FamilyFun's Favorite Apps and Websites for Kids

FamilyFun's favorite mobile and online ways to entertain and educate kids

Playtime and Learning Apps We Love:

We love the line of playful and graphic apps from Toca Boca. Design virtual paper dolls with Toca Tailor, feed a friendly blue-faced creature in Toca Kitchen Monsters, or arrange your own rockin' tunes in Toca Band. The 17 apps keep kids (and some adults we know) entertained for hours. iOS. Ages 3 and up Toca Boca, free up to $2.99

Each day, Apps Gone Free identifies a host of other apps (games, puzzles, and more) that are normally fee-based but can be had for free for 24 hours. Get 'em while you can! iOS. AppAdvice, free

The app Beep & Boop uses Pavlovian training to guide kids' actions. See good behavior? Tap the phone to elicit a beep. Something less so? Give them a silly boop. iOS. JibJab, Free

Bookworm Heroes helps beat boredom while sneaking in some learning. Tap on the tiles in the grid to spell words -- the longer, the better -- to defeat friends and family. Ages 8 and up, free

In Monster Physics, colorful creatures help kids design virtual contraptions that they can then make work on-screen, using forces such as gravity and velocity. iOS. Ages 7 and up. Dan Russell-Pinson, $0.99

Look out, evil alien forces! Kids can harness the power of math to defeat the enemy and save a planet in Math Evolve. iOS and Android. Ages 6 and up. InterAction Education, $1.99

Real Mom Review: "Like many parents, I use smartphone apps to entertain my kids on long car drives and during restaurant waits. One of my clan's favorites is Signing Time ASL, which teaches American Sign Language vocabulary with flash cards and videos. My 7-year-old finds the challenge segment of the app especially rewarding because he can test what he's learned." -- Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan iOS. Ages 4 and up. Two Little Hands Productions, $5

Gravitarium2 combines music and beautiful light patterns in an app that's strangely relaxing for kids and parents alike. iOS. Ages 6 and up. Robert Paul Neagu, $2

We've long been fans of the fun-yet-educational computer games starring Putt-Putt and Freddi Fish, and the classic characters are no less lovable on the touch screen. In fact, the platform enhances the interactive elements: in Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo, kids tap the screen to complete puzzles; they scroll through Freddi Fish and the Stolen Shell to solve a mystery. And new challenges and puzzles appear each time kids play. iOS. Ages 3 to 8. Atari, $3 each

Tikatok, the popular kids' website for writing, illustrating, and sharing books, now has an app for Nook Color and Nook Tablet. StorySpark, the free version, allows kids to write a book and add their photographs or pictures from the Tikatok gallery. For $2, Draw Write Read lets kids use the touch screen to create their own digital art. With both apps, finished creations can be shared with other young authors on the Tikatok Picks bookshelf. Ages 7 and up. Tikatok

    Websites We Love:

    In the PBS series Jonathan Bird's Blue World, an underwater cinematographer leads kids on explorations of subaquatic mysteries (why are hammerhead sharks shaped that way?) and offers fun facts about creatures of the world's oceans (diving sea snakes can hold their breath for as long as three hours). At blueworldtv.com, viewers can watch short webisodes and parents and teachers can download lesson plans or purchase DVDs of full seasons. Ages 6 and up Jonathan Bird Productions, webisodes are free, DVDs start at $19.95

    The kids need to run around? Go to mapofplay.kaboom.org on your smartphone to find a playground wherever you are. The site uses geolocation technology to generate a detailed list of nearby parks, school yards, and other recreation areas. The user-submitted listings include photos and ratings, making it handy any time you need a place to play.

    Calling all kid athletes! At thewhistle.com, pint-size fans of professional sports can get the latest game scores, read about their favorite teams, watch episodes of the site's original news series, and much more. We especially like the training section, which is dedicated to healthy living and packed with tips and how-to videos from the pros.

    Each day, Apps Gone Free identifies a host of other apps (games, puzzles, and more) that are normally fee-based but can be had for free for 24 hours. Get 'em while you can! iOS. AppAdvice, free

    Making holiday wish lists just got as fun as pinning on Pinterest! Santa.com lets you and your kids create photo WishBoards on the Web that can be shared with relatives.

    Storybird.com lets families and teachers read, create, and share short stories with unique artwork from the site. Authors can even collaborate with friends and family to create joint stories.

    Curated by a mom-child duo, thekidshouldseethis.com features a compendium of cool videos fit for youngsters of all ages. Among our faves: classic Sesame Street clips, a spaceship's view of Jupiter's rotation, and videos of New York City buskers.

    Go to reading.org/resources/booklists/childrenschoices.aspx for books with major kid cred. You'll find top kid picks from the past 14 years.

    Founded by Stinky Cheese Man author Jon Scieszka, GuysRead.com has books for boys in categories that include Trucks, Sports, Dragons, and At Least One Explosion.

    Go to bankstreet.edu/center-childrens-literature/childrens-book-committee/best-books-year/best-books-year-2012, where the Bank Street College of Education presents an eclectic mix of titles for all tastes and ages.

    Discover a delightfully wacky fact -- what makes a cowlick, who created frozen pizza -- each day at wonderopolis.org.

    Originally published in various issues of FamilyFun magazine