Back To School: 40 Best iPhone and iPad Education apps for kids

Ah, Back To School time, when parents around the world are breathing a sigh of relief at not having to think up daily Summer-Holiday activities for their children (while sneakily missing them now they’re back at school).

Our two sons are back and really enjoying school – the flow of pictures, paper creations and new books to read has begun again. So we thought this may be a good time for a roundup of some of the best Education apps we’ve written about this year.

So, 40 of ‘em, right here, from phonics and maths through to science, geography and dinosaurs. Now, ‘education’ is a flexible term – we’d happily argue for the educational qualities of digital playtoys like Toca Boca’s apps, or Nosy Crow’s fairy-tale revamps. But for this roundup, we stuck to the apps that are more overtly educational in their content.

To keep things simple, the text is quotes from our articles about each app: click on the headline and you’ll be able to read the full post, with App Store links. Well, apart from Times Tables Pro, which we haven’t written about yet, but have been intending to – and it would be unfair to leave it out.

PHONICS / ALPHABET

Ladybird: I’m Ready For Phonics
“The latest iPhone and iPad app from Penguin Books, based on its longstanding Ladybird brand. It’s aiming to be “the perfect way to support your child’s phonics learning in a comprehensive and user-friendly way’.”

Monster Word
“Involves creating words from letter-balls that fall onto the screen. It’s a proper game, in that you score points and there’s a time limit of sorts – if the balls reach the top of the screen, it’s game over.”

Check Your Phonics
“Aimed at 5-6 year-olds, it helps them practise their first batch of 44 phonic sounds. That includes the ability to record their own voice when reading words. An alien theme sees them building colourful extra-terrestrials…”

The Singing Alphabet
“They’ve turned the alphabet into cute characters who sing when pressed, whether alone or together – harmonising in the latter case. The letters can be sorted into words, which also sing (encouraging your child to sing them in return)”

Animals Alphabet
“26 letters equals 26 animals, with a marvellous streak of humour running through them all. Your children tap on thumbnails for each letter to show the animation full-screen, and there’s also a quiz mode.”

Funimal Phonics
“You’re presented with a screen showing the whole alphabet and little pictures of the animals, and tapping on a letter brings it up to full-screen. Tap on the letter and you get the phonic read out.”

Wee A B See
“As with other apps of its kind, each letter of the alphabet is assigned an animal, from angelfish to zebra, via elephant, koala, owl and whale. In this case, they have names too: Biki the Buffalo…”

Funimal Pairs
“A fun matching game for children aged between 18 months and four years. There are 26 virtual cards – one animal per letter – which can be played with in three ways. The easiest is matching animals: octopus and octopus…”

My A-Z
“Alphabet flash cards, with the twist being that you and your child can create your own, using photos and audio recording. “Take a photo of your dog—and record its bark—for the letter D…”

MATHS / COUNTING

Little Digits
“When your child puts one finger on the iPad screen, a big cartoon figure 1 appears, sticking his tongue out and waggling his feet while a child’s voice says ’1′. Put two fingers down, and it changes to a 2, and so on right up to 10.”

Squeebles Fractions
“Aimed at 7-11 year-olds, it offers a choice of UK and US English, and has a cake-based reward system that sees children earning virtual ingredients (from toffee sauce to, er, curry sponge)”

Farm 123
“The book is aimed at toddlers learning the numbers 1-10, teaching them with the help of Farmer Jo and a farm-full of animals. It’s a mixture of interactive story-scenes and mini-games”

Motion Math: Hungry Guppy
“A neat blend of aquatic characters and mathematics, which gets your children dragging bubbles together to feed the virtual fish, while practising their counting skills.”

Times Tables Pro
“The ultimate way to learn, practice and test multiplication tables in a highly configurable, yet simple to use way. Practice with flash cards, create timed or un-timed quizzes, and review statistics for multiple users.”

Amazing Maths Toddler for Kids
“An app for helping your children in their early days of learning addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, with hundreds of rounds of tests to work through. It looks good fun, with colourful, bold graphics.”

Timmy’s Number Tracing
“This is aimed at 3-5 year-olds learning to recognise and write their numbers. In this case, it’s Timmy [from TV show Timmy Time] and his animal schoolfriends helping them to learn.”

Little People Learning Market
“As you may have guessed from the title, the setting here is a market “as you learn letters, numbers, colours and matching”. That means a selection of mini-games and activities with an educational bent, including shopping and baking.”

Froobles Maths
“Froobles Maths focuses on figures: basic addition, subtraction, division and multiplication… We’re impressed by the inclusion of a digital reward chart, which can be used to set a goal for children to earn stars within the app to get a real-world reward.”

BIOLOGY / SCIENCE

How My Body Works
“A free download, which includes two 3D models of the human body – male and female – and an ‘information pack’ about the sensory system. Each pack costs £1.99, and includes a mixture of text, animation and games.”

