20 Recommended Apps for 1-Year-Olds

Update: As of Nov 22, I have published an updated list of 20 best iPad apps that I personally recommend for 1-year-olds. You might want to read the updated list instead.

Today is a special day for me and my family. Our second son, Noah, is having his first birthday today. Based on my observation over the past two months, Noah is very attracted to the iPad -- especially when he sees his 3-year-old brother, Philip, playing with it. I've been trying to curate apps that will fit his learning curve and today, I will share several of what I think are the best iPad apps that you can find on the App Store for 1-year-old toddlers like Noah.

While trying to come up with this list, I visited more than 15 review sites that have some variants of this list. Most of them were never updated again, but I believe that a list like this should be a living document, adjusted each time a new app qualifies for it. For this reason, I will revisit this list every once in a while based on my exposure to new apps.

Because this is my first time making such a list, I will try to explain the reasoning behind each category. For your convenience, I have also included a link to our review (or reviews on other websites) for each app so you can learn more about it before making a purchase.

20 Recommended Apps for 1-Year-OldsSome of the best iPad apps for 1-year-olds

How I categorized the apps

I am a firm believer that there is not a single app that can answer all the needs of your toddlers. Not even the best app in a category can do that. Therefore, I prefer to use the following six categories to give you a better perspective before making your purchase.

  1. Language (Alphabets)
  2. Reading
  3. Math
  4. Science (Animals)
  5. Musical
  6. Miscellaneous

These are the categories that I suggest you refer to when you're trying to purchase an app for your toddlers. Take a look into each category and find which ones you need for your toddlers. Based on my experience, you might need to purchase more than one app within the same category as each app has its unique proposition value. Often, the best option is to combine several apps to provide a better learning experience.

In my list, you might find that there are several apps that appear in more than one category. That is because these apps have various activities within them that fit in that category. It can also mean that their contribution in that category is quite significant even if they were not designed to serve that category in the first place.

20 Recommended Apps for 1-Year-Olds -- Akzara, an app for learning alphabets and animalsAkzara, an app for learning alphabets and animals

Alphabet Apps

Some people may argue that a 1-year-old toddler is too young to be taught how to read but based on my own experience (and expert opinion), your toddlers can at least learn how to recognize letters and, if you're into the Montessori approach, learn phonics. I've seen how Philip learned to recognize letters and how they sound before he turned two, using various apps on the iPad. I'm confident that the following apps will be able to help your toddlers learn the alphabets:

  1. Akzara. Akzara is a special app that Camila and I created for my son, Philip. The app focuses on getting your toddlers to recognize alphabets based on their sounds and spell out animal names. A great thing about this app is the parental reports which provides statistics on your toddlers' progress through the app and the letters they struggle with.

  2. Alien Buddies. Alien Buddies is a simple activity app in which toddlers can play a letter matching games involving both lower case and upper case letters, either by their written form or by their sounds. It is a great little app that you will see again in this list because of the various activities it offers.

  3. Fish School HD. Fish School HD is a cute little app where fishes get together to form letters from A to Z. This app was influential for Philip as he learned lots of things from it, including the alphabets, numbers, colors, shapes and of course, the ABC song. We had a lot of fun with this app and now, Noah seems to like it too.

  4. Goodnight ABC. Goodnight ABC is a new app in our family that has gained a permanent spot in most of our iPad time. The illustrations are lovely and the app provides a great way for learning the alphabets. It also help toddlers learn new vocabularies.

  5. LetterSchool. LetterSchool is a great app to help your toddlers learn to trace letters and numbers. The amazing animation, incredible sound effects and ease of use made it easy for Noah to enjoy the app. Whenever we play LetterSchool, Noah always laughs and dances. He also likes dragging my hand around to play with the app -- these are the moments that I will cherish forever.

20 Recommended Apps for 1-Year-Olds -- Toy Story Read-Along is a great storybook app for JuniorsToy Story Read-Along is a great storybook app for juniors

Reading Apps

When it comes to storybook reading, it highly depends on how you, as a parent, encourage your toddlers to participate in such activity. If you have set up a habit to read bedtime stories to your juniors, these apps would fit right in. If you have not, you might as well start today -- better late than never.

  1. Cocoons and Caterpillars. This app is special and well done. Unlike your typical storybook apps, Cocoons and Caterpillars is more like an animated cartoon with interactive mini games inserted between chapters. As a parent, you just need to be there to correct all the wrong facts that have been placed intentionally as a way to illustrate how a child's mind imagine the world.

  2. Even Monsters Get Sick. How many times have you tried giving medicine to your toddlers when they got sick? I don't know about you, but for me, it is not always an easy thing to do. If you are having trouble with this, you definitely should read this story to your toddlers. You will thank me later.

  3. Little Star. Little Star is a cute little storybook app. Teamwork starts in your own family and I believe this app is a good start for introducing such concept to your juniors. It has mini games, too.

  4. Pixel and Parker. Pixel and Parker is a unique storybook app. Even though the overall story starts and ends the same way, each time you read it, you are likely to get a different story.

  5. Puss in Boots - The Great Adventure. Puss in Boots is a famous French fairy tale and this app has successfully made it a great adventure for you and your juniors to enjoy. With beautiful illustration and fun interaction, the app familiarize your juniors with fairy tales across the world.

