The 5 Best Free iPad Apps for Toddlers

iPad games, activities, learning, and entertainment for toddlers

Many of the great apps 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.

01
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YouTube Kids

Screenshot of the YouTube Kids iPad app

 Youtube

What We Like

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

  • Create an age-appropriate profile for each child.

  • Hand-pick channels for kids.

What We Don't Like

  • Algorithm allows some inappropriate content through.

  • Content contains ads.

  • 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. The best feature is the voice-enabled search, which enables kids to perform searches and find 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

 Laugh & Learn

What We Like

  • Colorful and friendly app.

  • Sing along with the included tunes.

  • Learn shapes and colors in a fun way.

What We Don't Like

  • Specifies ages 4+, which is too old for this app.

  • Music keyboard and notes don't correlate.

Designed for the Apptivity case, this app doesn't need Fisher-Price's accessory for kids to enjoy this app. Toddlers can tap at the Laugh & Learn Shapes & Colors screen to touch shapes and make 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 teaching children shapes and colors, but it is entertaining.

Price: Free

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PBS KIDS Video

Screenshot of the PBS KIDS Video iPad app

 PBS KIDS

What We Like

  • Live streams of educational videos and PBS shows.

  • 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.

Children love watching videos, but that doesn't mean they should browse through Netflix or Hulu Plus. The PBS KIDS Video app is great because it lets kids pick out videos on their own, and it gives parents peace of mind that they aren't watching something they shouldn't be watching. PBS also has a PBS Parents Play and Learn app that kids may enjoy.

Price: Free

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Storybook Rhymes Volume 1

Screenshots of the Storybook Rhymes Volume 1 iPad app

 Storybook Rhymes Volume 1

What We Like

  • Fun sounds and songs.

  • High-contrast images with simple backgrounds.

  • 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 kids to tap the screen to produce sounds and effects. 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

The Wheels On The Bus 

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 toddlers and they can 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 a 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 such as 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.