Before your child starts school, they’ll hit a lot of important milestones! Fortunately, in the age of technology, many preschool apps can help nurture your child’s creativity, imagination, and skills.
Are Educational Apps Good for Preschoolers?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children younger than 18 months do not engage with screens, with one exception: video chatting. Toddlers 18-24 months can start to enjoy occasional screen time with a parent or caregivers. By ages 2 and 3, kids should watch no more than one hour daily.
Ideally, you should engage with media with your child to help them understand what they are seeing and apply what they learn to the real world (1).
Tips for Finding the Right Preschool Apps
When choosing an app for your preschooler, read more than just the developer’s description of the app. Search for reviews from real users, and try it out yourself. At FamilyApp, we are not paid to promote any of the apps we recommend. However, we still advise you to try any apps yourself before letting your preschooler engage (and make sure your child can’t unknowingly buy features or engage in inappropriate activity).
The physical world provides the best learning environment for your child because it’s filled with sensory stimuli that engage many parts of their brain. Apps on mobile phones and computer games only engage their brains in a limited capacity.
While apps may seem to be stepping up their coolness factor every year, enticing kids at younger ages, the best teacher will always be outside of a smartphone. Even activities as simple as a card game, playtime with blocks, a workbook, a coloring book, or social interactions on a playground can provide the enrichment your child needs to prepare them for Kindergarten and the education system in general!
But we get it! Sometimes, you’re at the grocery store and trying to avoid a meltdown close to naptime. Maybe you’re on a 10-hour road trip and need an hour or two of peace. Whatever your reason, sometimes having a portable and engaging activity can be a lifesaver. And educational games can have plenty of benefits, too! Especially if you tailor activities and games to your child’s needs.
What Are the Best Free Preschool Apps?
With all that in mind, here are some of our favorite apps that can help supplement and nurture your little learner’s early education:
Busy Shapes — This app is excellent for engaging fine motor skills for even the youngest app users. With plenty of explore-to-learn activities based on Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, kids will learn about their world by manipulating and exploring it. It’s even great for the youngest users to play without crashing or accidentally swiping out of the app!
Moose Math — If you’re ready for your child to venture into the world of simple math, then Moose Math is ready to help! This free app engages kids in a mathematical adventure and teaches counting, addition, subtraction, sorting, geometry, and more. They’ll think they’re simply “making smoothies” while they’re actually learning basic math skills!
Hooked on Phonics Learn and Read — If you were a child of the ’90s, you might remember the popular catchphrase “hooked on Phonics” that took literacy education by storm. With lots of fine-tuning since then, the program within this app will help your child learn to recognize letters, sounds, and words. Their pre-reader section may be a good place to start for the youngest learners. This program introduces pre-readers to the alphabet and letter sounds – critical skills they’ll need to begin Step 1 of the Learn to Read program. This app is free, but it does contain in-app purchases.
What Are Good Preschool Apps?
Toca Nature — This app is excellent for creative exploration. While there’s no replacing the value of outdoor playtime and exploration, kids can use Toca Nature to spark their interests in a range of topics, including ecology, animal habitats and diet, conservation, and plant life. After creating their own personalized forests, they can observe what foods the animals like, tree types, what happens when they add trees or take away mountains, etc. It costs $3.99 to download.
Peekaboo Barn — This app is the definition of simple–your child can press on barn doors to reveal a new animal and the sounds that it makes. The coolest feature: You (or the grandparents) can record your voice saying the animal names for your kid to hear! This app will definitely come in handy when you need a quick distraction for the youngest ones.
Daniel Tiger’s Day and Night — Does your child struggle to get into the groove of morning and evening routines? Based on the PBS KIDS series Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, this app is designed to extend the series’ social-emotional curriculum, helping kids practice important daily routines. Once they’ve got the hang of these routines, they’ll be better prepared for the crucial routines and organization they’ll experience in Kindergarten class and beyond. It costs $2.99 to download.
My PlayHome — If your child is all about imaginative play, this virtual playhouse is perfect for making their ideas and fantasies come to life within an app. It’s like a virtual dollhouse! Kids can choose from five “types” of family members with different genders, ages, and skin tones, allowing for flexibility in creating various family types! Family members can hang out in the living room, listening to music, watching TV, or playing with the fish. They can even play on the swing in the backyard or work in the garden. Again, this is fun for an occasional treat, but make sure screen time doesn’t replace real-life imaginative play, which provides the best learning experiences. It costs $3.99 to download.
What Are the Best Educational Apps for 4-Year-Olds?
Epic! — If your child is crazy about books, this might be the app for them! Epic! is an e-book library with over 35,000 children’s books (and it includes a read-to-me feature for little ones who are still learning to read). This app is a perfect way to take reading wherever your device goes (without the hassle of kindle books). It’s also great for families with kids of various ages. You can explore it with a free one-month trial, and after that, it’s $9.99/month.
ABCMouse — This one is a crowd favorite, available both as an app and a website. It uses fun storyline-based videos, quizzes, and activities. It even has a virtual map outlining your child’s learning path. With more than 850 lessons across ten levels ranging from Preschool to 2nd grade, your child will certainly stay busy! After a one-month free trial, it’s a $9.95/month subscription.
Khan Academy Kids — This is a huge database of activities based on learning themes from Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework and Common Core standards. Your child can explore activities in math, English literacy, and language arts, executive function, socio-emotional learning, and creative expression.
Getting the Most Out of Preschool Apps
Are you ready to start exploring the wonderful world of preschool apps? No matter your child’s learning curve, an app is a great way to supplement their natural learning progression and exploration in preschool education. Share your favorite preschool apps on your favorite family app or with us at #getFamilyApp, or share exciting milestones your child reaches in their learning!
1. Council on Communications and Media. Media and young minds. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2591