You already know that your 3 and 4-year-old should be getting less Paw Patrol and more Pythagoras in their daily screen-time diet. Couple that with the fact that the United States is a solid 35 out of 64 on standardized test math scores (eat it, Lithuania) and you have a good reason to start boosting their computational skills as early as possible. Apps are a good way to do that … right?
The kids media experts at Common Sense Media think so, but they also think trusting J_Bang39’s review in the app store might not ensure your kid’s screen time is actually educational. So they vet thousands of apps for up to 12 different criteria, including everything from learning methodology to how likely your kid is to siphoning your checking account through in-app purchases. Here are 8 for kids 2-to-4 that pass their smell test and will get your kid learning all those skills you forgot the second you were handed a high school diploma.
Monsters are already teaching your kid everything from how to enjoy cookies to how to share. Why stop there? Endless Number ‘s animated ugly dolls will introduce concepts like counting, sequences, and basic arithmetic in fun ways. Because the only thing more fun than riding a Ferris wheel is counting all the cars on one … is what you tell your child.
Free ( iOS) (Android) (Windows)
Motion Math: Hungry Guppy
Doesn’t the expression go something like: “Give a preschooler a fish, he’ll be all like, “ewww, gross!” But give them an app that teaches them different ways to do quick calculations and come up with sums using fish, they’ll understand math for a lifetime.” No? Pretty sure that was Stephen Hawking who coined that one.
$2.99 ( iOS) (Android)
Quick Math Jr.
From the makers of Shiny Kids comes an app that tailors itself to your mathlete’s aptitude. It handles all of the requisite addition, subtraction, and monster counting — but it also includes handwriting recognition. That means your kid isn’t just counting on their fingers and toes, but also knows how to write numbers when they get to kindergarten.
$2.99 ( iOS)
It’s the Grand Theft Auto of math apps — without the dead bodies, drugs, swearing, weapons, or prostitutes. What it does share is a “sandbox” mode, where your kid can play freely play with furry squiggles called “Nooms” that represent different numerals. (And may also be prostitutes.)
$7.99 ( iOS) (Android) (Amazon)
Doodle Math Numbers
It’s important to be able to count to 10 before tackling bigger concepts, like a unified theory of everything. Doodle Math gets your preschooler there using 6 games where they learn numerals by name, shape, and how to group them. Once your kid gets through that they earn a puzzle piece. Once they get enough puzzles pieces they can make a picture. Once they complete the picture they get into Harvard.
$2.99 ( iOS)
Drive About: Number Neighborhood
You may find yourself driving around aimlessly in the real world (Waze, you’re the worst), but at least you can point your kid in the right direction on their iPad. Cruise to 9 familiar destinations (playground, marina … cake shop) where your easy rider can learn basic math skills and fine motor skills taught through verbal instruction. Because unlike stop and go traffic, math makes sense.
$2.99 ( iOS)
Moose Math by Duck Duck Moose
From the studio that brought you the finest games about farm animals and construction equipment comes one with skills kids can actually use (assuming they don’t become a farmer or a truck driver). Moose Math contains 5 games that teach geometry, sorting, counting by multiples and more. It also lets parents view a progress report, so you can see just what the hell you’re paying this moose for.
$1.99 ( iOS) (Android) (Amazon)
Bugs and Numbers
Kids love bugs. They may be a little less psyched about math. But when you have a parade of realistic-looking creepy crawlies showing them how to tell time, divide numbers into fractions, and use money (worker bee’s gotta eat!) they might actually want to participate. For parents, it will just remind you that bed bugs are probably hiding in your hotel room.
$2.99 ( iOS)