Learn by doing and exploring with the 20 best Android apps for kids

These are the best educational tools, games, and creative apps that will keep your child's mind curious and engaged during screen time.

android apps kids
Credit: Derek Walter
Help your child learn through discovery

Learning can be fun. That’s the thinking behind a large catalogue of apps that combine new technology with a child's natural curiosity. 

Whether it’s after school hours or during those long holidays, handing your child a phone or tablet doesn’t have to mean they’re frying their brain through dreaded “screen time.” Instead these educational apps and games show that they can investigate new concepts, practice math, and play games that will sharpen their skills.

So check out our roundup of the 20 best selections for kids to get your child hooked on apps that will help them get excited about learning and develop those imperative problem-solving skills.

youtube kids
YouTube Kids

This is Google’s first app directly targeted at the younger set. It presents a version of YouTube that’s free of all the violence, inappropriate langauge, and other weirdness that makes most school districts block it from their networks.

The app features clips of shows, music, and education videos that are kid-friendly. A lot of popular staples are here, like Sesame Street, Thomas & Friends, and Dreamworks videos. You (or your child) can search for a specific program. Just keep in mind often these are clips instead of full-length episodes.

However, the content is all pretty friendly for small children, so you don’t have to panic at what they might uncover.

To access the settings, a child must read a list of numbers and then type in the digits. From here you can set a time limit on watching and delete the search history.

YouTube Kids (free)

pbs kids
PBS Kids

PBS Kids has several popular shows, and most of them offer at least a few clips with this app.

The interface offers big buttons and areas to swipe through shows, making it easy for small fingers to navigate. Each show has an info tab at the bottom with details for parents and the ability to buy the video through Google Play.

It’s also Chromecast friendly, so you can send those shows to the biggest screen in the house. 

If your child is a fan of a particular show, there’s probably an app for it. Check out the PBS Kids page for selections like Cookie Monster’s Challenge and Arthur’s Big App.

PBS Kids (multiple free apps)

brain pop jr.
BrainPop Jr. Movie of the Week

Moby the robot can only speak in beeps, but he teams up with clever kids for a lot of educational adventures. 

There’s a Brainpop video on just about any topic you imagine: from basic addition to the Periodic Table. The BrainPop Jr. app gives you the “movie of the week” for kids from kindergarten through third grade.

If you want something for older kids, like topics such as the exploration of Mars or the Civil War, then you’ll want the BrainPop Featured Movie app. With both applications the entire movie catalogue is behind a paywall, with subscriptions starting at $99 per year. They’re not available as an in-app upgrade, so you’ll have to jump over to the browser to sign up.

Along with the videos you get quizzes and other interactive activities that are pretty fun and engaging. A lot of schools use BrainPop, so it’s a great resource if you want to keep your child’s mind active.

BrainPop Jr. Movie of the Week (free)

starwalk kids
StarWalk Kids

Star Walk is one of the benchmarks for stargazing apps. The kid-friendly version, appropriately named Star Walk for Kids, is a great take on introducing kids to the wonders of the universe. 

The interface is more cartoon-style, but it keeps the signature feature of letting you raise it above your head to see where celestial bodies are located. 

You can also move through time with a sliding bar that shows how the stars looked in the past or will look in the days ahead. The menu also has information about stars and planets—touching one will zoom right to it in the sky.

There’s a lot to explore, and it can be a great conversation starter or work as a gateway to discovering more about the universe.

Star Walk Kids ($2.99)

endless 123
Endless Numbers

This is a great one for kids who are ready for their first dabblings with manipulating images on a touch screen. Endless 123 attaches a cute video clip which tells a story for each number.

Along with the narration, your child is able to use buttons to interact with the sequence and number characters. After learning about each number, he or she can drag them around the screen and squish their little eyes out. It’s great fun.

Developer Originator Inc. also makes Endless Alphabet and Endless Reader, which bring a similar approach to those topics. 

Endless Numbers (Free)

minecraft pocket
Minecraft - Pocket Edition

Minecraft can become an obsession, but one parents should embrace. The game involves creativity and innovation, something that isn’t a part of a lot of button mashers.

The mobile edition does a good job of replicating the desktop experience. You navigate with two hands, one on the control pad and another to choose whether you're moving forward or backward. The creative mode is the best way to start, as you can learn about building structures with the blocks and the other nuances of how to play.

The survival mode is more challenging, as you must forage for blocks and avoid all kinds of enemies. But again, the zombies and others out to get you don’t have the level of gore that other games feature.

Minecraft is also good at saving your progress; you can switch apps by multitasking but return to the exact same spot. Now that it’s part of Microsoft, expect it to remain a contender among the top games on Android.

Minecraft - Pocket Edition ($6.99)

book creator
Book Creator

If you want your child to get creative with more than just another coloring app, then check out this app that will have them designing a book from scratch.

With Book Creator they can make a digital tome with text, ink, photos, and video. Once it’s finished you can upload it to your Google Play Books app for reading it anytime. Even if they’re on the smaller side, they can use the pen to ink up their creation as much as they want.

You can try out the free version, but it’s worth it to spend a couple of dollars for the full edition. 

Book Creator ($2.49)

dr. panda
Dr. Panda's Restaurant

The Dr. Panda series of apps are a great option if you want something that feels like a game but isn’t quite as addicting or fast-paced.

Your child controls a panda through a series of culinary adventures, which may accidently result in learning about some vegetables. The job is to whip up different dishes, which is done by by placing the ingredients in the right cooking apparatus (it’s more fun than it sounds).

The animal patrons will react with different facial expressions depending on the quality of the dish. The game is a good choice for smaller kids who might crave some screen time but aren’t ready for a more complicated adventure.

