While I am a huge fan of family-friendly apps and games for smartphones and tablets, I have to admit, finding the best of the pack for my little crew can be overwhelming! As of July 2015, Android users had over 1.6 million apps to choose from in their online store, with Apple close behind at 1.5 million. That’s a lot of iTunes browsing… and we mamas don’t have time for that nonsense! So as an official “App Junkie,” I have done the work for you. You can thank me later.
Best Apps for Preschoolers
Peekaboo Barn / Peekaboo Forest – $1.99
These two have been in heavy rotation on our devices for years. I have a nine-year-old, and we first downloaded Peekaboo Barn back when she was in preschool. Peekaboo Barn teaches youngsters about farm animals, while Peekaboo Forest focuses on (wait for it…) animals you would typically find in a forest. You can even record your own voice (or a grandparent’s voice) as the narrator!
Elmo Calls – $1.99
This is a fantastic app that features everyone’s favorite furry, red monster. Elmo Calls features recorded messages from Elmo, which are produced in a way to look and feel like real phone calls! Your child can even “FaceTime” with Elmo. There are also prerecorded messages, such as conversations about potty time, holidays and good behavior. It’s super-cute watching your kid as he has a full on phone conversation with Elmo. One of my favorite parts of this app is the scheduling feature, which allows parents to schedule calls with Elmo. For example, when we were potty training, Elmo would “call” when it was time for my little guy to try going to the potty. His face would light up every time!
Alpha Tots – $2.99
This is an awesome app for kids learning their letters and practicing sight reading. It works as electronic flashcards, featuring short games for each letter. The games and puzzles provide stimulation and repetition our kids need in order to grow their language, reading and writing skills.
Daniel Tiger: Day & Night – $2.99
There are a ton of Daniel Tiger apps out there, but this one is my family’s favorite. We struggle with bedtime routines and getting out the door in the morning, so being able to practice these skills with our favorite buddy, Daniel, is good for both the kids and myself! This app also includes songs that help children when they are doing their own morning and evening routines, and a built in timer that keeps kids on task.
Best Apps for Elementary Aged Kids
Toca Boca Series – $2.99 each
A family favorite for years, while this is in the elementary category, these apps would work just fine for an older preschooler as well. While there are quite a few to choose from, our current favorite is Toca Tailor, where players get to choose a character, design their outfits, dress and style them. My preschooler’s favorite is Toca Band, where you can create your own songs using different instruments and sounds.
Stack the States – $1.99
This is the perfect app for elementary-aged kids who are learning about U.S. geography. In Stack the States, players learn all about the 50 states in interactive and engaging ways. Kids can earn levels by learning state trivia, and the app includes hundreds of facts about all the states.
The Amazing Quest: Forgotten Treasure – $4.99
This interactive game reminds me a bit of the Choose Your Own Adventure books I loved as a child. The game tells a story, while the player gets to choose scenarios and solve puzzles to help the main character on his journey. It took a while for my kids to warm up to this one, but once they got the hang of it, they started requesting it daily.
Minecraft – $6.99
You can’t talk about apps for kids without mentioning the number one topic in my house…Minecraft! This sparsely designed game is a hit amongst the elementary school crowd, to the point where the kids were dressing up as characters for Halloween! My daughter even spent her allowance to buy books about Minecraft from the school book fair. Minecraft focuses on skills such as engineering, problem-solving and creative thinking, all under the guise of a fun, interactive game, making it a win-win for parents and kids.
Best Apps for Moms
Grocery IQ – FREE
This app keeps my grocery list in order, and my husband can automatically add items from his computer, which then syncs to my phone!
Voxer – FREE
I don’t have time for phone calls these days, but Voxer is the perfect solution! I send up to 15 minute voice messages to friends who I long to chat with, and when they have time, they listen and respond. Genius!
Intention Reminder – $1.29
During my hectic days, I tend to lose focus of what really matters in my life, and my Intention Reminder is what brings me back down to Earth. I set little reminders throughout the day to remind myself of what’s important (for example, once a day I have a reminder for each member of my family that tells me to slow down, take deep breaths, and send them loving thoughts).
Best Apps for the Whole Family
Netflix – App is FREE, streaming service is $8 per month
Having every episode of Friends at my fingertips, along with tons of amazing original programming, shows, and movies for kids and adults is definitely worth $8 a month! I love the ease of this app and how we can restrict the kids to family-friendly programming options.
Amazon Music – App is FREE, service is FREE with Amazon Prime Membership ($99 per year)
I’m a huge fan of Amazon Prime (it pays for itself with the free shipping alone!), but an unexpected perk is the Amazon Music app. With your Prime membership, you get a massive library of songs by tons of artists, including all the Kidz Bop albums, just in case you want to drive yourself insane.
Heads Up – $0.99
This game (created by Ellen DeGeneres) is so fun to play with the entire family! We’ve even busted out this app on family game night, and everyone ended up on the floor laughing. The basic premise is a techy version of charades, but with Ellen at the helm, this game has lots of hilarious surprises.
Chipotle – FREE
Getting hangry (hungry + angry), but can’t imagine cooking dinner OR waiting in the Chipotle line for 20 minutes with a raging toddler? Order up your favorite burrito, bowl, taco or other signature item, pay online, and then skip the line entirely when you get to the restaurant. Be warned, you will get dirty looks from those poor patrons waiting in line, but it will be totally worth it!
What are your favorite, must-have apps for your family?