5 Best Apps for Kids
Seeing elementary schoolchildren equipped with smartphones is nearly as common these days as watching teens text. But while kids bum the device for a round of Angry Birds, Mom and Dad enjoy the peace that comes from something occupying their kids’ time.
A fall 2013 study by Common Sense Media reported that nearly 75% of all children (from birth to age 8) in the US have used mobile devices. Parents seem eager to download educational apps on these mobile devices for their kids, too, with 35% of lower-income parents and 75% of higher-income parents having downloaded educational apps for their children. It’s not surprising that schools across the country are using apps in their teaching. (Hey, it beats learning cursive.)
With thousands of apps for kids available, you’ll need some advice. So, we bring you The Recapp’s picks for the best kid’s apps, as tested by a handful of sticky-fingered 6- to 10-year-olds. We aimed for a mix of gaming, creation and education, all with full-on diversion in mind.
As with any apps that you let your children use, be sure to take measures to limit in-app purchases on your credit card. These include checking your device’s settings and restrictions, or attaching a virtual credit card or allowance to your app-marketplace accounts.
Yes, there are way too many fishing games on the market. But we remember spending hours playing Shark! Shark! on Intellivision as a kid, so underwater adventures have a special place on our smartphones.
In the Planet Fish app for kids, dive in a submarine and use bubbles (how humane!) to catch 200 kinds of fish, ranging from the common goldfish to the exotic Picasso triggerfish. Whatever fish you catch are moved to your virtual tank, where you must feed them regularly and watch them grow.
Your kids can sell, for pretend money, whichever fish they can bear to part with and use it to trick out their tanks with coral, plants, rocks and larger tanks. They can also purchase more exotic fishing locations. (Just be sure they don’t buy extra rubies and coins with real money through in-app purchases.)
Unblock Me is by far the most basic of our apps for kids, and it requires the most patience, but it’s great for a wide range of age groups (and highly addictive for Mom and Dad, who feel they are always one move away from winning).
The goal of this game is to free one red block from a maze of other blocks by moving them all horizontally and vertically. There are thousands of puzzles to pick from on several skill levels. You can play Unblock Me in a mode that rewards you for completing the puzzles in as few moves as possible, or in relax mode where you can take your time. When you get stuck, there are a limited number of hints available.
If this were a real alligator, you’d probably want him to stay underground…without any water. But Swampy isn’t your average sewer monster—his sole goal is to take a shower (if only your kids were this eager for one).
Your task is to keep the water flowing by guiding it through dirt, tubes and more. Where’s My Water? becomes increasingly challenging with bombs, toxic ooze, traps and some of Swampy’s adversaries along the way.
This game reminds us of Cut the Rope in that you use physics to be successful. Sometimes you’re digging through dirt to guide the water; other times you’re trying to figure out a pattern of valves to guide it. And often, we find ourselves out of water with an angry alligator.
There has to be at least a little learning involved on any best-apps-for-kids list, and Mathmeteer provides a good mix of education and fun.
In the app, you launch a rocket. Get it high enough and you are challenged with a variety of problems, including numbers (such as tapping the odd ones), time (reading clocks), money (counting change), shapes/patterns (tapping 3D objects), and multiplication/division.
There are several difficulty levels to pick from, and you can earn medals along the way. Best of all: The app allows for several different user profiles, so brothers and sisters won’t accidentally alter each other’s rockets.
Spark your child’s creativity with a virtual art studio. Mini Monet—Creative Studio and Art Club for Kids is a fantastic—and less messy—way to bring out the artist in everyone.
Mini Monet includes more than 100 coloring pages to choose from, all neatly categorized for easy finding. There are so many tools to work with, including brushes, markers, pencils, stickers, glitter and stamps. More are added regularly. The “magic pencil” is a great addition that helps users stay in the lines. To retain interest in the app, there are weekly challenges where you can win stickers to use and coins to spend in the art store. The more coins you win, the more pages and supplies you can buy! With Mini Monet, the mess stays off your carpet and the markers never run out.