Technology is amazing, right? We have access to so much material that will help our kids learn and keep them entertained. It’s all right at our fingertips and so much of it is free! It can be difficult and time-consuming to track down the very best apps for toddlers that are free, though.
To help, I’ve compiled 40+ of the very best free apps for toddlers, divided into learning categories so you can quickly see in which areas the app will benefit your child and ultimately whether it’s what your child needs.
At the end of the post, I’ll also give you a few great apps that are low-cost. However, I highly recommend getting a ‘lite’ version or doing a free trial before ever paying money for an app!
It’s important for you to try something out before ever spending money on it or giving it to your child to use. Thankfully, most apps will have this feature and will let you try before you buy- if they don’t then the app may not be worth your time!
Related: 5 Practical Tips to Manage Parenting and Technology with Success
GUIDELINES FOR USING IPADS
HOW MUCH IPAD USE IS OK?
- iPads are amazing, but they are highly addictive for toddlers! The technology stimulates parts of the brain and releases dopamine. So kids can actually feel addicted.
- Bear in mind that although apps can be educational, any time spent in front of technology is time away from play and from real life interactions. These are the times your toddler truly learns so it’s so important to safeguard these times!
- With this in mind, think out your iPad guidelines carefully. About 30 mins a day is about right for a toddler. You could break this down into two 15 minute slots.
- Studies have shown that children who reported more than two hours a day of screen time got lower scores on thinking and language tests.
TIPS FOR USING AN IPAD WELL
- Don’t give them the iPad right before bed as this will drain their melatonin making it difficult for them to fall asleep and reducing their sleep quality. It’s not worth it for how grouchy they’ll be the next day!
- Consider sitting beside them as they use the app- this way you can see how they’re doing and continue to feed in language. You can talk about what’s happening on the screen and turn it into an interactive experience. By doing this, your toddler will get even more learning out of this time.
- Taking an iPad off a toddler can be a nightmare, so plan exactly how this will happen. You could try setting a timer (you can get a visual timer for your phone with red that gradually disappears). Also remember to give a 5 minute warning so it’s not unexpected when the time is up.
- Have something motivating lined up for afterwards. This could be going outside to play or going to the park or even lunchtime if that’s something your child enjoys.
- Plan the iPad into your daily routine. Maybe your toddler gets it for 15 minutes before lunch. They have their time, and then you put it away because it’s lunchtime (or whatever you decide). You can be calm and matter of fact about taking it off them, ‘the iPad need to go away because we’re going to the park/ having lunch now.’ By making it predictable and part of your routine, you could save yourself a lot of drama and tears!
- When they ask for it, don’t say ‘no’ directly, tell them ‘yes’ and say when they’re next allowed it. ‘Yes, you can have the iPad again tomorrow.‘ This helps to reassure your toddler because they’re not hearing the word ‘no’ and instead you’re letting them know that they will be able to have the iPad again at some point- it isn’t gone forever.
- Consider access to the iPad– it can be time consuming to have to always unlock it, but it might be worth it. If your toddler knows the PIN, it’s likely that they will try to get it at different times. They might even risk climbing up somewhere unsafe to try and access it. If they don’t know the PIN and rely on you, they will learn very quickly that they need to go through you to get it! When your child is young, I really believe that this level of control is needed.
SOME OTHER PRACTICAL TIPS
- You might want to go to set some restrictions such as disabling in-app purchases so you’re not faced with a massive surprise bill, and also the types of content your toddler might stumble on. To do this, go to Settings- General- Restrictions.
- Save your battery by turning on Airplane Mode, WiFi Off and Bluetooth Off if no connection is required.
- Turn notifications off to stop alerts popping in when the app is being used.
- Use the ‘Lock Rotation’ to make it easier for your toddler to use. It will stop the screen from turning when they move.
- Keep your iPad out of the sun or a hot car.
- Close the apps in your multitasking bar to save the battery. To do this, swipe up off the screen and close unwanted apps.
40+ VERY BEST FREE APPS FOR TODDLERS
CAUSE AND EFFECT APPS
Pocket Pond HD– a virtual fish pond. Watch fish swim around, touch water to hear ripples and watch the fish swim away. Your toddler can add new fish and lily-pads and feed the fish.
Fluid– watch virtual water over rocks- touch the water and see how it changes.
Fluid Monkey– this app has a liquid screen that toddlers can touch- they can change colours, add sparkles and change the movement of the colours around the screen.
Somantics– a range of applications that use touch, gesture and camera input to engage kids.
Reactickles Magic– This uses touch, gesture and audio input and allows students to play and explore using a variety of input methods to animate shapes and patterns.
Big Box Visual Effects– Touch and change colours and shapes as they fly across the screen.
Art of Glow– Touch and change colours and shapes as they fly across the screen.
Balls– Watch and interact with balls of light that fall and bounce off the edge of the screen.
Peeping Musicians– This develops touch skills as your toddler needs to touch the musicians to get them to play.
Bla Bla Bla– This app has speech activated faces that build cause and effect speech.
SPEAKING AND LISTENING APPS
Squeak My Voice– Record your voice and listen to it play back in a squeaky voice.
Talking Tom Cat 2– Tom responds to your touch- you can poke and watch him react. He repeats back everything you say in a funny voice.
Peek-a-Boo Barn Lite– Listen to the animal noise then push the barn doors open to reveal the farm animal inside. Focuses on animal sounds, vocabulary, turn-taking and ‘wh’ questions.
