Hot Apps for Preteens

7 tween apps that combine cool, fun, and education

We scoured app stores for apps and games that are fun, cool, and educational (in most cases) for kids aged 9-12. Check out these seven apps for tweens that you can feel good about downloading.

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Minecraft app
What We Like
  • Combines creativity and adventure.

  • Includes cooperative play.

  • Unlimited potential.

What We Don't Like
  • Requires a great deal of patience.

  • No tutorials included.

  • Steep learning curve.

Minecraft has maintained its position at the top of game lists for years, and with good reason. Minecraft 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 their kids enjoy, especially when playing together.

Minecraft is available on the PC and on most gaming consoles and mobile devices. Plus, there's a story mode version that plays more like a traditional game. But, it's the classic version that gets the highest marks here.

  • Best for Ages: 9+
  • Price: $6.99 with in-app purchase offers

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DragonBox Algebra 12+

Dragonbox Algebra 12+ app
What We Like
  • Combines learning algebra with gameplay.

  • Covers advanced algebra concepts.

  • A child can create their own profile.

  • Provides multiple languages.

What We Don't Like
  • Higher levels can be too difficult.

  • Not enough instruction for some children.

  • The game can get tedious after a while.

DragonBox Algebra 12+ is an awesome app to help your preteen dive deeper into Algebra. Once they understand the basics of Algebra in DragonBox Algebra 5+, they can move on to the 12+ version. DragonBox Algebra 12+ is more advanced than the 5+ version and exceedingly cool.

DragonBox Algebra takes the basics of algebra and gamifies it in a way that secretly teaches your kids the concepts behind algebra while they are having fun.

  • Best for Ages: 12+
  • Price: $7.99

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Lifeline app
What We Like
  • A creative take on the Choose Your Own Adventure books.

  • Engrossing storyline.

What We Don't Like
  • It can be tedious waiting for dialogue.

  • Some choices feel contrived.

Choose Your Own Adventure books were all the rage in the 1980s and 1990s. The Lifeline series pulled this genre into the digital age with fun and engaging storylines.

The Lifeline app modernized the adventure book genre. Notifications come in throughout the day, giving you choices to make for your character's survival. You can respond immediately or at your convenience.

Lifeline can interact with Apple Watch, although that is not a requirement. We love that you can play the story over and over, and create different stories with different endings.

  • Best for Ages: 11+
  • Price: $.99 for iOS and Android; $1.99 from Amazon

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Heads Up!

Heads Up! app

Warner Bros.

What We Like
  • Easy to play.

  • Teaches kids problem-solving and critical thinking.

  • A great game for family parties.

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't track scores.

  • Very simple without extra features.

Heads Up! is the digital version of charades. In this fun game by Ellen DeGeneres, one player holds their smartphone over their forehead. At the same time, 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 up or down to indicate right or wrong answers and move to the next card.

  • Best for Ages: 12+
  • Price: $.99 for iOS, free for Android. In-app purchase offers for both platforms.

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Neko Atsume

Neko Atsume game; cat holding ball
What We Like
  • Adorable, hand-drawn cats.

  • Requires a little attention at a time.

  • Teaches kids how to care for animals.

What We Don't Like
  • Limited cats to choose from.

  • Not especially educational.

We won't kid you with the idea that there is anything educational about Neko Atsume, which translates to Cat Collection in Japanese. Neko Atsume centers around placing food in a virtual yard, attracting kittens, and then caring for them with food and toys. It's a concept that tweens flip for, and why not? Anime, Manga, and other Japanese art forms are popular, so Japanese kittens are going to be a hit with the kiddos.

  • Best for Ages: 9-12
  • Price: Free with in-app purchase offers

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Hopscotch coding app logo


What We Like
  • It makes learning to program fun.

  • Share creations with the community.

  • A great visual learning tool.

What We Don't Like
  • Needs more examples or tutorials.

  • In-app purchases.

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

The Hopscotch tutorials do a great job of introducing these methods. Plus, the clear design of the app keeps the player's focus on the challenge of creating a fun game rather than the challenge of coding a game.

  • Best for Ages: 10+
  • Price: Free with in-app purchase offers

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Civilization Revolution 2

Civilization Revolution 2 app
What We Like
  • Fast-paced and fun.

  • It's easy to learn.

  • Helpful tutorial.

What We Don't Like
  • More expensive than similar apps.

  • Not very challenging.

  • A large use of device resources.

Civilization Revolution 2 is basically RISK on steroids. The Civilization series of turn-based strategy games have been around for decades. Over time, they have maintained their place as the best of the best. Players begin their civilization in ancient times and progress through the centuries until modern times and beyond.

The best part about this game is how much it teaches children about history while showing them how to invent 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.

  • Best for Ages: 12+
  • Price: $4.99

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