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Plenty of parents (especially those whose kids are still on summer break, bless) are looking up apps and games for their kids to pass the time — and help keep the peace. Parents may be averse to hearing whines of “I’m bored!” But they also don’t want to just stick a screen in front of their kids and have them veg out and get mush-brained. That’s where the best — most fun and educational, that is — apps for kids and teens come in.
These are our top picks: the best kids’ apps that the whole family will love — and that will spark imaginations of all ages. Don’t miss these.
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With content curated for kids ages 2-5, Noggin is definitely one of the best preschool apps out there. What we love most is that it’s so customizable: you just pick your kids’ favorite shows and which skills you’d like them to work on most (math, literacy, and social-emotional learning, just to name a few). Then the “Just for You” page will show your kiddo the games and videos that are most pertinent to them, featuring beloved characters from shows like PAW Patrol, Peppa Pig, Blue’s Clues, and more. You can sign up here to try Noggin free for 30 days, and it’s only $7.99 per month after that!
The Monument Valley series (parts one and two) is a fantastical world of mind-bending puzzles that, although created for kids ages 7 and up, will definitely leave teens and adults alike spellbound. Using geometry, Princess Ida goes on an adventure through impossible architectural designs and surreal landscapes of gorgeous art. This is a thinking game for sure, but it’s one that everyone in your family will fall in love with.
DIY.org — Creative Challenges
Parents will love this free app for its interactive angle; it gets kids to roll up their sleeves and make cool stuff. DIY.org brings hands-on projects to life by giving kids ample opportunity to explore arts and sciences — from making slime and simple machines to coding and experiments and so much more. Each project starts out with a how-to video, and then prompts kids through DIY-style projects that encourage recycling, learning, and teamwork.
HOMER Learn & Grow
HOMER is the brainchild of mom and educator Stephanie Dua, who struggled to find reading resources she could use at home for her daughter – so she created one. For kids as little as age 2 to those ages 6+, HOMER uses a research-based 4-step approach to teach kids the skills they need, while making learning fun.
GoNoodle — Kids’ Videos
Looking for an app to get you up and moving? GoNoodle is it, and it’s free. Beloved by kids and trusted by parents everywhere, GoNoodle gets you jumping, singing, and dancing along with fun videos and silly songs like “Peanut Butter in a Cup” and “Banana Banana Meatball.” Get your whole family’s blood pumping and faces smiling.
Co-founded by a former Disney Imagineer, Codespark introduces kids ages 5-9 to the educational world of coding – and makes it fun! Led by a group of cute characters called The Foos, your child will learn complex concepts while they’re playing. Once they master the concepts, they can start designing their very own games! Codespark is word-free and self-directed; no experience required.
If your kids love puzzles, the award-winning game app Gorogoa is going to blow their minds. This incredibly visually rich game has blended high art with mind-bending puzzles that challenge kids’ intellects and problem-solving skills. This game is perfect for the whole family — but especially for kids whose parents are running around trying to get the house clean.
Duolingo is a fun, game-like language skills app that teaches users to speak in up to 22 languages. Now, the whole family can learn conversational speaking skills in a foreign language. The lessons are short and encourage users to put the app down after some time practicing. If you’re looking for something that’s educational, doesn’t suck up an entire day of zombie-like play, and will give your family something cool to do together, then Duolingo is right up your alley.
The Robot Factory by Tinybop Inc.
The Robot Factory is a STEM game for kids to explore engineering through creative play by building, testing, and collecting fun robots. The game has millions of possible combinations for building robots that kids will love — and parents will love the fact that, as their little scientists are hard at “play,” they will be soaking up some pretty great lessons in physics.
Sushi Monster wants to eat — and he can only be fed with the correct answer to the math equations. With 12 engaging levels spanning both addition and multiplication, Sushi Monster helps kids memorize math facts and practice strategic reasoning. And as they get better, they get to unlock rewards! It’s perfect for kids ages 4+.
Parents of little kids who get super wound up and wild will love this soothing podcast app for kids. It aims to tell stories that help calm the nerves of little ones. With over 1,200 stories in the Sparkle Stories library, there is sure to be something for everyone.
You may already be familiar with the Toca Boca suite of amazingly colorful and educational apps for little kids, but Toca Nature might be one of the brand’s best. Kids are encouraged to explore and build their own imaginative natural landscape — and then watch as animals interact with the world they built. Although this app is geared toward little kids among the kindergarten set, adults have been known to be equally absorbed in the sweet Toca Nature world.
A version of this story was originally published in December 2019.