19 of the best free learning apps for kids of all ages

Screen time is a delicate thing. Kids love it and, honestly, when you need quiet for a meeting (or your sanity) … so do many moms. 

And that’s okay.

Many of us are constantly on the lookout for those rare apps and games that are age-appropriate, educational, affordable, safe, and actually interesting to our kids. There are so many apps to choose from.

So we researched, tested, and filtered out some favorites. These apps and games are all educational and FREE!

1. PBS Kids Games

If your kids watch any PBS Kids shows, they’ll probably love playing games with those same characters. PBS Kids Games includes more than 100 games, and more are added regularly. And because this is from the beautiful people at PBS Kids, there are no in-app purchases and no ads.

  • Ages: 2-8
  • Subject: ABCs, reading, math, and science
  • Platform: iOS, Android

2. Khan Academy Kids

Khan Academy Kids is a very highly-rated app used by educators as well as parents. The learning path adapts to your child’s play, to keep the content engaging and at the right level of difficulty. It’s designed to teach, but also to encourage kids to explore. Similar to PBS Kids, there are no in-app purchases and no ads.

  • Ages: 2-7
  • Subject: Reading, language, writing, math, social-emotional development, problem-solving, motor development
  • Platform: iOS, Android, Kindle Fire

3. Duolingo ABC

As schools and workplaces started to close due to the coronavirus spread, Duolingo pushed their new Duolingo ABC app to the market, for free. The app adapts their popular language learning framework to help littles learn to read. You can even set up multiple profiles to keep the content appropriate for multiple kids. 

Since they pushed up the release date, it is currently only available on iOS, but an Android app is in the works. No in-app purchases and no ads.

  • Ages: 3-6
  • Subject: Letters, reading
  • Platform: iOS

4. Bedtime Math

Bedtime Math takes a really unique approach to teaching math by tying math questions to a daily story. This isn’t an app that you hand off to a bored kid during a work-from-home meeting, but it is a new way to get kids thinking about math.

  • Ages: 3-9
  • Subject: Math
  • Platform: iOS and Android

5. Moose Math

Moose Math has the kind of graphics and interface that helps keep kids engaged—even though they’re doing math. This game covers everything from counting, to adding and subtracting, to geometry, and measuring.

No in-app purchases or ads.

  • Ages: Kindergarten - first grade
  • Subject: Math
  • Platform: iOS, Android, Kindle Fire

6. Play and Learn Science

Play and Learn Science is another great, free app from the people at PBS Kids. It’s a hands-on experimental environment where kids play with shadows, weather, and simple tools like ramps. If screen time could ever actually encourage real-life creative play, this would be the app to do it.

Still PBS Kids, so still no in-app purchases or ads.

  • Ages: 4+
  • Subject: Science
  • Platform: iOS, Android, Kindle Fire

7. Hopster Coding Safari

Coding Safari might be the earliest age-appropriate coding app out there. The cast of adorable critters introduces pre-coding logic for preschool-aged kids. 

The first “world” is free. The second costs $1.99.

  • Ages: 4+
  • Subject: Coding
  • Platform: iOS

8. Scratch Jr.

Probably the most popular, free coding app for kids, Scratch Jr. is the next step for helping your kids get a head start on coding. It’s commonly used in schools, and is so popular, you can get a book or a deck of coding cards from Scratch as well. 

No in-app purchases or ads

  • Ages: 5-7
  • Subject: Coding
  • Platform: iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Chrome Extension

9. Bamboo

Bamboo is completely unique in that it’s a collection of voice-based e-learning tools, and if you have a Alexa device (or a Kindle with Alexa), you already have it. Try, “Alexa, open Bamboo books.”

There are five Bamboo applications, including music and math.

  • Ages: 5-12
  • Subjects: History, math, reading, music
  • Platform: Kindle, Alexa devices

10. Prodigy

Can your kid smell an “educational” app or game from a mile away? Prodigy is for kids who like video games. Your child’s character is a wizard, on a mission, in a world of fun islands, with a team of trusty “pets.” They solve problems and battle like so many other video games, but they have to solve math problems along the way.

The learning element isn’t hidden, but the rest of the game is so engaging that kids who get bored with educational apps will still love this one.

Paid memberships start at $5/month (when you pay for a year), and they do unlock more features, but the free version isn’t shabby at all.

  • Grades 1-8
  • Subject: Math
  • Platform: iOS, Android, and online 

11. NSF Science Zone

The Science Zone app from the National Science Foundation is a free media library of images and videos. From astronomy, to biology, to chemistry, computing, engineering, nanoscience, and more—your science enthusiast will have plenty to soak up.

