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The Best Educational Apps for Toddlers & Preschoolers That Engage, Inspire & Enlighten

The Best Educational Apps for Toddlers <span class="amp">&</span> Preschoolers That Engage, Inspire <span class="amp">&</span> Enlighten

One of the greatest struggles we’ve experienced as parents has been how to foster digital savvy-ness in our children – while we don’t want to shield them from today’s latest technology (hello, iPad!), we want to make sure that what they’re experiencing is still helping their little brains grow.

Yep, we’re talking about Screen Time, and specifically, how to make the best of it for younger children.

Well Mamas, we at What Moms Love are here to help with this conundrum, and banish that mom guilt that often comes with Screen Time once and for all.

We've searched high and low, tested with countless subjects, and objectively experienced all of the best digital apps on the market and have pulled together our recommendations for the Top 10 Best Educational Apps for Toddlers and Preschoolers.

These are apps that you do not have to feel any guilt about handing your child when the going gets tough, because each of them truly fosters educational (and sometimes even emotional) growth...not to mention they are all extremely fun and super engaging!

We've not only included our written recommendation, but also included a trailer video for each app so you can easily get an idea of the general concept - making it easy peasy for you to choose you favorites to download before that upcoming 6-hour road trip.

Editor's Note: We want to stress that we are not advocating the use of tablets and apps as a substitute for real life situations and socializing with your child. As we all know, one-on-one time and imaginative play is of monumental importance at this age. Their little brains are like sponges, after all! In fact, the AAP does not recommend the use of any screen media (other than video chatting) before 18 months of age, and for children 2-5 years old, they recommend limiting screen use to 1 hour per day of high quality programming. They also recommended that parents co-view the media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.

Note: this post may contain affiliate links. For more information, please see our disclosure policy.

PIN to reference before your next airplane ride!

The Best Educational Apps for toddlers and preschoolers
The Top 10

And now, we would like to present our tried and true list of the best educational apps for toddlers and preschoolers, presented in no particular order:

Avokiddo ABC Ride

Avokiddo ABC Ride takes your child on an exciting adventure through the alphabet – with tons of interactive fun that will keep them thoroughly engaged. After choosing who you want to take on your adventure (Beck or Bo), you can begin your hunt for letters through different challenges like catching the apricots that fall from the tree (A) or popping balloons to reveal the missing letter (B). After completing the game, ABC Ride puts the alphabet into action and your child can fill in the letters for the words like "APRICOT" or "BALLOON" while listening to the letter names or phonetic sounds.

We love that you can adjust the degree of difficulty by choosing from lowercase or uppercase letters and selecting if the letters are shuffled or in order. Super fun and a great introduction to the ABCs and basic phonics where your child will be excited to see what letter adventure comes next.

WML Recommended Age: 2-5
Price: $2.99 (no in-app purchases)
Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
WiFi Needed? No

 

Bugs and Buttons

Between the gorgeous animation and the accompanying music, this game was an absolute blast for our test subjects (and their parents too!). Each "level" requires your little to perform a different task with bugs that teaches concepts like numbers, colors, shapes and puzzles – like finding all the matching colored fireflies to collect in a jar, or manipulating a bumblebee through a maze. Our 3-year old test subjects were challenged, but always encouraged, since each level of the game was completely different than the last, so they were excited to see what was next.

WML Recommended Age: Because of some more difficult tactile manipulation (like using two fingers on the screen instead of one), we recommend this for slightly older toddlers 3-5
Price: $2.99 (no in-app purchases)
Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire
WiFi Needed? No

 

Moose Math

This is an amazing app to introduce the concepts of numbers and math to your child in a fun city-setting. Stop in to the Moose Juice Store and practice counting, addition and subtraction by making a smoothie, or swing by the Lost and Found to group similar objects together. By solving these problems, kids earn rewards (which they looove!) to help them build their own city and decorate the buildings – a great form of motivation to keep them learning.

