55 best apps for kids

Keep your children happy with these great iOS apps

Put a child in the same room as an iPad or an iPhone and they will instinctively reach for it. Perhaps it’s the bright colours and the feel of using a touchscreen; the simplicity of the iOS interface also plays a part. But app for kids love messing with smartphones and tablets.

Mobile devices can do a great job entertaining and educating your offspring. But not all apps are created equal. Some are expensive to buy or contain in-app purchases designed to tempt kids. Others aren’t appropriate for youngsters. For this article we’ve trawled the App Store to pick out some of the favourites of our editors and their children for learning, creativity and fun.

Babies and toddlers
We’ll start with a couple of suggestions for the very youngest age group. These are aimed more at parents than the babies themselves, of course, and we wouldn’t recommend much screen time for the very young.

1. Baby Feeding Log
Price: Free
The lives of small babies are entirely structured around the twin cycles of eating and sleeping, and understanding these cycles (which will be specific to your child) can make the living hell that is the first three months of parenthood slightly less hellish. Why is she crying? Ah, it’s been nearly three hours since the last feed. Or she only took 130ml last time. Or she only took 130ml the last three times, and maybe she’s poorly. And so on.

If you’re breast-feeding then things are complicated in a different way, because you no longer have access to the volumes of milk consumed – at which point timing the feed becomes critical. You will also want to remember which breast you used last time, and if that seems like the sort of thing that’s easy to remember then you haven’t got up for a feed at 3 in the morning. This app is a simple, free and one-hand-optimised way to keep track of these figures and timings (despite the name it covers sleep and ‘diapers’ as well as feeding), and while it isn’t perfect, we strongly recommend getting either this or something like it.

2. Sleepy Sounds

best apps for kids 2. Sleepy Sounds

Price: Free
Familiar sounds and songs can act as a valuable trigger, helping to indicate to baby when it’s time to sleep. In time you’re likely to end up with a dog-eared musical soft toy that adds touch and smell to the ensemble of familiarity, but when starting out or visiting family, having an emergency measure up your sleeve (or on your phone) can be a lifesaver. Sleepy Sounds is limited, with just four white noise options (the tumble dryer is particularly restful) and three sets of nature sounds to choose from – we’d steer clear of the somewhat abrasive lullaby selection. But it’s free and helps to ease one of the more desperate situations faced by beginner parents: bedtime, with rabbit nowhere to be found.

Ages 5 and under
Age recommendations are approximate, of course, and you won’t need to be told that kids learn and mature at different speeds. Check out our choices on the App Store (have a look at screenshots, any available preview videos and so on) before spending any money, to see if the difficulty, complexity and reading level are appropriate for your child.

3. Blackboard Madness: Math
Price: Free
Got a maths-whizz child who wants a challenge? Blackboard Madness is a set of fast-paced, quick-fire maths challenges, taking in addition, subtraction, division, multiplications, algebra, and > (more than) and < (less than) questions. This is a great test of mental maths skills, logic thinking and reaction. It’s like Live Mathletics on speed. You have to slash the correct answers before they drop off the blackboard. There are kung fu sound effects to make you feel like a martial arts maths black belt. Don’t give this to a child just starting out on maths as the pace is pretty frenetic, but mental maths reaction speed is a great skill to teach more experienced maths students. As with any decent challenge game there are high scores and player statistics to track performance, achievements and badges as rewards. We enjoyed Blackboard Madness. It’s free. So why not try it?

4. Dinosaur Park Math

best apps for kids 4. Dinosaur Park Math

Price: 79p
Dinosaur Park Math is a fun way for children to learn addition and subtraction from 0 to 20. Kids need to answer sums correctly in order to chisel away at rocks that hide dinosaur fossils within them. Kids can learn dinosaur facts while they’re learning maths, too. There are also some less educational but equally fun games to play within the app. We’d suggest there’s a risk that kids will get into the habit of guessing, though, as there are no major consequences to getting the questions wrong. There’s a free version of the app too, so you can try it out and decide whether your kids will enjoy it before upgrading to the paid version.

5. Dino Tim
Price: Free
Dino Tim is a great way for younger children to get to grips with colours, shapes and their first words. Dino Tim’s family has been abducted by witches, and kids have to solve various educational puzzles in order to save them. The game involves solving colour and geometric shape puzzles, as well as running, flying, jumping and even a little bit of magic.

The aim of the game is to teach kids to recognise basic geometric shapes, as well as to learn about colours and even their first words. The game has been fully translated into a number of languages (French, Spanish and Italian to list a few) which provides your child with a great opportunity to learn a foreign language in a fun way, from a young age.

6. Doodle Critter Math: Shapes

best apps for kids 6. Doodle Critter Math Shapes

Price: £2.29
Doodle Critter Math: Shapes teaches your children basic shapes such as triangle, rectangle, square, hexagon and circle. Kids learn to draw different shapes by touching the ‘critters’ (small animals). A range of tasks including sorting, matching and memory games, make learning fun. Doodle Critter Math is designed app for kids aged three to five and is another great way that young children can use the technology on the iPad to learn basic skills.

