The 10 Best Smartphone Apps to Keep Kids Happy While You Shop

Holiday shopping with kids in tow? These apps keep them entertained

young girl playing games on her phone
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The hustle and bustle of holiday shopping can be overwhelming for adults, let alone kids. Imagine being strapped into a shopping buggy with crowds of unfamiliar people everywhere, cinnamon scented everything, Christmas and other holiday songs blaring overhead, and mom or dad not giving you all of their attention while they search for just the right gift for Aunt Hattie in Maine. Who even is Aunt Hattie in Maine?

It’s not surprising that many kids get cranky while you're out holiday shopping. Fortunately, you can keep them happy and entertained with kid-focused apps on your smartphone. Here are our picks for the 10 best apps for peaceful shopping and happy kids.

App Picks for Toddlers and Preschoolers (Apps 1 through 6)

Screenshot of Lipa Frog app showing one frog, three lily pads, and three bugs.
Lipa Frog App Screenshot. Lipa Learning

App 1: Lipa Frog: Lipa Frog is one of several apps available from Lipa Learning and is free for both Android and iPhone/iPad. Lipa Frog entertains your child with counting and numbers games as they journey through Frog Bog Kingdom. [iTunes | Google Play]

App 2: Starfall ABCs: Starfall ABCs is a free app for both iOS and Android and is a top choice of educators and parents. This app is a mobile version of the ABCs section of the Starfall website. Keeping your child happy while developing letter recognition and language skills at the same time is a win-win. [iTunes | Google Play]

Note: There are several other Starfall apps, some of which cost money or require a paid membership through the Starfall website to use. While Starfall ABCs is a free app, not all Starfall apps are free.

App 3: PBS KIDS Video: PBS KIDS Video is available for free in both the App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android). Kids can watch their favorite shows like Sesame Street, Curious George, Peg + Cat, and many more. There are no in-app purchases in the kid-friendly areas, however, under the Grownups tab, parents can purchase additional shows and episodes if your child has a particular favorite that isn’t available. [iTunes | Google Play]

App 4: Sago Mini Friends: A free app available for both iOS and Android, Sago Mini Friends is a favorite of kids aged 2-4, in particular. This app may not appear educational at first glance, but the activities are structured to teach and reinforce social skills, such as empathy and sharing. Sago Mini Friends is also one of the few apps available that does not require WiFi or cellular data to work. [iTunes | Google Play]

App 5: Art Class with Dr. Panda: Art Class with Dr. Panda (listed as Dr. Panda Art Class in Apple’s App Store) is an engaging choice for budding young artists. No ads or in-app purchases (like many apps for the toddler/preschool age group) mean your kid can let the creativity flow while you shop with peace of mind. This app is available in both the App Store and Google Play for $2.99. [iTunes | Google Play]

App 6: Endless Alphabet: Endless Alphabet is another top choice of educators. Self-paced with no time limits or failures, this monsterific letter learning game keeps your kids happy (and learning) while you shop. The app is $8.99 in the Apple App Store. In Google Play, parents download the free version, which is primarily a sampler featuring only a few words to try out. A one-time in-app purchase unlocks the full version for $8.99. [iTunes | Google Play]

Top Picks for Elementary Schoolers (Apps 7 through 10)

Screenshot of LEGO Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles
LEGO Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles. LEGO System A/S

App 7: LEGO Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles: For kids who love LEGOs or Star Wars, this app will keep them happy and occupied while you shop. This app is available free for both iOS and Android (listed as LEGO Star Wars Yoda II in Google Play) and has no in-app purchases. [iTunes | Google Play]

App 8: Angry Birds POP!: Angry Birds POP! is available for free in the App Store and Google Play. This app in the Angry Birds line-up combines your kids favorite Angry Birds characters and a matching bubble shooter game. This app does have ads and in-app purchases, so parents will want to make sure kids understand what they are and your expectations. You may also be able to change settings to prevent in-app purchases. [iTunes | Google Play]

App 9: Roblox: Most appropriate for elementary schoolers 3rd grade and above, Roblox is free for both iOS and Android. However, Roblox requires you to set up an account for your child and the app contains ads and in-app purchases. Roblox currency, called Robux, are used for in-app purchases, but be aware that Robux will cost you actual bucks. Parents can change settings to prevent in-app purchases or you can choose to purchase some Robux for your kid to use – it is the holidays after all. [iTunes | Google Play]

App 10: Minecraft: Available for $6.99 in both the App Store and Google Play, Minecraft is another app that is most appropriate for elementary schoolers 3rd grade or higher. This creative world-building app can keep your kid happy and entertained while you shop for everyone on your list. The app does offer in-app purchases so the precautions mentioned above apply with this app also. [iTunes | Google Play]