Six Apps for Your Preschooler


Since the dawning of the smartphone in 2007, I’ve held a firm position: “iPhones aren’t for kids and I’ll never download an app for my 3-year-old.” I believed math facts were best memorized via homemade flashcards, and puzzles were best done on a card table in the corner of the family room. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve said “No, you may not play with my phone. It’s a tool, not a toy.”

But one afternoon last spring, I caved. Our 8-year-old was doing his homework, his 6-year old sister needed help with her piano lesson, I was cradling the baby in my arms, and the 3-year-old was racing his remote-control car up and down the hallway at Mach 3. Not exactly helpful to any of us from a sound or a chaos perspective. I was desperate. The big kids needed quiet and the 3-year-old needed… well, he needed a babysitter. It was in that moment that I said the words I never thought I’d say. “Here, play with my phone.”

Oh my word, the peace that followed.
Tranquility. Calm. All I heard was her C Major scale and the occasional “click click click” of his mechanical pencil, and my blood pressure returned to normal faster than you can say “Thank you, Apple.” The next day I started researching educational, fun apps for preschoolers and I’m here today, a recovering app-scoffer, to share this list of 3-year-old friendly (and mom-approved) apps. Yes, there’s a time and a place for everything, and yes, I still believe kids need to be able to sit in a waiting room without fiddling with a gadget, but when these gizmos are loaded with the right material, they can do some downright solid teaching (and they can definitely help keep the peace when you need a life raft!).

 1. Monkey Preschool Lunchbox: Matching, letters, and colors. Cute graphics, pleasant music.

2. Zoo Train: Simple puzzles, songs, storyboard making, train track building, and letter recognition.  

3. Letter School: Number and letter recognition, sounds, and writing. Great for tracing, fun audio. One of my personal favorites.   

4. Shape Builder: A jigsaw puzzle game with puzzles of numbers, letters, and everyday objects (apples, limes, etc.).  

5. TallyTots: Counting, shape sorting, and number recognition with clear, vibrant, simple graphics.  

6. Endless Alphabet: My current favorite. A little pricey ($4.99), but it works to enrich vocabulary, spelling, letter sounds, and puzzle doing ability, and I’m pleased with the investment.

And a bonus: something for your grade-schoolers. Sakura Quick Math is the best math facts app I’ve found. It allows the user to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. It lets you select the level of difficulty too, but the best part about this app (and what makes it unique) is that you write you answer on the screen with your finger rather than choosing something from multiple choice.

What apps would you add to this list?

Originally posted Sept 18, 2013 by Kirsten Burden.


  1. They kind of go hand in hand…but “guided access” is a wonderful feature in apple products that you can enable before handing the phone/iPad over to kiddos, which makes the phone stay on that screen and disables buttons so the kids can’t accidentally delete apps or other info. 🙂


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