These days, little children are playing with mobile devices even before entering kindergarten. If your toddler owns (or regularly borrows) a tablet or smartphone, why not set it up with some apps that are both educational and fun? The preschool years are a prime time for learning numbers and letters. Here are five apps that teach those things—and other skills—in interactive ways.
For generations, kids have been learning the alphabet by memorizing the ABC song (ending with "Now I know my ABCs, tell me what you think of me"). The AlphaTots Alphabet app uses the song as a jumping off point to an array of 26 cool interactive games, one for each letter of the alphabet.
In the app, each letter stands for a different action verb, such as b for build. Tots can build robots, dig for treasure, and zap alien spaceships. The app also teaches beginning phonics, letting kids hear the sounds that the letters make.
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Endless Alphabet is a lighthearted app that teaches preschoolers some serious lessons in spelling and vocabulary building. Responding to cool visual cues, kids get to know the spellings and meanings of grownup words.
If you download this app, don't be surprised if your three-year-old starts spouting three- and four-syllable words like contraption_, stupendous, and _hilarious. The app receives frequent updates, so kids can keep going back to learn new words.
Also ad-free, Endless Alphabet is available on iTunes (for iPhone or iPad) and the Amazon App Store for $8.99. You can get a free but very limited sample on either Google Play or the Windows Store and then buy the full version as an in-app purchase for $8.99 (at Google Play) or $4.99 (at the Windows Store).
Elmo Loves 123s
Elmo, the beloved furry red character from Sesame Street, teaches kids how to count from 1 to 20, perform simple addition and subtraction, and trace numbers.
Children get tons of fun surprises along the way, including Sesame Street videos, coloring pages, and jigsaw puzzles.
This ad-free app also includes a parents-only screen, where adults can see how long their kids played with the app and on which activities.
The Elmo app is downloadable on iTunes (for iPad) and the Amazon App Store for $4.99. On Google Play, you can get numbers 1, 2, and 3 for free and then upgrade to the full versionwith in-app purchase for $4.99. On the Amazon Underground, the full version is free.
PEG + CAT Big Gig
Based on another educational TV show, PEG + CAT Big Gig is a highly entertaining app that lets three- to six-year-olds practice their math skills by creating songs and choreographing dances.
In warmup activities, children practice counting up and down by ones and two, adding one, and extending patterns.
Kids then pick an instrument and play in Peg's band as one of five characters in the show, joining in on jam sessions for eight songs. As children move along, they can create their own songs in a "Sound Check" game, play a solo with background tracks, record the song, and play it back.
In a Cat Dance game, tots can make a dance routine for Cat and then customize the routine while getting practice with ordinal numbers (first, second, third).
Bugs and Numbers
Despite the creepy name, Bugs and Numbers is a visually gorgeous app that might inspire a kid to practice math skills for years on end. It consists of 18 games covering skills from preschool level (counting) to early elementary school (beginning fractions).
A tiny tot won't get frustrated because the games are clearly divided into preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school categories. When kids are ready, they can move on to the next level. You can easily use this app with multiple siblings of various ages.
A fractions game uses a pizza to illustrate concepts such as one-fourth and one-third. The app teaches other skills, too. A bug race game reinforces kids' knowledge of the difference between left and right.
Also free and without any in-app purchases, this great app is available for iOS (iPhone or iPad) only. It's downloadable from iTunes for $2.99.