The Parents team tapped moms, dads, and kids to test tons of apps and find the ones that are most intuitive to use, best priced, and super helpful. These are our favorites to help with everything from staying organized to keeping your kids occupied. They're app-solutely essential!
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boy playing with digital tablet in bed
Credit: Ariel Skelley/Getty

Best Apps for Kids

Age 2

PBS Kids Video Buys you downtime via popular videos including Peg + Cat and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. All platforms; free

Age 3

Starfall series Low-key and gentle apps introducing ABCs, numbers, and more with songs and simple graphics. All platforms; $1 to $5 per app

Age 4

Sago Mini Space Explorer Your child makes up adventures for Harvey, a cute puppy floating through space. The open-ended gameplay encourages creativity and imagination. All platforms; $3

Age 5

ABC Mouse series These fun, encyclopedic learning games introduce subjects such as animals and exercise. Also look for their free e-book apps, such as The Lion and the Mouse, to encourage reading. Apple only; free

Best Apps for Siblings

Sesame Street Family Play Suggests easy activities that young kids can do together at home or in places like the grocery store, such as spotting food boxes in a certain color. Spring for the all-games pack ($2 extra). Apple only; $1

Heads Up!

One family member holds the phone up to his head and a card is displayed. Everyone gets him to guess what's on the card without saying the word. From Ellen DeGeneres (and played on her show). All platforms; $1, free for Android

Best Educational Apps


The Human Body Beautiful graphics illustrate how the body works, making it explainable to kids of all ages. Apple only; $3


Hopscotch Learn the basics of programming by making a cupcake dance or animals jump. As your kid learns more coding, projects become more complex. Apple only; free


Minecraft Kids (and adults) create virtual worlds. If on shared Wi-Fi, several people can be in the same game. Careful, it's super addictive! All platforms; $7


Mathmateer Embark on some 56 different math missions that teach numerals, decimals, telling time, and more. Apple only; $1

Our Editors' Favorite Apps

Secret Menu for Starbucks Access drinks you never knew existed. The app shows a picture of each and tells you how to order it. Because of course your kid wants to try a Pixy Stix Refresher. Apple only; $1

ChoreMonster When your child works, he earns virtual points for instant gratification. He can cash them in for real-world rewards such as TV time or extra allowance. All platforms; free

Best Apps to Improve Skills

Duolingo Makes it fun to brush up on a language you once studied or dip your toe into a new one, earning points along the way. How do you say "Is it time to put the kids to bed?" in Italian? All platforms; free

Lumosity Pick different brain skills you'd like to hone (memory, problem solving) and play games, designed by neuroscientists, that challenge you and sharpen your thinking. All platforms; free

Sky Guide Hold up your device and the app automatically aligns with the sky above (day or night!) to show you constellations. Click on stars to learn about them, track satellites, and monitor the path of comets. Apple only; $2

Pocket Halfway through a great article online, but out of time to finish it? Save to your Pocket list and it will be available for offline reading later. All platforms; free

Best Pet Apps

My Talking Pet Import or take a picture of your pet and record what you want him to "say" (play with the voice-changing feature to disguise that it's you). The whole family will be laughing at the pet's "communication." All platforms; $2 for iOS, $3 for Android

BarkCam Help your pooch on his way to Instagram stardom. This makes noises -- like a cat meowing -- to grab your furry friend's attention right before you snap a photo. Add sunglasses or a speech bubble to the pic for pizzazz. Apple only; free

Best Apps for Every Moment of Your Day

7:00 a.m.: Strategize

Remember the Milk Sort tasks by priority or deadline, so you're signaled to dress your preschooler for pajama day before you're reminded of your lunch plans. Alerts come through e-mail or text. All platforms; free

8:00 a.m.: Before Heading Out

Dark Sky Check a detailed forecast for the next hour, especially useful for seeing exactly when rain or snow is due to start and stop. Predictions for the full week available too. Apple only; $4

8:15 a.m.: During Your Drive

Waze This community-based navigation app provides real-time traffic updates and road information (including police action and construction delays). Plus you get to design your car icon, and it's cute. All platforms; free

10:00 a.m.: At Work

Evernote Record voice notes, digitize documents, and share files electronically. The business-card scanner pulls info from that person's LinkedIn account without your having to connect with them. All platforms; free

1:00 p.m.: Brain Break

QuizUp Challenge friends, coworkers, and strangers to short, timed quizzes. The 500-some topics vary widely, from current and specific (Ariana Grande, Game of Thrones) to broad (music, Spanish). All platforms; free

5:00 p.m.: Wine With Dinner? Browse more than 1,700,000 wines in the app's database, or scan a bar code in a store to get a bottle's ratings. Don't forget to record your own score and tasting notes; it will keep track of faves. All platforms; $2

8:00 p.m.: Evening

Kids Media If you record the movie that's on tonight, will it be a good one to show the kids later? Common Sense Media's vast database has age gradings and descriptions of films, books, TV shows, apps, and more. All platforms; free

10:00 p.m.: Bedtime!

