the zoo and the pet store, so once your child masters the barn animals they can move onto another setting and already be familiar with how the app works.
There is a Lite version of this app which is free of charge, but the full version is well worth the money.
- Simple games that your child will understand immediately
- Teaches animal recognition and sounds
- Adorable illustrations and design
- Many other versions of the Peek-a-boo app available
The really awesome thing about the GoNoodle app is that it will get your toddler up and moving, so you won’t feel guilty or worried about them sitting still and staring at a screen for too long.
This wonderful app is full of fun, follow-me videos which encourage children to perform simple moves to happy, energising music. The moves are very easy to master and even have some educational value.
For example, one of the dances teaches kids about pattern making, but it is so organically interwoven into the fun that it doesn’t feel like learning. This app can help improve coordination, fitness and memory, and will hopefully tire you little nippers out a bit in the process! Win win!
- Gets toddlers exercising and moving their bodies
- Some educational content subtly interwoven
- Fun music and zany characters
- Improves coordination, fitness and memory
If your toddler loves The Very Hungry Caterpillar book, then they will be equally enchanted by this wonderful app. The animation is inspired by Eric Carle's original illustrations so your child will instantly recognise the caterpillar and want to play with him.
The app has lots of fun and simple games that involve taking the caterpillar through gentle activities, whilst at the same time teaching basic counting and color recognition, as well as fruit names and facts about nature.
This is a great first app for toddlers as it is so calm and simple, and will have them mesmerized by the lovely colors and pictures. The app itself is worth paying for, but if you aren’t completely sure, there is a free demo available that will give you a really good idea of what you’re buying.
- Beautiful Eric Carle illustrations
- Familiar story and character so your child will instantly feel engaged
- Educational value through gentle games
- Simple and easy to use
As many of you will already know, potty training can be a tricky and frustrating time for toddlers, and for parents too! That’s why this Potty Time app is so popular.
Not only is it fronted by Elmo, who is a favorite Sesame Street character with bags of charm and familiarity, but it is also packed with great potty training games, activities and songs which make the whole experience fun for everyone.
The interactive potty chart is a great feature as it lets you track your child’s progress whilst also allowing them to see how far they have come and feel a great sense of achievement every time they log a successful potty trip.
This app has obvious practical benefits and can really help alleviate stress and anxiety from what can be a sensitive transition period. It isn’t free, but it is well worth a few dollars for the comfort and fun it can bring.
There are many more Elmo apps available, but this one is particularly well designed and really does serve a purpose.
- Elmo is a fun and familiar frontman
- Lots of great potty training games and songs
- Interactive potty chart so your toddler can see their progress
What is so charming about Baby Games is that it was designed by a dad who felt he wanted to create an app that would be engaging and bonding for young children and their parents. He did a great job.
This delightful app is suitable even for the youngest users and is full of very simple and enjoyable activities. There are colorful fireworks that you can watch, bright balloons that you can pop, and even virtual instruments that can be played!
The educational element is less overt on this app, but your toddler will be inadvertently learning colors, shapes and sounds, as well as practicing simple coordination exercises by touching and swiping the screen.
The sound and visual design are both very bright and entertaining, and the games are ‘mini-games’ so they are great for short bursts but won’t keep your toddler glued to a screen for too long.
- Great for even very young toddlers
- Simple and fun mini-games - so don’t take forever to complete
- Lovely bright design and audio
- Improves coordination, recognition and memory
Thank goodness for the Nighty Night app! It is an absolutely brilliant aid when trying to get your toddlers off to sleep, especially when you have tried all the usual bedtime stories and the music box has been on three times already.
This app takes your toddler around a farm at night and allows them to say ‘nighty night’ to all the different animals, before encouraging them to go to sleep themselves. The music and narration are both incredibly calming, and the lighting is low.
The process of saying goodnight is methodical and seems to lull kids into a peaceful state before letting them nod off. Although nothing beats a traditional bedtime story, this app is a really good card to have up your sleeve, and will feel like a special treat if not used too often.
It is free to download, however there are in-app purchases available. You can pay to unlock more animals to say goodnight to, but it really isn’t necessary and the app works perfectly well as is.
It was designed by award-winning short film creator, Heidi Wittlinger, and the quality of the app really does speak for itself.
- Great for getting toddlers off to sleep
- Calming music and narration, plus low lighting
- Beautiful animation and cute characters
- Free to download
- Some unnecessary in-app purchases
And finally, Sago Mini Friends is a delightful little app that is perfect for keeping your toddler amused in a focused yet fun activity. It allows kids to go on virtual playdates with a host of adorable animal characters, where they can eat a snack together or even play dress-up.
The illustrations are very simple and cute, and the activities are calming and easy to understand. What is really brilliant about Sago Mini Friends is that there are no extra in-app purchases that keep popping up, and no adverts at the side.
You can even play this app without wifi - so it is a great option if stuck on a long car ride! Great for toddlers aged 2 years +.
- Lovely, colorful characters
- Simple playdate activities that any toddler will enjoy
- Don’t need wifi to play!
- No in-app purchases or ads
Best Apps for Toddlers Buying Guide
It can be tricky to know what exactly to look for when you are thinking of getting an app for your toddler. That’s why we have put together a list of some simple considerations for you to bear in mind, which will help you make a great choice for you and your child.
It is always a good idea to consider what educational elements an app has to offer before you decide to download it.
This doesn’t mean that you expect your toddler to start performing sums and spelling tests, but many of these apps have brilliant yet subtle learning benefits, like simple problem-solving, counting, color, shape and number recognition, as well as memory and coordination development.
Dexterity / Coordination
Another thing to consider is how complicated the interactive element of the app is. Many young toddlers find dragging items across a screen extremely difficult and frustrating, so for youngsters, click and swipe based activities are often simpler and more enjoyable.
Music / vocals
This is a really important element to consider if you want to avoid going crazy and regretting your download within 10 minutes.
Many toddler apps have very cheaply made and repetitive musical scores which will be incredibly annoying, so be sure to check out the tunes before downloading, or be prepared to activate the mute button!
Design and characters
The central character or characters in any app will be what ultimately attract your toddler and make them want to play. Opting for familiar characters from favorite books or TV shows is often a safe bet, but there are also lots of lovely original characters and designs out there to choose from.
Some of the most popular toddler apps come at a small price, but there are plenty of wonderful free to download choices that are just as good. Sometimes the simpler options with less activities are actually more suitable for youngsters, just watch out for annoying ads and in-app purchases.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are apps bad for toddlers?
Toddlers can really benefit from the educational and developmental elements involved in well designed apps. Limiting the time they spend on the app and balancing screen time with plenty of outdoor and indoor activities will ensure that your child gets the most out of their play.