When it comes to selecting games for preschoolers and young children, the focus shifts from complex mechanics and high-fidelity graphics to fostering essential skills and nurturing a love for learning and play. Here are some top picks for the tiny gamers in your life, categorized by their educational and developmental benefits:
Building Early Skills & Learning
Educational games allow young children to pick up foundational academic and cognitive abilities while having fun. From counting to colors, phonics to problem-solving, here are games that lay the groundwork for future learning.
Sesame Street: Elmo & Friends ABC Adventures
This app brings the beloved Sesame Street gang into your child’s world to teach essential early literacy skills. Interactive alphabet games focus on letter recognition, phonics, and basic vocabulary building. The simple interface and encouragement from Elmo, Cookie Monster and the rest of the crew makes learning letters entertaining and engaging.
Khan Academy Kids
As a leader in free online education for learners of all ages, Khan Academy offers a dedicated app packed with games for preschoolers and early elementary students. It provides a vibrant world to explore, where learning activities focus on numbers, counting, basic math, colors, shapes, and introductory coding concepts. The clear visuals and encouraging voice-overs help young children grasp concepts while building confidence.
Sago Mini Friends
This charming app features playful characters and activities focused on fostering imagination, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. Kids can explore unique worlds while developing early social-emotional skills through interactions focused on cooperation, emotion identification, and relationship building. With simple interfaces and intuitive gameplay suitable for the youngest mobile users, Sago Mini apps are playful gateways to essential life lessons.
Encouraging Creativity & Imagination
The most whimsical games give your kids freedom to explore and express their creativity. Open-ended environments and digital creative tools allow young minds to bring their ideas to life. Here are some top-rated platforms for imagination and invention:
The Toca Boca suite of kids games consistently tops lists for encouraging creativity, with Toca Blocks providing the virtual equivalent of wooden blocks or LEGO. Kids can create almost anything they can imagine, moving and stacking an endless array of vibrant 3D blocks however they choose. Surprising interactions add to the charm, keeping young builders engaged.
Doodle & Color Drawing Games
A host of drawing apps provide open digital canvases for budding creators, mimicking paper and crayons. Options like Kidz Paint, Drawing Desk, and My Coloring Book let kids bring lines, shapes and color to life however they please. Such drawing games build fine motor skills while allowing children full creative liberty.
Minecraft Education Edition
The block-building phenomenon of Minecraft offers a special kid-friendly version for educational settings. Minecraft: Education Edition maintains the franchise’s creativity-sparking potential for freeform building with virtual blocks, while incorporating cooperative lesson plans and structured challenges suitable for young students. Collaborative projects teach teamwork and problem-solving within an imaginative environment.
Building Language Skills Through Storytelling
Storytelling adventures allow preschoolers and young students to build communication abilities, grow their vocabularies, and develop important social-emotional skills through imaginative role-playing. These rich interactive stories bring literacy to life.
PBS KIDS Play!
Drawing from beloved educational PBS shows, this app offers games featuring familiar characters like Elmo, Daniel Tiger, Arthur and the Wild Kratts crew. Kids can join interactive adventures focused on developing social, emotional and interpersonal skills. With no ads or external links, it provides a safe space for young children to explore engaging stories and practice positive social behaviors.
Dr. Seuss ABC
Younger kids can embark on a rhyming adventure with iconic Dr. Seuss characters as they learn their ABCs, build their vocabularies, and develop early reading abilities. Colorful illustrations and zany Seussian rhymes make learning the alphabet entertaining. With rewards and achievements to keep motivation high, it feels like play rather than studying.
Interactive Storytelling Apps
Apps like Toontastic Junior, My Story: Interactive Stories, and Tell a Tale provide prompts and creative tools for children to build their own richly illustrated interactive tales. Immersing kids in the storytelling process stimulates their imaginations while building essential emotional intelligence and communication skills.
Getting Active with Games & Play
When it comes to health and fitness, setting kids on an active path early is key. These games add physical activity into the screen time mix, getting preschoolers moving.
Blending motion and mindfulness, GoNoodle gets kids on their feet with short interactive dance breaks, yoga sessions and imaginative adventure-prompted movements. Quick bursts of heart-racing fun keep them engaged, while building physical literacy, coordination, and athletic abilities. Movement-based rewards inspire kids to get active and relieve energy in a playful way.
Cosmic Kids Yoga
This popular YouTube channel leads children through fun yoga routines that keep them engaged physically and mentally. Tailored to kids ages 3+, the videos feature playful wellness and mindfulness practices dressed up in imaginative adventures. Themes incorporate movement across adventures under the sea, trips to enchanted forests, and cosmic expeditions. It’s an entertaining introduction to yoga’s physical and mental health benefits.
Active & Arcade-Style Mobile Games
Touch-based arcade games like Fruit Ninja and Temple Run promote hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and reaction time through simple swiping, tapping and tilting motions. Movement-driven console games like Nintendo’s Just Dance series bring infectious dances and rhythmic fun to the small screen. Many kids apps offer active alternatives to passive viewing, with games that get the blood pumping.
Choosing the Right Games & Play for Your Child
Every child progresses differently, with unique abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and interests that inform what kinds of games resonate most. Assessing key factors helps parents and teachers select age-appropriate games tailored to each child’s developmental needs.
Factor #1: Age Appropriateness
Consider your child’s age, abilities and coordination level when assessing games. For example, an app with complex controls or any reading requirement exceeds the skills of most toddlers. Look for games with themes, characters and challenges suited to your child’s current developmental stage.
Factor #2: Educational Value
While kids need entertainment, the best games balance fun and learning. Seek out playful apps that build academic foundations in areas like literacy, numeracy, problem-solving and communication skills. Prioritize titles rated highly for educational content over passive entertainment.
Factor #3: Safety & Privacy Settings
Vet games with privacy risks in mind. Opt for ad-free apps from trusted developers that won’t expose children to inappropriate content. Seek out safeguards like parental controls over chat functions. Read the fine print to check what user data may be collected.
Factor #4: Screen Time Limits & Balance
Ensure healthy screen time habits by setting limits when needed and encouraging a mix of digital play and offline activities. Constructive real-world play like Lego, make-believe, sports and board games remains vital for young children. Combine digital games focused on learning goals with outdoor play, family time, reading and hands-on creativity.
The Gift of Learning Through Play
More than mere entertainment, the best educational games give young children the gift of learning through screen-based play. Interactive adventures build academic foundations while nurturing imagination and creativity. Motion-based games foster coordination and healthy habits. All engage growing minds and capture their natural curiosities.
By steering kids toward the most enriching games for their developmental stage, parents give them tools to build essential skills. Add limits when needed, stir in offline activities, serve up learning-focused games in moderation – and watch young minds thrive as they play.