Best Educational App Designers For Young Kids: KidsOutAndAbout review | Kids Out and About Memphis <

Best Educational App Designers For Young Kids: KidsOutAndAbout review

by Kathleen McCormack

This started as an article about the best educational apps my daughter and I have discovered while tooling around on my Kindle Fire. However, I found that I was listing multiple apps from the same creators. So instead this project morphed into a list of reliable app creators who score big no matter what games they create. Regardless of which game you download, if it’s made by one of the following studios, it’s going to be good!

These apps work best for kids under age 6, although many of these studios have designed games for older kids too. I’m also not ashamed to admit that they are so entertaining I’m often mesmerized watching my daughter play, frequently jumping in to see if she “needs help.” My favorite apps are, of course, free (and many of these games have a free version to wet your whistle) but as with all things in life, you get what you pay for. The nominal price tag on these games is completely worth it; you’ll spend less than a cup of coffee to watch your child genuinely engaged in a fantastic learning experience.

In no particular order…

1. Tribe Play makers of the Dr. Panda series

If I had to create a list of our favorite apps, the top 10 would all be Dr. Panda games. Every Dr. Panda game is meaningful, intuitive, and clever. Bright colors and rounded characters create that kid-friendly environment but the content is not at all juvenile. We first discovered Dr. Panda’s Hospital when trying to ease my daughter’s fear of going to the doctor. I often reference the game when reminding her why she needs to wash her hands and brush her teeth. In preparation for the birth of her baby brother, we played Dr. Panda’s Daycare allowing her to practice and get excited about taking care of little ones. Dr. Panda’s Restaurant introduces her to new foods. Our latest discovery is Hoopa City; kids get to create their own Sim City-like town without money or natural disasters. I don’t know who gets giddier when a new Dr. Panda game is launched, my preschooler or myself.

  • Favorites: Dr. Panda’s Veggie Garden ($2.99), Dr. Panda’s Handyman ($2.99), Dr. Panda’s Airport ($2.99)

  • Anxious to Try: Dr. Panda & Toto's Treehouse ($2.99)


2. Kevin Bradford

We first got into this series because Kevin Bradford usually offers a free version of his apps first. When you realize how well made they are, you’re happy to pay for the full version. Each app contains a number of games that practice essential school skills. Preschool Games for Kids even starts as early as infancy with a cause and effect game where little ones can simply tap the screen and see what happens. It advances in difficulty practicing sorting, finding differences, tracing numbers, etc. At age 2, my daughter was correctly pointing out pentagons and crescents in the shape game. 101 Kids Puzzles Free is exactly that – a whole bunch of free puzzles (I’d say about 101)  made of colorful, kid-friendly pictures. I recently discovered that Bradford has created apps for each grade level up through seventh grade; the skills advance with age requiring kids to practice spelling, reading comprehension, and math skills like probability. There’s even a game called Campaign Manager, which allows kids to take charge of a presidential campaign, making decisions about advertising and polling data. I don’t know who Kevin is, but if he were a teacher at my kids’ school, I’d be that obnoxious parent who endlessly insists my kids have him for a teacher.

  • Favorites: 101 Kids Puzzles (free), Barnyard Games for Kids ($1.99), Preschool and Kindergarten Learning Games ($1.99), Preschool Learning Fun ($1.99)

  • Anxious to Try: Campaign Manager ($1.99)


3. 22Learn makers of the Abby Monkey series

The highlight of 22Learn games is that they flow nicely from one activity to the next, allowing little ones to just keep on playing without having to ask Mom or Dad to help them close one game and open the next. Alphabet Aquarium gives children multiple tasks to complete focusing on one letter at a time. By the time they’ve completed all the tasks, they’ve had the sound and shape of the letter reinforced at least four times. 22Learn is also the maker of the Abby Monkey series. Again, these games are focused towards the youngest learners practicing letter and number recognition, phonics, and sight words. Small rewards, like choosing a “sticker”, break up the learning activities. These apps are clearly developed by educational experts; letters are divided by phonetic sectors according to the Montessori method in Abby Monkey ABCs First Phonics and Letter Sounds School Adventure.

  • Favorites: Alphabet Aquarium ($1.99) & Abby Monkey ABCs ($1.99)

  • Anxious to Try: Preschool All-In-One Learning A to Z ($1.99)


4. THUP Games

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox? Yeah, I don’t get the name either but I love the game. Like the 22Learn creators, each activity flows nicely from one to the next without any need for parental intervention. The game covers necessary preschool and kindergarten skills like colors, letters, counting, shapes, differences, and matching. My daughter never tires of the little monkey doing his monkey flip when she gets the correct answer. A narrator gives directions but they’re also written on the screen so Mom and Dad know how to help if the little one gets stuck. The game utilizes images of fruit when making matches or picking out colors; I appreciate any help in connecting healthful foods with fun. Fresh activities expand on similar concepts in Monkey Preschool Explorers.