Dr. Panda’s Restaurant (free)

flow free
Flow Free

This is a good thinking game to keep a child’s brain sharp. With Flow Free you have to connect the dots by drawing a line between those with matching colors. But no two lines can intersect. 

There are a bunch of add-on packs that change the look of the game and offer different board configurations. Most are a buck each, and buying any of them nixes the ads.

For a more intriguing challenge check out Flow Free: Bridges, which places a bridge on the board that you use to go above or under when drawing the lines.

Flow Free (Free)

oregon trail
The Oregon Trail: Settler

Every generation needs to experience the joy of Oregon Trail, complete with the threat of succumbing to dysentery. 

This title brings a modern version of the classic game to Android phones and tablets, where you control a trailblazer on his journey west. It’s a pretty standard role-playing game, but it has a detailed and lengthy walkthrough that most kids should be able to master.

It’s Gameloft, so there’s going to be an excessive amount of in-app purchases. But if you have the right controls set on your Google Play account, or your child just knows better, then you should be fine.

The Oregon Trail: Settler (free) 

raz kids
Raz-Kids

It has a funky name, but parents and teachers will find a lot of familiarity between Raz-Kids and the layout of learn-to-read books.

It’s even better than the paper editions though, as there’s a highlighter that guides the reader along. There are many different levels of books to be found, as the app supports kids from Kindergarten through fifth grade.

Books finish with a quiz, which may not be all that useful for our over-saturated testing environment. But some kids may still like the sense of achievement with getting the answers right.

To get reading data you’ll need a subscription, which is $99 per year. If your child’s school uses it, however, you can use their school's sign-on credentials.

Raz-Kids (Free)

tynker
Tynker

There’s no reason your child can’t learn to code. That’s the premise behind Tynker, which uses a visual programming language to start them on their way.

It has a ton of sample games that are built from Tynker’s visual programming interface. It works by connecting puzzle pieces together, which serve as the “code” that commands the interface.

Even if your child hasn’t shown an interest in computer science, it’s a great way to introduce some critical thinking and problem solving.

Tynker (free)

thinktrolls
Thinkrolls

If you pick the right type, games are an excellent way to develop and sharpen thinking skills. 

Thinkrolls is one such game. You control an adorable creature through a maze, flicking and pushing it through to the exit. The different levels introduce various physical properties your kids have to use to get through the maze, such as acceleration, buoyancy, heat, and of course gravity. 

If you conquer the original, then there’s always Thinkrolls 2. While the original is free to download, the sequel will set you back $2.99.

Thinkrolls (free)

threes
Threes!

Threes has become a mobile classic for its innovative gameplay. It’s a perfect strategy game to introduce to an older elementary student, as they must combine cards that have matching multiples of threes.

It’s a great challenge, and something that will have your child thinking and using pattern-matching skills while getting lost in the action.

If you connect to Google Play Games it will remember your highest scores, even when you switch devices.

Threes! ($1.99)

world atlas
World Atlas

Your child may not be quite ready to be unleashed into the world of searching for information on Google or Wikipedia.

World Atlas does the trick then, packaging up information that used to be contained in heavy tomes that were stuffed into the corner of the library.

It makes it easy to browse through various stats for any country on the planet. It also uses Material Design rather well, making the navigation easy to figure out.

While the app is free, $3.69 is required if you want to eliminate the ads. 

World Atlas (free) 

toca lab
Toca Lab

The Toca series of apps are designed for letting small children explore. Toca Lab tackles the sciences, as your child navigates a creature through a bunson burner, spins it in a centrifuge, and performs other experiments on it with various tools of scientific measurement. 

There’s also a kid-friendly version of the Periodic Table, with different creatures representing all 118 elements. If you like Toca Lab, another learning-themed adventure is Toca Nature, also $2.99.

Other Toca apps are more about entertainment, such as Toca Hair Salon, so stick to these sciene-themed adventures for the best learning experience.

Toca Lab ($2.99)

tiny tap
TinyTap

TinyTap is like an interactive book, where your child gets to shape the story by adding in objects and other images to the storyboard. 

The theme is that your child can be a “maker” by designing simple games and solving puzzles in others. It has a cute interface and a lot of different themes, so there should be plenty to do if your child is ready for some screen time.

The best thing about it is the constant prompts through either the narration or the action to interact, so it’s definitely not a sedentary experience for the brain.

Tiny Tap (free)

marble math
Marble Math Multiplication

Yes, multiplication can be fun. Especially when you combine it with marbles and avoiding banana peels.

That’s the premise of Marble Math Multiplication, which has your child solving math problems by manuevering a marble through a maze to find either the factors or the product.

For extra fun, the game can tap into your device’s accelerometer for guiding the marble by tilting your device. 

If your child conquers this game, there are other marble-themed games in developer Artgig Studio’s portfolio.

Marble Math Mutliplication (free)

ck 12
CK-12

The CK-12 app has an extensive amount of elementary math and science practice for first through fifth grades.

It covers the gamit of what you’ll probably see with Common Core instruction, such as Algebra, probability, physical science, and life science.

It’s best to sign in with a Google account, so CK-12 can keep track of performance statistics.

The app doesn’t have all the whiz-bang interface of other educational apps, but that may be best for someone who needs to focus. 

Another smart feature is that the math problems also include a scratch pad for working out the problems on the screen, so there’s no scratch paper required.

CK-12 (free)

quizlet
Quizlet

Quizlet is an excellent digital study tool. It brings flash cards into the digital era, with various memory games for helping you study for that test or just learn some new terminology.

Many teachers are using Quizlet as an extension of their classrooms, so if that’s the case with your child then it will be worth having installed. If not, you can still use Quizlet as there’s a large community of user-generated vocabulary lists that make for some fun learning activities.

Quizlet (free)