Best of 2011: The 20 Best Apps For Kids

Dec 11 2011 - 7:46am

Parents with curious young ones quickly realize that what's yours — including your iPhone and iPad — is also theirs. But, hey, sharing is good (right?), especially when you stock your technology [1] with kid-friendly apps guaranteed to keep your tot entertained for hours, or at least wait for the doctor, fold the laundry, or chat with your bestie. Check out our 20 must-have kid apps for 2011, some free, and start downloading now!

Scout's ABC Garden

LeapFrog's first app, Scout's ABC Garden [2] ($4), is similar to the company's highly praised Leapster and Explorer units, featuring interactive exercises designed to teach lil ones about letters and sounds. Scout and Violet can be personalized to say up to three children's names, their favorite colors, food, and animals. Tots can then explore Scout's garden, pop bubbles, sprinkle seeds, play a whac-a-mole-like game, and listen to kid-friendly songs while practicing their letter skills.

Eric Carle's My Very First App

Eric Carle's iconic board book drawings easily move over to the iPad for the My Very First App [3] ($2). With three matching games based on his classic books, the app features many of the images tots have grown to love over the years.

Helicopter Taxi

Your transportation-obsessed child will love Helicopter Taxi [4] ($2). The Toca Boca app uses your iPhone or iPad camera to create an effect of a helicopter flying across your actual room with chosen characters inside. Move your device around, and your little one can steer the helicopter around your house and land on different surfaces to pick up more passengers. A must-have!

Disney Fairies Fly

Take your tot's Tinkerbell love one step further with Disney Fairies Fly [5] ($5). Your child guides a chosen fairy through Pixie Hollow, collecting treasures and avoiding obstacles. The app also has still shots and videos from Disney's fairy movies.

Shape-O ABC's

Puzzles and letters oh my! With more than 100 images, the Shape-O ABC's [6] ($2) app gives lil ones plenty of opportunities to arrange geometric shapes while learning their letters.

Toca Doctor

Preschoolers are a curious bunch wanting to know the whys and hows of everything they encounter. Toca Doctor [7] ($1) allows them to do puzzles and play games that take place inside the human body, ultimately learning why things work the way they do!

Pocket Frogs

Kids love reptiles, and with Pocket Frogs [8] (free), your child will be able to collect, trade, and breed new frogs in the habitat they choose. Your kids can play the app with other friends and can earn 60 rewards as they play.

Scribble Lite

Turn your iPhone or iPad into a mini sketch pad with Scribble Lite [9] (free). Your lil one can create their own masterpiece using lots of colors, pen sizes, and draw-on photo options. Erase your pic by shaking your device; it's almost as fun as the creation!

The Going to Bed Book

It's no secret that we're big fans of Sandra Boynton around here, so the fact that her Going to Bed Book app [10] ($3) does a great job of bringing the classic bedtime story to life makes it an automatic win. With animals whose teeth kids can brush, and lights to be turned out, fans of the board book will love interacting with the characters.

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

The popular Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed [11] ($2.99) comes to life in this interactive iPhone and iPad app. Words are highlighted throughout the narration, and key words jump out when the beautifully drawn images are touched.

Freshwater Aquarium

Your tot loves the aquarium at your doctor's office, so why not take it with you? Freshwater Aquarium [12] ($1) turns your iPhone into a home for 19 species of fish, which your little one can feed. Also watch the fishies grow or play a mini fishing game.


Smack Talk [13] ($1) records your child talking and repeats what they say back in either a "high squeaky or low freaky voice" coming from a cute, fuzzy critter (choose from a guinea pig, puppy, kitten, or Chihuahua). Guaranteed to cause laughter in your child and (warning), after too many uses, perhaps some mild annoyance in you.

I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Dr. Seuss makes his way onto the mobile ereader with the I Can Read With My Eyes Shut! [14] ($3.99) app for the iPhone and iPad. As tots move through the story, individual words are highlighted and zoom out to help encourage word recognition.

AlphaBooks HD

Using beautiful photographs to illustrate words that begin with each letter of the alphabet, AlphaBooks HD [15] ($4) is a great way to introduce letters to preschoolers. Each letter has its own mini book telling a short tale about the letter, sounding it out, and showing words/animals that start with it.

JellyCar 2

JellyCar 2 [16] ($1) takes the popular JellyCar even further, offering 30 new levels, three new modes that allows your tot to create their own JellyCar and puzzles. Also includes new Sticky Wheels and Balloon abilities, sure to be a hit with your child.

Spot the Dot

David A. Carter's pop-up books are a favorite of tots and adults alike. Moving the complexity of the author's images and cutouts to the iPad doesn't sound like it would work, but it does — brilliantly! Spot the Dot for iPad [17] ($4) is a 2D game that has tots looking for a specific color dots in various images. It progresses to more complex scenes as the game goes on.

The Monster at the End of This Book

Sesame Street's beloved Grover is the star of the ebook about a monster who is scared of monsters. The Monster at the End of This Book app [18] ($4) starts where the hysterical book leaves off, inviting tots to untie the strings, knock down the bricks, and remove the nails that hold the pages together. Along the way, parents are prompted to engage even more with their kids — inviting them to flex their muscles, discuss the topic, and more.

Bob Books #1 — Reading Magic

Bob Books have taught countless tots how to read, and their app just may be the best one out there to supplement actual book reading. The Bob Books #1 — Reading Magic [19] ($2) and Bob Books #2 — Reading Magic [20] help tots sound out words to start reading and spelling simple words on their own.

Andrew Answers

A fun, interactive app, Andrew Answers [21] ($4) takes lil ones along on an adventure all the way to the Oval Office when Andrew is smug with his teacher. With mazes and games scattered throughout the tale, tots won't be bored too soon.

The Little Engine That Could

An interactive telling of the classic The Little Engine That Could [22] ($2), the iPad app allows tots to select the engine color and help the train up the mountain as the story is told.

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