Top 10 Educational Apps for Preschoolers

I’m a firm believer in real-life, hands-on experiences to help young children grow and learn…So much so that I have really fought against this whole “kids using iPods/iPads” thing.  But I’m giving in–mostly because I know that this is the way of the future and refusing to let my children “indulge” makes them want it even more, to the point where they are obsessive when/if they do get to play.  Rather than mindless video-game playing (i.e. Angry Birds, which they’ll still get to play on occasion), I want to harness this technology as a tool for teaching and learning.  After hours upon hours of reading reviews and testing more than a dozen apps, I compiled a list of  10 of our favorite iPhone/iPad educational Apps for preschoolers!

I have included 6 favorites that must purchased and 4 that are currently free.  Please note, however, that a few of the free apps only have parts of the app available for free.


6 Best Paid Apps for Preschoolers:

1. Montessori Crosswords (iPhone or iPad–$2.99)

This is one of my favorites, probably because it is a great tool for teaching reading (or the phonetic component of reading, anyway).  Teaching a child to read is one of my favorite things in the entire world!  This app is great for teaching letter SOUNDS (which is WAY more important than learning their names).  It also adds a cognitive component of mini-crossword puzzles as well as consonant blends.  This app is completely customizable and includes a special section for parents.

2.  Handwriting without Tears:  Wet, Dry, Try Capital Letters and Numbers (iPad 2 and newer only–$6.99)

If you are familiar with the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum, you will appreciate this app!  It is an electronic version of the Wet-Dry-Try activity that is a core component in this curriculum.  It teaches children to form letters from the top down.  Although using this app is quite different from holding a pencil and writing (unless you have your child use a stylus), it at least allows children to learn how to correctly form a capital letter (and numbers).  My only complaint about this app (besides the fact that it is ridiculously expensive and only includes capital letter formation) is that it can be frustrating for younger children.  Little Brother attempted it and he obviously did not have the fine motor control necessary, so it would make him start over again and again.  I would suggest this app for children who are 4+.  It is perfect for Big Brother and keeps me from harping on him all the time to begin writing his capital letters from the top down!



3.  TeachMe Toddler (iPhone or iPad–$0.99)

This all-in-one app works on letters, numbers, shapes, and colors (which I think is great for young preschoolers/older toddlers).  If you have a preschooler who is ready for more of a challenge, the Teach Me Kindergarten App ($1.99) would be a great step up!  The Kindergarten app includes addition, subtraction, spelling, and sight words!  Each child has their own log-in and you can track their progress.  The interface is pretty simple, which I personally prefer for my children–some other “busy” apps can be overstimulating.  This app can be a little drab if playing it for a while, but it is still something I would recommend.

4.  Monkey Preschool Lunchbox (designed for both iPod and iPad–$0.99)

This is the most popular preschool app available, with good reason!  At 99 cents, it offers a lot of bang for its buck!  The puzzle feature (below) is great for incorporating visual/spatial awareness while you’re on the go (without losing a million puzzle pieces in the process).  It also includes sorting, shape recognition, and color recognition…just to name a few.



5.  Park Math – Duck Duck Moose (iPhone or iPad–$3.99)

This app provides valuable content and is engaging to young children.  The bear on the roller skates strolls from task to task, including sorting from smallest to largest, patterning, number recognition, counting, and addition.  The graphics won’t wow you, but they’ll keep your child entertained while learning.



6.  Bugs and Bubbles (Designed for both iPod and iPad–$2.99)

This app, along with its companion app (Bugs and Buttons–same price), are the most beautiful children’s apps I have seen!  The graphics are incredible!  This app, in my opinion, is the perfect blend of fun and learning.  Some of the tasks are solely for fun (popping bubbles) while others include important early-learning tasks such as patterning, letter matching, letter writing, and shape recognition.  I also really like that every game starts at the easiest level and as the child masters it, it goes to harder levels.



