The 7 Best Apps for Toddlers of 2021

Give yourself and your toddler a much-needed break

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The 7 Best Apps for Toddlers of 2021

The 7 Best Apps for Toddlers of 2021
The 7 Best Apps for Toddlers of 2021

Best Overall : ABC Mouse

ABC Mouse

Courtesy of Apple App Store

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 second grade!

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

Courtesy of Apple App Store

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

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

Courtesy of Apple App Store

Your toddler won’t even realize she’s 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 her collection.

Best on iPad : Toca Boca

Toca Boca

Courtesy of Apple App Store

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

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

Courtesy of Apple App Store

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 two. 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!

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 2 to 3 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 $10 per month.

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Article Sources
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  1. The Nemours Foundation. Screen time guidelines for babies and toddlers. Reviewed Nov 2020

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