Summer vacation is fast approaching, meaning your child’s screen time will most likely increase exponentially. That doesn’t mean, however, that their moments glued to their tablet can’t offer some value. There are plenty of apps available at no cost that you can feel good about and, in some cases, even help them avoid the summer slide.


A favorite of both of my children, the game app boasts over 250 educational and entertaining games for toddlers and older kids from various PBS KIDS properties, including Wild KrattsSesame Street, and Odd Squad. My youngest is a fan of the Scribbles and Ink drawing game, which brings his art to life. 


Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame

This app was created to help children find ways to become calm and mindful when their feelings start to become overwhelming. It features five activities involving a monster who must settle down to help them think of solutions to seemingly enormous problems. Parents can personalize the app with supportive phrases to encourage children to step back and peacefully find a resolution, along with a section to help caregivers reiterate the lessons the app teaches in their child’s life. 



My family watched many GoNoodle videos during the pandemic to get the kids moving around, and we would catch each other singing catchy songs like “Banana, Banana, Meatball” constantly. When my kids returned to school, their teachers would play the videos in class, only for them to come home belting out “Purple Stew.” These videos are about physical activity and having fun, and they never seem to get old. It’s nice to have GoNoodle’s library of over 300 songs and exercises in one place so my kids can discover their next favorite or find a classic like “Clap It Out.”



This app will quench your kid’s curiosity about space with updates from ongoing space missions and the International Space Station. It also offers free access to podcasts, NASA+ videos, interactive augmented reality experiences, galaxy tours with actual astronauts, and over 20,000 images direct from the space agency.


Aardman Animator

While my family eagerly awaits the arrival of the next Wallace and Gromit movie, we’re hoping to learn more about the process used to bring the beloved duo to life with this easy-to-use app from their studio. There are plenty of tutorials to get kids started, and the easy-to-use tools, including a dialogue and sound effects recorder, will have them unleashing their creativity and crafting stop-motion animation masterpieces in no time. 



Learning a new language doesn’t have to be boring and repetitive, as evidenced by how this popular app has gamified the process of studying and understanding Spanish, French, and German. Duolingo has some drawbacks—it draws most of its revenue from advertisements. Still, its little lessons are a good jumping-off point for children (and adults) just beginning to communicate in a different tongue.



Designed by Tufts University, the MIT Media Lab, and PBS Kids, this app will not teach your five- to seven-year-old code. Instead, like its counterpart developed for those eight years old and above, it will introduce and reinforce programming concepts to create stories using drag-and-drop puzzle pieces that control their characters. Parents who’ve used the app say parents should work with their children when they first start building their narratives, but once they catch on, they’ll have a ton of creative fun.


Sushi Monster

If players don’t want the titular monster to get angry, then they must feed it the numbered sushi plates to reach the creature’s assigned number. It takes someone with excellent math skills to reach the next level in this addictive game, but children can always ask for a hint if they get stuck. 


Khan Academy Kids: Learning!

Are you a parent who wants to give your toddler a head start on their education? Or maybe you’re looking for a fun way to reiterate the reading and math lessons your first- or second-grader is learning in school. If so, many consider this the standard in educational apps. A bear named Kodi and her friends guide users through over 5,000 games and activities that teach reading, writing, and numbers. There is also a library of books about dinosaurs, vehicles, and other kid-friendly topics, all without ads or subscriptions.


Pick Your Plate!

Developed by the Smithsonian, users travel with a magical plate around the world to learn about food and create healthy meals. While planning their breakfast, lunch, and dinner, children can discover baobab fruit or how the Finnish prepare reindeer. They’ll also learn about the music and monetary systems of countries like Cambodia and Argentina.