Best Apps for Three-Year-Olds

As geek dad to two sons, Philip (4) and Noah (2), I get many questions from other parents about the best iPad apps for their kids. This happens so frequently, I decided to compile a list of recommended iPad apps for one-year-olds and two-year-olds.

Now, I am back with a new list written with three-year-olds in mind. Taking hints from our Best Apps for Kids 2015 list, I organized this list based on each app's use case.

BEST EARLY MATH APP: Mathlandia illustrates the concept of subtractions using an alien spaceship that beams up objects

BEST EARLY MATH APP: Mathlandia illustrates the concept of subtractions using an alien spaceship that beams up objects

Best Finger Counting App: Little Digits
Finger-counting is great way to do basic math calculations and practice fine motor skills. This app cleverly detects how many fingers are placed on the screens. More than five fingers can be detected at a time if you turn off the iPad’s multitouch gesture. You can also use the app to help your kids learn simple addition and subtraction.
Best Counting App: Numbers and Counting - Teacher Tilly
A colorful app that Offers five mini games for practicing object association, number recognition, sequencing, and counting up to 20. Parents can set the proper difficulty levels for each game by choosing the set of numbers involved. The activities are easily translatable into real life.
Best Early Math App: Mathlandia
A cute app that offers six mini games about number recognition, ordering, counting, addition, and subtraction. Designed around the theme “aliens”, one of the games shows a spaceship beaming things up and down to explain addition and subtraction. It has great replay value as the paintings and object are placed differently each time.
Best Phonics App: Alpha Writer
The app helps kids learn to spell phonetically and compose words. Inspired by the Montessori methods, it allows kids to identify consonants, vowels, and phonograms. It also includes a fun section inspired by the game “I Spy With My Little Eye” for composing your own stories.
Best Sight Words App: Super WHY Phonics Fair
This lively app offers phonics and word building mini games designed around a carnival theme. It has helped Philip learn about words that belong in the same rhyming family. It comes with a free set of 30 rhyme families (such as -ar and -oy), and you can unlock 30 additional rhyme families (such as -ake and -ook) via in-app purchase.
Best App to Learn about Shapes: Shape the Village
An imaginative app that introduces kids to circles, squares, and triangles through 16 mini games. It comes with plenty of rewards, including printable workbooks for extending the learning experience in real life. Available in English, Spanish, French, German, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.
BEST FAIRYTALE STORYBOOK: The Great Sasquatch is the second tale in the Bramble Berry Tales series, which shines light on the dying cultures of First Nations people

BEST FAIRYTALE STORYBOOK: The Great Sasquatch is the second tale in the Bramble Berry Tales series, which shines light on the dying cultures of First Nations people

Best Bedtime Storybook: Wake up Mo!
This app follows cute Mo’s morning routines. Told in eight interactive 3D pop-up pages, the app features common activities for preschoolers, such as eating breakfast, getting dressed, and going to school. Available in English, French, German and Spanish.
Best Original Storybook: The Pirate Princess ~ 3D Interactive Pop-up Book
A 3D pop-up tale that follows a feisty princess-turned-pirate named Isabel. It is nicely written, with interesting twists that keep you guessing. The built-in mini games add to the immersive reading experience. Available in English, French, German, and Spanish.
Best Fairy Tale Storybook: Bramble Berry Tales - The Great Sasquatch

The second installment in the Bramble Berry Tales series that aim to preserve threatened languages. Adapted from a thousand-year-old fairy tale of the indigenous people of British Columbia (Canada), it teaches readers not to judge a book by its cover. Available in several languages including French, Spanish, and Halq’emeylem.

You should also check out the first book in the series: The Story of Kalkalih. Both books have great interactive features and animations that make for an enjoyable reading experience.

Best New Storybook Series: The Adventures of Pan
A series of adventure storybooks that follow a brave sky-panda on her quest to find her long-lost parents. It has high production values with plenty of interactive scenes, mini activities, and high quality background music.
BEST TOY APP: PlayHaus allows kids to create their own virtual playhouses

BEST TOY APP: PlayHaus allows kids to create their own virtual playhouses

Best Health/Hygiene App: Toothsavers Brushing Game
Part of the Healthy Mouths campaign, this app encourages kids to brush their teeth for two minutes, twice a day by brushing with fairytale characters. It includes tips and animated videos on how to brush properly, and a fun two-player game mode. A built-in calendar and reminders help parents track their child’s progress.
Best App to Encourage Healthy Eating: Terri at the Market
An interactive book about a picky eater who discovers the secret world of vegetables. It includes four mini games to develop basic skills in math and coloring. Available in English, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese.
Best Musical App (tie): Toca Band
A musical toy that lets kids explore rhythm and sounds in a creative way. Kids choose from 16 quirky characters to put on stage and get the music going. How they position the members on stage affect the nuance of the song. Easy to play and very fun. A fair warning for the parents: the song is very catchy.
Best Musical App (tie): Bubl Draw
An immersive app where the colorful shapes that kids draw produce unique sounds. It offers 10+ musical instruments in three genres: classic, disco, and rhumba. A great app for kids of all ages.
Best Toy App: Playhaus
An intuitive construction game that lets kids build their dream house out of colorful building blocks. All the while, they can learn about colors and shapes. It’s also a great tool to teach kids about the names and functions of the rooms in the house.
Best Role-Playing App: My Little Work - Garage
An excellent app that lets kids role-play in a virtual garage. Features a range of mini games, eye-catching graphics, and plenty of rewards to keep players coming back. Bonus: a multiplayer racing game for up to four players on the same device. Instructions for parents are also available in Swedish.
Best Collection of Mini Games: Bugs and Buttons 2, Bugs and Bubbles, Bugs and Buttons, Bugs and Numbers
Featuring realistic graphics and soothing music, each Bugs app offers 18 well-made games to learn a wide range of topics. The games automatically adjusts the difficulty levels according to the player’s performance. Available in 13 languages including Danish, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, and Chinese.
BEST DOODLING APP: Kids join Pirate Scribblebeard’s characters on their silly adventures through doodling

