20 free toddler apps (without hidden in-app purchases!) worth downloading

Nov. 30, 2019
20 free toddler apps (without hidden in-app purchases!) worth downloading

Any busy parent with small children will tell you that having a few fun apps on your phone can be a real lifesaver. Whipping out your phone and providing your little one with instant entertainment can help you prevent badly timed meltdowns while you’re out running errands or trying to have a sit-down meal in a nice restaurant.

But many parents worry about which apps are appropriate for their toddler and whether or not they should be getting screen time at all.

Christine Elgersma, a senior editor at media rating site Common Sense Media and a former teacher, says parents should view "technology as a tool, and set boundaries around this tool."

Kids learn best from engaging with parents, so if you can play along with your child, apps can become a great way for kids to learn using smart devices. Even if you aren’t able to play every app with them, you’ll want to make sure that the apps they are using have some educational benefit and that they are appropriate for their age.

Toddlers grow and change very quickly and most parents don’t feel like spending money on apps that they will only use for a short amount of time. Luckily, there are lots of entertaining free apps available. When downloading free toddler apps, make sure you pay attention to the details.

"Free apps don't always mean free," says Sara Kloek, the director of Moms with Apps. "Oftentimes, those free apps will charge you later through things like in-app purchases or play advertising in lieu of charging. Those advertisements will sometimes collect data on your children."

Making your way through the different app stores in search of a free, fun and safe app for your toddler can be challenging, so we’ve done the legwork for you. Here are 20 free toddler-friendly apps without in-app purchases.

Apps that teach problem-solving skills

1. Breathe, Think, Do

Elgersma says this Sesame Street app is great for teaching kids "chill skills" and how to think their way through a tough situation.


This app takes kids through a variety of tasks that build and steer a DUPLO train around a track.

3. Alien Assignment

Offered through the Fred Rogers Center, Elgersma recommends this exploratory game for young kids. While helping an alien family fix their spaceship, toddlers also learn how to use the camera button on iPhones.

Apps that help develop reading, language and math skills

4. Shapes!

In this popular game, toddlers are encouraged to identify different shapes and colors and to differentiate between different sizes.

5. Play PBS KIDS

Your toddler will love playing along with his favorite PBS characters as he learns about letters, shapes and simple mathematical concepts. This app will work for preschool and early elementary school-aged kids, too, so you’ll be able to use it for years.

6. Fish School

Colorful little fish swim around and create different shapes, numbers and letters for your toddler to identify. There’s even a memory matching game for older toddlers and preschool kids.

7. Peek-a-Zoo

In this adorable app, toddlers will learn about different animals and will also begin to identify different emotions and behaviors.

8. First Words Sampler

This learning game is for toddlers and preschoolers and helps with letter recognition and first spelling words.

9. The Reading Train

Kloek recommends this free app with fun, age-appropriate learning games that uses a parental gate (a subscription) to avoid inadvertent in-app purchases.

10. Little Stars Toddler Games

This game asks toddlers to find the correct letter or shape. Correct answers earn virtual stickers.

11. Abby Monkey

There are lots of things for your toddler to do in the lite version of Abby Monkey, including simple puzzles and games that teach little ones all about patterns and number recognition.

12. Laugh and Learn Animal Sounds

This free app from Fisher Price helps toddlers to learn the names of different animals and to identify the sounds they make. Simple to use, even the smallest toddlers will enjoy this one.

Apps that encourage creative and imaginary play

13. Balls

This free app was rated one of the best apps for toddlers by Gizmag. Kids use the touch screen to direct brightly colored paint balls, which produce wind chime sounds as they bounce off the walls and each other.

14. Toca Kitchen Monsters

This free-play app allows little ones to prepare food and feed a friendly monster.

15. Musical Me!

Teaching toddlers about rhythm, notes and even pitch, this is another top-notch creative free app from Duck Duck Moose.

16. Scribbaloo Paint

This intuitive and easy-to-use app gives your toddler the perfect canvas for creating her masterpieces.

17. Tiny Tiger and Friends

Kids pick a friend to dress up and play games like Peek-A-Boo.

18. Shapes & Colors Music Show

Best-suited for children ages 2 and under, this simple little game teaches toddlers about music and shapes. Toddlers can also tilt their device to make the shapes move around.

Apps for entertainment and watching videos

19. PBS Kids Videos

Recommended by Elgersma, this app provides tons of free educational video content for kids to keep them occupied when you need a quick diversion.

20. DisneyNOW

Simply log in with your TV provider information and your toddler can access all of his favorite Disney Junior shows on the go. This app also allows parents to set up a profile for their little ones to ensure that they only see age-appropriate Disney content.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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