The Best FREE Apps for Preschoolers:

7.   PBS Kids Video:  Although this is less of an app and more of a portable movie player, it is still nice to have!  Watch more than 1,000 videos from your favorite PBS Kids shows anytime, anywhere (with Wi-Fi) in the US!  Great for doctor’s appointments and airplane rides (just don’t forget the headphones).


8.  Farm 123 Free – StoryToys Junior:

This interactive pop-up book allows your little one to count, but won’t let him/her recount an object that has already been counted, therefore helping to increase a child’s one-to-one correspondence ability.  Some of the games are locked until you purchase the app, but the book portion alone is worth downloading.


9.  Little Writer – The Tracing App for Kids

If you don’t want to pay for the Handwriting Without Tears App, this is a great (and FREE) alternative that helps your child learn how to form their letters in a fun and interactive way.  Like the HWT app, it would be even better if you had your child use a stylus.  I also really like this one because it includes lowercase letters as well (unlike the Handwriting without Tears app).


10.  Rover – The Browser for Education

Many of you shared on Facebook that you loved the Starfall Apps.  But when I read the reviews, there seemed to be a lot of negative comments about how expensive the App was for ONE game (out of dozens) that are free on the Starfall website (that can’t be used on iPads/iPhones due to no flash players).  Rather than paying for a Starfall app, I followed the recommendation from Ashley of Life with Moore Babies and downloaded Rover–which makes websites with flash players (like Starfall) accessible and usable!


A Few Runner-Ups


Alphabet Zoo:  This simple flashcard-like app goes through every letter of the alphabet, saying the letter name, its sound, and an object that corresponds to it.

Phone for Kids

Agnitus Learning Games

Timmy’s Kindergarten Adventure (free version)

ABC Alphabet Phonics

Montessori Numberland



Paid:  I didn’t purchase these apps and try them out, but they came recommended by readers on my Facebook page.

LetterSchool ($2.99)

BOB Books ($3.99)

ABC Wildlife ($2.99):  We downloaded this one when it was free about a month ago.  I REALLY like it and would recommend it. Each letter has several real animal examples with letter sounds, games, and videos about the real-life animal.

Tiga Talk Speech Therapy Game ($4.99)

Interactive Alphabet- ABCs ($2.99)

Zoo Train ($1.99)



*New*  Check out our Top 10 Apps for Toddlers as well:




A FINAL WORD:  Please remember that iPhones and iPads are just like computers–meaning that you must be vigilant about ensuring your child isn’t exposed to any inappropriate content.  SecureMama shares a step-by-step guide for ways to secure your iPhone or iPad.   Read and implement these suggestions!  


What is your favorite educational app for preschoolers???





  1. Alisha D says

    I highly recommend Letter School! My son LOVES it & has learned to trace many of his letters/numbers in a short amount of time! He also enjoys Zoo Train.

    • says

      I second Letter School! My boys (3 and 4) love it and play almost every time they have a turn on the iPad! I was shocked when my youngest picked up a piece of chalk one day and started writing his letters on a chalkboard using the correct letter formation. The visual reinforcement with great graphics is what makes it so effective. It has 3 print types (including Handwriting Without Tears!), including capital, lowercase, and numbers. I’d definitely get the lite version and try it out if you haven’t already. I think you’ll find it far superior to the Handwriting Without Tears app and worth the $2.99 for the full version. It taught my 3 year old how to write!

  2. sherri says

    These are great BUT…will you be doing a list for droid users? Personally I have gone through and tried out several, but I could always use more recomendations!

  3. Brenda says

    The PBS Kids Video is great. However, you will need an Internet connection for it to work, so it might not be the best solution to dr visit waits or grocery cart sittin.

  4. M Spoelhof says

    I highly recommend that everyone re-evaulate their take on Angry Birds. I am a former teacher / current technology education specialist and the physics teachers at the high school are using Angry Birds in the classroom. If you look at it that way, you will see the educational benefits.

