Best Apps for Toddlers

ABC Mouse mixes games, puzzles, and education methods, motivating kids to learn

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Finding just the right app for your toddler is a tricky business: Toddlers are naturally curious and want to learn, but their attention spans are generally too short for education-only games, puzzles, and activities. They need a lot of play mixed in, too, especially since play is one of the primary ways that toddlers learn about the world around them.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics feels so strongly about the link between play and child development, that they recommend pediatricians write a "prescription for play" at well-visits for kids up to age 2!

As parents, we want to see our kids learn through play, and the best apps for toddlers seamlessly combine simple, interactive playtime with subtle opportunities for education. Because toddlers are fickle, the best apps are affordable (in case your little one gets bored quickly), and since toddlers are still working on mastering their fine motor skills, these apps should also be created with little hands in mind. 

If you’re looking for a way to build up some of your toddler’s literacy and math skills without forcing them to sit down with an “educational” program, these apps are the perfect blend of learning and play.

The 7 Best Apps for Toddlers of 2022

Best Overall : ABC Mouse


ABC Mouse

 ABC Mouse

Key Specs

  • Price: $13 per month
  • Ages: 2-8
  • iOS/Android: Both

Why We Chose It

As a comprehensive learning program, you can use ABCMouse to supplement your child’s preschool education or learn important skills from home.

Pros
  • Multiple learning tracks for math, reading, art, and more

  • Ticket reward system lets kids “buy” virtual prizes

  • Can be customized for your child’s age and skill level

Cons
  • A recurring monthly investment

  • Some kids may not be challenged enough by the content

ABCmouse, an educational app with a subscription-based service, gets our vote for the best overall app for toddlers. Although it isn’t free, it certainly goes the distance if you’re looking for a great educational app for kids. It begins in a virtual classroom where your kids can select from a number of different adventures. There are many lessons to choose from that teach reading, math, coloring, counting, and music skills. ABCmouse allows you to add your child's age in the settings so it can create a customized experience for kids from as young as 2 all the way through age 8.

Do you have a gaggle of little ones? Add up to three siblings to your subscription for the same monthly fee. It’s easy to switch between users so all your kids can get in on the learning action. The content gets more difficult as your child enters school and progresses through the early elementary grades. ABCmouse has lots of fun rewards, too.

Best Budget : PBS Kids


PBS Kids

 PBS Kids

Key Specs

  • Price: Free
  • Ages: 2-8
  • iOS/Android: Both

Why We Chose It

Free, fun, and full of your kid’s favorite characters, the PBS Kids app offers games, videos, and other cool content for kids ages 2-8.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Familiar, toddler-favorite characters

  • Play within the worlds of your kid’s favorite shows

  • You can watch PBS Kids shows without a television

Cons
  • Games are only somewhat educational

  • Only select shows are available in full or for download

Who doesn’t love PBS? It’s been a staple in child entertainment for decades, from Sesame Street to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood—and it’s still going strong today. With the free PBS Kids Video and PBS Kids Games apps, your kids can play games and watch videos based on today’s most popular PBS shows like Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and Cat in the Hat. Suitable for kids as young as 2 years old, the PBS Kids apps have something for everyone, teaching early science and math skills in fun and full-color games.

Best Educational : Monkey Preschool Lunchbox


Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

 Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

  • Price: $2
  • Ages: 2-5
  • iOS/Android: iOS 

Why We Chose It: Preschoolers can build basic skills with seven easy-to-navigate games centered on letters, shapes, colors, and more.

Pros
  • Made for preschoolers to use without a parent

  • Reinforces toddler-friendly skills like matching and counting

  • Sticker rewards to track your child’s progress

Cons
  • May be too simplistic or repetitive for your child

  • Some users dislike the sound effects

Your toddler won’t even realize they're learning when you download the fun toddler app, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox. They’ll learn colors, shapes, and counting in an effortlessly fun interface led by the adorably lovable monkey, Milo. Each activity that’s successfully completed comes with an immediate reward where your toddler will get to choose a sticker to add to their collection.

Best on iPad : Toca Boca


Toca Boca

 Toca Boca

Key Specs

  • Price: Free to $4
  • Ages: 4+
  • iOS/Android: Both

Why We Chose It

The Toca Boca suite of apps for kids is an interactive way to explore the world by cooking, cutting hair, building a neighborhood, and taking care of pets.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Dozens of games to choose, including some free

  • Some games can be purchased as a bundle for discounted pricing

  • Games for beginners, animal lovers, budding engineers, and more

Cons
  • Some games are not as interesting or appealing as others

  • Hard to know which game your child will like until you try it

The Toca Boca suite of apps has become one of the most popular brands out there. Through fun, engaging apps full of bright colors and great sounds, Toca brings to life a host of activities like cooking, taking care of pets and sick patients, hairstyling, and even chemistry. For the youngest set, try a role-playing app like Toca Doctor (more on this one below) or a simple app like hairstyling (kids can’t get enough of the hairdryer). And as they grow, your kids can design and build their own city with the Toca Life apps.

