Taking a Closer Look at 5 Amazing Educational Apps for Aiding a Toddler’s Development
Too much screen time is an objectively bad thing, no matter your age, but sometimes you’ll come across an app that’s so fun and educational that the benefits of introducing it to your toddler far outweigh the negatives.
Educational apps for kids have become such a valuable resource, it would be a shame to ignore them on the basis that screens can be bad in excess.
The right one could help your toddler develop mental acuity, emotional intelligence, and fine motor skills. But with literally thousands of apps to choose from, how do you know which is the right one? Well, because we’re going to tell you; that’s how!
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been scouring the internet for the best learning apps for toddlers around, and we’re happy to share our shortlist with you in this article.
OUR TOP PICK
Teach Your Monster to Read takes a wonderfully clever approach to getting toddlers invested in learning about the alphabet and reading.
To start the adventure, your child has to create their own monster friend, which will travel and learn alongside them throughout the magical world presented by the app.
The tasks and games are mostly centered around phonics, helping children to forge associations between symbols and their corresponding sounds — the core foundation of literacy.
It invites your child (and their monster, of course) on quests to find new letter sounds, then uses them as the theme of enjoyable challenges that help young learners commit the information to memory.
From there, the app builds into segmenting (sounding out sections of words to identify the whole), encouraging children to engage with full written words, and eventually whole sentences!
What’s more, Teach Your Monster to Read is recommended by genuine educational experts, so you can be sure it offers a wholesome and rewarding experience.
- Expert-Approved - Based on genuine research.
- Offers a Unique Experience - Worth the screen time as it can’t be experienced elsewhere.
- Create the Monster - Helps to get your child invested in the learning process.
- Repetitive Mini-Games - More variety would be great.
Who says bedtime is just for stories, huh? Bedtime Math flips the game, encouraging guardians and little learners to bond over some number puzzles before drifting off to the land of nod.
The general idea is that the relaxing environment and lack of distractions will help ease a toddler into the wonderful world of numbers. It’s one of the few learning apps that has actually been studied and shown to improve test scores.
But it’s not just your child that stands to benefit, research also suggests that it can be instrumental in easing math-derived anxiety in adults too, reducing the chances that your child will “inherit” discomfort towards the subject.
We also love the fact that the questions are given as middle-school reading level word problems, meaning guardians have to really get involved to help the child understand, a kind of interactivity proven to yield better educational results.
- Parent-Child Interaction - Known to be an effective educational tool.
- Relaxing Setting - Reduces stress and sharpens focus.
- Reduces Math Anxiety in Adults - Prevents insecurities passing from parent to child.
- Subject of Peer-Reviewed Study - Legitimately works.
- Done Before Bed - Eats into storytime.
It’s hard for us to condense a review of ABCMouse into such a small format because this app is HUGE! No matter what your toddler is currently learning about, ABCMouse has tons of games and activities designed to help them grasp and master it.
A subscription-based service, it can be a little pricey over time, but considering it allows you to customize your toddler’s education with 850 adaptive lessons across 10 difficulty levels, the cost is perfectly acceptable.
It even features an integrated progress checker, so you and your toddler get visual confirmation of how far they’ve come and the gains they’ve made.
ABCMouse’s unquestionable efficacy has earned it numerous educational awards, and as it's such a deep learning resource, it can grow with your child, helping them excel well into their school years.
- Multidisciplinary - Teaches all the subjects!
- Expansive - Your child won’t grow out of it for years.
- Adaptive - Fine-tune the learning experience to individuals.
- Award-Winning - Proven success!
- Subscription Fees - Worth it, though!
Toca Tea Party takes a very Montossorian approach to education, providing an open-ended activity designed to get toddlers using their imagination.
Conceptually, the app couldn’t be any simpler. You and your toddler set out a table with cutely illustrated crockery and refreshments, and then basically...let the good times roll.
It requires no winners or losers, just that your toddler takes the initiative and sets the parameters of playtime themselves. You can snack on tasty virtual treats, sip some lovely digital drinks, and have yourselves a good old-fashioned chinwag.