7. Elephant Art! Painting Room
Price: Free/£2.29
It’s immediately clear this isn’t a typical art app when you prod a button and an elephant’s massive foot crushes a banana, splattering it across a canvas on the wall. Further buttons provide additional destructive capabilities, obliterating all manner of household objects that magically become transformed into paint and flung at the artwork, creating a kind of abstract masterpiece. It’s all very silly and a world away from virtual crayons, but the developer notes that is the point. Elephant Art isn’t about recreating the real world, but celebrating colours, magic and art.

8. Endless Alphabet
Price: £4.99
Although more conventional than Metamorphabet, listed elsewhere in this feature, Endless Alphabet proves that dialling down the surreal doesn’t mean an app about letters has to be boring. On the contrary, Endless Alphabet is a lot of fun as you choose a word, watch the letters scatter, and drag them back into place. The letters come to life when touched, wriggling under your fingers (doubly so when using Force Touch on a modern iPhone), and once the word is complete, you’re treated to a little animation that explains what the word means.

9. Geo Walk HD
Price: £2.29
Geo Walk HD is essentially a digital version of an old world encyclopedia. You can spin an interactive digital globe and touch location-based flashcards to learn more about the world, or you can take quizzes about your knowledge of the people, places and things located in the app.

10. Intro to Colors, by Montessorium
Price: £3.99
With Intro to Colors, your child learns the basics of colours through a series of matching games. So it starts out white matching red, blue and yellow before moving on to secondary levels and gradients. Kids learn to mix and match paint to create colours, as well as how to learn to spot and name different colours. It’s a pretty app, which is one reason we like it, and it makes use of the iPad to deliver something children would not get from other more traditional means.

11. Lego Duplo Train
Price: Free
Your toddler will love to drive a colourful Lego Duplo Train from station to station. Choosing and loading wagons, building bridges, stopping at crossings, refuelling and laying new tracks around pesky rocks. A toddler’s dream.

12. Little Digits

best apps for kids 12. Little Digits

Price: £2.99
Back when the iPad first arrived, people were excited to learn it could in fact recognise all ten fingers touching the screen at once, yet few apps took advantage of this. Little Digits reasons that kids often count by using their fingers, and here they can do so by prodding an iPad. Every additional digit used updates the on-screen number accordingly (numbers here being represented by inventive, colourful beasts); and once everyone’s familiar with how the app works, there are basic counting and maths puzzles to try.

13. Mathletics Student
Free. Requires annual subscription
Recommended by teachers and parents is Mathletics, a subscription-based online system of maths learning. For £39/year the child can run through adaptive-learning, level-staged maths tasks and games via computer or iPad app. Students learn at their own pace. Mathletics is fun and features a great rewards system for kids, who win Bronze, Silver and Gold certificates by scoring points in a wide range of maths questions. These questions are presented in a fun and colourful way with animations to brighten things up but also to show how to reach the correct answers. Parents will learn a thing or two, too.

Live Mathletics sets the child up against other Mathletics players across the world, and is a great way to learn simple number bonds and increase the child’s’ recall speed. Times Tables Toons helps teach children their times table through song and animal animation. There are also weekly progress emails to monitor progress via a Parent Centre. My daughter has been using Mathletics for over a year now, and it has undoubtedly helped her with her maths, and me understanding/remembering/learning alongside her. We sit down a few times a week for short periods of time, or for one 30-minute session that should be long enough for her to score her 1,000 points and earn a new certificate. She loves it, too.

14. Miximal

best apps for kids 14. Miximal

Price: £1.99
There’s nothing especially innovative about Miximal – it’s yet another of those sliding games, where you make strange combinations of animals. But what sets Miximal apart from its peers is the sense of craft and care that’s gone into the app. The style is very cartoonish, yet all of the animals are very recognisable. Each is animated, too. Tap one of the sections and it moves and jiggles. Fashion a ‘complete’ animal and it will offer a celebratory alternate animation. Additionally, if your child wonders at any point what strange mixed-up creature is currently on the screen, a quick tap of the play button will give you (and read out) its name.

15. The Monster at the End of This Book... Starring Grover
Price: £3.99
This updated and improved version of the Sesame Streetthemed book is a lot of fun. As Grover performs, the words appear on the screen, highlighted as they’re spoken. And you can interact with the app by touching a knot, for example, to make it unravel. Tap Grover to tickle him.

16. Monster Mingle
Price: £2.99
There’s a lot to be said for exploration and play when a child is developing. Monster Mingle’s free-play nature makes it ideal for such things. You create your own friendly monster by dragging parts to it that are lying about the place, and said monster can then amble about, dive into the ocean or soar into the air. The world features all kinds of strange creatures to discover and interact with, and the goal-free nature of Monster Mingle makes for a stress-free and highly entertaining time.

