The 5 Best Free iPad Apps for Toddlers

Games, activities, learning, and entertainment for your toddler

A young child sitting with her mother and using an iPad.

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Many of the great apps out there for toddlers you have to pay for, but several excellent free apps will keep your toddler entertained and even do a little teaching along the way. Here are five apps for iPad that you and your toddler will love.

Before you download apps, child-proof your iPad. The first step is to turn off in-app purchases to keep your toddler from accidentally buying something within the app.

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YouTube Kids

Screenshot of the YouTube Kids iPad app

What We Like

  • Toddlers see kid-friendly, algorithm-curated content from YouTube.

  • You can create an age-appropriate profile for each child.

  • Parents hand-pick channels for their kids.

What We Don't Like

  • The algorithm allows some inappropriate content through.

  • Content contains ads.

  • Parents need to monitor kids' viewing choices.

YouTube Kids is a selection of kid-friendly channels that range from Sesame Street and Peppa Pig to educational and music videos. Perhaps the best feature is the voice-enabled search, which enables kids to perform their own searches and find their own videos. 

The app is kid safe and doesn't show advertisements, but it does have "unpacking" videos, which are videos of a toy being unpacked and played with. These videos can be rather addictive to young kids, and unfortunately, the timer in the parental settings of the app doesn't work very well.

Price: Free

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Laugh & Learn: Shapes & Colors

Screenshot of the Laugh & Learn™ Shapes & Colors Music Show for Baby iPad app

What We Like

  • This colorful, friendly app is perfect for babies and toddlers.

  • Sing along with the included tunes.

  • Children learn shapes and colors in a fun way.

What We Don't Like

  • The app specifies ages 4+, which is way too old for this app.

  • The music keyboard and notes don't correlate.

Designed for the Apptivity case, you don't actually need Fisher-Price's accessory for your kid to enjoy this app. Toddlers can tap at the Laugh & Learn Shapes & Colors screen, touching shapes and making new shapes appear. The app also has a fun keyboard so that kids can play along with the shapes and colors song. This one may not go far in actually teaching your child shapes and colors, but it is entertaining.

Price: Free

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Screenshot of the PBS KIDS Video iPad app

What We Like

  • Kids see live streams of educational videos and PBS shows.

  • The app is filled with familiar PBS characters.

  • In-app purchases are confined to the parents' section.

What We Don't Like

  • The app has no search bar.

  • Live TV is a little glitchy.

  • Content is ad supported.

My daughter loves watching videos, but that doesn't mean I want her browsing through Netflix or Hulu Plus. The PBS KIDS Video app is great because it lets her pick out videos on her own, and it gives me peace of mind that she isn't watching something she shouldn't be watching. PBS also has a PBS Parents Play and Learn app that your kiddo may enjoy.

Price: Free

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Storybook Rhymes Volume 1

Screenshots of the Storybook Rhymes Volume 1 iPad app

What We Like

  • The app is filled with fun sounds and songs.

  • High-contrast images have simple backgrounds.

  • The app is good for children with visual impairments.

  • Play in two modes: Sing to Me and Read & Play.

What We Don't Like

  • The 4+ age rating is misleading: This app is for babies and toddlers.

  • The app has just two stories.

Fisher-Price's Storybook Rhymes Volume 1 includes two stories: One, Two, Buckle My Shoe and The Itsy Bitsy Spider. Little ones can sing along or simply read and play. The play mode encourages your kids to tap the screen to produce sounds and effects. Unfortunately, the app is long on entertainment but short on learning.

Price: Free

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The Wheels On The Bus Musical

Screenshot of the The Wheels On The Bus Musical iPad app

What We Like

  • App offers 12 fun games.

  • It's an interactive sing-along.

  • Coloring book, puzzles, and memory match are great learning tasks.

What We Don't Like

  • The app is free to download, but to get the most out of it, you need the in-app purchases.

  • The child lock to protect in-app purchases is insufficient.

This activity center has several free games and activities to entertain your toddler, and yes, you can all sing along to "The Wheels on the Bus." This app will pleasantly surprise you with its many activities and puzzles. A favorite activity for many kids is the coloring book, which lets your child tap a color, and then tap the drawing to automatically paint an area.

Price: Free

How Much Screen Time Should Your Toddler Have?

Current recommendations do away with any hard limit for the amount of time a toddler should spend with screens. Most learning with a device like an iPad begins at age 2, so limit screen time before that age to one or two hours. Even after age 2, screen time should have its limits. The best use of the iPad is playing with your child while they are on the device.