Must-Have Educational Apps

It’s time for holiday road trips and you know what that means: driving, flying, cranky kids, and… teaching opportunities! What’s that, you say? Well, there is so much downtime during the holidays where kids and adults spend hours just passing the time… why not try out some new apps on your phone?

Many of these apps were found by The Teaching Palette, be sure to check out their fantastic site for more helpful resources!

From learning the ABCs to doodling, there’s plenty of terrific apps out there that will pass the time but also educate. If you have other apps you want added to this list, just add them in the comments. Thanks!

*Most of the links below are to the iTunes store which will open another window and/or iTunes.

Great Apps For Kids (And Adults)

Alphabet Animals
Perfect for your talented toddler, this game is packed with colorful animations, animal sounds, and tons of tips for learning their letters. The digital flash cards are interactive, with animals that talk them through every letter of the alphabet. $.99, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Ages 4 & up

WordSearch Kids
Kids search and highlight vocabulary words by tapping the first and last letters. Find them all, brag a bit, then start another puzzle (because there are hundreds). $.99, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Ages 6 & up

Toddler Teasers: Shapes
Created by a real mom and dad searching for ways to occupy their own 2 year old, Toddler Teasers Shapes quizzes tots on the basics. Kids are told which shape to touch, and after four correct answers, they’re rewarded with a virtual sticker. And if they push the square instead of the circle? They’ll still learn as they go by hearing the name of the wrong shape and guessing again. Free, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Ages 2-4

Mad Libs
Just as goofy and fun as your remember. Create silly stories by filling in the blanks with this addictive story creator. Great for your budding grammar-whiz, there are tons of stories to choose from, and there will be tons of giggling after. Free, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Ages 6 & up

Scribble Lite
Turn your iPhone into a miniature sketch pad. Draw your masterpiece, then shake to erase. With tons of colors, pen sizes, and draw-on photo options, the possibilities are endless. Equally appealing: the excuse to shake an iPhone violently. Free, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Ages 4 & up

The Pianist
Transform your iPhone into an 88-key piano for your little Mozart. Realistic graphics feature 3D keys that depress as you touch them. And when the magnum opus is ready, your kids can record it, overdub it as many times as they want, and play it back for adoring fans. $3.99, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Ages 4 & up

Annoying? Hilarious? You decide! This little app records anything your child chooses to say, and repeats it back in either a “high squeaky or low freaky voice” via a fuzzy critter interface (choose from a guinea pig, puppy, kitten or Chihuahua). This one’s sure to have your child in stitches. $.99, iPad, iPhone, All ages

American Museum of Natural History: Dinosaurs
If you have a paleontologist-in-the-making on your hands, this is the app to download. The interface begins with an amazing mosaic of dino photos (more than 800) that make up an image of a T-Rex. Your child can tap on any one of those images to drill down to information on the creature featured. This is definitely an app you’ll enjoy alongside your little one too. Free, iPad, iPhone, All ages

TEDTalks need no introduction. They’re perhaps the most popular video lectures on the web, featuring talks by “the world’s leading thinkers and doers.” Now you can access these talks on your mobile phone too.

Just like the board game, Othello, except your opponent is the iPhone. You play with the white chips, and the iPhone plays with the black. The goal is to surround your opponent’s pieces with your own, which will turn your opponent’s pieces into yours. The game continues until the board is full or no more moves are possible by either player — just long enough to get you out of the grocery store. $1.99, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Ages 6 & up

Freshwater Aquarium
Something fishy has found its way to the small screen. This application turns your iPhone into a freshwater haven for 19 species of fish. Tots can feed them and watch them grow, or play eye-spy, turning this aquarium into an exciting — yet quiet — distraction. Free, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, All ages

Super Why!
Already a super-fabulous PBS show for the preschool set, Super Why! takes your child’s fave characters and delivers a bunch of gamelets where the alphabet, rhyming, spelling, writing and reading are all rolled out in fun ways. The catchy theme song will surely be playing in your head at 2am (sorry about that). $2.99, iPad, iPhone, Ages 3-6

Jelly Car 2
The original Jelly Car was a breakout hit among hip kids, so it stands to reason that Jelly Car 2 will give your kidlet just as much chitty-chitty-bang-bang for the buck. With 30 new levels, three new modes (customization lets a player create their own JellyCar and puzzles), and new Sticky Wheels and Balloon abilities, your child might accidentally be learning something about physics and problem-solving while they play. (Shhhh — don’t tell.) $.99, iPad iPhone, Age 5 & up.

