When it comes to finding fun and engaging ways for preschoolers to learn, it can help if you know the right apps and games. You only need a smartphone or a tablet to help your kid learn with some of the best educational apps.
What it is: Winner of the Parents’ Choice Award, this app uses 26 action verbs (e.g. “digging” for treasure) to teach your child the ABCs with colorful graphics, interactive mini-games, and a sing-along song. Its press-and-hold feature eliminates accidental touches.
Availability: iOS 6 or later, Android
Bugs and Bubbles
What it is: Over 18 games and activities with beautiful graphics centered around Uncle Bob’s Bubble Factory, where kids can harvest, pinch, and pop bubbles. Some tasks are just for fun, while others incorporate learning tasks like patterning, letter matching, letter writing, and shape recognition. Every game starts at its easiest level and progresses with mastery. Check out the other “Bugs” apps by Little Bit Studio.
Availability: iOS 4.3 or later, Android, Windows
Dora’s Cooking Club
What it is: A game that has kids prepare and cook virtual recipes, but this game really teaches them about math. They’ll learn skills like number identification, counting, shape recognition, pattern completion, and measurement.
Availability: Nintendo DS, DSi
What it is: Teaches ABCs and vocabulary (with grown-up words like “hilarious”) with cute monsters. Each word features an interactive puzzle game with talking letters and a short animation illustrating the definition. There are no high scores, failures, limits, or stress; kids interact with the app at their own pace. Note that you must be online and have ample disk space to see words beyond the letter G.
Cost: $6.99 on iTunes, $4.99 on Amazon App Store, free download for Android on Google Play
Availability: iOS 5 or later, Android, Windows
Learn With Homer
What it is: With over 1,000 lessons and activities and 22 levels, this app was designed by literacy experts to grow with children. This app is being touted as the best learn-to-read program, with a rich library of stories. It incorporates drawing, voice recording, stories, songs, and more traditional phonics exercises. Kids are encouraged to draw or voice record their thoughts about what they’re learning. The app can have up to three separate accounts.
Availability: iOS 7 or later
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox
What it is: It’s the number one preschool game in the app store. Monkey Preschool Lunchbox is a collection of seven educational games for ages two to five that teaches kids about colors, letters, counting, shapes, sizes, matching, and differences by helping monkeys pack lunch. Kids get animated sticker rewards to encourage progress.
Availability: Requires iOS 6.0 or later, Android, Windows
What it is: This is the educational app that inspired the viral Kickstarter campaign to bring back the children’s television show, Reading Rainbow. With this app, kids explore worlds of reading — both fiction and non-fiction. They can read along with audio storytelling by Levar Burton and his hand-picked group of actors, or read on their own, or just listen and “read.” Video field trips take children on adventures. New books and videos are added every week.
Cost: Free to try (select up to five books and a sampling of educational video field trips). Subscribe and unlock an unlimited reading experience: one month Explorer for $9.99; six month Voyager for $29.99; or one year Adventurer for $49.99.
Availability: iOS 6.0 or later, Kindle Fire
What it is: A letter tracing app that’s fully customizable and let's parents check on their children’s progress, as well as add their own word lists. Motivational tools like animated stickers, sound effects, and voice recordings help make the app fun.
Availability: iOS 5.1 or later