Vocabulary Builder 1-3– Learn new words and tap to hear it spoken. 1- body parts, 2- family and common verbs, 3- nouns for supermarket, garden and animals.
iLearn with Boing: Ocean Adventures– Language development game targeting vocabulary, listening comprehension and sentence formation.
See. Touch. Learn– Preschool flashcards to develop vocabulary.
ABA Flash Cards– Preschool verb flashcards to develop vocabulary.
Action Words– Picture cards to teach verbs- choose the right option from a choice of 4 pictures (e.g. ‘who is swimming?’
Things That Go Together– Choose things that go together and improve problem solving and language.
Toca Boca Kitchen Monsters– Choose and prepare various foods before feeding them to a Toca monster. This app builds food vocabulary, verbs, short phrases, and following directions.
My PlayHome Lite– Manipulate people and things inside an interactive home. Builds vocabulary, actions, pronouns and following directions.
Related: 5 Powerful Ways to Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary
Using ‘I’ and ‘Me’– Colourful pictures and sentences with I or me missing for the child to complete. Aimed at older toddlers.
SOUND AWARENESS APPS
Find out why phonological awareness is so important for preschoolers.
Phonics Heroes– To develop a range of phonological awareness skills.
Rhyming Words– Rhyming picture cards.
Phonics Awareness– Building phonological awareness skills by blending sounds to make words.
Hooked on Phonics App– To develop rhyming skills.
Phonics Studio– An app to work on specific sounds. Flashcards listed by sound in beginning, middle, and end of a word.
Speech Tutor– Watch a virtual mouth as it produces selected sounds. It also provides tips for producing a sound, and what age we would expect a child to develop a sound.
CAMERA AND PHOTO APPS
Live Butterflies in View Finder– Able to look through the iPad’s camera and find butterflies to take pictures of.
Photo Booth– there are nine options for lenses that allow kids to take wacky pictures of themselves.
Pic Collage– Create collages of your pics with different backgrounds, text, layout, drawings, fonts and frames.
AudioBoo– Add a picture and make a voice recording about it.
Fotobabble– Speak about your picture. Make a talking photo.
STORY TELLING APPS
Puppet Pals HD Directors Pass– Create your own unique shows with animation and audio. Pick out your actors and backdrops, drag them onto the stage and tap record- your movements and audio are recorded in real time for playback later.
Toontastic– Similar to Puppet Pals- create your own unique shows with animation and audio in real time.
Sock Puppets– Add puppets, props, and scenery- hit record and the puppets automatically lip sync to your voice.
Sparkle Fish– Develop vocabulary and story telling skills by adding your own words into the story and then hear it played back.
Toontastic– Help your child to make their own cartoon and then tell their story.
Multi-Touch Piano– This is a free piano that will help kids learn the basics of music in a fun way.
Doodle Buddy– a finger painting app with thousands of colours and stamps to add.
Memory King– Pairs type memory game can be played as single or multiplayer.
Touch and Learn Emotions– photo cards to support teaching emotions.
iTouch iLearn Feelings for Preschool Kids– Cartoon pictures for learning emotions.
LOW COST APPS I LIKE
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox– 7 different games featuring an animated monkey. It teaches kids about colours, letters, counting, shapes, sizes, matching and differences.
Preschool Adventure– This has 18 educational activities parents can do with kids. It includes activities for music, body awareness, dot to dot numbers, colouring book, colours and shapes, and matching.
Splingo’s Language Universe– Splingo gives instructions that range from early language to more complex. It’s interactive and helps kids to learn listening and language skills.
Cookie Doodle– Kids can make a virtual cookie with all the steps- rolling, cutting, frosting, to create a fun and innovative cookie.
Draw Along with Stella and Sam– Pick a shape, decorate it, and watch it come to life in a delightful animation.
One Step Two Step– To help children develop their understanding of language using games to practice following instructions.
Speech with Milo– A sequencing app that targets early storytelling skills and develops understanding and use of time concepts such as first, next and last.
Opposite Day– Develops children’s vocabulary and understanding of opposite concepts.
HOW TO FIND NEW APPS
These are some of the best free apps for toddlers that I’m currently aware of. However, new apps are being created every day! It’s a good idea to have an app store or search engine so you can get the latest new inventions.
- Kindertown– this is an educational app store for parents and teachers. They create apps for kids aged 3-8. It’s free to use.
- App Shopper– this lets you search for apps and also updates. Again it’s free to use.
App developers are creating new early learning apps regularly. These are some great developers to keep your eye on so you’re always up to date with the best free apps for toddlers.
- Grasshopper Apps
- Alligator Apps
- Toca Boca
- Word Analogy
- Duck Duck Moose
- Mobile Education Store
And that’s it! Hopefully you enjoyed my roundup of the best free apps for toddlers!
Please leave a comment if you’re aware of anymore of the best free apps for toddlers that you love and want to share with other readers.
You might also enjoy:
- How to establish a bedtime routine for toddlers and get ‘YOU’ time!
- 45 Ultimate Easy, Medium and Hard Riddles for Kids
- 51 Tongue Twisters for Kids to Improve Speech
- 5 Practical Tips to Manage Parenting and Technology with Success
- How to Use Sticker Charts Successfully
- 11 Incredible Children’s Books that Teach Positive Behavior
- 9 Smart Strategies for Dealing With Tantrums in Toddlers
Thanks for reading!