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20 Best Apps for School-Age Kids: Art, Math, Science, Geography and More!

Whether you want to help your kid learn fractions, geography or just goof off (and, umm, film a movie), you'll love these amazing apps for school-age kids -- just try not to get hooked yourself! 

20 Best Apps for School-Age Kids: Art, Math, Science, Geography and More!iTunes.Apple.Com
Story Highlights
These apps are perfect for killing time and helping your kids learn something new.
Operation Math and Motion Math will teach kids everything from fractions to basic skills.
Word skill games like Mad Libs (throwback!) and Scramble with Friends are great spelling and grammar practice.
Just need a distraction? Try Lego Movie Maker or Jetpack Joyride.

Once kids reach school age, the question usually isn't about whether to let kids have screen time on your iPhone (most parents have already caved on that front), but about regulating what they're using. The good news: There are apps out there that really are as educational as they are cool. Whether you want your kid to learn math, geography, science or art -- or if you just want to catch a few minutes of peace yourself, at least one of these 20 amazing apps is bound to help.

Toontastic

Available on: iPad
Price: Free
Best app for: Animation

Get ready to be floored by the award-winning and simple-to-use Toontastic, the inventive iPad app that allows kids to create their own original animated cartoons. Part digital puppet show and part action-figure pretend play, the app lets kids move characters (and yes, they can choose from horses to spaceships to drawings they create) around the screen and narrate the action, while the animation feature records both their voice and the characters' movements. The app even guides kids through the story arc, teaching elements of plot development, like setup, challenge and resolution. Finished cartoons can be shared with family and friends or uploaded to ToonTube, a kid-friendly online community. Rated "Best" for learning potential by Common Sense Media, Toontastic's only downside may be that it leaves you convinced your kid is going to be the next Walt Disney.

Scribbenauts Remix

Price: $.99
Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
Best app for: Using your imagination

Want your kids to use their imagination more? Check out Scribblenauts Remix, which contains forty of the most popular levels from the Scribblenauts and Super Scribblenauts video games, with ten new, original levels created exclusively for the app. Scribblenauts
contains a series of puzzles that players need to solve by figuring out what's missing or what's needed: For example, in an empty classroom, kids need to think of objects that are missing (such as desk, chairs, pencils) and type the word in. The object then appears on the screen, and players advance to the next level by naming all of the missing items. In another scene, to help a flower grow, kids need to type in words such as "sun" and "rain" (both then appear on the screen). With the iPhone 4S, kids can also use the microphone to speak the name of the object. Rated as having the "best" learning potential by Common Sense Media, the app's many levels of difficulty will keep kids (and parents) of all ages thinking. 

Buildo Sticker Books

Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
Price: $1.99
Best app for: Stickers 

Forget your kid -- any parent who has ever emptied their wallet feeding a child's sticker habit will love Buildo Sticker books. Each of the three apps (Buildo History, Buildo Museum and Buildo Rescue) include three different scenes with hundreds of stickers that can be moved, flipped and resized. Once placed on the scene, the sticker then comes to life with simple animation and sound effects. The apps all have an educational feel: Buildo History inclues medieval, prehistoric and Viking scenes, packed with stickers of knights, princesses, dinosaurs, wizards, dragons and more. Buildo Museum features three scenes inspired by an ancient museum, and stickers of monsters, vampires and mad scientists. Seeing Buildo Rescue's four scenes (police, fire brigade, sea rescue and hospital) and stickers of fire engines, police cars, helicopters and jet skis made us think that one of the Swedish developers behind this app must have a son -- and we were right. 

WeeMee Avatar Creator

Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android
Price: $.99
Best app for: Gender-neutral dress-up

There are a lot of avatar apps out there, but WeeMee Avatar Creator is the one that's best for school-age kids. And unlike a lot of dress-up apps, WeeMee will appeal to both boys and girls, who can create their own avatar (a cartoon personality, in case you weren't exactly sure), varying everything from head shape, expression and eye color to sunglasses, hats, backgrounds and of course, clothes. While the app comes with tons of choices, there are more "closets" available in app, such as "glamour girls," "hipsters," or "Hollywood icons," some for purchase and others which are free. Most are pretty tame and appropriate for kids, but with options like "hunks and hotties," you'll just want to keep tabs on what gets downloaded. Once kids have created a WeeMee, the character can be saved to their gallery and uploaded anywhere as a photo, and for kids with their own phone, assigned as an image to address book contacts (a feature that's fun for grown-ups, too). Looking for a girly-girl dress-up app? Check out the preschooler app for iPad, Usborne Sticker Dolly Dressing which will likely still appeal to older girls.