Best on Android : Balloon Pop


Balloon Pop

Courtesy of Google Play Store

Key Specs

  • Price: Free
  • Ages: Not indicated
  • iOS/Android: Both (works better on Android)

Why We Chose It

The concept is simple but addictive, offering gameplay that’s educational or just for fun.

Pros
  • Different game modes for education, like letters and numbers

  • Can be played just for fun to keep your child busy

  • Easy for even little hands to play

Cons
  • Can get boring or repetitive after a while

  • Free for basic, but more levels requires in-app purchases

This free app is part of a group of apps from App Family. Available on the Android platform, they're fun for a variety of ages. The puzzles make a great choice for older kids, while toddlers will be instantly drawn to the game which allows them to pop balloons as they rise from the bottom of the screen to the top. It’s simple enough for even the youngest of players to grasp, and it’s fully customizable too. Change the size of the balloons and the speed at which they move, making it easier for beginners and more challenging as your child masters the game.

Best Role-Playing : Toca Doctor


Toca Doctor

 Toca Doctor

Key Specs

  • Price: $4
  • Ages: 3+
  • iOS/Android: iOS 

Why We Chose It

Kids love to play doctor, but you don’t have to be their volunteer patient anymore; puzzles and silly animations encourage them to test out their medical skills on the app instead of you.

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Includes interesting graphics of the human body for anatomy learning

  • Physics-focused “mini games”

  • Teaches basic skills but also encourages empathy and critical thinking

Cons
  • Best for 3-year olds; may not hold an older child’s attention

  • Once you’ve played the levels, there’s no way to advance or do more

Spark your toddler’s empathy or pave the way for a future in medicine with the Toca Doctor app. Part of the ever-popular suite of Toca Boca apps, this full-color app boasts a number of educational games for toddlers, set against a medical theme. This is one of the most simple Toca apps, suitable for kids as young as three. Kids can cover boo-boos of different sizes with bandages, “erase” scratches with cotton balls, brush teeth to chase away germs, or squirt eye drops into eyes. This game is sure to keep your little ones occupied for more than just a few minutes!

Best for Parental Monitoring : Bark


Bark logo

Courtesy of Bark

Key Specs
  • Price: $14/month
  • Ages: All ages
  • iOS/ Android: Both
Why We Chose It

The Bark app is best for overall parent monitoring. It offers parent alerts for both security threats and screen time limits. These restrictions and alerts aid in creating healthy and safe phone/tablet usage. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Set screen time limits

  • Restrict inappropriate apps and websites

  • Parental alerts for cyberbullying and online predators

  • Location Monitoring

Cons
  • App can be easily deleted by the child

  • Alerts are delayed

  • Requires a sizeable amount of storage space

With Bark’s settings and parent alerts, users can have peace knowing that their child’s devices are safe. Bark monitors texts, email, Youtube content, websites, search history, social media, and apps. It has alerts for screen usage, cyberbullying, potential predators, and many other safety threats. Bark also offers resources and professional recommendations to parents when security issues arise. 

The Bark alerts actually help save its user’s time. There is no longer the need to personally monitor or comb through their child’s texts and usage. The app’s dashboard provides parents with an overall view of their child’s internet usage. Its reports detail which sites they’re frequenting if there are any security threats, how much time they’re spending in each app, and conversations across all apps. 

The best perk of the Bark app is ultimately the peace of mind that it offers parents. The screen time limits and security features promote a healthier relationship with their phone/ tablet.

Final Verdict

If you’re hoping to use an app to teach your child key literacy and math skills on a regular basis, ABCMouse is worth the monthly investment, but if you want something with less commitment, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox is a low-key learning app for even the littlest kiddos. PBS Kids is a free and fun way for your toddler to play alongside their favorite TV show characters, but you can’t go wrong with any of the role-playing apps from Toca Boca

The 7 Best Apps for Toddlers of 2022

Verywell / Designed by Amelia Manley 

Compare Apps

Apps for Toddlers Price Ages iOS/Android
Best Overall: ABC Mouse $13 per month 2-8 Both
Best Budget: PBS Kids Free 2-8 Both
Best Educational: Monkey Preschool Lunchbox $2 2-5 iOS
Best on iPad Toca Boca Varies from free to $4 4+ Both
Best on Android: Balloon Pop Free Not indicated Both (works better on Android)
Best Role-Playing: Toca Doctor $4 3+ iOS
Best for Parental Monitoring: Bark $14 per month All ages Both

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How Much Screen Time Should Toddlers Have?

