The Best Educational Apps for Kids

Your child's education doesn't have to stop after school. These games made for your iPhone, iPad, and Android will keep your youngster's mind active outside the classroom.

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Elmo Loves 123s

Help your child identify and count numbers from 1 to 20, do simple addition and subtraction, and trace numbers that also open surprises, such as Sesame Street videos, puzzles, and coloring pages. Along the way, everyone's favorite furry character, Elmo, and Abby Cadabby guide kids through learning math. (ages 5 and under, $2.99; iPad) -- Written by Cheryl Lock

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Cookie Monster's Challenge

PBS Kids and Sesame Workshop have teamed up for Cookie Monster's Challenge, an app that teaches self-control, focus, and following directions to prepare young children for school. Nine different levels of mini games keep your preschooler busy -- and as he progresses, he'll earn more pieces of a cookie-making machine. (3 years+, $2.99; iPad, Android)
-- Written by Chrisanne Grise

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Disney Story Central

Bedtime just got a lot less painful, thanks to Disney Story Central. The large selection of e-books staring Disney characters -- such as Mickey Mouse, the princesses, and Doc McStuffins -- offer read-along narration and personalized book recommendations. Plus, your bookworm will earn trophies and awards as she progresses. (2 years+, free for iPad for first 4 books, with additional purchase packages starting at $4) -- Written by Chrisanne Grise

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GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine

GoldieBlox, the toy company focused on inspiring girls to become innovators, has launched GoldieBlox and The Movie Machine, its first app for inspiring engineers. Your kid will learn the basics of animation and create her own one-second animated GIFs. (6 years+, free; iPhone, iPad) -- Written by Chrisanne Grise

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The Magic School Bus: Oceans by Scholastic

Ms. Frizzle and her students embark on an aquatic journey in this interactive storybook, which features science facts, pictures, games, and videos. (ages 6-8, $3.99; iPad only) -- Written by Christen Brandt

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Fish School HD

Colorful fish teach your preschooler his letters, numbers, shapes, and colors in an under-the-sea world. (ages 2 to 5, $1.99; iPad) -- Written by Christen Brandt

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Stack the States

As your child learns state shapes, capitals, and abbreviations, she'll build a stack of cartoonish states to reach the finish line and pass to the next level, eventually creating a full map of the United States. Kids can tap the location of selected states to complete the whole country, slide states around to put them together like a puzzle, or match states with their capitals in a fast-paced bonus games (five total). (ages 9 to 11 $1.99; iPhone, iPad, Android)
-- Written by Christen Brandt

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Ansel & Clair's Adventures in Africa

Ansel, a friendly intergalactic travel photographer, and Clair, a brilliant robot, will guide your child through animations, quests, puzzles, and games located in exotic places such as the Nile Valley, Sahara Desert, and Serengeti Plains. Instill a sense of adventure and exploration in your kid with Ansel and Clair's engaging gameplace and immersive experiences. (ages 6-8; $4.99; iPad)
-- Written by Cheryl Lock

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Habitat the Game

Teach your kid to care for the environment with Habitat the Game. Players adopt a virtual polar bear and must complete real-world actions -- such as turning lights off and conserving water -- to keep the creature healthy. Little ones will take pride in making an actual difference in the world with these exciting games. (4 years+, Free; iPhone, iPad, Android) -- Written by Chrisanne Grise

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How to Choose an Electronic Educational Toy

Which electronic toy is the best for your child? Our editors review the ones that are worth the investment.

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Winky Think Logic Puzzles

Your kid will keep busy for hours with this app, which has over 180 logic puzzles ranging from simple matching to complex games with obstacles, mazes, and multi-touch action. (ages 6-8; $2.99; iPhone and iPad) -- Written by Cheryl Lock

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ShipAntics: The Legend of the Kiki Beast

Ahoy! Jump onboard with ShipAntics: The Legend of the Kiki Beast. Help Amanda and Otto the Octopus solve mysteries by completing educational puzzles and riddles. And if your little one isn't in the mood for a game, the Appisodes feature lets him just watch the app's cartoon content. (6 years+, Free; iPhone, iPad, Android) -- Written by Chrisanne Grise

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Dexteria Dots 2

Your child will have a blast practicing math and improving his fine motor skills with Dexteria Dots 2. Each dot represents a number, and players must combine and divide them to solve each problem. The simple-to-use app features bright colors and goofy animations that adults can enjoy too. (6 years+, $3; iPhone, iPad)
-- Written by Chrisanne Grise

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The Sight Word Adventure

Help your child learn to recognize, read, and write up to 320 sight words. By tapping into every kid's love of hide-and-seek, your child will practice the cognitive skills necessary to remember sight words -- like visual attention, active listening, and visual memorization. (ages 5 and under; $1.99; iPhone, iPad) -- Written by Cheryl Lock