Once all the refreshments have been consumed, all the dishes are placed in a sink, and the game comes to a pleasant, natural conclusion, keeping screen time to a minimum.
The unstructured playtime platform Toca Tea Party plates up is the perfect way for one or more toddlers to build their confidence and explore their imagination, all while picking up social skills in a stress-free environment — perfect!
- Open-Ended - No negativity whatsoever.
- Definite End - Makes limiting screen time easy.
- Simple Concept - Kids take control of playtime.
- No Academic Relevance - But that’s kind of the point.
Emotions are healthy, yet children are often chastised for feeling those considered to be negative. This can lead to emotional repression, which is known to increase the chances a child will develop depression and low self-esteem at a later stage, but not if Daniel Tiger has anything to say about it.
This app is all about helping children identify and express their full range of emotions via a series of games, songs, and artistic activities. It provides a healthy outlet for everything that’s going on in their little hearts and minds.
When often used, a child will develop a more complete understanding of themselves, free from the shame that’s often tacked on to “negative” feelings such as rage and jealousy. And the more they learn about their own emotions, the more empathetic they’ll be towards others.
At its core, this app encourages understanding, and helps a toddler form healthier bonds with siblings, friends, and even guardians — we love, love, love it!
- User-Friendly - Easy to navigate, even for a toddler.
- Emotion-Based - Helps children to develop emotional intelligence.
- Arty - Encourages artistic expression — a complex area for an app to broach.
- Increases Empathy - Helps children form meaningful, healthy relationships.
- There are none - It’s an amazing app that all young children could benefit from.
Best Learning Apps for Toddlers Buying Guide
We’ve focused on five awesome learning apps for toddlers in this article, as we wanted to show the cream of the crop only, but there are many fantastic options that didn’t make it onto our shortlist.
So, we composed this handy guardian’s guide to learning apps for toddlers in order to help you continue your search for great educational resources across the wider internet.
Free vs Download Fee vs In-App Purchases vs Subscription
You can narrow your options down significantly right away by deciding how you’d like to pay and how much.
Free apps are fantastic for very specific areas of learning, but they’re rarely expansive enough to hold a toddler’s interest over longer periods of time. Besides, at this age, your child’s mind is a veritable sponge, so it won’t be long before they’ve soaked in all the info the free app has to teach.
Apps that have a one-time download fee tend to be more expansive and immersive, covering a wider range of topics within a specific educational area.
In-app purchases may have earned a bad rep in recent years, but some of the best learning apps for toddlers utilize this payment type. They’re usually very well-designed and cover one whole subject in great detail.
The expansions never cost all that much, and there is rarely more than 2 or 3 before you’ve unlocked the full app, just remember to turn off in-app purchases on your device before handing it to your toddler.
Apps that offer subscriptions are usually the most fleshed-out of all the options, offering your child a constantly evolving, sometimes even customizable curriculum. They work out as the most expensive over time, but they also have the potential to be the most rewarding.
Focused vs Multidisciplinary
Next on the agenda is deciding if you want an app that focuses on a particular subject, or an all-singing-all-dancing classroom-style learning experience that covers lots of ground.
There are some amazing apps in both formats. It all just depends on what and how your toddler likes to learn.
Multidisciplinary apps are usually subscription-based, so they can be pricey over time, but it’ll cost far more to purchase the number of focused apps it would take to cover the same amount of topics.
Fun and Engaging Material
Whether you're 3 or 303 years old, when you’re bored, you’ll stop learning, and as toddlers are harder to engage than us big kids, educational content needs to be super fun to hold their attention.
So, the more magical, whimsical, and imaginative a learning app can be without diminishing its educational aspects, the better!
...Not Too Fun Though
Research has shown that many learning apps for toddlers do a great job of reeling their attention in, but take things a little too far, which leads to overstimulation, and thus, under comprehension of the educational topic.