White Noise Choose from a variety of relaxing sounds -- rain, crickets, waves on the beach, or that old standby, a fan -- to help anyone in the house sleep more soundly. You can set a timer or let it play all night. All platforms; free

Best Exercise Apps

Zombies, Run! Turn your jog into a thrilling game. When you hear zombies coming, you need to pick up your pace. Collect supplies as you go; every mission helps you progress. All platforms; $4

RunKeeper Track speed, distance, weight loss, and more. All platforms; free

Nike Training Club More than 100 workouts from Nike Master Trainers and famous athletes (such as Maria Sharapova). Choose a focus -- shedding weight, toning up -- for a targeted program. All platforms; free

7 Minute Workout This directs you through short, do-anywhere moves (jumping jacks, planks) with rests in between. All platforms; free

Pocket Yoga Detailed illos and instructions make sense even to beginners. All platforms; $3

Headspace Author and mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe guides you in his British accent ("bring attention back to the body") to help you chill out in just 10 minutes. All platforms; free

Stop, Breathe & Think Meditation lite, focusing on how you want to feel (content, grateful). All platforms; free

Best Recipe and Food Apps

AllRecipes Dinner Spinner Plug in what you have (chicken, beef) or just search each day's recipes for inspiration. User comments give you ideas for endless variations. All platforms; free

Paprika Recipe Manager Download any online recipe and categorize it however you want. Syncs between devices in case you plan with one, cook using another. All platforms; $5

Fooducate The bar-code scanner offers up a nutrition grade (A, B, C, or D) and healthier alternatives for products, plus user comments. Its specialized programs help you eat healthy while pregnant, avoid allergies, etc. All platforms; free

Best Apps for Parents

Cozi Epic app for to-do lists, calendars, shopping lists, and more, all shareable with your partner. Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady use it, and who are we to argue with them? All platforms; free for basic version or $30/year for premium services

Grocery iQ Ideal for sharing shopping lists -- for everything, not just food -- this app also syncs between devices. Tick off items and the list updates in real time, so two of you can divide and conquer the supermarket or mall (hello, holiday shopping). All platforms; free

Venmo Pay the sitter, get money from a friend after you take her kids with yours to the movies, etc. You'll both need to create an account, but simple setup makes it a snap to transfer to and from bank accounts. All platforms; free

Mint Put your bank and credit-card info in one place to monitor spending. Graphics give you the story visually. No more "Where did my money go?!" All platforms; free

Dashlane Store all those annoying passwords plus credit-card details here to make filling out online forms less painful. Never get locked out of your accounts again! All platforms; free for basic version, and up to $30/year for premium services

Pop Quiz: Which Shopping Apps Are Your Style?

  1. Where do you prefer to shop?
    A. At home
    B. Equally at home or in stores
    C. My fave brick-and-mortars
  2. How do you feel about couponing?
    A. Not worth it
    B. Prefer sales
    C. Love it!
  3. Do you zero in on favorite brands?
    A. For sure
    B. To a point...
    C. Whatever's cheapest is my brand!

Mostly A's, try:

Catalog Spree Flip through hundreds of current catalogs without the clutter of printed versions. Click to buy from the app. Apple only; free

Slice Syncs with online-purchase e-mails and organizes them by date. Pin recent orders to the top for easy access while waiting for them to ship. Also tracks price drops and product recalls. All platforms; free

Boxed Wholesale Find your favorite big-box-size products and have them delivered to your door. No membership fee, and many orders ship free. All platforms; free

Mostly B's, try:

RetailMeNot Search for current discounts, verified by users, for stores and online. Gets addictive; you'll find yourself always checking the app before making a purchase. All platforms; free

RedLaser While you're out and about, scan any item to see if it's available for less at a nearby store or online. Save your loyalty cards here too. All platforms; free

Mostly C's, try:

StockUp Scan bar codes of your fave products at home to find the best local price when you need to restock. If you find a good deal, share it using the app so others know about it too. Also good for making shopping lists, and you can earn cash rewards through PayPal too. All platforms; free

Checkout 51 Each week, a list of products with discounts becomes available. Purchase any of them, upload a picture of your receipt, and the amount of money you saved will be added to your account. Once you reach at least $20, you can request that a check be mailed to you. All platforms; free

Best All-Around Apps to Have

Amazon Sells just about everything and delivers to your door. All platforms; free, Prime membership is $99/year

Dropbox Access all of your photos, videos, and documents from any device. All platforms; free

Shazam Ever hear an awesome song and wonder what it's called? This app identifies the tune and directs you to where to buy it. All platforms; free

Spotify Stream music by searching for songs, artists, or albums. All platforms, free for basic, premium subscription is $10 a month

TripAdvisor Millions of user reviews on hotels, restaurants, and destinations. All platforms; free

Netflix Pull up TV shows, movies, and more for you and your kids; each family member can have his own profile so that suggestions are age-appropriate. All platforms; subscription is $9/month for new members

Best Subscription Service Apps

Next Issue Similar to Netflix, but for magazines. Read all of your faves, including back issues. All platforms; subscription is $10/month for monthly magazines, $15/month for monthlies and weeklies

Oyster Read a lot? Gain access to thousands of books for a monthly fee, rather than buying one e-book at a time. All platforms; subscription is $10/month

Spring Find perfect music for strolls or workouts, going with a faster rhythm for more intensity or a slower rhythm if you want to cool down. All platforms; free for five hours, $25/year for unlimited use

Best Travel Apps

Hipmunk Take the indecision out of booking flights and hotels. The "agony" feature sorts flights based on the painful aspects of traveling (layovers = cranky kids) and displays options based on which will be most pleasant. All platforms; free

TripIt Sign up, then forward travel-confirmation e-mails to and the app automatically organizes them into an itinerary that can be shared with others. All platforms; free

iExit As you go, search the next 100 interstate exits for restaurants, rest stops, hotels, and more. All platforms; free

Roadtrippers Type in your starting and ending destination and the app tells you how long the drive will be and estimates gas cost. Plot stops, or add them to a list of things to see next time. All platforms; free

GasBuddy Find the cheapest gas stations near you. All platforms; free

Peek Tours & Activities Take a quiz to get activities, bookable through Peek, in places worldwide. Sort by category ("what to do with kids"). Apple only; free

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