Screen Time

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21 Best iPhone Apps For Toddlers That Will Actually Teach Them Something

Guilt-free screen time? Yes, please.

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Sure, you try to limit your child’s screen time, but once in a while, you just need to hand your phone over to your kid in exchange for a few minutes of sanity. The best iPhone apps for toddlers are entertaining and educational. They'll keep your little one occupied — and maybe help them learn their ABCs, too.

When it comes to screen time limits for toddlers, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children ages 2 and older have “no more than one hour or less per day of high-quality programming,” according to the site. And while a screen should never be a substitute for positive parental interaction, there are plenty of apps that can teach your tot about shapes, animals, engineering, and more. To be honest, they'll probably keep your child more engaged, too. Once you and your child are familiar with an app, you might even find that you're able to find a couple minutes to do something productive, like unload the dishwasher or make a cup of coffee.

Some cost a few dollars, or offer in-app purchases, but many are (thankfully) free. Still, forking over a few bucks for a moment or two of freedom, quiet, and some early ed instruction? Priceless.

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1

Goodness Shapes

For little learners who are beginning to study shapes, Goodness Shapes is ideal. Kids will learn shape recognition, patterns, and matching in this gentle program that adults might also find utterly relaxing. And woot, there are no in-app purchases or third-party advertising anywhere in the app.

2

Canticos

Through sing-along videos, games, coloring pages, and more, Canticos's bilingual preschool app exposes young toddlers to the basics of Spanish. Their adorable content, Kidscreen-nominated for Best Learning App is designed for children between the ages of 2 to 5, and there's plenty of downloadable games to keep little ones entertained offline as well. The app comes with a free seven days to test drive the program. Afterwards, membership costs $6.99 a month or $57.99 a year for unlimited access to their regularly updated content.

3

ABCmouse

From reading and math, to social studies and science, ABCmouse offers instruction for children ages 2 to 8. It has a standards-based curriculum that was created by early learning education experts, and has over 850 lessons, 10 levels, and over 10,000 individual learning activities. The app has metrics that allow you to track your child’s progress, and also offers loads of videos, puzzles, games, and printables to make learning fun.

4

PBS Kids Video

You’ll find everything that you know (and love) from the TV station on PBS Kids Video. Not only can your child watch their fave shows (think Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, SUPER WHY!, and Sesame Street), but they can also see brand new videos every Friday. The app is free, and doesn’t require a login or subscription to watch.

5

Sago Mini Friends

When an in-person playdate just isn’t an option, your child can always have a virtual one with the Sago Mini Friends app. Ideal for ages 2 to 4, kids can visit a friend, play dress up, have a snack — even help build a birdhouse. You can play the app without WiFi, and allows your child to learn fundamental skills such as sharing and being a good friend.

6

Fish School – 123 ABC for Kids

This free aquatically-themed app for toddlers has eight activities to help kids learn and explore. In addition to learning letters, colors, shapes, and numbers, your child can even learn how to count from 1 to 20. The fish swim around to form shapes, letters, and numbers to inspire even more learning.

7

Toca Doctor

Your child can get a quick course in human anatomy, thanks to Toca Doctor. Designed to let your child be doctor for a day, your mini medical expert will get to examine a patient to see what ails them. There are 21 puzzles and games to play, all of which take place inside a human body. As your child learns about germs, it can be a great learning opportunity to teach them the importance of hand hygiene.

8

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox

Get your little monkey excited about their ham and cheese sammie with this cute iPhone app. Monkey Preschool Lunchbox allows your child to spruce up their counting, shapes, matching, and sorting skills as they help pack a lunch for the adorable monkey in the app. And when the monkey only wants fruit that starts with the letter S, for example, your child will be right there to help. The app even gives your child reward stickers for a job well done.

9

LEGO DUPLO Connected Train

All aboard! Tots who love trains will adore this free app from LEGO. Not only will your kiddo commandeer a train down the tracks, but they’ll also get to speed it up (or slow it down), put on the headlights, and honk the horn. And by adding bricks, your child can create even more exciting new adventures.

10

The Wheels on the Bus

The Wheels on the Bus app puts your child in the driver’s seat — literally. With just a touch, your child can make the bus’ wheels go faster or slower, and they can open and close the doors to let on passengers. And just like the lyrics go, your kiddo can even make the wipers go “swish swish swish” and help the driver to get the passengers to “move on back.” Your child can even record their voice as they sing along to this childhood classic.

11

Hungry Caterpillar Play School

If your child is a bookworm, then they’re going to love Hungry Caterpillar Play School. They can learn the difference between uppercase and lowercase letters, discover shapes and colors, and even begin understanding the process of sequencing shapes and sizes. Games and songs are age-appropriate in this sweet, gentle app designed for kids ages 2 to 6. And of course, there are animal characters based off of author Eric Carle’s books throughout the app. It's free to download, but there are in-app purchases.

12

Moo, Baa, La La La!

“A cow says MOO. A sheep says BAA. Three singing pigs say La La La!” If your child is a fan of the super popular Sandra Boynton board book, they’ll love this cute app. Kids can make the book come to life by touching the animals to hear them moo, baa, oink — and more. There are other colorful creatures, such as a chicken stagehand, dancing pigs, and a team of ducks.

13

Starfall ABCs

The ABCs have never been easier to learn than with this colorful app from the nonprofit organization Starfall. Your child can learn their letters (and the sounds they make) through games and other activities that are meant to encourage engaged learning. The free app can create the building blocks towards helping your child discover their love of reading.

14

Breathe, Think, Do With Sesame

Sure, there are a slew of programs that can help teach your child the ABCs and 123s. But what about emotional health? Breathe, Think, Do With Sesame helps children learn how to deal with everyday struggles, and problem-solve in a way to reduce stress and feel better. The “Breathe with the Monster” activity shows children how deep breathing can calm them down when they're upset.

