The Best Learning Apps for Kids

We tapped tech and education experts for their picks in the crowded children's app space, then gave a panel of junior testers permission to play. What we discovered: Great educational apps for kids are hard to find—but they do exist. Here are some gems to help you out this school year.

girl with glasses and headphones looking at tablet on sofa
Photo: Tim Marsella
01 of 24

MarcoPolo Ocean

MarcoPolo Ocean best marine life app icon
Courtesy of MarcoPolo Learning, Inc.

Best Marine Life

Kid testers took a deep dive into this colorfully animated app that offers fun building activities plus free play. While making their own submarine and noodling with habitat puzzles, they picked up cool facts about life underwater, such as that an octopus's arm can stretch double its length. As one parent of a tester happily warned, "Be ready for a slew of 'Mom, did you know ___?' " Ages 3 to 7

02 of 24

Stack the States

Stack the States best u.s. geography app icon
Courtesy of Freecloud Design, Inc.

Best U.S. Geography

A fun way to learn state capitals, flags, and trivia, this app gives kids multiple-choice questions. Each correct answer earns a player a googly-eyed state, and then comes testers' favorite part: piling up the states like Jenga pieces. "It teaches kids as much about the states as a regular geography class would cover," said a parent of one tester. Ages 8 to 12

03 of 24

Barefoot World Atlas

Barefoot World Atlas best world geography app icon
Courtesy of Barefoot Books Inc.

Best World Geography

kids to explore countries, landmarks, and historical facts through engaging games and quizzes. One 9-year-old told us the interactive app is a "super-cool and fun" way to learn about geography and word culture. Can't decide where to travel? Kids can shake their device, and the app will take them to a "surprise" destination. Ages 4+

04 of 24

Peekaboo Barn

Peekaboo Barn best animal learning app icon
Courtesy of Night & Day Studios, Inc.

Best Animal Learning

Tiny testers loved pressing on the barn doors to reveal a new animal and the sounds that it makes. Cool feature: You (or the grandparents) can record your voice saying the animal names for your kid to hear. Ages 1 to 3

05 of 24

Seek by iNaturalist

Seek by iNaturalist best nature app icon
Courtesy of iNaturalist, LLC

Best Nature

When you're walking through the park and your child asks, "What's that?" take a snap on this app and it'll give you the answer (plus extra details to impress). One tester used it to ID gulls at the beach and liked that the app saved her nature shots into her own picture gallery. There's also the option to do badge-earning nature challenges as a family. Ages 4+

06 of 24

ScratchJr

ScratchJr best coding app icon
Courtesy of Scratch Foundation, Inc.

Best for Coding

Kids can program and code their own interactive stories and games with this app that the MIT Media Lab helped develop. "It's a good example of learning a skill in a fun way without realizing it," said the parent of a 5-year-old tester. Ages 5 to 7

07 of 24

Play and Learn Engineering

Play and Learn Engineering best engineering app icon
Courtesy of PBS Kids

Best Engineering

Kids love designing roller coasters and building robots; you'll love the STEM concepts like gravity and momentum they learn along the way. Plus, parents of testers say this app from PBS Kids was a hit among siblings of different ages and even passed the "Will this keep my kid occupied in a restaurant?" test. Ages 3 to 5

08 of 24

Mazaam – the Musical Genius

Mazaam The Musical Genius best music app icon
Courtesy of Mazaam Interactive Inc.

Best Music

With 15 games spread across five animal-themed "worlds" and more than 140 musical works, this app helps future Beethovens learn about pitch, tempo, and harmony. In the "World of Eagles," children feed hungry birds while listening to classical music and identifying string and wind instruments. One parent said the app was "both challenging and interesting." Ages 4 to 6

09 of 24

Kahoot! DragonBox Numbers

Kahoot! DragonBox Numbers best math app icon
Courtesy of Kahoot DragonBox AS

Best Math

Instead of memorizing math facts, kids develop "number sense" with fun, monster-like characters called Nooms. For instance, they can slice the Noom that represents the number 8 in half to create a pair of 4s. Or Nooms can swallow each other to get bigger. Kid testers played intuitively. Ages 4 to 8

10 of 24

Khan Academy Kids

Khan Academy Kids general learning app icon
Courtesy of Khan Academy

General Learning

Five whimsical characters guide children through a huge catalog of interactive books, engaging lessons across subjects, yoga videos, nature articles, and more. With content that now extends to second grade, this app helps children build both classroom and social skills. One parent of a tester said her daughter couldn't get enough of the coloring pages. Ages 2 to 8

11 of 24

BYJU'S Learning App featuring Disney

BYJU’S Learning App featuring Disney general learning app icon
Courtesy of Tangible Play

General Learning

This app puts beloved Disney and Pixar characters like Ariel, Belle, and Woody into the role of teachers. But instead of presenting lessons, the characters take kids on fact-packed adventures. "As a teacher myself, I think this app does an excellent job of helping kids with math and reading concepts," said one mom who tried the app with her kids, ages 6 and 8. "My daughter didn't even realize the hidden lesson because she felt she was watching a video." A parent zone and progress-report feature help you monitor their learning. Ages 3 to 8

12 of 24

Hopster

Hopster general learning app icon
Courtesy of Hopster

General Learning

As children navigate the app's tropical island setting, they'll find new and familiar cartoons, books, songs, and games to explore. One mom of a tester loved that after her child had watched a couple of videos, the TV-with-a-twist app prompted her to try a different song or game, encouraging something that was more active. Ages 1 to 4

13 of 24

Writing Wizard

Writing Wizard best penmanship app icon
Courtesy of L'Escapadou

Best for Penmanship

Sound effects, stickers, and rainbow designs turn this app into a cool environment for kids to trace capital and lowercase letters. "The animation kept my 4-year-old daughter's attention," said the parent of one tester. Ages 3 to 7

14 of 24

Epic – Kids' Books & Reading

Epic! Kids’ Books & Reading best ebook app icon
Courtesy of Epic Creations, Inc.

