Free and fantastic
It’s free as in actually free, which means we’re already off to a great start. Khan Academy Kids (Android, iOS, Fire Tablet) comes to you from the same people behind the helpful, nonprofit Khan Academy, except this version caters to little minds: toddlers to first graders. There’s a lot here, too: reading, language, math, executive functioning, and more. This one’s a must download.
Books brought to life
Take a bunch of popular kids books and turn them into quasi-cartoons: that’s the premise behind Vooks (Android, iOS, Web), a $5-per-month service chock-full of animated read-a-longs targeting kids ages two to eight. Aside from being available on phones, tablets, and the web, Vooks can be downloaded to most popular streaming platforms—Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, and the like, so search your smart TV to see if it’s available. And if you’re a teacher, Vooks is free for a year.
Putting the “fun” in fundamentals
Confession time: for months, I thought my son’s infatuation with Monkey Preschool Lunchbox (Android, iOS, Fire Tablet) was a simple case of a little kid falling in love with a mindless game. Upon closer inspection, however, he was actually learning stuff. Bonus!
The game-iest app of the roundup here, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox costs a worth-it $2 and teaches colors, letters, counting, matching, and more to toddlers. It keeps kids occupied (and quiet) for hours.
For pint-size Picassos
The arts might be especially hard hit during the pandemic, so keep your kids’ creative juices flowing with Art For Kids Hub (Android, iOS, YouTube), which includes easy-to-follow (and fun!) drawing lessons for kids of all ages and skill levels. The hook? The dad and resident drawing expert, Rob, draws alongside one of his own four kids during each episode, often repeating the mantra: “practice and have fun” when pictures don’t turn out perfectly.
Pro tip: Almost everything is available for free on the Art For Kids Hub YouTube channel; the Android and Apple apps corral it all into one place but costs $6 a month after a one-week trial. That membership fee gets you some additional exclusive content as well.
Like Netflix for kids books
If you’re a parent of little tykes, you’ve probably already spent a small fortune on books. Going digital can save you a bunch in the long run with a service like Epic (Android, Apple, Windows 10), which offers up a 40,000-strong content catalog to the 12-and-under set for $8 a month. Books take center stage here, but there’s also a fair amount of videos and interactive quizzes to keep things interesting.