  • Ages: 9+
  • Subject: Science
  • Platform: iOS and Android

12. 3D Brain

Any budding neuroscientists at your house? Or teenagers with biology homework? The 3D Brain app is extremely niche, but also … pretty cool. You—I mean, your kids—can spin and zoom in on a brain rendering to learn all about different regions of the brain, etc.

There is a $1 fee to upgrade to the “HQ” version, but many of the reviews point out that the free version is actually better.

  • Ages: 11+
  • Subject: Science
  • Platform: iOS, Android, website (using Flash)

13. Duolingo

Duolingo is a well-known and highly regarded language learning app. The gamification of learning a foreign language is so engaging, your teenager will want to play. The program weaves together the practices of reading, writing, understanding, and speaking whichever language (and there are lots to choose from) you decide to learn.

There are ads, which are removed at the paid upgrade level, but all of the content is included in the free version.

  • Ages: 13+
  • Subject: Foreign language
  • Platform: iOS and Android

Let’s talk about a few really amazing educational websites too!

These aren’t technically “apps,” but there are some really great resources here too. And if your kids use a tablet with a safe web browser, they might as well be apps, right?

14. SesameStreet.org

Sesame Street has a bunch of apps, although most of the really good ones are not free. The SesameStreet.org website, however, is full of free, fun games, videos, and digital art projects. 

There are links to other parts of the website in the footer menu, so it’s possible for kids to get lost occasionally after accidentally tapping a link. But there are no ads.

  • Ages: Preschool through first grade
  • Subject: Letters, numbers, shapes, etc.

15. Beanstalk

Beanstalk is a collection of video lessons from early elementary educators. Some classes are live, but the on-demand library is full as well. The videos encourage kids and families to participate and get involved off-screen, so this is a good one for parents who are looking for ideas and inspiration for lessons and activities.

Beanstalk is normally a paid platform, but they’re offering all their videos free during the COVID-19 shutdowns.

  • Ages: Younger children
  • Subjects: Art, science, reading

16. NOVA

NOVA is a video library for a slightly older crowd. Brought to us by PBS, these videos are high quality and captivating. Your bored teenager can scroll through a library of videos on nature, engineering, space, ancient worlds, espionage, and more. 

  • Ages: Middle school and high school
  • Subjects: Sciences and humanities

17. OK Go Sandbox

OK Go is a four-piece rock band, and no matter how you feel about their music, there’s no denying that their music videos are amazing. Now, they’ve partnered with the Playful Learning Lab to offer the OK Go Sandbox.

The site pairs each music video (also embedded on the appropriate page) with hands-on science, math, and/or art lessons and DIY projects. There are resources and lesson plans geared toward different age groups, for each lesson, on each video.

  • Ages: Middle school and high school
  • Subjects: Science, math, art

Honorable Mention: Fave YouTube Channels

Please, of course, remember that YouTube is user-generated video content, and the site uses sophisticated algorithms to keep people (of all ages) clicking through to more and more videos. If you have small children, keep them close while they’re on YouTube and consider YouTube Kids.

That said, there are a couple great channels that need a mention before we close out this list.

18. StoryBots

The StoryBots aren’t actually their own channel anymore, since Netflix bought them, but all their amazing YouTube content is still available—just moved over to the Netflix Jr. channel.

There are full Netflix Jr. StoryBot episodes available, but also the StoryBots’ classic collection of short music videos about anything and everything. Numbers, letters, planets, colors, shapes, body parts, jobs, vehicles, emotions … you name it and StoryBots probably has a song about it.

The best part is they’re fun, catchy, not-annoying songs. Let’s be honest, kids’ music is sometimes grating, but you can jam to the StoryBots with your littles. 

  • Ages: Preschool - Elementary
  • Subjects: Everything

19. TED-Ed

Everyone likes TED Talks, right? TED-Ed goes one step further by pairing short lessons on interesting topics with high-quality animation. Math, science, history, poetry—true to the spirit of TED, these videos cover it all.

These videos are great for letting older kids click through, and they’re great add-ons to homeschool lessons. There’s even a 10-episode animated series called, “Think Like a Coder” that helps kids view problems like programmers.

  • Ages: Middle school and high school
  • Subjects: Everything

Happy Downloading!

Hopefully there are a couple apps in this list that can help keep your kids occupied and/or help them cement some important concepts. Remember to set time limits and encourage responsible screen use when you can.

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