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Kids: Early Literacy: Apps & Early Literacy

What's the Research Say?

What's the research say on app use in young children?

When "screen time" recommendations were first introduced, experiencing a screen was always a passive experience: "receiving" programming from TV or videos. Now that interactive screens have arrived, and children can become active participants in screen time, the guidelines have shifted a bit. Balance is always recommended, as is "joint media use" (exploring apps with your child, together--the same way you'd explore a book together).

See the below slideshow for tips on picking apps that support early literacy, what to avoid, recommendations for great free apps, and more.

Recommended Free Apps

    For Parents and Caregivers (all are free):


For Parents and Caregivers to explore with Children (all are free and ad-free):

  • Finger Paint with Sounds (iOS; Android)
  • Toca Kitchen Monsters (iOS; try Toca Kitchen for Android)
  • Toca Tailor Fairy Tales (iOS only)
  • See more in the embedded slideshow on the bottom left of this page


Did you know? Sesame Street offers free apps to help families through tough transitions and situations. Click here and choose "Family Tool Kits" to browse their apps about managing strong emotions, divorce, incarceration, emergency preparedness, understanding autism, and deployment.