17. Monument Valley

best apps for kids 17. Monument Valley

Price: £2.99
One of the most beautiful and captivating games ever released, Monument Valley isn’t cheap (for an app) at £2.99 but it will keep children and adults engaged for hours working our how to help the silent princess Ida through mysterious and mind-bending, fantastical architecture, uncovering hidden paths, unfolding Escher-like optical illusions of impossible geometry, and outsmarting the barking Crow People. Monument Valley is both surreal and serene exploration and will surely go down in game history as one of the unique greats.

18. Mr Thorne’s Times Table Terra
Mr Thorne’s Divide + Conquer
Mr Thorne’s Addition Space Station
Price: £1.49 each or £2.99
for the Maths Universe Bundle London teacher Christopher Thorne must be one of the coolest Sirs on the planet, and he uses the planets as the theme for his three maths apps: Mr Thorne’s Times Table Terra, Mr Thorne’s Divide + Conquer, and Mr Thorne’s Addition Space Station. The apps are simple and look gorgeous – sure to be a hit with boys as well as girls. When you score 10 out of 10 on a particular addition, times table or division test you get to keep a space station or planet, depending on the app you’re using. There’s a mystery challenge when you’ve unlocked all the tests, which is an extra incentive – and different to the Squeebles and Math Bingo reward games.

Each game has three levels: Beginner/Newcomer, First Class/Elite and World Class/Legend. The top level is going to test adults, too, so you can join in the sum fun. Mr Thorne’s Addition Space Station has 42 mental maths tests, which includes adding multiple numbers, decimals and fractions so is suitable for children aged five to 11. Mr Thorne’s Times Table Terra features 60 tests based on basic multiplication and times tables. They also feature video tutorials from Mr Thorne.

Mr Thorne’s Divide + Conquer has 50 maths tests based on division and inverse times tables. I recommend all the Mr Thorne maths apps, as they’re simple to use, look great, and should really engage kids in these maths basics.

19. My Very Hungry Caterpillar
Price: £2.99
The Very Hungry Caterpillar has munched its way through countless books, a telly animation, and even the odd activities-based app. But My Very Hungry Caterpillar takes a different approach, transforming the ravenous larva’s surroundings into an interactive game. The result’s not unlike a no-lose Tamagotchi, with you feeding the caterpillar, playing with it, helping it doze under a leaf, and watching it grow. Eventually, like in the original story, the caterpillar transforms into a beautiful butterfly, at which point a new egg is laid for the adventure to begin anew.

20. Number Monster

best apps for kids 20. Number Monster

Price: £2.29
One for the very early learners, Number Monster (from Wombi) is a simple app that teaches kids to recognise numbers – from one to 20. It’s friendly and easy for kids to pick up. Parents can turn on and off visual clues as their child progresses. It doesn’t go much further than that so is a little expensive for what it offers. There’s also a Shape Monster games (at the time of writing this was offered for free). Like Number Monster it’s easy and friendly, and can be set at different levels up to hexagons and pentagons from a start with squares and circles, and so on. Wombi also offers Colour Monster and Letter Monster apps, and a simple telling-the-time app called Around The Clock.

21. Nursery Rhymes
Price: £4.99 (Download Nursery Rhymes Bundle) This set of three apps reimagines famous nursery rhymes as tiny interactive scenes. In ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’, there’s a fiddling cat, leaping cow, grinning moon, and crockery eloping with cutlery. Every item on the screen can be tapped to make it wobble and emit a sound effect, and the rhyme is sung through when the words are tapped. Navigation between rhymes is by way of large arrows at the top of the screen, ensuring the Nursery Rhymes collection is suitable for even very young toddlers. Note that the three volumes are also available individually, and there are separate free versions, too. Each of those has a single unlocked rhyme, the rest being available via a single IAP.

22. Peek-a-Zoo

best apps for kids 22. Peek-a-Zoo

Price: £2.29
There’s an elegant simplicity at the heart of Peeka-Zoo, and it might at first appear a bit too simple. But any time spent with the app and a small child will dismiss any lingering concerns. You’ll grow to love the gang of sweet cartoon animals, and the simple questions for the child to answer: Who is winking? Who is dressed up? And so on. You soon realise that although this app is very straightforward, it’s cunningly teaching your child all kinds of things, from identifying animals to  types of clothing and actions.

23. Pure Math
Price: Free, £1.49 to unlock full version Pure Math has a simpler and cleaner interface than many of the colourful apps in this round-up (hence the ‘pure’ in its name), and a faster difficulty progression, too, so it suits older children best. At the start of each level, the player will have a score of 1,000. This will decrease as time ticks by, and each time the player gets a wrong answer. The aim is to have as close to 1,000 points as possible at the end of each level. To begin, the sums are very easy, but with each level, they get harder and harder until even the adults will struggle. The addition mode is free, but to unlock the subtraction, multiplication and division modes, you’ll need to upgrade to the full version for £1.49.