  • Favorites: Monkey Preschool Lunchbox ($1.99) & Monkey Preschool Explorers ($2.99)

  • Anxious to Try: Monkey Preschool: When I Grow Up ($1.99), Monkey Preschool Fix-It ($1.99), & Monkey Math School Sunshine ($1.99)


5. Brainster Apps makers of the Learn-A-Licious series

The Learn-A-Licious Preschool app functions mainly as a multiple-choice quiz. Kids start by choosing from categories like Animals or Directions. They are then given four bright, bold pictures and told to click on whatever is named: “Find the tiger” or “Which one is Under?” Kids keep guessing until they get it right, and at the end of the game, they are given a score out of three stars. This allows them to track their progress by replaying games to earn more stars. It’s also a good “report card” for parents to see which types of words they should emphasize more often. I liked this game best when my daughter was younger and just learning to connect words with objects. The only gross motor skill necessary was to tap the screen. We’re looking forward to trying more complicated activities practicing advanced skills in their other games, especially since they’re all $.99 or less!

  • Favorites: Learn-A-Licious Preschool ($.99) & Count-A-Licious Toddler ($.99)

  • Anxious to Try: Pet Escape: Vocabulary & Sights Words (free)


6. iMarvel makers of iStorybooks

I originally purchased an eReader for, well obviously, reading. While it’s not much of a hassle to download a book for myself, downloading children’s books and returning them takes more time than actually reading them. But with one click, iStorybooks puts hundreds of children’s books in your kids’ hands, reads them out loud while also showing the words, and turns the pages for little ones who otherwise wouldn’t realize that the page is done. Oh sure, I still read paper books out loud to my kid, but I love that this fills in for me in the car or the doctor’s waiting room when hauling a pile of books around is not an option. (And yeah, there are even times at night when I’m so exhausted, reading a book out loud myself is more energy than I can muster.) The narrator always starts by asking the child’s name and giving a quick summary of the story to set the kid up for maximum comprehension. Many classic fairy tales are included like Cinderella and Rapunzel but kids can also choose from diverse folk tales, educational stories like How Food Chains Work, and Aesop’s fables. Payment is more like a subscription; you pay $.99 a month to get access to all the books in the catalog. A new one is added every two weeks. $12 for a year of unlimited books at my child’s fingertips? Uh, yes please.

  • Favorites: iStorybooks ($.99/month)

  • Anxious to Try: Christmas Story Books ($2.99) & American History Books ($.99/month)


7. BrainPOP

The running joke in my middle school classroom is that I can find a BrainPOP video to go with anything that we’re learning. Imagine my excitement when I discovered that there is a BrainPOP Jr. app for my preschooler! Right now the app offers one free video per day with a follow-up quiz at the end. For all of the juicy BrainPOP features like related activities and worksheets to go with the video, you’d need a subscription to their website. BrainPOP videos are hosted by the same two characters who explore all sorts of academic and social topics; in BrainPOP Jr this could include anything from Mammals to Bullying. For my 3-year-old, the follow-up quizzes at the end of the 4-minute movies are a bit over my daughter’s head, but she can usually pick up on at least a little of the content for now. Facts are given in digestible chunks with key words and definitions highlighted on the screen and followed up with relevant examples. The hosts include a little girl and a robot named Moby. His comedic curiosity provides intrigue and silliness without being distracting. If you’re a teacher, insist on a BrainPOP subscription for your classroom; if you homeschool, this is a MUST to supplement your lessons.

  • Favorites: BrainPOP Jr (free)

  • Anxious to Try: BrainPOP: Pelicula del Dia (teaches Spanish, geared to grades 3+, free)


8. Spinlight Studio makers of the Tots series

These games are darn near brilliant in their simplicity. In AlphaTots kids move from one simple activity to the next, letter by letter; in TallyTots it’s the same, number by number. Yet each activity is shockingly engaging. AlphaTots asks kids to complete a task that starts with the same letter being emphasized. First they show the letter B, then the child gets to Build a robot. As each new number is added in TallyTots, the narrator counts up from one, reinforcing all the previous numbers. Next, children complete an interactive activity related to that number: Race 2 cars around the track, help a frog catch 15 flies. Directions are always clearly stated for the little one and a screen with all of the numbers and letters laid out allows kids to go back to replay their favorites over and over. This is absolutely my go-to game when I need to keep my daughter occupied at a restaurant or standing in line. And it’s clear to all the other people nearby (who, let’s be honest, are judging you for letting your kid stare at a screen) that you are actually enriching your little one with a highly educational program.

  • Favorites: AlphaTots Alphabet ($2.99) & TallyTots Counting ($2.99)

  • Anxious to Try: Geography Drive USA ($2.99)

Note: This is not a sponsored article; KidsOutAndAbout was not compensated for these recommendations.

© 2014,

Kathleen McCormack is the managing editor of and lives in the Rochester, NY area with her two young kids, her addictive obsession with Pinterest, and one very patient husband.