  6. Toy Story Read-Along. Toy Story is a great franchise. If you have not taken your juniors to watch this 1995 classic, Toy Story Read-Along is a great way for you to get them familiar with the characters. It is a must have for all iPad owners. Also recommended to complete the story arc is Toy Story Showtime!, in which Buzz tries impress Jessie in a toy talent show.

20 Recommended Apps for 1-Year-Olds -- Tally Tots makes counting funTally Tots makes counting fun

Math Apps

One of the math skills that 1-year-old toddlers can achieve is to recognize numbers 1 to 10. By the time they turn two, they should be able to get as far as 20. There are plenty of apps that can help your juniors with numbers -- here are some of the best ones:

  1. Alien Buddies. Yup, it is Alien Buddies again. Trust me, this is one good app. With this app, your juniors will learn how to match numbers up to 50.

  2. Fish School HD. This long-time favorite in my family has a very good activity involving numbers, in which a school of cute looking fish will form the numbers 1 to 20. You can also crack the eggs located at the bottom of the screen at the same time -- really fun.

  3. LetterSchool. Not only can your juniors learn to trace lower case and upper case letters, they will also learn three popular ways to write numbers.

  4. Little Digits. Little Digits is a unique app that encourages your juniors to learn how to count with their fingers. By placing your fingers on the screen, the app will show a number reflecting the finger count. This certainly is a fun and innovative way to learn finger counting.

  5. TallyTots. TallyTots is a new favorite in my family. The app teaches your juniors to count to 20 using a very catchy song, and everyone in our family loves to sing along. I would recommend it just for the song, but the app has much more than that. If you don't have an iPad, I would suggest you get the TallyTots Pocket for iPhone instead.

20 Recommended Apps for 1-Year-Olds -- AnimalTrackHD takes a unique spin by introducing animals and their footprintsAnimalTrackHD takes a unique spin by introducing animals and their footprints

Animal Apps

One of the most common science topics that you can introduce to 1-year-old toddlers is about animals. Here are several apps that can assist you:

  1. ABC Wildlife. I think every child should visit the zoo at least once in their lifetime, but ABC Wildlife is a great alternative at home. The app features 80 different animals depicted by great photographs and interactive mini games, as well as interesting facts pulled from Wikipedia. I believe this is the best app for introducing all kinds of animals to your juniors.

  2. Akzara. We created Akzara as a way to introduce animals to juniors. In this app, each animal is illustrated in a cute way and accompanied by real animal sounds that are heard upon touching the animal. I really hope your juniors would love this app, as it is special to us.

  3. AnimalTrackHD. Animal Track HD is a unique app in which it tries to introduce one aspect about animals that most people overlook, i.e. their footprints. I had lots of fun playing the inverse mode, where we try to identify an animal by its footprints.

20 Recommended Apps for 1-Year-Olds -- Your juniors can play along whimsical songs in Dr. Seuss BandYour juniors can play along whimsical songs in Dr. Seuss Band

Musical Apps

Toddlers are always interested in all forms of musical apps, from sing-along karaoke to instruments and soundboard apps. Here are some of the great apps in this category:

  1. Dr. Seuss Band. Dr. Seuss Band is a great musical app. It does require you to tap along à la Tap Tap Revenge 4, but you can always play just to hear the song. Both Philip and Noah love it, even though they still can't play very well.

  2. Fish School HD. I should probably give an award to their ABC song; it has been played hundreds of times in our home and probably will be for hundreds more. The fish animation that goes along with the song really makes it an adorable way to learn the alphabets.

  3. Little Fox Music Box. This is the most beautiful musical app I've played with; it has excellent animations, beautiful illustrations, and a juke box that you can play with. Noah really loves the London Bridge song.

  4. TallyTots. TallyTots has a great counting song, and the contextual voice-over in each activity really motivates your juniors to play with the app over and over again.

20 Recommended Apps for 1-Year-Olds -- Toca Robot is a fun toy app for all agesToca Robot is a fun toy app for all ages

Miscellaneous Apps

There are still a lot of apps that do not belong to any of the above categories, yet they are equally important to support your toddler's education and growth. These include apps that introduce colors and shapes, simple games such as matching and connect-the-dots, and free-play toy apps.

  1. Alien Buddies. This is the third time Alien Buddies shows up in this list; this time, it's because the app teaches colors, shapes, and how to connect the dots. It's truly an awesome little app that you should get for your juniors.

  2. Fish School HD. This is also the third time Fish School HD shows up in this list -- the fishes in this app also teach you about shapes, colors, matching and plenty other cool activities.

  3. Timmy Tickle. Timmy Tickle is a cute little app that's just perfect for 1-year-old toddlers. Noah loves to play and tickle Timmy the Octopus; he even mimics the way Timmy giggles. It's listed here because it's basically a toy-like app for your juniors. Trust me, you will find many adorable moments as your juniors play with this app. Just make sure you're there to capture them.

  4. Toca Doctor HD. This is one of many great toy-like apps from Toca Boca that I really enjoy. In this app, you can introduce your juniors to various health-related topics that I'm sure are as valuable as learning about letters and numbers. Philip even wishes to become a doctor -- an inspiration he draws from playing with this app.

  5. Toca Robot Lab. This is my favorite app -- wait, it's actually my, Philip's and Noah's favorite app. We all love Toca Robot and have a lot of fun with it. I didn't expect creating robots from scraps to be this fun!


Well folks, these are all the great apps that have been personally influential in my family. I hope you can also find values in many of them. As a parent, this is my birthday gift for my lovely 1-year-old -- happy birthday, Noah!