A Google search for the top apps for kids turns up 1 billion results in less than a second! How am I supposed to know which of these are actually good for my kids?
Technology can provide amazing opportunities for kids, but I often get frustrated when an app is advertised to support literacy development, but is truly designed to keep kids busy with so many bells and whistles that they never get to the alphabet. Straddling the world of parenting and edtech development has given me insight into the agendas of many of these programs. So when I give my kids a screen, I work hard to protect them from brain drain and offer them tech that is truly healthy, inspiring, and developmentally appropriate.
Just the other day I was trying to select apps to share with my little guys. My first step was to turn to the people I trust most with parenting tips: moms! I reached out to all of the amazing, smart moms I know and asked what apps they love. After consulting my “Mom Team,” Common Sense Media reviews, and playing some games myself (fun!), I whittled it down to this list of recommended apps for each of the following categories. I screened for age appropriateness, educational quality, safety, and the presence of consumerism and adult content.
Crayola Create and Play (3+)
All of the bright and bold that you expect from Crayola with the creative process of selecting color shades and textures to draw, with the added surprise of having your drawings come alive!
Faces iMake (5+)
This direct and simple interface lets kids collage and customize household items into silly faces and pictures, developing a sense of seeing the creative in the everyday and definitely whipping up some laughs along the way!
Osmo Coding (7+)
With the added layer of physical toys, this program teaches coding with play and fine motor skills, guiding kids through increasing levels of rigor to understand the concept of coding and master very relevant skills in a fun way!
Tynker teaches coding through games, some native to the app and others that are more well-known like Minecraft and Barbie. It can also be paired with physical toys. Tynker Jr gets even younger kids started with foundational coding skills.
Reading Eggs (6+)
This is a playful series of literacy games arranged in personalized reading journeys. It provides easy toggling between accounts for multiple kids, parental reports, and TONS of content that is well organized and delivered.
Adventure Academy (8+)
This game appeals to older readers through with a cool video-game intervace with exciting graphics, storylines, literacy games, and even a multiplayer option.
ExploreLearning Reflex (7+)
Focused on fact fluency, this fun app is adaptive to help kids build on what they know. It is also available in several languages!
Mystery Math Town (7+)
You can select the math skills and levels that you want your kids to practice and then they get to travel through a mysterious world, unlocking doors and traveling up and down staircases by solving math equations. It adds adventure to fluency practice.
Kids is the world’s largest and safest social network for kids. Zigazooers watch video challenges created by children’s media brands and talent, then post their own video responses. They can earn badges, send stickers, and get creativity in a safe and educational community!
Messenger Kids (13+)
Kids can chat with parent-approved contacts using filters and fun features. We are wary of data collection practices with this one, but families still recommend it.