We particularly loved the parent "report card" which shows you the thought and learning process behind each game and what your little is mastering or needs more work on according to the app. Plus... you can't beat the price!

WML Recommended Age: 3-5+
Price: FREE (no in-app purchases)
Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
WiFi needed? No

 

LeapFrog Academy

LeapFrog Academy is so much more than just an app – it’s an interactive educational adventure that your child can journey through, all while learning age-appropriate skills. You select the grade-level curriculum (pre-school to first grade) and then your child can navigate their custom avatar through a fun 3D world (one of our testers remarked, “I want to live there!”) where they can play different learning activities, earn rewards and unlock new levels.

Each learning activity focuses on a different skill – whether it be purely academic like language, math, reading and science, or more creative skills like problem solving and social-emotional development. LeapFrog Academy covers it all. And the best part? The activities are so fun and engaging (a favorite: whack-a-mole letter matching!) that your kids don’t even realize they’re learning.

We love that you can create 5 different child profiles so your whole family can learn at their own pace, and the parent dashboard gives you the inside scoop as to how each child is progressing.

Unlike many apps which are likely to get stale over time, this one has major staying power. There’s over 1,000 learning activities, plus a vast selection of LeapFrog’s best eBooks, games, puzzles and videos. There’s even a special area called “My Learning Lab” that offers extra practice in subjects they may need a bit more help on, or serves up more difficult activities to keep them challenged. So smart!

If there was only one app we’d recommend you download before a long trip, this would be it. The time it kept our testers engaged was off the charts!

To give LeapFrog Academy a try, sign up here for their free 1 month trial.

WML Recommended Age: 3-6
Price: Free 1-month trial; $7.99/month thereafter (no in-app purchases)
Available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
Wi-Fi Needed? Yes, although you can add 24 games to your “favorites” which you can play without a Wi-Fi connection

 

AlphaTots and TallyTots

While these apps are a little flashcard-y (that can be a word, right?!), they are also extremely entertaining and a hit with our toddler test subjects. Both apps help tots associate the letter or number with their sounds and they also do a great job of illustrating where the letter is in the sequence of the alphabet or how that number looks written down.

Some parental assistance will likely be required for understanding the concepts of these apps, so they are both great options for when you want to sit down and work with your toddler on the essentials of numbers and letters.

WML Recommended Age: 2.5-4
Price: $2.99 each (no in-app purchases)
Available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, Nook the HD
WiFi Needed? No

 

Alien Buddies

This app was a surprising finalist for us, but our younger test tots couldn't stop playing! It’s a great way to start teaching colors, letters and shapes – whether it be choosing the correct shaped alien that matches the shapes on flying saucers, or putting together simple interactive puzzles.

We recommend Mama's helping hand in the beginning to help them understand the games, but after being shown once, our kiddos were able to independently work through the matching and puzzles, even giving themselves a round of applause between each correct and complete game. This one will keep your kiddos' brains working!

WML Recommended Age: 2-3.5
Price: $1.99 (no in-app purchases)
Available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
WiFi needed? No

 

Drive About: Number Neighborhood

Super entertaining and educational, this app can keep a preschooler engaged for a good amount of time... and bonus, they’re learning too! Drive About has a sort of Candy Land vibe where you move your mode of transportation (from cars to submarines to rockets and hot air balloons) to different challenges and games related to numbers and sequencing.

The educational aspect is “hidden” via fun actions like sling-shotting food into a whale's mouth, catching numbers on sea pickles using whack-a-mole tactics, or slaloming past the correctly numbered flags with a moose.

We loved that the app uses a child's voice and fun sounds to narrate throughout which our testers found incredibly engaging. This one is pure fun!

WML Recommended Age: 3-4
Price: $2.99 (no in-app purchases)
Available on iPad
WiFi needed? No

 

Sago Mini Puppy Preschool

This entertaining app comes from a line of brilliantly fun apps from Sago Mini. They have so many, it was hard to choose just one, but we found Puppy Preschool to be the most educational. It provides kids with exciting ways to learn about colors, spatial recognition, music (thanks to a colorful doggie xylophone!) and an introduction to numbers.