24. Redshift
Price: £7.99
And here’s a delightful astronomical option. Redshift uses your current location to show you which stars, constellations and planets you should be able to see. If you enable the Follow Sky option, Redshift will update what you should expect to see as you point your iPad or iPhone at different spots in the sky while you pan around. It’s not a cheap option at £7.99, but a deep and rewarding experience.

25. Sago Mini Babies
Price: £2.29
This one’s all about caring for a little Sago baby, feeding, bathing and playing with a tiny cat, rabbit or dog. There’s plenty of character in evidence, whether you’re making your on-screen chum grin when splashing about in the bath or glare when you splatter a load of food mush on its face. According to the developer, the familiarity of the activities will help young children better understand their world and improve nurturing behaviour; and the colourful visuals and straightforward controls should ensure it’s plenty of fun for them to play.

26. Sago Mini Monsters

best apps for kids 26. Sago Mini Monsters

Price: £2.29
One for younger monster-creators, before working their way up to the likes of Monster Mingle or DNA Play, Sago Mini Monsters has you coax a monster from gloopy green slime. You then tap colours and paint your beast before interacting with it. Most interaction comes in the form of feeding the monster dishes that appear, along with prodding and poking horns, eyes and mouths to change their appearance. A quick brush of the teeth and some decorations and the monster’s time is done. You can then take a photo to share before starting the process again.

27. Solar Walk
Price: £2.29
If your kids are feeling bored later tonight, how about a spot of astronomy? The amazing Solar Walk is a great app to get you started. The £2.29 app lets you explore the solar system in exquisite detail. You can pinch and zoom around the heavens, examining celestial bodies in an immersive 3D environment from any angle or perspective.

28. SquiggleFish
Price: £2.49 (App Store Link)
SquiggleFish is a great way to blend the creative nature of children with the digital world. Your child will start with an empty fish tank, and they need to draw fish to fill it. Rather than drawing fish on the screen, kids are encouraged to draw fish with pen and paper. Kids then move these fish into the fish tank via the iPad’s camera, and they magically come to life. SquiggleFish is a pretty unique experience for younger children (it’s rated for 4+) but you’ll have fun with it no matter what your age.

29. Toca Band
Price: £2.49
This smart, uncomplicated game is all about creating music from a band of colourful characters. You simply drag them to the stage and they get on with playing their instrument. Move them to a spot with a different colour and they’ll change what they’re playing. Any character plonked in the star position (unsubtly marked with a massive yellow star) gives you the chance to explore more sounds as part of a solo performance – perfect for when you think pianist Dancy Nancy or maracas player Shaky McBones hasn’t had enough of the limelight.

30. Sago Mini Friends
Price: Free
This sweet selection of mini games has you choose from one of the brightly coloured Sago characters and then embark on a series of play dates with similarly vibrant chums. There are 10 activities in all, including doing the washing up and munching your way through a selection of goodies. Characters respond appropriately, such as a disappointed look on not getting a piece of cake when someone else has been fed. Apparently, this is designed to promote empathy in children. That might sound a bit worthy, so rest assured the app’s overall breezy nature is almost relentlessly charming and fun, and it’s extremely generous in being free yet having no ads nor IAP whatsoever.

31. Shape Gurus

best apps for kids 31. Shape Gurus

Price: £1.49
In this interactive story, children are regularly challenged to complete puzzles based around shape-matching. In one case, a little bird flutters towards the outline of a nest, while five brown triangles wait to be dragged into place. Elsewhere, shape and colour matching creates flowers and a watering can. The voiceover isn’t the best around, but the 27 puzzles and story should keep a child engrossed for a good while, and the journey’s fun enough that it will warrant repeating a number of times.

32. Wee Kids Math
Price: £1.99
Wee Kids Math (from Ebooks & Kids) has a whole bunch of colourful games to teach kids about numbers and basic maths. This app is good for children just starting to learn their number shapes and order (0-20), up to those starting out on addition and subtraction. It’s not really for those who have grasped these concepts already.

There’s plenty of variety – and that’s important when encouraging kids to like maths – and the games are simple to get the hang of despite a lack of instruction from the developers. I’d have preferred a little more help when starting the game, as you have to guess what to do on each new game. There are many varied games to play, including all the kids favourites such as insects and other animals, and space arcade games.

One other gripe is that the number ‘3’ in all games looks too much like an ‘8’ on a small screen, which can be confusing. Lesson to developers: don’t needlessly confuse your young users. These criticisms aside, Wee Kids Math is a fun addition to your maths app library, and teaches a lot of basic concepts in a fun and engaging way.

33. Where’s My Water?
Price: £1.49
A great and simple game that slightly older children should be able to get the hang of. There’s a supply of water at point in each level, and an alligator at another, waiting for a shower. You have to remove intervening rock and clay (with a swipe of a finger) to complete the circuit. It gets harder later on, mind.

