The Best Free iPad Apps for Toddlers

Games, activities, learning, and entertainment for your toddler

A young child using an iPad.

 

Westend61 / Getty Images

While many of the great apps out there for toddlers are paid, there are several excellent free apps that will keep a toddler entertained and even do a little teaching along the way.

Before you go downloading, you should make sure your iPad has been childproofed. The number one thing to do is to turn off in-app purchases, which will keep your toddler from accidentally buying something within the app.

How Much Screen Time Should Your Toddler Have? 

The newest 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 screen time before then should be limited to 1 to 2 hours, and even after the age of two, screen time should have its limits. The best use of the iPad is playing with your child while they are on the device.

YouTube Kids

Screenshot of the YouTube Kids iPad app

 Screenshot

What We Like

  • Kid-friendly, algorithm-curated content from YouTube.

  • Age appropriate profile for each kid.

  • Hand-picked channels by parents for kids.

What We Don't Like

  • Algorithm allows some inappropriate content through.

  • Contains ads.

  • Parents need to monitor kids' viewing choices.

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

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

Price: Free

Laugh & Learn: Shapes & Colors

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

 Screenshot

What We Like

  • Colorful, friendly app for babies and toddlers.

  • Includes sing-along tunes.

  • Teaches shapes and colors in a fun way.

What We Don't Like

  • App specifies ages 4+, which is way too old for this baby/toddler app.

  • Music keyboard and notes don't correlate correctly.

Designed for the Apptivity case, you don't actually need Fisher Price's accessory for your kid to enjoy this app. Shapes and Colors allow your toddler to tap away at the screen, touching shapes and making new shapes appear. The app also has a fun keyboard to 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

PBS Kids Video

Screenshot of the PBS KIDS Video iPad app

What We Like

  • Live streams of educational videos and PBS TV shows.

  • Filled with familiar PBS characters

  • In-app purchases confined to parents' section.

What We Don't Like

  • No search bar.

  • Live TV is a little glitchy.

  • Ad-supported.

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

Price: Free

Storybook Rhymes Volume 1

Screenshots of the Storybook Rhymes Volume 1 iPad app

 Screenshot

What We Like

  • Filled with fun sounds and songs.

  • High-contrast images with simple backgrounds.

  • Good for children with visual impairments.

  • Two modes: Sing to Me and Read and Play.

What We Don't Like

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

  • Only two stories in the app.

Another Apptivity app, Storybook Rhymes Volume 1 includes "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." Each story allows you to sing along, or simply read and play. The play mode will have your kid tapping the screen to produce sounds and effects. This is another app that is long on entertainment but short on learning.

Price: Free

Wheels on the Bus Musical

Screenshot of the The Wheels On The Bus Musical iPad app

 Screenshot

What We Like

  • 12 fun games.

  • Interactive sing-along.

  • Coloring book, puzzles, and memory match.

What We Don't Like

  • Free to download but useless without the in-app purchases.

  • Insufficient child lock protecting in-app purchases.

This activity center has a number of free games and activities to entertain your toddler, and yes, it has a sing-along to "Wheels on the Bus." This one will pleasantly surprise you with many activities and puzzles. A favorite activity for many is the coloring book, which lets your child tap a color and tap the drawing to automatically paint an area.

Price: Free