Eight smartphone apps for kids

Whether your kids are already packing their own smartphones or just hogging screentime on yours, keeping them busy with some family-friendly apps is a must. Here we round up some of the best apps for young children – a mixture of educational and just-for-fun

Moose Math

Available on: iOS (£1.49), Android (£1.20), Amazon Fire (£1.24)

This writer finds it hard to get over the Americanised lack of an 's' at the end of maths in this app's title, but those less neurotic about linguistic differences will find this app perfectly hits the sweet spot of both fun and educational. It's from Duck Duck Moose, an app publisher that pretty much does no wrong when it comes to apps for young ones, and it teaches maths skills for children from the age of four upwards. Games involving counting, adding, subtracting and the like have rewards that enable kids to build their own town. An engaging crop of animal characters will keep their interest up.

Sago Mini Monsters

Available on: iOS (free), Amazon Fire (£1.99)

One for the little artists, Sago Mini Monsters is aimed at pre-schoolers. Its simplicity is addictive: players create their own monsters by painting them and then adding features, clothes and the like. They then get to feed their creation before taking a snapshot so they can store their favourites.

colAR mix

Available on: iOS (free), Android (free)

The 'AR' in this app's slightly clunky title stands for augmented reality, and this app uses the oft-gimmicky technology to great effect. It's a lovely idea, kids print off colouring pictures from the app's website, colour them in with their own crayons and pencils and then point the camera of their phone or tablet at the picture. Whatever they have coloured then bursts into life on screen.

Toca Town

Available on: iOS (£1.99), Android (£1.99), Amazon Fire (£1.99)

Toca Town is a digital dollhouse app, giving kids the chance to play with characters in a selection of locations that include a park, a restaurant, a house and a flat, a shop and a police station. There's plenty to explore in each of those places and, with no specific instructions for play, kids are left to make up their own games and rules.

Mr Shingu's Paper Zoo

Available on: iOS (£1.99), Android (£1.99)

Who knew there was room in the world for an origami simulator? That's what you're getting here and it's actually far more fun and compelling than it sounds. Kids create a zoo-full of animals by following the app's folding instructions (they can also play along with real paper, if they want to make real origami models) and then look after the animals to earn virtual currency to buy their creations toys and food. Classic cutesy Japanese graphics complete the package.

Tamagotchi Classic

Available on: iOS (£2.49), Android (£2.49)

It's been the best part of 20 years since the Tamagotchi craze swept the globe – now the animal-keeping game is back for your smartphone. Not much has changed since the mid-90s – what you get for your £2.49 is a faithful recreation of the original Tamagotchi experience, with a handful of new special colour Tamagotchis. The care-taking gameplay is as addictive as ever – but this might be one that has the most appeal for nostalgic adults.

Ski Safari

Available on: iOS (£0.69), Android (£0.63)

A classic slice of casual gaming, this one requires a bit of coordination so it's best for slightly older kids. It's an example of the endless running genre – there's no way to actually beat the game, the aim is simply to keep racing ahead of the avalanche for as long as you can to rack up an ever-higher score. There's plenty of cute appeal – penguin and yeti characters help you along your way – and a Christmas-themed map too.

CBeebies Playtime App

Available on: iOS (free), Android (free), Amazon Fire (free), Windows Phone 8 (free)

This one is sure to be a hit with any tots who love watching CBeebies. It's a completely free app with games from a range of the most popular shows on the BBC's toddler TV channel. Swashbuckle, Show Me Show Me, Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures, Nina and the Neurons, The Octonauts, Tree Fu Tom, Alphablocks and Something Special are all represented – and any toddler's parent will surely find it worth the download time just to get Mr Tumble on their smartphone.

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