15

Duckie Deck Collection

Developing healthy habits is the objective of Duckie Deck Collection. Not only will your child learn the importance of picking up their toys, but they’ll also master how to take care of their pets, and even how to not be so scared of the dark. And with its goal for establishing good eating habits, the app might (just might) get your picky eater to like their veggies.

16

Baby’s Musical Hands

Baby’s Musical Hands allows your tot to create a concert just by using their delicious little digits. Featuring 15 colored squares that represent drums, piano, and guitar, your child can touch to score a symphony. And as they touch the screen, colorful stars appear as they make musical magic. For a buck, your little one can feel like Beethoven.

17

Baby Coloring Book For Kids

Your mini Matisse won’t even realize that they’re coloring without crayons when they play with this cute app. With eight different topics that have 120 pages to color, Baby Coloring Book For Kids encourages your child to use logic to figure out how to color in certain shapes. Cute characters and fun sounds make coloring an entirely new (and educational) experience.

18

GoNoodle

You can make movement a priority with the free GoNoodle app. With over 300 dance videos and yoga exercises, your toddler will be moving their tush in no time. There are also mindfulness activities that can allow them to relax at the end of the day that you can do together. It doesn’t require WiFi, and videos can be played anywhere.

19

Montessorium: Intro To Math

What it lacks in color and cuteness, the Montessorium app definitely makes up for in math lessons. Kids can learn not just how to read and write numbers from zero to nine, but also gain an understanding of what they actually mean. Plus, they’ll learn problem-solving skills and gain insight into the difference between odd and even numbers.

20

Toonia Colorbook

Coloring has never been cooler than with Toonia Colorbook. It has 160 coloring pages in 20 themes for your child to choose from. But instead of having only a couple of colors to draw with, there are over 100 shades and hues to make your child’s picture pop. Best part: kids can color any which way that they want — coloring outside the lines is definitely encouraged.

21

Tozzle – Toddler’s Favorite Puzzle

You won’t ever have to search for missing puzzle pieces again with Tozzle. There are over 40 puzzles to choose from, all of which encourage hand-eye coordination and shape identification. There are cute sound effects and animations as your child plays with the puzzles. The app is available in English, German, Spanish, and French, and doesn’t have any in-app purchases.

22

Alphatots Alphabet

The AlphaTots Alphabet app pairs each letter of the alphabet with a fun verb in digital flashcard form to engage your toddler as they learn through mini games, puzzles, and sing-a-longs. With the opportunity to learn fun new vocabulary words and their ABCs, this app is totally worth the $2.99 price tag.

23

ShapeBuilder Preschool Puzzles

Puzzle apps are a great way for toddlers to use their brains and occupy their busy hands for a few minutes. While the app is rated for kids ages 4 and up, the reviews are full of toddler parents who rave about how fun and engaging their little ones find the colorful shapes and easy puzzles.

24

Baby Fingers Memory Cards Lite

If your toddler likes to play physical memory card games, the Baby Fingers Memory Cards app is sure to keep them learning and having fun on your iPhone or iPad. The “lite” version of the app is free and features various shapes, colors, and drawings that your kiddo can sort and match over and over again.

25

Build It Up

Toddlers can work on building up their fine motor skills, mathematical awareness, and visual perception skills with the Build It Up app. The app features a variety of toys and common items that toddlers are familiar with (think layered birthday cakes and stackable bath toys) that they must assemble in the correct order. It’s free to download for iPhone and iPad, but does offer in-app purchases and upgrades.

26

Families 1

At some point, your toddler will learn how to organize groups of similar things — this app helps them practice that very skill. Families 1 shows your tot various items that are each slightly different, but should be grouped together. For example, they may be shown balloons in four different colors, but after playing this sorting game for a while, they’ll be able to recognize that the balloons all belong to the same group.

27

KidloLand Kids& Toddler Games

This fun app for toddlers is filled with different games, sing-a-longs, and nursery rhymes that teach your little one everything from counting to shapes and even the days of the week. With more than 3,000 games, songs, and activities, this is an app that your child can enjoy through toddlerhood and beyond to keep them entertained as they learn.

28

Epic

If you have older children, you’re probably already familiar with the online library resource, Epic. When you download the app for your toddler, you can choose books that are age-appropriate for them and the app will read to them. This won’t replace the one-on-one time where you read to your tot, but it can help keep them entertained and learning for a bit while you fold some laundry. The app is free to download, but you’ll need to sign up for an account at $8 per month to gain access to all that Epic has to offer. (They do offer a free 30-day trial to get you started, though!)

29

Cosmic Kids

Tiny yogis can learn mindfulness, relaxation, and calming techniques to use in toddlerhood and as they grow with the Cosmic Kids yoga app. The routines feature toddler favorite themes like Frozen to keep your little one tuned in. The app is free to download and features a 14-day free trial. After that, a paid subscription runs about $10 per month.

30

Peek-A-Zoo

This free app for toddlers is a wonderful way to help kids learn about different emotions, identify multiple types of animals, and hone in on their recall and recognition skills. Basically, your toddler is shown different animals and must identify which animal is portraying a certain movement or feeling. For example, they may be asked things like “Which animal is winking?” or “Which animal looks surprised?”

31

Busy Shapes

With the Busy Shapes app, your toddler will work their way through a series of puzzles that encourage them to move and manipulate shapes to sort them into the correct hole on screen. It’s pretty much a digital version of the shape sorters that your toddler loves to play with in real life. The app is $2.99 to download and the more your toddler plays, the more challenging the puzzles become to help boost their brain power.