BEST DOODLING APP: Kids join Pirate Scribblebeard’s characters on their silly adventures through doodling

Best Coloring App: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Color & Play HD
Based on the popular Mickey Mouse Clubhouse TV series, this app features a diverse set of painting tools and a unique mode where your 2D paintings can be animated in 3D. Kids can also focus on coloring one object at a time without worrying about going outside the lines.
Best Doodling Apps: Pirate Scribblebeard’s Treasure and Princess Drawsalot
In these thematic apps, kids complete partially drawn doodles that will be animated as part of funny cut-scenes. Each book comes with 17+ pages of imaginative prompts. Future updates will be free.
BEST NATURE EXPLORATION APP: Kids can learn about the parts of a ship as they explore and build jigsaw puzzles

BEST NATURE EXPLORATION APP: Kids can learn about the parts of a ship as they explore and build jigsaw puzzles

Best App to Learn about Time: Tic Toc Time
This colorful app lets juniors discover what makes a day, and how the sun’s movement causes shadows and affects our notion of time. They will also learn how to tell the time using both analog and digital clocks.
Best App to Create Your Own Play: Cookie Next Door ~ Rainy Days

An interactive comic book where kids make up their own narration. It allows them to record their own voice, change the pitch for different characters, and create their own plot. It has no language constraints, making it accessible to every family.

If you want to know how Cookie’s adventure ends, check out its sequel: Cookie Next Door ~ Rainy Go Round. Both apps allow juniors to practice their storytelling skills.

Best App to Understand Our Uniqueness: Wee You-Things
Encouraging kids to embrace their quirks, the app proposes the term “you-thing” to refer to one’s unique traits. It also shows many excellent examples of uniqueness to help kids find theirs.
Best App to Learn about Dinosaurs: Dinosaur Train A to Z
The ultimate dinosaur app, it helps kids learn about dinosaurs and alphabets simultaneously. Kids can touch and swipe to feed the dinosaurs, explore X-Ray mode, and learn 50 dinosaur facts. Available in English and Spanish.
Best Nature Exploration App: MarcoPolo Ocean
An open-ended app where kids can learn about the ocean. Professionally-recorded narration provides them with contextual information about the animals that live underwater, the ocean landscape, and shipping vessels. The app also has a free-play aquarium.
BEST BAKING GAME: Shiny Bakery lets kids bake sweets and learn math at the same time

BEST BAKING GAME: Shiny Bakery lets kids bake sweets and learn math at the same time

Best Memory Match Game: Fiete Match

An expressive memory matching game that features several unique game modes, such as counting and addition. It has an adjustable AI opponent to entertain players of all ages. Parents should definitely try playing 16 cards in hard mode against Fiete.

Note: Fiete Match is the winner of SEGA’s Gamescom 2013 Big Indie Pitch.

Best Spot-the-Difference Game: 7 Differences
A well-made game that features beautiful illustrations and challenging gameplay modes. Suitable for kids, it has no timer and punishments. It also has great replay value as each illustration comes with many variations.
Best Baking Game: Shiny Bakery
An educational game where kids can learn about counting and fractions as they help Alice the Zebra run her bakery shop. Kids follow the recipes to produce delicious sweets and share and divide them to the animal friends. The game difficulty increases gradually.
Best Farming App: Gro Garden
A friendly app that teaches kids about sustainable farming. Kids experience the gardening life cycle hands-on by preparing the soil, planting seeds, harvesting the crop, collecting food scraps to produce compost, and plenty more. Intuitive, fun, and cutely illustrated.
Best Contraption Game: Pettson's Inventions Deluxe
A fun game where you put together a contraption by dragging various components from the palette to the correct positions. It has over 50 inventive puzzles that you can play alone, cooperatively with another player, or in versus mode. Great for the whole family.
Best Family Board Game: Kate and Harry in Africa
Made for ages 3–6, this app is an educational introduction to board games. Kids can play alone or with a friend to explore the African safari while taking photos of exotic animals and learning to count up to six. ESL-friendly, and makes for a great travel companion.

This list was last updated on June 21, 2015 to update app icons and fix broken links.

 

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