We loved the way this app encouraged kids to free play and explore as well – teaching them how to appropriately manipulate objects with the tablet screen.

WML Recommended Age: 2-3
Price: $2.99 (no in-app purchases)
Available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire
WiFi needed? No

 

Metamorphabet

There are few apps where we'd venture to say we wouldn't mind it as our adult screensaver due to the visual appeal, but Metamorphabet is beautifully done and mesmerizing to watch. It allows a child to focus on one letter at a time and see a few examples of how that letter connects to common words (which they can discover by touching the letter and moving things around). This app would be a great option for early introduction to the Alphabet and especially engaging for our younger tots.

WML Recommended Age: 2-3
Price: $3.99 (no in-app purchases)
Available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
WiFi Needed? No

 

Endless Apps (including Endless Numbers, Endless Alphabet, Endless Wordplay, Endless Reader & Endless Spanish)

OK, before you get scared off by some of the prices for these full apps, let us say that we were pretty skeptical going into our testing that they would ever warrant such an investment. We didn't think that these little creatures could possibly engage our toddler testers to make it worth the price, but we have to say, we were pleasantly surprised. It's clear that Endless knows what they’re doing!

We most highly recommend Endless Numbers for its incredible learning power and imagination-evoking characters. How the game works is that your child fills in the outlines of empty numbers, and then is able to watch a short skit introducing that number in a "real life" scenario. It provides a great introduction to numbers and even basic addition in a succinct and fun way that does not overwhelm.

We must note that it did take a little longer for our test subjects to love this game as much as we did. But by the second or third trial, our toddlers were literally giggling and clapping to themselves as they completed each challenge. Try the free version and stick with it!

In addition to Numbers, we have nothing but love for Alphabet, Wordplay, Reader and Spanish – all also made by Endless.

WML Recommended Age: 2-5; Wordplay 3-5
Price: Sold in a pack or separately:

  • Endless Numbers - Price: Free trial with numbers 1-5. In-app purchase of $6.99 needed for #6-25 and $14.99 for all  #1-100
    Available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad.
  •  Endless Alphabet - Price: $8.99
    Available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, Apps for Windows and Windows Phone
  •  Endless Spanish - Price: Free to Try; 4 packs available, each $5.99 or buy all 4 for $11.99
    Available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
  •  Endless Reader – Price: Free to Try; Reader packs $5.99 each or 4-pack bundles for $11.99; all bundles $29.99
    Available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
  •  Endless Wordplay - Price: Starter pack (90 words) is $6.99; full version (270 words) is $14.99
    Available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad,

Wifi Needed? Wifi is not needed once app has downloaded new material, but if you want to pull in more numbers, letters or words, be sure to log on to WiFi and download them before you go anywhere!

 

honorable mentions

These apps were thisclose to making the Top 10 and we just couldn't part ways without sharing them as well.

Fish School

This app is a wonderful option for younger toddlers who are just being introduced to the concepts of counting and the alphabet. The simplicity of this game allows the child to truly hone in on the subject, and our test toddlers loved watching the silly looking fish swim around to form letters and numbers. This app also has several fun activities where your tot can find the odd-fish-out, play a memory-type matching game or learn shapes and colors.

At this price (free!), what do you have to lose?!

WML Recommended Age: 2-3
Price: FREE
Available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
WiFi Needed? No

 

Tongo Music

We toiled with whether this app should be in the top ten list. It is truly an extraordinary open-ended app that introduces toddlers to the fundamentals of classical music.

They see that when they press a piano key, a flower grows and a note shows up on the musical staff for the corresponding note, and they can connect the dots to make a treble or bass clef. In addition, Tongo brings your child on a musical journey by playing classical music as a character plays "The Swan" on his animated cello, or "The Nutcracker" on his flute.

