How Do I Know Which Apps Are Best For My Kids?

How do I know which are the best apps for my kids


Guest Post by Karen of Technology in Early Childhood

I am always careful about screen time, both with my students and with my own children. I try to limit it. But when my kids are in front of a screen,  I want what they are seeing to be of the highest quality. As a pre-kindergarten teacher, I’ve spent the last year trying to track down high quality apps to use in my classroom. It’s a much bigger job than I expected it to be:  good apps are hard to find. Over the last year, I’ve developed a set of criteria that I use to decide if an app is high quality and can be used in my classroom. As parents, we can use similar standards to evaluate apps for our own children.

Look for apps that encourage children to build and think creatively.

These kinds of apps are great for so many reasons. First, thinking creatively is so much better for the young brain than memorizing skills and facts. Second, you almost always get more “bang for your buck” with a creativity based app. When a child is thinking creatively, the possibilities are infinite. With an app that’s teaching a specific skill, like addition, you can almost always get to the end. An app designed for creativity can yield endless possibilities. Here are a few of my favorite apps that promote creativity and higher level thinking (and they’re all free!)

Kodable: Teaches Computer Coding Skills to Young Children

Kodable Screen Shot rz

Geoboard: Lets kids use this classic teaching tool digitally

Geoboard screen shot rz

MOMA Art Lab: Allows kids to create digital art

MOMA screenshot r


Try to avoid apps that include in-app purchases.

This is not a hard and fast rule for me. There are some really good apps that contain in-app purchases (Kodable, for example, has in app purchases) but most of the best apps don’t. My preschoolers have been known to inadvertently end up in the app store within minutes of opening an app through in-app purchase links. If they’re going to be on the iPad, I want them to be learning, not shopping for more apps. :) The iTunes store tells consumers which apps contain in-app purchases just under the title of the app. I always check for this and consider it before I download an app.

Recognize that you may have to pay for good apps.

App developers tend to generate income in one of three ways. 1. You pay for the app in the app store. 2. You purchase “upgrades” for a free app in the app store through an in-app purchase. 3.The developer runs ads on the app which generate income. What this means is that often (but thankfully not always!) free apps come with ads. You never know what a child is going to see in those ads at the bottom of the app, and it’s easy for little fingers to accidentally click on those ads. For this reason,  I’m very careful about letting my students use apps with ads and sometimes that means buying the paid version of the app, instead of sticking with the free version.

Look for apps that are recommended by trusted sources.

I Can Teach My Child has reviews of apps for toddlerspreschoolers and young readers. I’ve compiled lists of my favorite apps for teaching on my site as well. I always feel better about downloading an app that’s been recommended by someone I trust.


Karen is mom to two elementary aged children and is an assistant Pre-Kindergarten teacher who writes about teaching with technology. You can read more about using iPads with young children on her website, Technology In Early Childhood.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *