Putting a tablet or a cell phone in your toddler’s hands can be a terrifying experience, especially if the apps that they’re playing with have in-app purchases. There’s also that whole thing about whether or not toddlers should have any screen-time at all. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children under the age of two shouldn’t use devices with screens, but let’s be honest — we all need a quick break once in a while to maintain our sanity. A tablet with an entertaining app can allow us to do that.
Here are a few apps to help save your sanity without putting your wallet in danger – toddler-friendly apps without any in-app purchases.
Toddler Flashcards (Free, iOS)
Flashcards can be a great way to teach children reading, math and everything in between, but carrying a deck of flashcards with you can get messy. That’s where this app comes in. First, pick a language – the free version has 13 to choose from, and the paid version ($1.99) brings that total up to 21. Then, let your child use the app to learn the names of animals, food, letters, numbers and more. It uses spoken audio in addition to visuals to help non-readers learn too.
Ducky Deck Collection ($1.99, Android and iOS)
For $1.99, you’re getting six games that teach everything from how to be creative and solve problems to how to brush your teeth and learn other healthy habits. That’s a heck of a value, and the application also has no hidden purchases that your toddler could inadvertently use to empty your bank account. The apps are filled with colorful fluffy characters that will appeal to every toddler and will keep them entertained so you can relax for a few minutes.
Bubbles ($0.99, iOS)
We love popping bubble wrap, but no one wants to carry around a bunch of plastic with them just to keep a toddler entertained. The Bubbles application is available for less than $1 and gives your toddler the joy of popping bubbles on your phone screen. There are no in-app purchases and no menus for your toddler to click into to interrupt the gameplay. Just bubbles to be popped, which is perfect for keeping even the most anxious or energetic toddler distracted.
Sago Mini Ocean Swimmer ($3.99, iOS)
If your little one has ever wanted to explore the ocean but won’t go any deeper than the shallow end of the pool, check this app out. They can control Fins the fish by dragging their finger across the screen, guiding him through an underwater adventure. This is another app with no purchases or advertisements, so there is nothing to interrupt the underwater exploration.
Monkey Preschool Lunchbox ($2, Android, Kindle and iOS)
If you’re looking for a fun learning app, Monkey Preschool is a great choice. It’s $2 on both Android and iOS and is even available for Amazon Kindle. It’s designed to teach toddlers about colors, letters, numbers and matching through a series of fun games. The main character is a monkey named Milo who explains all of these concepts in a fun way that toddlers understand and enjoy. Your little ones will enjoy this app so much you may never get your phone back.
Metamorphabet ($4, Android, iOS, Mac and PC)
This app is designed for children ages six to eight, but psychologists say that children as young as three could benefit from the learning techniques it uses. Your child simply has to guess which words begin with each letter and the letters transform beautifully into words. It is one of the more expensive apps on this list, but for $4, it’s an app that will keep your child entertained for years to come.
Intro to Math, by Montessorium ($5, iOS)
Teaching math to toddlers might seem like an exercise in frustration, but this Intro to Math app manages to teach simple math skills in a way that is so much fun that your toddler won’t even realize they’re learning. The app focuses on fundamental skills – specifically, on the numbers 0 through 9 – and teaches counting and basic addition and subtraction through colorful games.
PBS Kids (Free, Android, iOS and Kindle)
If your kids enjoy watching shows on PBS, this is the perfect app to keep them entertained. It allows them to explore the worlds of their favorite shows while learning through the use of kid-friendly puzzles and games. The app also features weekly educational videos that teach your toddler about a variety of different topics, depending on what the weekly theme is. This app is entirely free, with no ads and no in-app purchases to worry about.
These are just a few of the apps that are perfect for toddlers. Just look for those that are purchase-free and ad-free and keep in mind that while the age recommendations are just suggestions, they can give you a good idea of what kind of apps your little ones will enjoy using. Don’t let the screen time restrictions keep you from handing that phone or tablet over when you need an occasional break. These apps can help you get a bit of a break when you need it most and help your toddler learn too.