Lego Super Heroes Movie Maker

Price: Free
Available on: iPhone and iPod Touch
Best app for: Movie making

Not since Dinosaur Train have two boy obsessions been so artfully combined: Lego Super Heroes Movie Maker lets kids make stop-motion films using Lego bricks and mini-figures. The simple (and free!) app guides kids through the stop-motion process, telling them when to film and when to stop to move their Legos. After production is complete, they can edit the scenes, use color filters, add in super-hero themed title cards and even dramatic background music. While the title cards and background music are pegged to Lego superheroes, the app can easily be used to make stop-motion movies with Barbies, fairies or Disney Princesses -- in case not everyone in your house is Lego-obsesed.

Cooking Dash

Available for: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
Price: Free
Best app for: Learning time management

Kids can run their own diner, drive-in and fast-food joint when they play Cooking Dash, a "time management" game from PlayFirst. Players have to run five separate restaurants in DinerTown and need to rush around seating customers, waiting tables, and prepping food from dumplings to burgers -- while factoring in the customers who grow impatient quickly, the ones who eat slowly and those who leave big tips. Earning money allows you to purchase restaurant upgrades that can pull in customers and speed up cooking and cleaning time. PlayFirst has built a franchise out of the time management apps -- if your kids like Cooking Dash, be sure to check out Wedding Dash, Hotel Dash and (of course) the SpongeBob SquarePants Diner Dash.

Drawing Pad

Available on: iPad
Price: $1.99
Best app for: Drawing

As artists grow older, they often have a vision of the work they want to create in their head. Drawing Pad lets them acheive it, with hundreds of realistic drawing tools -- true-to-size crayons, makers, pencils, paint brushes, stickers, chalk, roller pens and more, all of which create the appropriately realistic effect on screen. With countless drawers of materials that pull out from the side of the screen, the app easily holds the attention of older kids, yet isn't so complex that a younger child can't use it. (Got a preschooler? Check out Draw and Tell and 19 other great apps for preschoolers.) For kids who want even more, there are coloring books available for purchase within the app. Don't have an iPad? Try iDoodleIt or the popular Draw Something Free, a great game to play back and forth with the grandparents -- both are free for iPhone or iTouch.

Stack the States

Available for: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
Price: $.99
Best app for: Learning geography

If you're wondering how an app that teaches geography could possibly be even remotely fun, then you really need to download Stack the States. After correctly answering a multiple-choice question about US geography, players earn a state to "drop" onto a platform. The goal is to create a pile of states that rises above a line on the screen, the trick being that you have to rotate the states (which all have eyes staring back at you) and balance them just right or your pile will topple over -- an exercise that not only helps with understanding spatial relations, but also illustrates the relative size of the states. Sure, it's easy to stack Kansas on North Dakota, but how about Texas on top of New York? As players progress through the app, the line to reach becomes higher and there are bonus games to unlock, like one that tests players knowledge of state capitols. Older kids who have mastered U.S. geography can try Stack the Countries (free versions of both apps are available with limited content) or the other great educational apps from developer Dan Russell-Pinson: Presidents vs. Aliens and Monster Physics.

American Girl Games

Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
Price: Free
Best app for: Indulging American Girl fans

You can't really go wrong with any of the free American Girl apps -- all of which feature the familiar characters and the positivity they're known for -- but if Fab Five mania has hit your house, you might want to start with Gymtastic. The app features McKenna, the Girl of the Year 2012, who needs help getting ready for a big meet by running and jumping on a balance beam. In the restaurant game Shave Ice players help Kanani, Girl of the Year 2011, serve customers the Hawaiian treat as fast as they can. In Cheer On!, a cheer squad must collect letters to complete words and phrases. Finally, there's Secret Wardrobe, a game set in 1850s New Orleans where the historical characters Cecile and Marie-Grace prepare costumes for a Children's Ball.