Memory Match: Child Development Edition
In this flash memory game there is no luck, just pure memorization. Kids get points for remembering where they last saw matching pictures or numbers, and can spend days practicing. $2.99, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Ages 4 & up

Pocket Frogs
Is your kid obsessed with amphibians? With this app, your child will be able to collect, trade and breed new frogs in customizable habitats. Can be played with other friends, and features more than 60 rewards to earn as they go along.

Cut the Rope
An ugly-cute monster named Om Nom has to solve puzzles, using special tools like pulleys and catapults, and catch stars in order to score candy. This is the game that will keep your kid occupied for a verrrry long time on that cross-country road trip. You’re going to have to figure out when you’re going to get your turn.

Plants Vs. Zombies
You’ve got about 50 plants on your team ready to do battle when 26 types of zombies come spoiling for a fight. Not your ordinary greenery, these shrubs know how to make mulch out of the brain-seeking ghouls. With 50 levels of addictive play, composting corpses has never been so amusing. For the older kids in your family (yes, you and your spouse included). $2.99 iPad, iPhone, Suggested for ages 9 & up for mildly mature cartoon content.

Everyone loves to play checkers, and now you can play on your iPhone. Tap once to select a checker, tap again to move it. So simple, and kids can play alone or against a sibling. Free, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Ages 4 & up

Disney Fairies Fly
If watching one of the three Tinkerbell movies over and over simply isn’t enough Tink for your pixie-lover, here’s your fairy-laden solution! Tilting of an iDevice allows your child to guide a chosen fairy through a beautifully rendered Pixie Hollow, collecting treasures and avoiding obstacles. App also includes wallpapers and still shots from the movies, plus mini videos. $4.99, iPad, iPhone, Age 3 & up

Based on the beautiful illustrations from the classic book by the same name, this app brings “eye spy” to a whole new level.  Explore various artwork by hunting for hidden items.

Update your traditional grid drawing system with technology.  Photograph an object or use one from your library and overlay with a grid to create precision drawings.

Faces iMake
Appropriate for younger students, this app uses a creative mix of collage materials inspired by author and artist Hanoch Pivin. Upgrade to the premium version for additional features.

Beautiful images illustrate simple origami folding techniques for kids.  Just click on a paper crane, frog, etc. and follow the step by step instructions. Great for the analytical thinkers in your classroom. Recommended for late elementary and up.

Sketchn’ Guess Lite
Available only on the iPad this app capitalizes on the larger screen size for game play. Players divide into two teams and try to gain the most points by guessing their team’s themes the fastest.  Features include a timer, score sheet, “Sketchn’ Guess” cards and several colored pencil choices for sketching in an easy to navigate format that allows for self directed play. Recommended for late elementary students and up.

Great for an art critique or personal reflection, this simple app allows you to record and attach audio to a photo. Saved content can be posted publicly or privately accessible on the fotobabble website.

Art & Music
If you enjoy integrating music into your curriculum, this is the app for you.  This app matches up music and art from corresponding time periods, ranging from Russian to the Classical West. (not iPad compatible)

Pure Education Apps

PopMath Basic Math
This app is designed as a game that teaches basic math, including adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.

Highlights Hidden Pictures
Children can color pictures and find hidden items. There are eight pictures with the original download, which costs $1.99. Additional puzzle packs are available for 99 cents, and a free puzzle is available each month. The app won the 2010 Parents’ Choice Silver Award.