Ages 6 to 8
Now for some apps that are suitable for a slightly older audience. Here are our recommendations for children aged six to eight. We’ll repeat ourselves, and point out that age recommendations are approximate. Check out our choices on the App Store to see if the difficulty, complexity and reading
level are appropriate for your child.

34. DNA Play

best apps for kids 34. DNA Play

Price: £2.29
Any suggestion that DNA Play can teach six to eight year olds the basics behind genetics is perhaps pushing it a bit. But what this toy does allow for is the creation of almost limitless monsters. This is achieved by completing ‘DNA puzzles’ (basic shape-matching) and manipulating the ‘DNA’ relating to a monster’s limbs, torso, face and features (by dragging shapes or just prodding the relevant bits of the monster). There’s also a modicum of interaction, where you can take your monster dancing and skating, and take a photo to share with friends. Smartly, the app enables you to save a monster before creating another, enabling you to revisit favourites at a later date.

35. Kodable
Price: Free
One of the most valuable skills for a youngster to learn in the digital economy is coding, which is where Kodable comes in (at a very basic level). SurfScoreLLC’s premise for the app is very simple: “The fuzz family have crash-landed on Smeeborg and they need your help navigating the Technomazes.” The commands to get the fuzzballs through the mazes are all drag and drop so with a little trial and error we can easily find our way through, earn the rewards and get to grips with  the fundamentals of coding.

36. Loopimal

best apps for kids 36. Loopimal

Price: £2.49
The idea behind Loopimal is to teach children the basics of making music by way of a colourful and simple-to-use loop sequencer. That might sound complicated, but it really isn’t. You get a bopping animal, and drag coloured shapes to a looping timeline. When the playhead moves over one of the shapes, the animal performs an animation that alters the music in some way. Once your child’s figured out how it all works, you can split the screen into two or four, creating an oddball four-track menagerie-cum-band that will entertain for hours.

37. Math Bingo
Price: £1.49
Play the game that’s all about numbers to learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide: yes, Bingo.
Math Bingo sets a bunch of questions dependent on your choice and the level of your child’s maths skills. A timer ticks away so you’re out to beat your personal best time each go. To start we’d advise disregarding the clock as this can put undue pressure on the child.

Math Bingo is colourful and features a collection of weird bug aliens to make maths even more fun. Kids love to win the Bingo Bugs and they can then use them in a game of Bingo Bug Bungie – a sort of pinball game where you fire your collected bugs to knockout coins to beat your highest score. It’s enough to make even reluctant mathematicians have another go at multiplication! Within Math Bingo there are now two new games you can play after completing a Bingo board: Math Stack and Math Fling.

38. Math Farm
Price: £1.49
Once your child has mastered the art of drawing numbers and is able to recognise what they mean, they’ll be ready to begin learning basic sums. Math Farm requires players to connect a sum to the correct answer. Every time the child gets the sum correct, another part of the farmyard animal will appear. Complete the whole animal to win.

39. Metamorphabet
Price: £2.99
This Apple Design Award winner transforms letters into words, often by way of surreal and frequently strange animations. If you fancy seeing a caterpillar gamely driving a car that you can fling about the screen (complete with crashing noises when it lands) or an ostrich tentatively playing with a very solid-looking orange, this is the app to buy. For kids, it’ll almost certainly captivate more
than traditional fare in this space, because of its playful, interactive design. And although the app was created for the six to eight age range, it’s perfectly suitable for younger children (or, for that matter, much older parents).

40. Squeebles Times Tables 2
Price: £2.99
Master the times tables with the help of Whizz, defeat the nasty Maths Monster, and collect little Squeeble characters, trophies and stars as you learn. Like Math Bingo, it’s a colourful app that makes learning fun. There’s no timer so your child isn’t rushed into guessing, and they’ll love collecting all the game rewards. It’s a great way to test kids on their multiplication and times tables.

The app has been recently updated and has an expanded reward system, fun mini game, six tables modes, unlimited players and plenty of stats and reporting for parents and teachers – again thankfully without any in-app purchases or adverts. It’s great for testing kids on their times tables and rewarding them for getting them right. There are other Squeebles apps for addition, division, and so on. See the Key Stage Fun Squeebles website (keystagefun.co.uk) for details of all on offer. Each of these are really worth the investment, but try out on one first to check your child finds it fun, too.

41. Star Walk Kids

best apps for kids 41. Star Walk Kids

Price: £2.29
There are quite a few apps that transform your iPhone or iPad into a virtual means to explore the heavens, but the interfaces can be too complex for young children. Star Walk Kids (or, to use its full and awkward SEO-oriented name, 9 Movies of Star Walk Kids – Explore Space) strips back the popular Star Walk app, simplifying how everything works, thereby optimising it for younger users.
That doesn’t mean it’s bereft of information, however: you can still explore the solar system’s planets, constellations, the ISS and Hubble; and there are nine animated films that enable you to delve a bit deeper into the facts and figures behind some of these objects.