    Also thanks for the Apps suggestions. Can you make more Apps recommendations by age / grade levels?

    • says

      I will certainly try…but I only have a toddler and a preschooler, so I can only speak from “experience” with those 2 ages (although I could probably do a first grade app list as well since I used to teach that). :)

  5. says

    Jenae – how many minutes/hours do you allow for screen time? I also find that my son obsesses over his screen time, but fear that he becomes a zombie, even when playing educational games. What is your advice?

    • says

      I let them play in 5 minute increments about 3-4 times a day total (since we are currently using the iPad/iPhone as a reward for potting…and being an “encourager” for Little Brother to potty). I just set the timer and when it goes off, they know to bring it to me (if they whine or refuse, they don’t get to play next time).

      This isn’t including TV watching, which I normally add another hour or so.

  6. Lori says

    Also wanted to comment that the Tracing ABCs app I mentioned in my previous comment allows you to reconfigure how it instructs your child to form the letter or number, etc. For example, I don’t like how it teaches my son to write the number 5, so I can go in and trace it myself and it will remember how I did it and will use that tracing pattern for him. This feature is only available in the full version, not the free version though.

  7. susanna says

    Does anyone know if there is a way to “lock” certain apps on my ipad so that I can restrict them to only apps that I want them to use for that time? If I give them the ipad they sometimes chose the educational ones, but I would like a way to not have to nag or monitor them to just play the ones that I chose…..but then sometimes let them play the non-educational ones.

    • Amerique says

      I am not sure about locking but you might try putting the other apps in a folder so they are not all on the screen. If you hold your finger on an app till the little x shows up you can drag it onto another app and they will now be in a folder together. If they don’t see all the apps they may be less tempted to use them. And you could name it something boring like “finances” lol.

    • Amerique says

      Also under settings, general, there is “restrictions” you can restrict certain things like safari and YouTube.

    • Karen says

      You can lock apps after the latest iOS update. Settings – General – Accessibility – Guided Access. The instructions are on the screen.

      You can even restrict some features of an app by drawing around it (volume for example).

    • Nicole says

      YES! Under settings, turn on GUIDED ACCESS, then open your app. Triple click quickly (must be quick!) the circle button at the bottom and the screen will concave and ask if you want to start GUIDED ACCESS- select start in the top right corner, then you’re good to go. When you’re ready to unlock, triple click the home button and it’ll ask for your passcode. Enter that and select end from the top left corner. Love this! :D

  8. Shana says

    Try Pepi Bath for the little ones to sequence life skills like bath time or potty time. All of my nieces LOVE this app! Also Nighty Night and Little Fox are great for the little ones too!!!!!

  9. says

    What a great list! We have some of these, but I didn’t know about the Bugs and Bubbles and Handwriting without Tears. JDaniel is using the Handwriting without Tears writing program in his preschool class.

  10. jennifer says

    My daughter LOVES “Smart Toddler School Pro++” app! As my official 2 1/2 year old product tester, she can attest that she loves her “Smart Toddler School Pro++” app, referring to the alphabets, numbers, Colors, Shapes and Counting. I spent many years as an elementary school teacher convincing parents and students that sitting on the couch watching TV was not the ideal way to spend the afternoon. The app, in a very animated fashion, teaches to learn the alphabets, colors, shapes and numbers. Why is it a Smarty Product of The Week? Let’s just say that my munchkin is running around telling me every alphabet, number, shape and color she can find in the house. “What color is it?”! Can’t argue with that!

  11. Jeannine says

    we had #7. I just installed #8 & 9…loving them so far! My 3 yo granddaughter will love these games. Big thanks for posting this.

  12. Ariel says

    I have a 2 1/2 year old and he has really enjoyed the Toddler Teaser App. I downloaded the free one to trial it. He liked it so much I downloaded the one costing $3.99. He will turn off the movie he is watching and go play the games for over a half hour. The app gives you a report card of your child progress that you access with a code. You can add and take away categories based on how he doing. It Has advanced shapes and lower/upper case letter and number above ten. So far I have been very pleased with but will also try some of your suggestions.

