There are going to be moments where you are somewhere, and the toddler is in a particularly horrible mood. You will think “I just want to hand them my phone so they will be quiet” and you know it will work. Then you are inundated with those “I am a bad parent” feelings and you don’t know what to do. While we all know that too much screen time can be bad for kids, we also know that sometimes it’s about your sanity. Fortunately, there are ways to combat those feelings by ensuring you provide an educational app so that Cranky Toddler is learning rather than being sucked into some mindlessness. Here are some top picks on free kids apps (without hidden in-app purchases) that are good for your kids.
Breathe, Think, Do
Mindfulness is such an important tool to learn and toddlers are quite capable of doing so. Breathe, Think, Do is a Sesame Street app that helps a child learn techniques to calm down, problem solve, and staying on task. It is also a bilingual app, offering English and Spanish, to ensure your child can engage (or learn a second language!). This is available in the Apple App Store, Google Play, and on Amazon.
Alien Assignment is an app that was birthed by a teacher, in partnership with the Fred Rogers Center. The game is a scavenger hunt around your home to find things that help the Alien family fix their spaceship. The child must take pictures of things that have attributes they are instructed to look for. This is an app that may not help with a meltdown in the grocery store but will help if you need them to leave you alone to handle laundry for 15 minutes at home. This app is available in the Apple App store only. We do not have any word on availability coming to Google Play or Amazon.
Play PBS Kids
Play PBS Kids is a great app if your young one already watches a lot of PBS kids. Games are appropriate for kids aged 2-8 years old. The app uses characters from their favorite PBS kids shows to teach them math, letters, and shapes. Games change often as well so the child won’t have time to get bored with the same old games. This one is perfect for car trips, lengthy waits in a doctor’s office, or meltdowns at home. Play PBS Kids is available on the Apple App Store, Google Play, and Amazon.
Fish School is an app with an underwater theme that helps your toddler learn shapes, patterns, and numbers up to 20. There is a matching game that helps your child learn memory tricks and grows with your child’s skills. The app is also partnered with Khan Academy (a non-profit educational organization you should check out!) which indicates there will be more to come with this app. It is available on the Apple App Store, Google Play, and Amazon.
Remember, these occasions in which your child uses the phone to deal with stressful situations does count towards screen time. In my household, my toddlers only get screen time when they do struggle. This is a personal choice I made so that they can learn other ways to keep themselves busy and not reliant on television or computers.