We love that Tongo introduces these fundamentals through play and exploration instead of rigid levels as the open-ended nature piques curiosity and encourages further experimentation.

If you’re a music buff and want to pass that love along to your child, this app is for you!

WML Recommended Age: 2-4
Price: $2.99 (no in-app purchases)
Available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
WiFi Needed? No

 

My Very Hungry Caterpillar

We loved this app, although it didn't make the final cut because it is not educational in the traditional sense. However, we felt it was so unique that we just had to mention it as an option for imaginative toddler play. The app is basically an extension of Eric Carle's classic book mixed with a sort of "Giga Pet" idea (do you remember the Tamagotchi and Giga Pet craze?!) where you have to feed and play with your caterpillar each day before you put it to bed.

Each "morning", you wake your caterpillar up and there are new challenges and things to play with including painting, making music, and watering your garden. After around 6 days, your caterpillar is quite large and makes a cocoon, emerging the next day as a beautiful butterfly. A great lesson on the life cycle!

WML Recommended Age: 2-4
Price: $3.99 (no in-app purchases)
Available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Windows Phone
WiFi Needed? No

 

So there you have it. Your very own toddler emergency app list that will not only entertain your little, but teach them something too. Win-Win!
best headphones for kids
It seems like all toddlers love to crank up the volume to fully immerse themselves in their chosen entertainment, so we also wanted to pass on our favorite kid-friendly headphones to spare everyone else (particularly plane passengers!) from their personal “party”, and also to keep the noise level safe for their little ears.
LilGadgets Connect+

These LilGadgets headphones are super comfy and specially made to fit children aged 2-8. Our favorite feature is the cool SharePort, which allows parents to check volume levels or hook up a second pair of headphones so they can share a device with siblings or friends. The volume is limited to the max safe level for children, and they can fold up to fit in the accompanying microfiber carrying pouch for easy travel and storage.

They also come in a Bluetooth version, the LilGadgets Untangled Pro.

 

 

ONANOFF BuddyPhones

These headphones are truly made for sharing – with a built-in splitter where up to 4 other BuddyPhones can be shared on the same device. They are super durable – you can bend and twist them to your heart’s content, and have a detachable plug into the headphones that eliminates cord wear ‘n’ tear. The volume is limited to a kid-safe level and they can be easily folded to fit in a travel pouch. BuddyPhones also comes with 6 different sets of stickers that kids can use to decorate and customize their headphones – fun!

 

 
Kidz Gear Wired Headphones

We love that the volume control on these Kidz Gear Wired Headphones is located right on the cord, so you don't have to keep fiddling with your device. They also come with a volume limit cable which you can plug in to make the audio stay at a safe level.

There’s also a fold-flat version and a cord-free Bluetooth version.

Pssst - before you go, we'd love to have you join our What Moms Love community and we'll hook you up with all of our exclusive resources including our popular 10 Screen-Free Toys For Guaranteed Quiet Time (this is seriously a game changer mamas!), Holiday/Birthday Coupon Book for Kids and 35 Food Subs & Swaps for Healthy Family Meals. Just let us know where to send all your goodies!

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Meghan Papp

Meghan Papp

About The Author:

Meghan is an Advertising Exec turned Mommy who is currently living in the Netherlands with her 2 year old daughter and husband. She is a proud military spouse who craves stability, a clean freak who hates cleaning, and a planner whose New Year's resolution is to live in the moment.

About The Author

Meghan Papp

About the Author: Meghan Papp Meghan is an Advertising Exec turned Mommy who is currently living in the Netherlands with her two-year-old daughter and husband. She is a proud military spouse who craves stability, a clean freak who hates cleaning, and a planner whose New Year's resolution is to live in the moment.

1 Comment

  1. Ohhhh these seem so awesome! Thanks for such a practical post! Pinning for the future!

    Reply

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