Tom, Tell Me About The Human Body
“This app focuses on the body: skin, muscles, skeleton and organs, as well as growth and ageing, viruses and even reproduction and pregnancy. It looks like it good be a good complement to what your children are learning at school.”

Rounds: Franklin Frog
“The book-app follows the life cycle of a frog, taking in every stage from tadpole through to frogspawn-laying adult… There are plenty of facts about frogs for a curious child to take on board and repeat to family, friends, random supermarket shoppers…”

Fisher-Price Imaginext Dinosaurs
“An iPhone app aimed at children aged 3-5. It’s a mixture of facts, x-rayed (cartoon) bones and a minigame… A maze game that involves tilting the iPhone to guide a Triceratops through a maze, avoiding a hungry T-Rex en route.”

This Is My Body
“Subjects including breathing, growing, digesting food and the human skeleton – hopefully answering some of the awkward questions your kids will come up with as they grow up.”

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain
“An iPad book-app that aims to teach children about their brains in an entertaining but educational way, based on an existing print book. It’s aimed at school-age kids – five and up – blending interactive “brain workouts” with text and animations.”

NHM Evolution
“You get 750MB of stuff about the last 600 million years of life on Earth for your money… Swipe, pinch and tap the illustrated Timeband to explore at your own speed and find out more about 100 key fossil sites and over 800 creatures and plants.”

Move The Turtle
“The idea: to teach children as young as five years-old the basics of programming, while also engaging to older kids and teenagers. And in a nod to Logo, the app features a personable turtle to explain the ins and outs.”

Spacecraft 3D
“A free download for iPhone and iPad that uses augmented reality (AR) technology to show off some of the “spacecraft that are used to explore our solar system, study Earth, and observe the universe”.

James May’s Science Stories
“Point your phone at special markers in 10 exhibits in the museum’s Making Of The Modern World gallery, and see a virtual James May of Top Gear fame pop up to explain them… the markers can be printed out from the Science Museum’s website to use at home.”

How It Works: Machines HD
“It’ll tell your kids how nine different machines work by getting them to assemble virtual versions. That’s a car, a washing machine, a hair dryer, a lawn mower, a vacuum cleaner, a rocket, a steam engine, a wind mill and a pump, to be specific.”

WORLD AROUND US / CULTURE

Barefoot World Atlas
“An interactive 3D globe for iPad that invites children to explore the regions and countries of the world. A spinnable, zoomable Atlas with plenty of surprises for your geographically-curious kids.”

My Animal Discovery
“Sorted by geography, the apps introduce 10 animals each from their respective continents, with a collection of puzzles and information about the animals’ habitat and diet, as well as watching videos of them.”

PlayART by Tapook
“Your child takes objects and shapes taken from famous artists’ paintings, and then moves, rotates and resizes them however they like to make new creations, including combining elements from several or all of the artists.”

Ice Is Nice!
“The latest in a series called The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library, in which the popular Dr. Seuss character takes a more educational turn – previous apps have focused on dinosaurs and Space. The focus this time round is the Arctic and Antarctic.”

Look & Learn: Animals Vol. 1
“Three mini-apps in one: Animal Bounce, Animal Match and Animal Words, all based on the company’s [National Geographic] archives of wildlife photography. Aimed at pre-schoolers, the app tests their memory and alphabetical skills”

Kids of the Ummah
“An iPad app that explores “the global Muslim community” through 26 cute characters, who introduce the letters of the alphabet, as well as Muslim names and cities. Aimed at 2-8 year-olds, it has puzzles, colouring and stories.”

Learn Chinese: Toy Story 3
“Aimed at seven year-olds and upwards, it uses characters like Buzz and Woody from the popular film franchise to teach Chinese, or at least teach 100 Chinese words, which is a good start.”

Chess Academy for Kids
“Your children learn the basic movements of chess pieces for free, and if they get on well with it, you can pay £2.99 for the separate paid version… Developer Next is Great suggests that eight year-olds and upwards can use the app themselves.”

A Whale Of A Tail
“Children will learn how cetaceans stay warm without hair, have teeth or baleen, swim in troops, spyhop, spin, and breach… Interactive diagrams teach the difference between a fish tale and a whale tale…”

Zoo Champs
“Subtitled ‘sports guide for kids’, this iPad app aims to explain a series of sports using… animals. Hippos swimming? Check. Ostriches running? Check. Flamingos in the gymnasium? Check.”

AND FINALLY, ONE FOR THE TEACHERS…

ClassDojo
“The idea is to help teachers “improve behavior in their classrooms quickly and easily” which basically involves assigning a colourful monster avatar to each pupil in various classes, then using the app to record good behaviour and bad behaviour.”

That’s our selection, but what educational apps have impressed you recently? Make your recommendations by posting a comment.

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