42. Toca Nature

best apps for kids 42. Toca Nature

Price: £2.49
The developers of Toca Nature aim with their app to capture some of the magic of the great outdoors, and we reckon they’ve succeeded. You get a little square of land, raising mountains or digging rivers with a swipe of a finger. You then tap to plant trees and watch as an ecosystem comes to life. Brilliantly, you can use a magnifying glass to explore your tiny world, collecting fruit and fish, and using them to feed the animals and birds you find. The blank canvas aspect whenever the app restarts is a pity – it would be nice to have a save slot for ‘your’ world, but otherwise this is one of the finest
children’s apps on iOS.

43. Weather by Tinybop
Price: £2.29
There’s clear ambition within Tinybop apps, which try to make tricky concepts approachable through interactive models. In Weather, it’s all about playing with atmospheric forces, and seeing how changes affect the environment. Each scene has a number of elements to experiment with, such as raising or lowering the temperature to see how this impacts on a glass of water or the comfort of a dog in its kennel. Elsewhere, you can zoom into a cloud and observe snow and rain forming. All this is wrapped up in an illustrative art style that’s effective and approachable.

44. Wombi Airplane and Wombi Treasures
Price: £2.29
Wombi Treasures is a basic but fun and graphically rich treasure hunt game for kids, available as iPad, iPhone and Android apps. It engages young children in scouring locations to find hidden artifacts, rewarding perseverance, and keeping kids gripped with their challenge. While the graphics are rich the gameplay is relatively basic but keeps children excited to keep playing again and again.

Ages 9 and over
Finally, here are our recommendations for children aged 9 and over. As always, check out our recommendations on the App Store before spending any money, to see if the difficulty, complexity and reading level are appropriate for your child.

45. Dumb Ways To Die
Price: Free
Originally conceived as a public safety animation for an Australian metro company, Dumbs Ways To Die morphed from a brilliant cartoon and maddeningly catchy tune that kids love to sing into an equally fun game of 15 potentially lethal possibilities. Kids love it and learn how not to get themselves killed at the same time.

46. Earth Primer
Price: £7.99
This beautifully designed app is essentially an interactive textbook, explaining how our planet works. As you leaf through the digital pages, you create volcanos and sculpt mountains, along with, of course, reading through the succinct but informative text alongside the simulations. That should be enough to keep most kids engrossed, but Earth Primer also includes a sandbox that enables you to create and shape a landscape with tools that are only unlocked as you progress through the rest of the book. We’d say experiencing Earth Primer is reward enough, but turning a textbook into a game is a clever move if a reader needs a little extra encouragement.

47. Lego Harry Potter: Years 5 to 7

best apps for kids 47. Lego Harry Potter Years 5 to 7

Price: £3.99
Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is based on the final three books and last four films within the Harry Potter franchise, given a lighthearted twist by the Lego theme. There’s no question that this will appeal most to a younger audience, but there’s much in it for all to enjoy.

48. Let’s Do Mental Maths
Price: £1.99
Let’s Do Mental Maths for iPhone and iPad are also recommended. They’re a great way to monitor your kids’ progress at maths and test most maths categories. Andrew Brodie, educational author and
former teacher, teamed up with Bloomsbury and Aimer Media to create the Let’s Do Mental Maths apps; the first two of which are aimed at six to seven and 10 to 11 years olds. An app for eight to nine year olds is scheduled for a summer release. They are designed to support the latest National Curriculum requirements and have been developed alongside children in classrooms to help boost
children’s confidence.

Let’s Do Mental Maths uses an engaging quiz format with a cartoon Digit the Dog, who can offer advice when the player gets stuck. There are three main quiz areas: Starter questions to warm up the kids’ maths skills – a quick selection of random questions, uniquely combined every time. Progress tests are made up of 7 sets of 20 questions to grade maths ability and track players’ scores – matched to National Curriculum expected progress.

Practice quizzes consist of nine categories of practice questions: Place Value, Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Fractions, Times, Measure and Shape. There is a simple Results dashboard that includes the percentage and number of correct answers as well as the time taken to answer The Let’s Do Mental Maths apps are a nice mix of maths tasks that don’t try too hard with gimmicks but still look like fun, and get children ready for their exams. Recommended.

49. MathBoard

best apps for kids 49. MathBoard

Price: £3.99
Although more expensive than most maths apps MathBoard can be easily configured for school children of all ages, beginning with simple addition and subtraction problems, multiplication and division, and algebra. The blackboard theme is cute, although most kids won’t come anywhere a blackboard in school these days. It is built around multiple choice but encourages working out solutions with a neat scratchboard area where pupils can chalk their sums.

MathBoard’s Problem Solver walks students through the steps required to solve the addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division equations. There are also quick reference tables to hand. We  especially like the configurable nature of MathBoard, where you can determine number ranges, omit negative answers, and so on. Activities and quizzes can be timed, either as a countdown timer or elapsed time. There’s a free version that tackles addition only so you can have a play before forking out for the full version. You don’t need to be a maths boffin to see the value in that!