Best for E-books

This home library of 40,000-plus books, videos, and audiobooks (categorized by reading level and interest) isn't just for bookworms. One parent of a YouTube-obsessed tester was blown away by how user-friendly and motivating this app was: "My son has had it for less than 24 hours and has read almost six books already. Winner, winner!" Ages 2 to 12

15 of 24

Write About This

Write About This best creative writing app icon
Courtesy of RSA Group, LLC

Best for Creative Writing

Hundreds of writing prompts—some in text format, some photographs—inspired our testers to start writing and telling stories about vacations, family, pizza, and more. Sibs or friends can even work on a piece together. The app also allows kids to start with their own picture or idea. Ages 7+

16 of 24

Teach Your Monster to Read

Teach Your Monster to Read best phonics app icon
Courtesy of Teach Your Monster

Best for Phonics

Cute and colorful monsters introduce kids to sounds and then short words. Parents liked that the app reviews what a child has already learned and builds on it in each session. "My kids are actually learning to read while enjoying the gamey features," said a mom of two testers. Ages 4+

17 of 24

Read Along by Google

Read Along by Google best reading aloud app icon
Courtesy of Google LLC

Best for Reading Aloud

Using Google's speech-recognition technology, the app can tell how well kids are reading aloud from a library of 500-plus stories. A reading pal underlines any word that has been skipped and stars those spoken correctly. It can help boost kids' confidence in reading out loud to their class. Ages 5+

18 of 24

Thinkrolls Play & Code

Thinkrolls Play & Code best coding puzzles app icon
Courtesy of Avokiddo

Best Coding Puzzles

Your child won't realize they are basically in physics class as they help their character move through puzzles and mazes. In "basic," "easy," and "hard" modes, players learn about gravity, elasticity, spatial reasoning, and more. They can even use their newfound precoding skills to create puzzles of their own. "I loved that this app was fun, and that it also stretched my daughter to think critically and problem-solve," said one parent of a tester. Ages 3+

19 of 24

Winky Think Logic Puzzles

Winky Think Logic Puzzles best logic puzzles app icon
Courtesy of Little 10 Robot

Best Logic Puzzles

From simple matching to complex games, this app offers 180 obstacles, mazes, and multi-touch experiences. "My daughter loves the 'aha' moments of figuring out each level," said one parent of a tester who's been motivated to advance through the harder levels. Ages 6+

20 of 24

Montessori Crosswords

Montessori Crosswords best crossword puzzles app icon
Courtesy of L'Escapadou

Best Crossword Puzzles

Starting with three-letter words, kids advance through four levels, eventually completing multi-word crosswords in thousands of different combinations. One parent of a 6-year-old tester said this app was much easier than having her son sit at the table and sound out and write words. "He's the type who doesn't love reading and writing and really needs some sort of incentive—apparently a cute animation is enough—and this seems to be doing the trick." Ages 3 to 7

21 of 24

Busy Shapes

Busy Shapes best shape puzzles app icon
Courtesy of Edoki Academy

Best Shape Puzzles

With shape changing and color mixing, this app encourages your kid to think outside the box in order to successfully drag figures into the proper holes. Even though the levels get progressively more challenging, one mom of a tester was happy to see that her 5-year-old was "persistent in figuring out the next level rather than getting frustrated." Ages 18 months to 4 years

22 of 24

Daniel Tiger's Grr-ific Feelings

Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings best social-emotional learning app icon
Courtesy of PBS Kids

Best Social-Emotional Learning

Who better to teach your child about feelings than the friendly, familiar face from the make-believe neighborhood? Through games that prompt laughter and deep breathing—as well as a photo booth to capture various moods—this app helps kids identify and manage different emotions. Ages 2 to 5

23 of 24

BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week

BrainPOP Jr. Movie of the Week best videos app icon
Courtesy of BrainPOP

Best Videos

This collection of three-to-five-minute animated videos has grown to include topics like gratitude, conflict resolution, and mindfulness, in addition to all the great shorts on the arts, math, and history. In the video on empathy, characters explain how children can identify their own and other people's emotions. They then explore how to be compassionate when a friend isn't feeling their best. The videos come with "easy" and "hard" quizzes for an added learning boost. Ages 6 to 8

24 of 24

PBS Kids Games

PBS Kids Games best social-emotional games app icon
Courtesy of PBS Kids

Best Social-Emotional Games

Your child can discover new ideas and worlds alongside their fave characters from Wild Kratts, Super Why!, and Odd Squad. Games are added weekly, and the learning goals extend to social skills such as kindness and mindfulness and life skills like healthy habits and daily routines. "My son would have fun with this app even without the characters," said the parent of a tester. Ages 2 to 8

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