Operation Math

Available for: iPhone and iPod Touch with separate iPad version available
Price: $1.99
Best app for: Practicing math skills  

In the 007-inspired Operation Math, you are Agent Prime and your mission is to save the world from the evil Dr. Odd. As players follow top secret targets everywhere from Paris to Egypt, their path is blocked by locked doors which are opened by solving multiplication, addition, division or subtraction problems on a spy watch. The goal is to unlock every door and complete the mission before time runs out, while earning new spy suits and watches. The award-winning app includes over 105 missions (based on three different skill levels) and 21 training levels as well as a dramatic soundtrack and narration to complete the experience.

Lego Harry Potter

Price: $4.99
Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
Best app for:  a Lego game

Not to be confused with the popular video games of the same name, the Lego Harry Potter apps are entirely unique and new games that have been developed with the touch screen in mind -- though they still retain the trademark Lego humor. Playing as Harry, Ron or Hermoine, kids must solve puzzles (figuring out how build a ladder, cast a spell to make a vine grow, give a witch a book) as they move through levels based on events and characters from the Harry Potter books. Players must collect potion ingredients to foil enemies, escape from Gringotts and use spells and charms to escape tricky situations. There's no skimping on content (it really is worth the price) -- and to stay true to the books, the app is divided into two apps, Years 1-4 and Years 5-7. And true fans won't want to miss Harry Potter Spells, the app that turns your iPod into a magic wand. Accio app! 

Angry Birds Seasons

Price: $.99
Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android
Best app for: Caving to demands for an Angry Birds game

If you haven't heard of the app phenomenon Angry Birds (and if so, we would love to visit you on your remote tropical island), it's a fun and addictive game where you use a slingshot to try to knock pigs down with different angry birds. Over 12 million copies have been downloaded and its success has launched a massive franchise of several apps in addition to Halloween costumes and even board games (a great choice for younger kids who want in on the action). One of the best choices for kids is Angry Birds Seasons: The app has more than 290 levels, all based around the seasons and holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, Chinese New Year, St. Patrick's Day and more. This app also regularly receives free updates (not all do) so it offers a great bang for the buck. If you already own Seasons, check out the original Angry Birds that started it all, the movie-inspired Angry Birds Rio or the newest release, Angry Birds Space, which shakes things up with "zero gravity". If you want to try before you buy, there are free versions of the apps to download.

Motion Math

Available for: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
Price: $1.99
Best app for: Learning fractions

Okay, we'll just say it: It's not fair that we had to suffer through learning fractions in Mrs. Smith's class, while our kids get to pick it up by playing an app. In the honestly educational Motion Math, kids must tilt their device to move a bouncing ball that shows a fraction, percentage, pie-chart or decimal and direct it to the corresponding number on a bar at the bottom of the screen. Players can use the hints feature for help with challenging problems, while three difficulty levels mean the app can grow with your child's knowledge. For more Motion Math, try Motion Math: Hungry Guppy (that focuses on addition), Motion Math: Hungry Fish (addition and subtraction), Motion Math: Wings (multiplication) and Motion Math: Zoom (that uses a number line to help kids understand how numbers compare (known as "place value.")

Ticket to Ride 

Price: $1.99
Available on: iPhone and iPod with separate version available for iPad
Best app for: a board game

Your kid doesn't need to be train-obsessed to enjoy the award-winning Ticket to Ride that's based on the (also award-winning) board game of the same name. Set in 1900 during the height of train expansion, the object is to claim rail routes that connect cities across a historical map of the United States, racing to be the first to create the longest, continuous route. The app stays faithful to the board game, but allows players a variety of options for play: solo, "pass and play" with a single device, multi-player mode (that connects devices over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) and even online gaming.

Where's My Perry?

Price: $.99
Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android
Best app for: Learning about physics

Disney's follow-up to their hit app Where's My Water? is the equally clever Where's My Perry? The app uses a similar "physics-based puzzle" game, but the hero is now Perry the Platypus from the cartoon Phineas and Ferb. Players must move water (and steam and ice) from one part of the puzzle to another by creating a path through dirt with their finger. Since the water responds to laws of physics, players need to anticipate how it will react to the obstacles on the screen. To advance through the game, players have to solve the puzzles, collect underground garden gnomes and find secret spy files which unlock bonus levels at the end of the game. After they've finished helping Perry defeat Doofenshmirtz, kids can tackle the original "Where's My Water?" which also comes in a free, limited content, version.

