The Best Apps for Tweens

These apps for kids ages 9-12 combine cool, fun, and a little education, too

Tweens are stuck between the world of letting loose to have fun and being cool, so we've scoured the app stores for apps and games that can meet that criteria and still (in most cases) provide some educational benefit. OK, we admit it—collecting cats doesn't have anything to do with education. But the Japanese version of collecting cats certainly checks off the cool factor category as far as tweens are concerned.

Minecraft

Minecraft screenshot

Daniel Nations

Minecraft has maintained a place at the top of game lists for years now, and with good reason. It is the perfect combination of creating and playing. It is the LEGO of the digital world. And similar to LEGO, it is one of those games that parents can enjoy as much as kids, especially when playing with their kid. Minecraft is available on the PC as well as most game consoles and mobile devices. There is also a story mode version that plays more like a traditional game, but it's the classic version that gets the highest marks here.

DragonBox Algebra 12+

Screenshot of Dragonbox Algebra 12+

Daniel Nations

DragonBox Algebra is an awesome way to prepare your kid for algebra. The concept here is both simple and exceedingly cool. DragonBox Algebra takes the basics of algebra such as using symbols to cancel out each side of an equation and gamifies it in a way that will secretly teach your kiddo the ideas behind algebra while they are having fun.

Lifeline

Lifeline

Daniel Nations

Choose your own adventure books were all the rage in the 80s and 90s, and with Lifeline, they've been pulled into the digital age. And when we say they've modernized the genre, we mean it. Lifeline is experienced as much through notifications on your device as through the game itself. It can even interact with Apple Watch, although that is not a requirement. Perhaps the coolest part is how it plays out like a story but can be played through multiple times to produce different stories with different endings.

Heads Up

Heads Up

Daniel Nations

Why not a game that your kids will love, you will love, you can play with your kids, your kids can play with their friend and you can play with your friends? Heads up is the digital version of charades. The player holds their smartphone their forehead while words and phrases are displayed for the other people in the room to act out. As the player makes their guess, they tilt the phone down or up to indicate right or wrong answers.

We know. We had you at charades.

  • Best for Ages: 9+
  • Price: Free for Android, $.99 for iOS with in-app purchases for both platforms
  • Available on iPhone/iPad and Android

Neko Atsume

Screenshot of Neko Atsume

Daniel Nations

We won't kid you with the idea that there is anything educational about Neko Atsume, which translates to "Cat Collection" in Japanese. As the name suggests, Neko Atsume centers around placing food in a virtual yard, attracting kittens and then caring for them with food and toys. It's a simple concept that may not sound all that fun to adults, but tweens flip for it. And why not? Anime, Manga and other Japanese art forms are very popular these days, so of course, Japanese kittens are going to be a hit.

Hopscotch: Make Games

Screenshot of Hopscotch

Daniel Nations

Pre-K and elementary school aged kids love to play games. And as they get into their tween years, many of them become curious about creating their own games. While Minecraft focuses on a LEGO-like curiosity for creating their own virtual world, Hopscotch is about combining graphics, interaction and directions in a very code-like manner to teach the basics of game design.

The tutorials do a great job of introducing these methods and the interface is simple enough that kids can focus on the challenge of creating a fun game rather than the challenge of coding a game.

  • Best for Ages: 10-12
  • Price: Free with optional subscriptions
  • Available on iPhone/iPad

Civilization Revolution 2

Civilization Revolution 2

Daniel Nations

Civilization Revolution 2 is basically RISK on steroids. The Civilization series of turn-based strategy games have been around for over 25 years now, and through that quarter century , they have maintained their place as the best of the best. Players begin their civilization in ancient times and guide it through the centuries until modern times and beyond.

The fun part about this game is how much it can teach about history while kids are inventing their own unique history. The game focuses on prominent leaders of different civilizations and unique aspects of that civilization such as well-known buildings, art, and wonders of the world.