  13. Teri-Lynn says

    eFlash apps are great! especially for younger toddlers. my daughter loves it! it’s just a flash card app, but they are taught everything from numbers, to letters, to animals, to foods, to transportation. and they have one for every language! i downloaded them all!

  14. Destiny says

    Thank you for this, just recently purchased an iPad mini and looking forward to trying these with my girls :)

  15. says

    WOOZZLE is an interactive yet entertaining game Puzzle for your 0-4 Year Old Toddler’s. It helps your child to know more about all those things around him. 24 Objects Like, Birds, Animals, Shapes & other homely objects.
    To make it more interactive, we have added kiddy music and appreciation voice to encourage their each activity. They will feel like it’s their own electronic Toy-friend.
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  16. Tiffany says

    The one we love is endless alphabet! It teaches them the letter sounds, and definition of words. My kids love it!!

  17. Stephanie says

    I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Sesame Street’s ABCs on the ipad – OFF THE CHARTS!!! Check it out! =) My 18 month old learned all of his ABCs (upper and lowercase) and letter sounds. It also has a lot of different games and videos. He is almost 3 now and still loves it.

  18. says

    Forestpals is another recommendation I’d like to make! It’s a cute educational game series for preschoolers! It’s fun and engaging! And it’s free on the website… Touch screen works better of course… The spring game will be released the 21st!

  19. Kate says

    I just came across Lipa Learning’s products and think that they are great. They offer ‘purposeful play’ as the apps are gentle in style (not fast paced) yet engaging and educational. I, too, have held off on letting my kids play with apps/ipad, etc. but I cannot resist that technology is a part of their lives and am happy to have found high-quality programs for them to play with and learn from. Thank you for the article and here is my contribution to the discussion:

  20. Akash Verma says

    Another great new app for kids is Jazzy World Tour. They have a free version. My kids have learned so much from it.

  21. Jessica says

    Wonderful list, thanks for sharing!
    I suggest you to try Kapu Blocks and Kapu Forest from Kapu Toys! My son LOVES them!

  22. says

    My daughter also loves Little Writer Tracing App. But as many others have commented, Letter School takes the cake! It is the only kid’s app I have spent money on. Once she did so well with the 5 or 6 free letters, I had to purchase the rest of the alphabet. My daughter is 3 and 1/2 and LOVES to write. She has been writing her name freehand for almost a year now, and she can write probably half of the alphabet at this point. She is always drawing pictures of our family of four, and writing our names besides each person. I’m convinced that this app has contributed majorly to her success in writing.

    Another great app that I think has helped with her phonics development is Endless Alphabet. I could have sworn it was free when my Mommom downloaded it about a year ago, but now it is $6.99! Wowza. I think the newer version may have more features.

  23. says

    OH! And a few I forgot:

    iTrace – another GREAT writing app. That may be the only other one I’ve purchased, so that I could get the whole alphabet.

    Toddler Teaser Shapes – this app is free and teaches your child several shapes: circle, crescent, diamond, heart, hexagon, oval, rectangle, square, star, triangle. I know this app definitely reinforced whatever shape recognition I was teaching my daughter myself. She absolutely loved this game for several months, and still plays it occasionally (she is 3 and 1/2 and knows all of these shapes and more).

  24. says

    Another good shapes one is PB Shapes (Lite is free). There is also a great feature on 22 Learn’s LetterQuiz that I haven’t been able to find on another app. The free version is very limited, but it does come with Letter Quiz unlocked, which has your child identify a given letter out of a group of six letters. It does this for each letter of the alphabet. It reinforces letter identification since the child has to select the letter when viewed with other letters. If anyone knows of another free app that also has this feature, please let me know!

    Sorry for all the comments! Thank you for posting this article, as I know a little iPad learning time will be beneficial for all on our family’s 5+ hr car ride this weekend!

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