BrainPOP Featured Movie

Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android
Price: Free
Best app for: On-the-go educational TV

Each day there's a new animated documentary available to watch on the free app BrainPOP Featured Movie -- covering a huge range of topics from Mars to dogs to artists. Topics are divided by educational sections (Science, Social Studies, Reading, Math, Health, Arts, Technology and Writing) and the films, designed to appeal to ages 8 and up, are introduced by Tim and his robot Moby. After watching the film, kids can take a quiz to test what they learned; additional movies and quizzes are available through in-app purchases. Younger kids (Kindergarten through 3rd grade) can try BrainPop Jr. which has the same format and features. 

Cut the Rope

Price: $.99
Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android
Best app for: A clever strategy game

Physics, strategy and critical thinking are the name of the game in the popular Cut the Rope which has players attempting to deliver candy that's attached to several ropes to a hungry froglike character named Om Nom. Rated as having a good learning potential from Common Sense Media, the app's concept is simple, but each level includes different obstacles which players must work around, thinking and planning which ropes to cut and in what order to get the candy to Om Nom. As they do, players earn stars which unlock additional levels with new themes. If kids master Cut the Rope, they can move on to Cut the Rope: Experiments Free, a new app that follows a professor as he puts Om Nom through a series of science experiments. Also addictive and fun for kids: Fruit Ninja (if you don't already have it on your phone) where players try to slice through a range of fruits and Jetpack Joyride, a "side scrolling" game where you try to help Barry Steakfries escape his pursuers.

Weird But True

Available for: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
Price: $1.99
Best app for: Quirky reading

Based on the popular National Geographic books, Weird But True presents over 300 strange facts (Did you know that 99 percent of people can't lick their elbows? Or that cats communicate using at least 16 known "cat words"?) The oddball information is accompanied by sound effects and surprises and readers can swipe back and forth to read facts in order or shake the device to be served up a random nugget. Facts can also be bookmarked for later as well as rated on the Weird-O-Meter -- making this excellent fodder for back seat road trip chatter.

Mad Libs

Available for: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
Price: Free
Best app for: Learning parts of speech

The goofy game you remember from your own childhood takes on new life as an app: Like the pen-and-paper version, playing Mad Libs requires that players who can't see the storyline choose random words to fill in missing nouns, adjectives and verbs resulting in a silly story that's fun to read aloud. But the app experience allows kids to play by themselves (since you can enter the missing words without seeing the story line), offers a hints feature that can help younger kids in particular and lets you email your completed story to family and friends. The basic app is a free sample of Vacation Mad Libs app, but you can also purchase full apps that contains more than 20 stories, such as Goofy Mad Libs, Cool Mad Libs and (of course) Mad Libs on the Road.

Scramble with Friends

Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android
Price: Free
Best app for: a word game

If you've ever played the board game Boggle, then you'll have a pretty good idea of how the hit app Scramble with Friends works. Players connect letters on a 4 x 4 grid to create words that are scored based on letter values and word length. There are three rounds to each game -- a good thing since it means the game play is fast enough to hold kids' attention and brief enough that you won't get sucked in for hours (and grown-ups will get sucked in). Rated as having a "Good" Learning Potential by Common Sense Media, Scramble is part of the popular "With Friends" line from Zynga and like Words with Friends and Hanging with Friends, kids can play online against friends and family. Just be sure Grandma doesn't get too hooked!

Jetpack Joyride

Price: Free
Available on: iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
Best app for: a time killing game.

The creators of Fruit Ninja have another hit app on their hands with the madcap Jetpack Joyride. Barry Steakfries is attempting to escape a laboratory after stealing a jetpack and players must help him by making him run along the ground or fly through the air -- with a jetpack of course! The app is a "side scrolling" game and the goal is for kids to keep Barry moving forward as far as they can, collecting coins along the way which will allow them to upgrade weapons. As they complete different goals they'll unlock new tasks making for an addicting game that can be easily picked up and played at any time, the trouble will be putting it down.

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