Most of the time, I admit that I would rather buy an app than get the free version. A lot of the free apps are filled with junk or poorly designed – and usually just mean that I’m going to have to make an in-app purchase anyway. Wading through all of those apps to find the hidden gems, or the apps that have actually playability, for free, and that aren’t filled with ads can be tricky. Here are eight of our favorite free apps for kids, that aren’t going to drive you crazy with requests to buy the rest of the game.
Jobi’s Fire Station
Jobi’s Fire Station features a dog who first is welcome to explore the fire station and then complete the daily tasks of being a fire fighter. Kids have to explore through the game, bringing the character through doors and interacting with other characters, so there is some learning through the game. It’s a fantastic app for kids interested in firefighters and the version of the app is free for a limited time (reg. $1.99).
Tip: I like to download apps while they’re free, and store them on the cloud, and save them for something new during road trips without spending the regular $25 on fresh new apps to keep the kids occupied.
Lego Duplo Food
If you haven’t checked out any of the Lego Duplo apps for children under five, you need to download them now. They’re full of content, and they’re free. In the Lego Duplo Food app, kids complete challenges like moving the food, assembling sandwiches, hamburgers and ice cream and take part in fun games along the way. It’s a fun game for toddlers, that has been played for hours and hours around here, but that has also given a bit of inspiration to the basket of Lego Duplo the girls play with on a daily basis.
Endless Reader is a letter matching game in the same family as Endless Alphabet ($7.99 and well worth it). The fantastic, bright colored app is one that helps children to match letters with their silhouette. Though the entire game is not unlocked with the free version, the full free version is available for free from time to time. Even without the full version, it’s a great way to introduce those letter sounds in a bright and well-designed app, as the letters make their sounds while being pulled to the silhouette of their shape.
Tip: the free version of endless numbers gives you the numbers one to ten
Toca Kitchen Monsters
With Toca Kitchen monsters, you are making and mixing food for two hungry monsters. As with all of the Toca Boca apps (we’ve paid for most of them), there is fantastic content, bright colors and great design. This is one of Violet’s (2) Favorite games, with Lego Duplo Food being a close second. She loves the response after she’s fed the monster – and plays with this app frequently.
Toca Tailor Fairy Tales
This is one of the apps that does come with additional content available ($3.49) but our kids have been playing it for months with the included two characters, and patterns. The kids can use their fingers to swipe, shorten and pull the clothing, creating different pieces on one of the two characters. After the shape of the clothing has been chosen, they can use stock patterns within the game to complete the look, or take a picture of a pattern to put on the clothing. They get a kick out of putting themselves on the clothing, or taking pictures of patterns from things around the house.
NGA Kids Art Zone
The first step in this game was to create a character that looked just like her. Next, it’s a mini tour through the National Gallery of Art, where kids can view some famous paintings. After viewing, the challenge is in using the app to create a similar work of art. Olivia likes this app to compare hers to the painting, and I like to encourage her to learn new techniques while she’s creating. I like to take this app offline, finding inspiration that she can use putting pen to paper.
Pen & Ink Watercolor App
Just like above where you had the opportunity to take beautiful inspiration from famous painting, pen and ink lets the kids work in many different mediums while they create. Some of the paintings that Olivia has created from this app have left me in awe, so I’ve emailed and actually printed the digital images. There are various brushes, mediums, sizes and techniques that can be created – and if you’ve got a budding artist, you’re going to have to check out Pen & Ink for them.
Monki Shake It
Step into Monkiland where little kids can learn vocabulary words through fun mini games, shaking it up as they go along. Another free for a limited time app, this learning app is going to come in handy, as the bright colors are engaging and the characters fun to look at and play with. From identifying instruments to numbers and animals, it’s one of the most fun free early learning apps that we’ve played with.