Preschool Educational Apps for Phones and Tablets

Child with parents at breakfast

Written by: Samantha Littleford, B.A., & Francis J. DeMatteo, Ed.D., NCSP, Marywood University

Technology has undoubtedly changed the world in which we live. With every new device or program invented, technology continues to advance into a more prominent role in our lives. Children, in particular, are experiencing the effects and prominence of technology. Children are learning to navigate smart phones and tablets before they can walk or tie their shoes. While these devices are undoubtedly a source of fun and entertainment, it would serve everyone well if parents, caregivers, and children used these mobile technologies to their advantage and embraced the educational potential these devices offer1.

What Does Mobile Technology Offer?

Because mobile technology can go anywhere with a child, it provides the opportunity for mobile learning. Learning is no longer confined to the four walls of a classroom; learning can occur anywhere including, but not limited to at home, at the grocery store, or in the car and at any time of day 1. Mobile technology also offers personalized learning experiences. With numerous markets to download and buy applications (apps for short) from, the type of learning can easily fit with the needs of individual students and the focus can be on any content area (reading, math, spelling, etc.). In other words, mobile devices allow kids to develop passions and interests, enhance strengths, and practice challenge areas by providing opportunities for personalized technology experiences1. Lastly, mobile technologies and apps make learning fun for kids. By making learning interactive and game-like and incorporating well-known brands and characters from popular television shows and movies, kids become more interested and engaged without realizing they are learning.

The Application Market and “Apps”

The application market is one of the most rapidly expanding and growing industries in the world. The number of available apps has skyrocketed to millions and continues to grow each day. There are a plethora of markets to choose from; some of the most popular markets include: the Apple App store, the Android Marketplace/Google Play Store, the Amazon App store, as well as many other less popular, but still very common markets such as Blackberry World, Firefox Marketplace, Windows Store, and many other third-party international markets. Most markets divide their apps into categories and subcategories that allow individuals to search for specific types of educational apps (i.e. content area, age, game, etc.), as well as provide lists of the most popular apps, both paid and free.

How to Choose the Best Apps for Your Child

With so many options, parents and caregivers may be overwhelmed at which apps are truly educational and will help foster learning in their child. Fortunately there are several ways to evaluate apps for their educational ability. For example, each market place offers a description of the app itself as well as a list of reviews of the app. Furthermore, to help with the selection process, websites have been developed that review apps and provide educational ratings, several of which are listed below. Lastly, parents and caregivers can evaluate apps on their own. When gauging the educational ability of an app, parents and caregivers should examine the skills the app targets and if those skills are connected to a certain academic topic (i.e. reading or math); how the skills are practiced (i.e. in an isolated or integrated fashion); if feedback is provided; if the app offers flexibility and differentiation (i.e. are there levels or could it be tailored to individuals); how user friendly the app is (can a young child navigate the app or does it require an adults help); and how motivating the app is (does the student readily choose to play the app or do parents and caregivers have to encourage its use)2.

What Are Some Quality Educational Apps for Preschoolers?

The following apps are great for children ages 2 and up and who are in the process of learning letters, numbers, colors, shapes, and more!

  • Alphatots and Tallytots: These two separate apps help kids learn the alphabet by involving the letters in interactive games and activities and helps kids learn to count from 1 to 20 by offering interactive activities for each number ($2.99 each; ages 3 & up).
  • Kindergarten Readiness: This app helps students learn early reading, math, social, and self-care skills by using interactive games (1.99; ages 4 & up).
  • Monkey Preschool Lunchbox: This app teaches colors, letters, counting, differences, and matching through interactive games ($1.99; ages 3 & up).
  • PLAY 123: This app helps children learn about colors, numbers, and shapes by offering simple, interactive games (Free; ages 2 & up).
  • Preschool and Kindergarten Learning Games: This app helps students learn letters, spelling, math, and much more! (Free; ages 2 & up).

Resources for Parents and Caregivers

For more information, please see the links to the references below:

  1. Pockets of Potential: Using mobile technologies to promote children's learning, Carly Shuler for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.
  2. Ways to evaluate educational apps, Tony Vincent from Learning in Hand.
  3. Recommended apps retrieved from Common Sense Media.
Child with parents at breakfast
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