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies younger than 18 months have no screen time at all. Toddlers 18 to 24 months old can start to enjoy some high-quality programming and apps alongside a parent or caregiver. Kids 2 to 3 years old should get no more than one hour of screen time a day. 

    It’s also a good idea to establish screen time limits when your child is a toddler. Doing so will make these guidelines easier to enforce as they get older. Also, try to keep bedrooms and mealtimes screen-free for all, and schedule lots of non-screen activities into your toddler’s day.

  • What Are Some Pros and Cons of Apps for Toddlers?

    High-quality, interactive, and age-appropriate apps for toddlers can help them learn and expand their cognitive skills, as well as develop their technical and media literacy. If you and your toddler play with apps together, it also can strengthen your parent-child relationship.

    However, children learn best from interacting with others, so too much screen time may be detrimental to their social and emotional development. If you give your child an iPad or phone when they’re bored, upset, or frustrated, they’re missing opportunities to develop important self-regulation and problem-solving skills. Excess screen time also can impact their sleep quality and studies have linked poor sleep quality to emotional and behavioral problems in toddlers.

    Be sure to research and review apps before your toddler starts using them. For instance, organizations such as Common Sense Media rate and recommend apps for their age appropriateness and educational value. Overall, the best apps for toddlers are ones that focus on exploration and open-ended play, encouraging them to engage and learn.  

  • How Much Do Apps for Toddlers Cost?

    Many apps for toddlers are free to download, but those versions sometimes have limited features.  Other apps for toddlers charge a one-time download cost, usually in the range of $1 to $4. Some educational apps for toddlers that are more comprehensive offer a customized curriculum and are subscription-based. They’re available for a monthly or yearly fee, which can range from approximately $5 to $15 per month.



  • How Can I Keep My Toddler Safe While Using an App?

    Parent monitoring apps are a great way to prevent your child from accidentally stumbling onto unsafe or explicit content. They also provide parents with a snapshot of their child’s usage. However, the best form of parental control is you.

    Set clear boundaries with your child, and have frequent conversations about how they spend their time in an app. A combination of modeling healthy device use, and parental monitoring apps is a great way to ensure the safety of your child.

Methodology

When rounding up the best apps for toddlers, we searched for apps that catered to the 2- to 4-year-old set; while some of these apps can be used by older kids, we sought out apps that didn’t require a lot of reading or even dexterity (since preschoolers are still building those skills). We also looked for apps that encouraged some kind of learning alongside play, whether it was colors and numbers, pre-literacy, role play, or motor skills.

Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Yogman M, Garner A, Hutchinson J, et al. The power of play: a pediatric role in enhancing development in young childrenPediatrics. 2018;142(3). doi:10.1542/peds.2018-2058

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Where we stand: screen time.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Growing up digital: media research symposium.

  4. Canadian Paediatric Society, Digital Health Task Force, Ottawa, Ontario . Screen time and young children: Promoting health and development in a digital world [published correction appears in Paediatr Child Health. 2018 Feb;23 (1):83]Paediatr Child Health. 2017;22(8):461-477. doi:10.1093/pch/pxx123

  5. Hale L, Kirschen GW, LeBourgeois MK, et al. Youth screen media habits and sleep: sleep-friendly screen-behavior recommendations for clinicians, educators, and parents. Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2018;27(2):229-245. doi:10.1016/j.chc.2017.11.014

  6. Morales-Muñoz I, Lemola S, Saarenpää-Heikkilä O, et al. Parent-reported early sleep problems and internalising, externalising and dysregulation symptoms in toddlers. BMJ Paediatrics Open. 2020;4(1):e000622. doi:10.1136/bmjpo-2019-000622

By Sarah Bradley
Sarah Bradley is a freelance health and parenting writer who has been published in Parents, the Washington Post, and more.

Updated by
Ashley Rowe
Ashley Rowe

Ashley has nearly 15 years of experience teaching in early childhood education. She has written for early childhood education blogs and newsletters and focused her expertise on developing a curriculum around The Nature Explore project. Ashley has helped develop nutritional guides for families and education centers in Southern California, as well as spearheaded the implementation of physical fitness programs for children. 

Learn about our editorial process