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, they recommend pediatricians write a "prescription for play" at well-visits for kids up to age two!

As parents, we want to see our kids learn through play, and the best apps for toddlers seamlessly combine simple, interactive play time with subtle opportunities for education. Because toddlers are fickle, the best apps are affordable (in case your little one gets bored quickly), and because 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” app, these apps are the perfect blend of learning and play.

The 7 Best Apps for Toddlers of 2021

Best Overall : ABC Mouse


ABC Mouse

 ABC Mouse

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 two all the way through eight!

Do you have lots 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

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 aged 2-8.

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 now, 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 two years old, the PBS Kids apps have something for everyone, teaching early science and math skills in fun and full-color games.

Best for Airplane : Busy Shapes 2


Busy Shapes 2

Courtesy of Apple App Store

Price: $3

Ages: 4-8

iOS/Android: Both 

Why We Chose It: Use your travel time wisely with these brain-boosting 3D puzzle games that teach kids critical thinking skills without them even knowing it.

Pros
  • More than 100 visually engaging levels

  • Designed to build visual skills like hand-eye coordination

  • 3D puzzle animation

Cons
  • Some users complain about app crashes or loading problems

  • May be tricky for toddlers to use without supervision

Sadly, you can’t assume that your toddler’s favorite app will work the same way when you aren't connected to WiFi. That’s why it’s a good idea to download some apps that work in airplane mode before hopping on a plane with your toddler. Our pick for best airplane app for toddlers is Busy Shapes 2!

This updated offering from one of the most popular toddler apps is a fully functional app, even in airplane mode. Here, your toddler will learn shapes by dragging and dropping shapes into matching holes. The activity is brought to life by stunning visuals and beautiful, calming background music your kids will love. The shapes are made of real-life objects like fruit, helping your kids to associate shapes that are part of their daily lives.

Best Educational : Monkey Preschool Lunchbox


Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

 Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

Price: $2

Ages: 2-5

iOS/Android: Both 

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

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
  • Dozens of games to choose, including some free

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

  • Games for beginners, animal lovers, 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 hair dryer). 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

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. Toddlers will be instantly drawn to the game that 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

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
  • 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, they can “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!

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

Compare Apps

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

FAQs

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. The exception to this rule is video chatting with family members or friends. Toddlers 18 months to 24 months old can start to enjoy some high-quality programming and apps alongside a parent or caregiver. Kids two to three years old should get no more than one hour of screen time a day. 

If you’re going to allow your toddler to have some screen time, use it as an opportunity to interact with your little one. For example, playing an interactive game together is a good option. Meanwhile, setting them down in front of the television while you watch your favorite show is less than optimal screen time and should be avoided.

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, which could also lead to emotional and developmental issues.

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. You can make an in-app purchase to access a premium version. 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.

Methodology

When rounding up the best apps for toddlers, we searched for apps that catered to the two- to four-year old set; while some of these apps can be used by older kids, we wanted to choose 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.

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5 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.
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