The Best Apps for Tweens

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

Hot apps for preteens

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We've scoured the app stores for apps and games that can meet that are fun, cool and still (in most cases) provide some educational benefit. Check out some hot apps for preteens you can feel good about downloading.


Minecraft screenshot
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 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.

  • Best for Ages: 9+
  • Price: $6.99 with optional in-app purchases
  • Available on iPhone/iPad, Android, ​and Amazon Fire

DragonBox Algebra 12+

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

  • Covers advanced algebra concepts.

  • 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.

  • Game can get tedious after a while.

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.

  • Best for Ages: 12+
  • Price: $7.99
  • Available on iPhone/iPad and Android


What We Like
  • Creative take on choose your own adventure.

  • Engrossing storyline.

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

  • Some choices feel contrived.

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 it is through the game. 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.

  • Best for Ages: 11+
  • Price: $1.99
  • Available on iPhone/iPad, Android, and Amazon Fire

Heads Up

Heads Up
What We Like
  • Easy to play.

  • Teaches kids problem-solving and critical thinking.

  • Great game for family parties.

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

  • Very simple without extra features.

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
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. 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.

  • Best for Ages: 9-12
  • Price: Free with in-app purchases
  • Available on iPhone/iPad, Android, ​and Amazon Fire

Hopscotch: Make Games

Screenshot of Hopscotch
What We Like
  • Makes learning to program fun.

  • Share creations with the community.

  • Great visual learning tool.

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

  • In-app purchases.

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
What We Like
  • Fast-paced and fun.

  • Easy to learn.

  • Helpful tutorial.

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

  • Not very challenging.

  • 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 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.

  • Best for Ages: 12+
  • Price: $9.99
  • Available on iPhone/iPad and Android