The best educational apps on iPad for kids and young students

in iPad

The iPad can be an important tool in a parent's playbook for instilling a love of learning early on. These are some of the best educational apps for younger learners.

A classroom with students using iPads to answer quiz questions projected on a screen
Students using iPads in elementary school

We don't intend to add to the problem of "TV and computing devices as babysitters" that has generally been viewed as detrimental, but some screen time is unavoidable. Instead, the key is balance -- and when screen time is needed, make sure it's full of high-quality, age-appropriate content.

An iPad mini -- especially one in a rugged child-proof case -- can be a vital part of early learning before a child is ready to start public school or homeschooling. It can also play an important role in assisting young students in and after school.

While it is important to limit screen time, and encourage outdoor and social interaction, the iPad remains a great tool to help develop young minds. With the help of some recommended apps, kids can get a big boost throughout their primary school years, and beyond.

Pre-school apps for ages one to four

When considering an iPad app for young children, you want to be sure there will be no advertising. This often means that quality apps will require a subscription, but this also ensures regular updates and refreshed content.

Helping your kids understand art, music, letters, numbers, and other foundational skills is key at this stage. It is as important to their mental health as nutritious food and exercise is to their physical health.

One example of a well-regarded, teacher-approved app for children from age two to eight is ABCmouse, which focuses on learning games. It uses customizable avatars, animals, and colorful graphics to help build a love for learning.

A home screen showing a teacher in a classroom setting, with program options arranged in tiles at the top.
Home screen of ABCmouse app

The app is used in more than 70,000 classrooms, and nearly half of all US public libraries, according to developer Age of Learning. Like other apps we'll look at, ABCmouse is certified to be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and also approved by the kidSAFE+ for safety and privacy.

After a 30-day free trial, ABCmouse requires a subscription. Parents can opt for paying $12.99 a month, or the better value of $59.99 for a year. The program works with a wide variety of recent and older iPads and iPhones, and requires iPadOS or iOS 10.0 or later.

BrainPOP Jr is an app available for kindergarten to 3rd grade students on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. It focuses on videos, activities, and quizzes across all major subjects, with personable animated characters as the hosts.

It offers a free trial, and costs $14.99 a month or $119 a year for full access. It requires iOS or iPadOS 14.0 or later.

Khan Academy has a variety of apps that assist students from pre-K all the way through college. For pre-K through Grade 2, the Khan Academy Kids app focuses on reading, math, and social and emotional learning.

The company offers these apps with no ads and no subscriptions, but encourages parents to make donations if they find the apps useful. The app's library includes access to thousands of kids' books, and was an Editor's Choice app for the App Store.

Khan Academy Kids requires iOS or iPadOS 12.0 or later.

Apps for young learners, ages four to nine

As your child begins pre-school and elementary school or homeschooling in earnest, the focus on developing skills in reading and math become even more important. These apps cover the early primary-school years from ages four to eight.

Dragonbox offers Kahoot! Learn to Read by Poio, an app which encourages self-driven reading development. It requires a subscription, but the $35.99 annual or $5.99 monthly cost also covers the company's two math-oriented apps, Numbers and Big Numbers.

There's even an app to teach children as young as five the process needed to solve basic algebraic linear equations, called Kahoot! Algebra. There's another in this age category that teach kids how to play chess.

If your kids aged two to nine are enjoying educational shows on PBS, they might like the PBS Kids Games app, which features many of their favorite characters. It features a wide variety of games for ages two through eight.

The games can also work offline, making the app ideal for road trips. The US version supports both English and Spanish.

There is also a related PBS Kids Video app, that features over 1,000 episodes including "Sesame Street," "Rosie's Rules," "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood," "Curious George," and more. It also supports both English and Spanish.

From elementary to middle and high school

By the later stages of elementary school, students will have acquired basic problem-solving skills and reading, writing, social, and language abilities. The purpose of schooling now turns to preparing young people for their future, as they move on into middle and high school, and beyond.

Some of the companies that made the apps they enjoyed as children offer apps for older kids and teens as well. Khan Academy in particular offers preparatory apps for more the advanced subjects students will encounter in middle and high school, and even college.

This includes a range of physics, chemistry, biology, geometry, algebra, history, music, languages, financial literacy, and test preparation, among other topics.

Dragonbox offers apps for ages eight and higher that focus on multiplication, algebra, and geometry. As students leave elementary school and begin to focus more on specific subjects and general testing, note-taking and and study aids become more important.

Apple Notes can come into play as a useful tool that can sync across a student's devices, and is said to be getting a big upgrade with AI augmentation and summarization abilities. This will come with iOS and iPadOS 18, coming later this year, but it is already an excellent note-taking app right now.

Quizlet is an app and website that can take your notes and turn them into flash cards, outlines, and quizzes. The app for iPhone and iPad offers AI-based teaching, notes and flash cards, practice tests and more. It requires iOS or iPadOS 12 or later.

It's basic level can be used for free, but a subscription is required to remove ads and get homework help, which costs $7.99 a month, or $35.99 a year.

In later elementary school, as well as middle and high school, language study finally goes beyond just a student's native tongue and into learning foreign languages. Duolingo is used by both students and adults to help them learn the basics and beyond of new languages.

It has a very student-friendly interface, and supports more than 40 languages that reinforce not just words and numbers, but grammar and sentence structure. It can be used for free with limitations, but offers a $9.99 monthly or $83.99 yearly subscription.

The interest in and skill in learning is a vital key to future success in life. These iPad and iPhone apps can foster a love of learning that will make a student's life much easier throughout their educational experience, and prepare them for future careers and challenges.

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  • Reply 1 of 1
    danoxdanox Posts: 3,043member
    Avoid the studying just for the test/quiz programs and also what is wrong about learning to use regular programs like Pages, Word, Wolfram Alpha, NightSky, GoodNotes, Elements, and Notability, all are listed as 4+ years old these are examples only, there are many others to choose from.

    Also what is wrong with Wikipedia (I had a set of WorldBook encyclopedias in the 4th grade courtesy of my parents) and yes I saw all the juicy bits. :smile: 
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