Must-Have Apps for Kids Under 5

Young kids can play and learn on mobile devices

The Ultimate Guide to Online Learning at Home
The Ultimate Guide to Online Learning at Home
Introduction

When it comes to screen time, tablets and smartphones have an advantage over the television because these mobile devices are interactive. Recent studies show that smartphones and tablets can be as effective as books for children as young as 2 years old. Also, parents can interact with their kids while they are playing, which has been shown to aid in learning.

Here's a selection of the best mobile apps for kids who are 5 and under.

The American Academy of Pediatrics relaxed its guidelines on screen time for kids, allowing for one to two hours of screen time a day depending on the age of the child.

01
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Endless Alphabet

Endless Alphabet for Android
What We Like
  • A great visual style for teaching.

  • It lays the groundwork for reading.

What We Don't Like
  • The scope is somewhat limited.

  • The characters aren't recognizable.

Endless Alphabet is among the best apps at reinforcing phonetics and can be used as an excellent teaching tool. The app spreads letters on the screen like a puzzle. Then, the child puts the puzzle together by moving the letters into place and forming a word. While the letter is moved, it repeats its phonetic sound. When it is put in place, the app says both the letter name and the phonetic sound it makes.

One way to use this app is to ask your child to choose a letter. The app can be great for 2 and 3-year-olds to learn their letters and can help kickstart 4 and 5-year-olds into reading.

Best for ages: 2 through 5
Price: Free with in-app purchases

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02
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The Monster at the End of This Book

The Penguin Random House Listing for the Monster at the End of This Book.
What We Like
  • It's an animated version of a classic children's book.

  • The familiar Sesame Street characters and story.

  • Words appear on screen for children to follow.

What We Don't Like
  • It's a paid app.

  • It could be more interactive.

The Monster at the End of This Book was a mainstay of most preschooler's book collection in the 1970s. Now, the familiar Sesame Street classic has been animated and digitized to bring fun with Grover to smartphones and tablets. Each page contains hands-on activities for young children. They can tickle Grover by tapping on him on the screen or touch a wall to knock it down. The spoken words appear on the screen to encourage word recognition. Plus, the topic of monsters or anxieties can be addressed with your young ones in a friendly setting.

Best for ages: 4+
Price: $4.99 on iOS and $2.92 on Android

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03
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Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

The Monkey Preschool Lunchbox website.
What We Like
  • Introduces children to various concepts.

  • Different engaging learning games.

What We Don't Like
  • It's a paid app.

The Monkey Preschool Lunchbox app introduces young children to colors, shapes, letters, counting, and pattern recognition. The child helps the monkey count fruit and solve puzzles. Matching card games use fruit on each card. Kids are awarded an animated cartoon sticker when they win a few activities. Expect lots of sounds and fruit names. Each game flows into the next and games include Spot the Difference, Shapes, Puzzle, Colors, Matching, and Letters.

Best for ages: 2+
Price: $1.99 on iOS and Android

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04
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AlphaTots Alphabet

The AlphaTots logo
What We Like
  • Great for learning the alphabet.

  • Excellent foundation for reading.

  • Uses games to teach.

What We Don't Like
  • It's a paid app.

  • A little heavier on learning than on fun.

The AlphaTots Alphabet app uses 26 action verbs and 26 puzzles and games to introduce toddlers to the letters of the alphabet. Soon, the app is encouraging your child to recite the ABCs on their own. The flashcard app is interactive and teaches uppercase and lowercase versions of each letter.

Best for ages: 4+
Price: $2.99 on iOS and Android

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05
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Starfall ABCs

Starfall ABCs on Android
What We Like
  • It's a great beginner app.

  • Teaches the basics of speech and reading.

What We Don't Like
  • Very beginner, not for older children.

Starfall ABCs is a great app for kids who are starting out with the ABCs. There are plenty of games and activities, the animations are engaging, and the app does a great job of emphasizing both letter names and phonetics.

Best for ages: 2 through 3
Price: Free

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06
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PBS Kids Video and PBS Kids Games

PBS Kids on Android
What We Like
  • Includes a wide range of content.

  • It's both entertaining and educational.

  • It has recognizable children's characters.

What We Don't Like
  • The video stream requires data.

  • It can be slow on older devices.

PBS has the most amazing kid-friendly (and parent-friendly) content available. Best of all, much of it is free and not plastered with advertisements. PBS is known for having great messages for kids.

This entry is actually two apps: PBS Kids Video, which is basically Netflix with Curious George, Daniel Tiger, Wild Kratts, Super Why!, Elmo, Dr. Seuss, and other well-known characters, and the Play PBS Kids Games app, a fun arcade with dozens of games based on the PBS characters.

Best for ages: 2 through 5
Price: Free

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07
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Sesame Street

Sesame Street on Android
What We Like
  • A great mix of video and games.

  • The classic children's characters.

  • Includes a wide range of content.

What We Don't Like
  • It's best for younger children.

Sesame Street needs little introduction for most of us. The Sesame Street app includes clips with your favorite characters from Elmo and Big Bird to Bert and Ernie. Instead of traditional categories, the videos are broken down by character, so your kid can quickly find their favorites. There are also fun interactive games that teach numbers and letters.

Best for ages: 2 through 3
Price: Free

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08
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The Wheels on the Bus

Wheels on the Bus on Android
What We Like
  • Simple games for young children.

  • There's plenty to do.

What We Don't Like
  • The in-app purchases.

The Wheels on the Bus app is an entertaining mixture of fun games for kids 2 to 3 years old. The games include educational offerings such as peekaboo letters, which features letters hiding behind objects, and Happy Math, a fun game that will have your toddler counting objects. Best of all, the lite version contains enough content to keep most kids happy for a while.

Best for ages: 2 through 3
Price: Free with in-app purchases

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