50. Mathmateer
Price: 79p
Mathmateer is a fun space-themed maths game in which children can build and customise their own rockets using money they’ve earned while soaring through space. There are 56 different games ranging from simple counting to division and multiplication, so kids of all ages can enjoy playing. Five player profiles can be created, so you can set up one for each child depending on their skill level. The only downfall is that the money system (used to buy rocket parts) is in dollars rather than pounds.

51. Medieval Math Battle

best apps for kids 51. Medieval Math Battle

Price: Free
Medieval Math Battle really does make maths into a game, as it is a turn-based battle game where you defeat your opponents (villains, goblins, dragons, and so on) by answering questions based on addition, subtraction, multiplication and division). The maths problems increase in difficulty as the child improves their skills. As you win battles you earn coins, potions and weapons. You can use the coins to buy new swords and shields and so forth. If the child plays for 15 minutes there’s a special daily bonus. Medieval Math Battle is free, and comes with the Addition part of the game, but each extra maths type (subtraction, multiplication, division) costs 69p to unlock. So the full cost of everything is £2.07. Apart from the sections to unlock there aren’t any other nasty in-app purchases in the game. Medieval Math Battle is a great idea, and sure to be a hit with kids. It would be nice if the player could be a girl as well as a boy, and the action could be a little faster, but we liked the game.

51. Minion Rush
Price: Free
You love Despicable Me, right? Minion Rush is a great action arcade game where the little yellow Minions jump, fly, dodge obstacles, collect bananas, ride the Fluffy Unicorn, and defeat villains in a variety of different missions. You can customise your Minion with costumes, weapons, and powerups. Earning new locations and different Minions makes this free game a lot of fun for Despicable Me fans and anyone who likes bananas. There are in-app purchases available but not buying any doesn’t affect game play in any way.

52. Operation Math
Price: £2.29
The Americanism in the app’s name might be mildly objectionable to British buyers, but this action
packed maths app has a lot to recommend it. The app mixes basic maths skills for children aged five
to 12 with a time-based spy game. You’re a secret agent battling the evil Dr Odd. You get new uniforms and spy gear for each mission completed. Like the other maths apps here you set your challenges depending on the level of maths skills of the child. This game is all about beating the clock, so try it first in training mode when the player has more time to think about the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division equations. The spy theme is a great idea for making maths
a fun adventure.

53. Times Table Galaxy
Price: Free
The aim of Times Table Galaxy, a free times tables app from the App Store, is to make learning maths a little bit more fun, social and competitive. The app has been designed by award winning educators, and will teach kids their times tables from 2x2 to 12x12 in a fun but challenging way. Kids can screen record their lightning fast times table attempts to show off to family, friends and teachers, and are also able to directly challenge friends to a times table showdown via Apple’s Game Center. For a free app, it’s worth a go, right?

54. Toca Boca Hair Salon 2
Price: £2.49
All the Toca Boca games for kids are great (except Toca Band, which will drive parents round the
bend), but Toca Hair Salon is seriously a must have on any family’s phone or tablet. Toca Boca games are great – they have the design aesthetic of Swedish wooden toys and ‘feel’ a lot like real
world toys that encourage imagination. Critically, they are great fun too.

55. Tynker Premium

best apps for kids 55. Tynker Premium

Price: £4.49
Tynker Premium is for slightly older children (aged nine to 11). It aims to teach children the basics are coding through drag and drop visual blocks. These blocks are similar to programming code, and enabling children to solve puzzles and beat each level. There is a big push on to make programming more accessible to kids, and Tynker is a good way to do it. Children learn pattern recognition, problem solving, algorithmic thinking and concepts like repetition and conditional logic. Tynker Premium is good fun, too.


It depends what you mean by ‘crash diet’. There is evidence that supervised food replacement diets work very well for many people. But what about the more DIY crash diets that claim to make your
weight plummet? Diets like the cabbage soup diet, the grapefruit diet, and juicing and cleansing diets?

The evidence behind these is currently slim. However, there is less scientific opposition to losing weight quickly than there used to be. Australian research has indicated not only that more people achieve their weight loss goals if they lose weight fast, but also that losing weight quickly doesn’t mean you’ll regain it quickly as well. Rapid weight loss can motivate people to stick with some programmes, the researchers suggest.

But maintaining a healthy nutritional balance while on these diets can be a problem: advice from the NHS is still that “crash diets make you feel very unwell and unable to function properly… crash diets can lead to long-term poor health”.

And both our biology and lifestyles may condemn many extreme crash diets to failure. Dr Giles Yeo, principal research associate at Cambridge University’s Institute of Metabolic Science, specialises in the molecular mechanisms underlying the control of food intake and body weight.

“If you want to try and sustain your weight loss, the worst thing you can do is try and starve yourself for three weeks,” he says. “Rather than taking a huge pendulum swing that will inevitably swing back in the other direction, I think people have to find some balance to lose weight long-term.”

