Walking into a kindergarten classroom for the first time is a big step, and it can be a little scary — for both kids and parents. And to be honest, the biggest skills your child will need at the beginning of the school year — opening their own lunchboxes, putting on their own shoes, standing patiently in lines and learning that hands are for many things but hitting is never one of them — aren't the sorts of things they'll pick up from an iPhone or Android device. But apps can help your children develop some of the other soft skills they'll need, such as listening to instructions, cooperating with others and exercising self-control. Apps can also help kids master letters and numbers before they ever set foot in a classroom.
Here are 13 Android and iOS apps that can help your child prep for kindergarten by engaging their curiosity and creativity.
The board book makes its way to Android and iOS, with an interactive twist. Kids can learn their letters with an especially Seussian approach featuring the classic illustrations of the children's book author. Tapping those drawings uncovers hidden surprises, while interactive games teach your child the difference between uppercase and lowercase letters.
Endless Alphabet (Android, iOS) is part of Originator Inc's "Endless" line of edutainment apps, and it introduces kids to letters and words, presenting toddlers and children with a series of minigames. Children put words back together in easy and engaging spelling puzzles featuring talking words, and afterward, they're rewarded with short animations that explain each word's meaning. The free version on Android lets you try the app out with seven free words and animations, and an in-app purchase unlocks the full game with more than 100 word puzzles and animations.
The companion to Endless Alphabet, Endless Reader (Android, iOS) aims to help familiarize young readers with a variety of commonly used "sight words" found in books and school texts, and whose spellings and pronunciation can't be grasped as easily with simple phonics. Minigames, animations, and illustrations help reinforce spelling and meaning, and the free app comes with sixwords and exercises for each, with more available as in-app purchases.
Your child can learn to count — and even get a rudimentary introduction to addition — with this colorful app starring a moose that runs a juice bar. Your kid is tasked with following numerical recipes for smoothies: Add a specified number of each piece of fruit to a blender to complete the task at hand in both the Android and iOS versions of the app. App maker Duck Duck Moose produces a number of interactive apps aimed at the preschool-to-elementary crowd, and this counting app can really help your soon-to-be kindergartner get comfortable with numbers and following instructions.
Think kindergarten is too early to teach math and even basic algebra? Think again. DragonBox Algebra 5+ (Android, iOS) is a genuinely clever educational game that skillfully hides the fact that it's teaching your kids algebra. Targeted at kids ages 5 and up, DragonBox Algebra starts out with simple logic puzzles that have kids matching symbols together in order to clear one side of the screen. Each new puzzle adds new quirks and game rules that cleverly mirror the basic rules of elementary algebra, until in no time at all, your kids are unknowingly balancing the sides of an algebraic equation to isolate a treasure box symbol, gradually replaced with 'X'. The game features 10 chapters with 200 puzzles in total, and covers addition, division and multiplication.
Honestly, you could pick any of the apps created by Toca Boca and come away with something that delights children 4 years and older. But the iOS-only Toca House is uniquely geared to children heading into kindergarten because it mixes Toca Boca's usual brand of immersive play with task-oriented activities: You control the different Toca creatures who live under one roof as they handle different chores. The app not only rewards kids who see a task through to its end, but also encourages cooperation and appreciation of your role as part of a larger community.
Can you cheer up a sad sheep or put a smile on a giraffe's face? Avokiddo Emotions (Android, iOS) is cute app that introduces kids to four cartoon animals (a sheep, giraffe, moose and zebra), that they can interact with using a variety of props like food, clothes, toys and more. Each animal responds to the props in different ways, smiling, frowning, laughing or crying, all rendered with lively animations. Parents can use it to help teach kids about emotions and body language, or just let them have fun with free play.