The only way an app is really worth the screen time is if it’s going to offer your toddler something they won’t get elsewhere.
Although it will be covering the same topics your child is learning from you or their preschool, it should present them in a unique and exciting way.
Approach to Teaching
Just as there are different approaches to parenting, there are different approaches to teaching. In an ideal world, the teaching method of an app will align at least to a certain extent with the core ethos of your parenting strategies.
For example, if you’ve been applying Montessori principles to raising your child, an app with tons of open-ended activities and less of a focus on winning and losing will be perfect.
Experts agree that the best learning apps offer an immersive and interactive experience, but not necessarily only within the app itself.
Apps that encourage communication between child and parent or child and peers are considerably more effective than those that offer more of a self-contained experience.
There is a little bit of wiggle room in regard to the age ratings of learning apps for toddlers. For instance, if your child is a tiny Einstein, feel free to move on to more advanced apps outside their age chronology.
However, it’s best to stick with appropriate age ranges to start with, otherwise, you may end up forking out for an app your kid has already surpassed or won’t understand.
We find that the best barometer of quality in regard to a learning app for toddlers is what other guardians have to say about it.
When it comes to educating children, people are more than happy to help out by letting you know about their experience with a product. Reviews will often go into great detail about what the app includes, how their child responded to it, and whether it was a worthy investment.
As enriching as educational apps can be, we still need to limit our little learner’s screen time to keep them happy and healthy. Screen time for kids between the ages of 2 and 5 should be capped to an hour per day, max.
Don’t Believe the Labels
Just because an app is advertised as a learning tool for toddlers, doesn’t mean it’s been created by experts in child development. In fact, very little research goes into making most of them.
Before downloading an app, do some of your own research. Try to find out if teachers are using it or if legitimate experts recommend it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still got some questions? Not to worry. We’re going to bring things to a nice, neat close with a brief FAQ segment.
What should my 2-year-old be learning?
At 2, children should be engaging with shapes and colors, as well as forming complete, simple sentences. Teaching them rhymes from their favorite books can help their verbal syntax along. 2 is also the age that a child will start to grasp the general concept of counting, so it’s the perfect time to familiarize them with numbers.
Are educational apps good for toddlers?
Educational apps can be great for toddlers, which is why we spent so long researching and writing this article. However, as we mentioned in our guardian’s guide, very few “educational” apps for children are based on any actual scientific research, so you’ll need to separate the wheat from the chaff.
It’s also worth mentioning that no matter how great an educational app is, too much screen time is bad for your toddler’s eyes, and as a sedentary activity, bad for their physical development too.
Is ABCMouse worth it for a 2-year-old?
2 may be right at the lower limit of the age rating for ABCMouse, but that’s not to say there aren’t tons of amazing activities and information for young learners.
Plus, your child will enjoy the familiarity of the ABCMouse ecosystem as they grow into the more advanced content. We didn’t rate it as the number one multidisciplinary learning app for toddlers for no reason.
How much screen time should a toddler have?
It’s thought that toddlers should be allowed up to 1 hour of screen time per day, as long as it’s high-quality educational content. But screen time doesn’t just refer to time spent on phones, computers, and tablets. It also refers to time spent watching TV.
What makes an app good for use by a toddler on a plane?
Apps that are suitable for your toddler to use during a flight will have very gentle, if any, noises, they won’t require an internet connection, and they’ll be interactive in order to keep your child entertained.
Are there any tablets designed especially for children?
There aren’t any tablets that are 100% designed for kids exclusively, but the Fire HD 8 Kids tablet is about as close as it gets. It’s a standard, low-power Fire tablet that comes with a subscription to Amazon Kids+ and a squishy, child-proof case.
After finding all these amazing apps, it was kind of hard not to feel a little jealous of our toddlers, as we big kids never had access to such enriching educational content.
But that twinge of jealousy swiftly subsides for a warmth and immense sense of well-being, knowing we can provide our children the tools that will help them not just to succeed, but to live happy, healthy little lives!