Word Magic
This 99 cent app for the iPhone and iPad is designed to help young students learn to spell and improve vocabulary. The app shows a picture with a word with one letter missing. Children then enter the missing letter to spell the word correctly.

Learn Sight Words
This app includes over 300 sight words flashcards to help students learn to read. It even sounds out the words.

Manual for the United States of America
This $1.99 app for older children doesn’t focus around a game, but rather provides numerous important documents for navigating and understanding American history. Included are copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Federalist Papers, and more.

This free app offers a wealth of information about space travel, including images and videos. A great app for all learners, even those who are no longer students!

Musee de Louvre
The famed Parisian museum offers a virtual tour of its galleries, including famed works by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. You can also get an up-close view of the crown jewels. No need to fly to the other side of the world to get a look at these cultural treasures!

No need to buy a separate e-reader; just download this app and read thousands of texts right on your iPhone or iPad. There are over 540,000 books available for download, including new releases and bestsellers. The app is free, but the downloads are not.
From the description of the app: “ helps intelligent, engaged audiences get smart. Our users find, enjoy, and share videos about the people, issues, and ideas changing the world.” This free app allows users to download smart videos of leading scholars talking about the issues.
A great app for helping students with vocabulary, or simply just a great resource for anyone. The free app works just like a pocket dictionary. Simple and easy.

This free app lets users pose big questions to get the guidance of professional philosophers. Potential questions are organized into categories such as abortion, animals, biology, children and more.

Open Culture
Users of this free app have access to educational and video collections, including audio books, podcasts, open courses, and more.

POETRY from the Poetry Foundation
Hundreds of poems from classic and contemporary poets are available through this free app.

Readdle and teamed up to create this free app, which makes the complete works of William Shakespeare on your iPhone. You can even search within texts by keyword to find the source of quotes, to track down plot points, and more. And don’t worry about trying to read a play in one sitting: The app automatically remembers your last page.

Over four million books are available to read on this free app. Downloads are for purchase, and there are over 50,000 contemporary titles. There are also 50,000 classic available for free download. Stanza was named one of the “Top 11 iPhone Applications” by Time Magazine, as well as one of the “10 Most Awesome iPhone Apps of 2008″ by Wired Magazine.

The Ilyiad and the Odyssey
Exactly what the name says: This app provides full text of the complete Ilyiad and Odyssey, the classic texts by Homer. The app presents a new way to read electronic text, eliminating font and scrolling issues by displaying the text in the manner of a teleprompter so that a constant flow of text is moving across the screen at a font that is easy to read. Just control the flow by tilting the device.

Spanish Tutor
This free app provides a personal language lab. There are lessons on words and phrases, with audio recordings of native speakers. There are also quizzes and a tracking system that helps users focus on areas that need the most improvement.

History: Maps of the World
High-resolution historical maps help students conceptualize history from around the world. Features also include a category/era view, a keyword search, zoom, and screen rotation. There are separate apps that focus on maps according to a specific continent or region.

Brain Thaw
This math puzzle game costs 99 cents, and is one of the most popular. Addition, multiplication, and fractions are just a few of the skills that children can learn through this game.

The Iliad and Odyssey by Homer
The ancient tradition and Western civilization go straight back to these two great books. Get them fore free.

USA Presidents
A flash card app that teaches you cool facts about the historical line of American presidents.

Sources: Our PLN, Twitter, OpenCulture,


  1. Dina Mann

    December 14, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    MeeGenius is also great for the classroom!

    • Edudemic

      December 14, 2010 at 6:17 pm

      ohh i've used that as well Dina. thanks very much!

  2. Pingback: iPad Education App Links! « teacher2explorer

  3. futureclassroomtech

    November 23, 2011 at 11:52 am

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  11. Panorama Stitching

    February 15, 2012 at 7:32 am

    List looks good but what would you recommend for a 8-yr old kid?

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