In particular, we have to address the fact that crash diets generally make us feel hungry. Yeo’s research examines how the brain responds to hormones and nutrients that are released from the gut into the blood. These reflect the body’s nutritional status, and the brain turns them into what we experience as ‘fullness’ or ‘hunger’. You can find more advice for feeling fuller for longer at the end of this feature.

“One of the universal truths of weight loss is that if you want to eat less then you have to have a strategy to make you feel more full, otherwise you are simply fighting hunger for the rest of your life,” Yeo says. “What we now know is that the longer something takes to be digested, the fuller it makes you feel – because as food goes down the gut, different hormones keep being released, most of which give us a feeling of fullness. That’s why high-protein diets can work, because protein is more complex than fat or carbohydrate and goes further down the gut before it’s broken into its constituents.”

Intermittent fasting diets – for example, the Fast Diet and 5:2 diet – revolve around eating what you
want some days a week, and then eating very little on the other days. They have become popular over
the past five years. But are they more effective than other weight loss diets? The latest research
suggests not.

A study published in an American Medical Association journal in 2017 found that, after a year, weight loss was not significantly different than for daily calorie-restricted diet groups. Supporters of fasting diets claim they provide health benefits beyond weight loss. Indeed, animal studies have indicated that fasting prolongs life and reduces the risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. But human studies are scarce and contradictory.

A University of Southern California study of 71 adults published recently found that intermittent fasting reduced blood pressure and risk factors for cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, and
reduced body fat too. But another new study, from the University of Illinois, suggests it improves
cardiovascular risk no more than any other diet. What is undoubtedly true is that intermittent fasting diets suit many people because they don’t disrupt lifestyles or family meals too much. “It’s not particularly dangerous because you’re essentially not changing what you’re eating on most days, yet over a week you end up eating less,” says Yeo. “They are very effective for some people.”

For decades, scientific debate has raged about the role of exercise in diet loss. Today, there is greater scientific consensus that food intake is more important than exercise for losing weight. But the debate goes on about whether being fit mitigates the health risks of being overweight.

Central to the controversy is research from the Cooper Institute for Preventive Medicine in Dallas, which shows that over-60s who exercise have lower mortality regardless of how much body weight they carry. American health psychologist Dr Traci Mann from the University of Minnesota is currently the most prominent figure in asserting that overweight people can live healthy lives as long as they exercise. She says there is no evidence that overweight people have shorter lifespans, there is just evidence that people who are sedentary, poor and medically ed ca y neglected (who are also oftften obese) live shorter lives. “Obesity only really leads to shorter lifespans at the very highest weights,” she says. There is no point in dieting, she claims.“To reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, you don’t actually have to get thin, you just have to exercise.”

But the ‘fat but fit’ camp has few supporters in the UK, and the theory has received a new setback from a recent study of 3.5 million GP records by the University of Birmingham. This found that
‘healthy’ obese people, who had normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, were still at higher risk of serious disease than healthy people of normal weight. The obese people had 49 per cent increased risk of coronary heart disease, 7 per cent increased risk of stroke, and 96 per cent increased risk of heart failure.

The past five years have seen interest in the idea that our gut bacteria play a crucial role in regulating weight, and killing them off with antibiotics is causing obesity. The most recent evidence is fascinating but inconclusive. Studies in prestigious medical journals have produced contrasting results. One found that three courses of antibiotics before the age of two was associated with increased risk of early childhood obesity, while the other found that exposure to antibiotics in the first six months of life was not associated with early childhood weight gain.

Yet recent research is indicating a link between gut fauna and our body mass index. People with higher levels of Christensenellaceae bacteria – one in 10 of us – appear less likely to put on weight than those with lower amounts. Scientists from King’s College London have found that levels of this bacteria are partly genetically determined.

According to Yeo, who investigated the possibility of microbial transplants to cure obesity for a BBC
programme, this new field is important and requires research. “But I have yet to see convincing evidence that there are lean bacteria and obese bacteria,” he says.

Dozens of ‘metabolism-boosting’ supplements – including ingredients such as caffeine, capsaicin, L-carnitine and green tea extract – claim to stimulate energy processing in the body, increasing the rate at which we burn calories. But there’s little evidence that these products work, and most of their claims are not subject to scientific scrutiny because they are classed as food supplements rather than medicines. Some studies have indicated that people burn more calories when they take caffeine but, according to the Mayo Clinic, this doesn’t appear to have any significant effect on weight loss. There is little data on most other ‘fat-busting’ pill ingredients, although there is some evidence from small
studies that capsaicin, which is found naturally in chillies, can promote loss of abdominal fat and make people feel fuller. There is a constant stream of news stories about food types that can apparently provide a shortcut to weight loss by boosting metabolism, reducing fat levels or promoting
healthy gut bacteria. Cayenne pepper, apples, cider vinegar and cinnamon have all been in the news recently. The problem is that most of these stories are based on small or isolated studies, often in rodents not humans. There may be something in them, but it’s still very early days.

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