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Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

This ebook highlights words as the narrator reads, and your young reader will love interacting with objects featured on each page -- touching them brings up their associated words. (ages 2-6, $3.99; iPhone, iPad, Android) -- Written by Christen Brandt

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Plants by Tinybop

Kids can virtually explore wildlife with Plants by Tinybop. Crash clouds together to make lightning, or speed the time up to watch how seasons affect the flora. Gorgeous detailed illustrations encourage open play, so every session with the app is a new adventure. (6 years+, $3; iPhone, iPad) -- Written by Chrisanne Grise

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Crayola Color, Draw & Sing

Take creative to a new level with the Crayola Color, Draw & Sing app. Kids choose a song to listen to while they work, and every action -- including scribbling with crayons and choosing new colors -- unlocks a new instrument or feature in that track. Your young artist will have completed a beautiful picture and song in no time. (2 years+; $4.99 for iPhone, iPad; Free for Android)
--Written by Chrisanne Grise

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Real Scary Spiders

If your child loves creepy crawlers, Animal Planet's Real Scary Spiders app is a must. Augmented-reality technology lets the player see a pet spider "brought to life" onscreen when he points the camera at an object. Be warned: the graphics are awfully realistic, so the squeamish will want to look away! (6 years+, Free; iPhone, iPad, Android) -- Written by Chrisanne Grise

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Balloony Word

Play with your kids by giving this hangman-like game a try: They'll learn new vocabulary and practice spelling skills while trying to keep a gorilla afloat with a handful of balloons. (ages 3-6, 6 to 10, $1.99; iPhone, iPad) -- Written by Christen Brandt

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Sparky & The Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms

Teach fire safety with Sparky & The Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms. Produced by the National Fire Protection Association, the interactive ebook follows the Dalmation and his friends as they investigate a mystery before the grand opening of the smoke-alarm factory. A game and music video keep the fun going after the story is over. (6 years+, Free; iPhone, iPad, Android)
-- Written by Chrisanne Grise

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School Zone Time, Money & Fractions On-Track

Fun sound effects and animated characters will keep your child entertained, but there's a bigger payoff: She'll soon know how to read a clock with hands, understand coins, and figure out that one-third is less than one-half. (ages 6 to 8, $4.99; iPad, Android) -- Written by Christen Brandt

Copyright © 2015 Meredith Corporation.

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Bid farewell to boring book reports. Your kid can add artwork, record her voice, and edit text in this app, which helps create vibrant projects ranging from a book report to a documentary. "Our students in second grade just put together a story about numbers, using drawings they made on their tablets," says Finger. $10, iTunes and Google Play 

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From Flat Stanley to Nancy Drew, Big Nate to Amelia Bedelia, thousands of popular children's picture and chapter books are available to download via this app for $5 per month. Your kid earns achievement badges for the books he's finished. "Since we got Epic!, my 7-year-old son has been reading much more," says Binay Curtis, a mom of two in San Francisco. "He's always excited to check out what the special
book of the week is and he constantly searches for new titles." Free, iTunes and Google Play 

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Your child can choose between different categories, such as soundalikes or compound words, for his grade level. Then he picks what he'd like to do with the list: unscramble letters, take a spelling test, put the words in alphabetical order, or use them in a game. "My fifth-grader likes playing HangMouse, the app's version of Hangman," says Tiffany Everett, of Port St. Lucie, Florida. "He thinks it's fun to pretend to be the mouse and eat all the cheese before the cat wakes up." Free, iTunes and Google Play 

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Thinking Blocks Multiplication

This app helps your child use number blocks to solve multiplication word problems, a strategy supported by Common Core standards. Says Finger: "We just started using this app with third- and fourth-graders so that they can better visualize word problems, and it's helping." Free, iPad only 

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Number Run

Think of it as Temple Run for math. Your child can help a panda escape a bully by solving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems: perfect prep for timed math tests. $2, iTunes 

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Stack the States

Your kid answers questions about state flags, capitals, nicknames, abbreviations, and geography-related facts. When she gets one right, a ring of stars appears and she can move and drop the animated version of the state anywhere onscreen. Once she stacks up enough states to reach the checkered line, she can unlock new levels. $2, iTunes and Google Play 

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BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week

This app, an offshoot of the popular subscription video series, offers one three-minute video every week at no charge. Recent ones covered the solar system and the Lewis and Clark expedition. "My son watched the movie on Abraham Lincoln over and over," says Everett. "Then we took out books from the library so he could learn even more." Free, iTunes and Google Play 

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Open the app, point your device to the sky, and it will ID the stars and constellations. "When my kids look up and ask, 'Mom, what's that?' I finally have an answer," says Kim Blackham, a mom of four in Tampa, Florida. Free, iTunes and Google Play  

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