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Recommended apps for little ones: ages 5 and under

During the year, YDL librarians carefully review apps that promote learning for our school-aged patrons, so we can recommend them to parents.

We maintain another list of apps for kids ages 5 to 12.

Criteria we look for in educational apps:

  • High-quality, age-appropriate educational content
  • No in-app purchases (or that feature can be turned off)
  • No links outside the app
  • Opportunities for creation and safe sharing
  • Encourage or inspire activity beyond the device
  • Accommodate different languages and abilities
  • Available for both Android and Apple devices

THE APPS

Free Apps
  • Daisy the Dino ages 4+
    Learn the basics of computer programming with Daisy!
  • Dinosaurs Connect the Dots ages 3-6
    Improve dexterity and number recognition
  • Dr. Panda Cafe  ages 4-6
  • Run your own café as the cook, waiter, & barista

  • Feel Electric ages 4-7
    Electric Company app that teaches about emotions
  • Fish HD/Fish School ages 2-4
    Learn ABCs, 123s and shapes with colorful fish friends
  • Hello Cupcake all ages
    Step-by-step instructions on how to decorate cute cupcakes
  • Hideout ages 4+
    Teaches kids how to read through a series of fun activities
  • Musical Me ages 3-5
    Music based games teach pitch, rhythm and instrumentation
  • One Globe Kids ages 4+
    Learn about cultures and kids from around the world
  • Squiggles! ages 2-5
    Create drawings that move on the screen
  • Tiggly Draw/Safari/Shape’s Got Talent/Stamp ages 2-5
    The apps are free but they require the use of Tiggly toys
  • Toca Kitchen Monsters ages 2-5
    Practice kitchen skills as you feed two silly monsters
  • Wheels on the Bus by Duck Duck Moose ages 2-4
    Interactive songs, record yourself singing!
  • Zoo Train ages 2-5
    Learn the alphabet, match patterns, recognize shapes
$.99 Apps
  • Little Writer Tracing App ages 3-6
    Fun and easy to use letter tracing game
  • Singing Fingers ages 2-5
    Use a creative blend of finger painting and sound to make art
$1.99 Apps
  • Bob’s Books: Spin & Spell ages 2-5
    Helps children make early connections between letters, sounds, spelling, and reading words
  • Bunny Fun: Head, Shoulders… ages 2-5
    Sing the song with Rosemary Wells’ bunnies
  • Eric Carle’s Brown Bear Animal Parade ages 2-5
    The book brought to life in 3-D
  • Kapu Blocks ages 2-5
    Teaches physic concepts and gravity rules through free play
  • New Potty—Little Critters ages 2-4
    Mercer Mayer illustrations teach potty training
$2.99 Apps
  • Artie’s Magic Pencil ages 2-5
    Teaches children the basics of drawing to inspire them to get creative with shapes
  • Doodlecast ages 2-6
    A unique drawing app that records your voice as you draw
  • Dr. Panda’s Café ages 2-5
    Kids take orders and prepare food for their customers
  • Elmo’s Big Birthday Bash ages 2-5
    An interactive book app.
  • Fire Station by jumpseewow ages 4+
    Learn about fire fighters and where they work
  • Hat Monkey ages 2-5
    Help Hat Monkey accomplish some big tasks
  • Sago Mini Hat Maker ages 2-5
    Decorate colorful hats with stickers, shapes & more
  • Sago Mini Forest Flyer ages 2-5
    Discover the magical forest

  • Toca Hair Salon ages 2-5
    Pretend to cut & style hair on all kinds of customers
  • Wake Up Mo! ages 2-5
    An interactive book app
$3.99 Apps
  • Bob Books Reading Magic 1 ages 3-5
    For emerging readers: sight words, rhyming, vocabulary
  • Green Eggs and Ham ages 2-5
    An interactive book app
  • Hop on Pop ages 2-5
    The classic book brought to life in an interactive app
  • Mr Brown Can Moo…  ages 2-5
    The Dr. Seuss book in interactive app form
  • My Very Hungry Caterpillar ages 2-5
    Play with the caterpillar from Eric Carle’s well-known story
  • PopOut! Peter Rabbit ages 2-5
    The classic tale, told through an interactive book app
  • Reading Raven ages 3-5
    Improve reading and writing skills from phonics to sentences
  • Thinkrolls ages 2-5
    Puzzle games that encourage scientific thinking
$4.99+ Apps
  • The Monster at the End of this Book ages 2-5
    An interactive storybook app starring Grover
  • Three Little Pigs by Nosy Crow ages 3-7
    An interactive book app
  • The Boynton Collection ages 2-5
    4 of Sandra Boynton’s books, including Moo Baa La La (also sold separately)
  • Endless Alphabet ages 3-5
    Letter recognition and vocabulary builder

A note about screen time

Screen time means how long a child is looking at a screen. The television, computer, tablet, and cell phone all count as screens. Black & White logo that shows a young child and the words The American Academy of Pediatrics

We remember these recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  • For children younger than 18 months, discourage use of screen media other than video chatting.
  • For parents of children 18-24 months who want to introduce digital media, select high-quality programming/apps (see our list) and use media together with children.
  • For children 2-5 years, limit screen use to one hour a day of high-quality programming, and co-view with children.
  • Avoid using media as the only way to calm a child.
  • Keep bedrooms, mealtimes and parent-child playtimes screen-free for all. Stop using screens an hour before bedtime and remove devices from bedrooms before bedtime.
  • Avoid fast-paced programs, apps with lots of distracting content and violent content.