21 Awesome Free Apps for Kids
Good news -- These apps don't have any pesky in-app purchases popping up!
Free apps for kids can at times be a wonderful tool to keep kids entertained while also encouraging their learning. However, in-app upgrades and purchases can ruin the fun and "send your kid down the rabbit hole of inappropriate web content," says Christine Elgersma, senior editor of Apps and Digital Learning at Common Sense Media. Read app descriptions carefully, Elgersma recommends, because "each app store will tell you whether or not an app contains an in-app purchase."
Parents and nannies can avoid unintentional purchases or having kids being directed to places other than the intended app by trying it out. "A great way for parents to avoid surprises is to have grown ups test drive the app before making them available to the family," suggests Lorraine Akemann, co-founder of Moms With Apps.
Get started with these free apps for kids that don't contain hidden in-app purchases.
Ages 3 - 5
1. Lazoo: Squiggles
Preschool-age children will enjoy drawing squiggles on pictures and then watching their creations come to life.
2. Alien Assignment
Children take photos of items around the home to complete missions and help aliens. The app encourages parental participation by asking children to show their photos to their parents before the mission is complete.
3. Astroblast Rocket Rush
This game is connected to the Sprout children's show called Astroblast, and sends preschoolers on various space missions. As they go, children can earn upgrades for new spaceship parts and pilots.
4. Lego Duplo Circus
Your child will be in charge of running a circus, completing several tasks such as selling tickets and deciding what tricks the circus will include.
5. PBS Kids Video
Ad-free access to 14 of the most popular preschool shows aired on PBS.
6. Baby Bus Magical Seeds
Preschoolers will plant a magical seed and then go along for an adventure as it sprouts.
7. Kids Paint and Coloring Free
This app is like a virtual coloring book, and also has a drawing feature so your child can create his own images.
Ages 5 - 8
8. Sushi Monster
Children practice addition and multiplication facts by feeding hungry monsters plates of sushi. Kids can earn points, stars and trophies for correct answers.
9. Dr. Panda's Restaurant: Asia
There is no time limit or scoring in this game. The app allows children to chop, fry and bake a variety of ingredients to create their own Asian-inspired dishes.
10. Lego City My City
Children can explore the ocean in a Lego submarine, put out fires, steer Coast Guard helicopters and chase crooks who escaped from the Lego City Jail.
This app introduces early elementary school children to coding through simple coding tasks that make a character complete certain actions, such as running or jumping.
12. The Electric Company Party Game
This is a multiplayer game where the tablet or phone acts as the game board. Children complete silly tasks, both on and off the device, to advance around the board.
13. Candy Train
Players will rearrange train tracks as a train moves around the screen so it doesn't get to a dead end. When children are successful, they earn candy as bonuses. As the game progresses, the train will get more cars, making it more challenging.
14. CyberChase Shape Quest
This app includes three games for early elementary students to learn shapes and problem-solving.
Ages 8 - 10
15. Lego Ninjago Rebooted
Your child will take on the role of a ninja to overthrow the evil Overlord. As he goes, your child can collect Lego bricks to unlock new powers.
Children learn a foreign language, earning hearts as they go.
17. 3D Chess Game
Play the classic game of chess against the computer without ads.
18. Puzzling Penguins
Players must use strategic thinking to slide the penguin through a series of puzzles.
19. 100 Floors
This is a puzzle game that requires children to move their device to get an elevator to move up floors.
20. Wuzzit Trouble
Players solve math problems to collect keys that free wuzzits from their traps. Children figure out how many times the gears need to turn to free them, and the fewer turns the more prizes.
21. Teachly: Mt. Multiplis
Children solve multiplication problems to help the main character, Linka, build bridges that will take her through the city.
Looking for more app fun? Check out 15 of the Best Math Apps for Kids!
Sara Ipatenco is a former elementary school teacher turned stay-at-home mom and freelance writer. Ipatenco holds bachelor's and master's degrees, both in child development and elementary education. She has been published in "Teaching Tolerance" and "Family Fun" magazines.