The best kids apps for 2017

There are so many apps to choose between, but we've rounded up the best - tested and approved by actual kids.

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  • pokemon go 2 Pokémon GO
  • best kids apps toca life vacation Toca Life: Vacation
  • youtube kids app YouTube Kids
  • best kids apps games toca dance Toca Dance
  • toca life city best kids apps Toca Life: City
  • best kids apps toca life farm Toca Life: Farm
  • Sago Mini Road Trip Best kids apps Sago Mini Road Trip
  • forestry Forestry
  • toca hair salon 2 review thumb Toca Hair Salon 2
  • toca kitchen 2 review Toca Kitchen 2
  • best kids apps crayola Crayola ColorStudio HD
  • best kids apps juniors create LEGO Juniors Create & Cruise
  • 001 ipad pro 12 9 2x 2732x2048 Artie's Magic Pencil
  • baby sign and sing Sign and Sing Lite
  • jetpack joyride JetPack Joyride
  • a parcel of courage A Parcel of Courage
  • thomas and friends best kids apps Thomas & Friends: Engine Activity Fun
  • buddh for iphone Buddha for Kids
  • hoopa city Dr Panda's Hoopa City
  • magic piano best kids apps Magic Piano by Smule
  • lets create pottery hd main Let's Create Pottery HD
  • monument valley Monument Valley
  • dumb ways to die Dumb ways to die
  • despicable me minion rush Minion Rush
  • snail bob Snail Bob
  • best kids apps cbeebies playtime CBeebies Playtime
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Pokémon GO

Available for Android or iPhone.

Pokémon GO is such a simple and yet absolutely brilliant idea that has captured the world’s attention. A year after launching some 65 million people still play: special events and extra Pokémon to catch has kept our kids (and adults alike) perpetually interested. It encourages them to walk around to real-world locations to catch Pokémon and collect things from Pokéstops, as well as battle in gyms. 

Despite the safety concerns, Pokémon GO is deserving of real credit for getting nations off the sofa and into the great outdoors. It's a power-draining but oh-so-addictive app, don’t pick up Pokémon GO unless you’re prepared to take your kids to the local park, high street and pretty much everywhere to catch the pocket monsters.

Read our full Pokémon GO review.

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Next Prev pokemon go 2

Available for Android or iPhone.

Pokémon GO is such a simple and yet absolutely brilliant idea that has captured the world’s attention. A year after launching some 65 million people still play: special events and extra Pokémon to catch has kept our kids (and adults alike) perpetually interested. It encourages them to walk around to real-world locations to catch Pokémon and collect things from Pokéstops, as well as battle in gyms. 

Despite the safety concerns, Pokémon GO is deserving of real credit for getting nations off the sofa and into the great outdoors. It's a power-draining but oh-so-addictive app, don’t pick up Pokémon GO unless you’re prepared to take your kids to the local park, high street and pretty much everywhere to catch the pocket monsters.

Read our full Pokémon GO review.

Toca Life: Vacation

Available for iPhone, iPad and Android

Toca Life: Vacation (sadly not 'holiday' in the UK English version) is part of the Toca Life series. Like the others, it's a digital playset that lets kids pretend they're going on holiday. The main screen acts as a navigation tool so kids can tap on the place they want to play: the airport, the hotel, the beach, etc.

Just about everything you can see is interactive: suitcases can be opened and their contents rearranged; characters can be dressed up with clothes from hangers or in the shop, and can be accessorised. Our testers loved that the airport included an aeroplane where they could pretend their characters were flying to and from their holiday destination, and that they could feed them snacks and drinks.

This is an app with hours and hours of potential play for imaginative minds. And that makes the £2.99 price an absolute steal, especially given that (as with all Toca Boca games) there are no ads or in-app purchases.

As well as games, there are video streaming services specifically for kids. See also: how to keep your kids safe online.

YouTube Kids

Available for Android and iPhone / iPad

In our experience kids love to watch videos on YouTube. Too much, in fact. And not everything on YouTube is suitable for children. But Google has made a child-friendly app which - aside from having a simpler interface - filters out the bad stuff and tries its best to make sure they only see what is appropriate. 

No filtering system is perfect, so supervision is still required (that's our advice, anyway) but this free app is a must-install.

We've got lots more tips for keeping kids safe online.

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Toca Dance

Available for iPhone & iPad

Toca Dance has proven an instant hit with our testers, 4 and 8. And plenty of adults have enjoyed a play, too. In the £2.99 game you get to pick up to three dancers and dress them as you like from the wide range of outfits. Then you teach them routines by dragging your finger on the various body parts. You can move the arms and head independently, and drag the body to make the dancers jump and crouch. Different routines can be assigned to various coloured dots, and the system is brilliantly designed that even young children can use it.

There's a variety of music to choose between and once you're done, you can watch the final performance. Even this is interactive - you can cheer, set off fireworks, throw flowers (or tomatoes) and save the video to your camera roll afterwards. It's not yet available on Android - just iOS.

Toca Life: City

Available for iPhone, iPad & Android.

In City, which costs a very reasonable £2.99, kids can visit different locations around the city and interact with practically everything. From the apartment to the food stalls and clothes shop, kids can decide which people to 'invite' and - depending on the location - give them different clothes, hairstyles, food and more. 

Toca Life: Farm

Available for iPhone, iPad, Android & Amazon Fire.

Farm is the latest in the Toca Life series and is - as ever - well worth the few pounds it costs on each platform. There are different areas to visit: the barn, the field, the farmhouse and more. 

In each, kids can interact with everything they can see, milking the cow, feeding the lambs, and harvesting crops. It probably goes over their head, but one of Toca Boca's aims is to introduce kids to the lifecycle of food. 

Our two testers loved taking seeds from the different sacks, planting and watering them, and then using the tractor to harvest them. You can also use the food machine to turn produce into food. 

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Sago Mini Road Trip

Available for iPhone, iPad & Android.

Designed specifically for toddlers and young children from 2-5, Mini Road trip is made by Sago (the sister company of Toca Boca). Kids can enjoy the fun of a whole road trip from packing a suitcase (complete with wacky items such as a chocolate cake), choosing a car (there are lots, including a shoe and a gherkin) and stopping en route for petrol and at a car wash. There are six destinations, although only three appear at any one time, which is a little confusing. There are no rules for driving, so kids can pick up the car and fly through the air if they like. It's great value at £2.99 with no ads.

Forestry

Available for iPhone & iPad.

Playing funny and educational mini-games, in iOS-only app Forestry your child will help forest dwellers to build a house, gather food stuffs, pick up berries, go swimming and, of course, prepare for sleep. A fascinating and useful game Forestry can also serve as great memory and attention trainer for your kid. (And it can help at bed time.) It is free, but with in-app purchases, so keep an eye out.

Toca Hair Salon 2

Available for iPhone, iPad & Android.

All the Toca Boca games for kids are great (except perhaps 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.

Kids get to be a hairdresser and stylist. This really is a great app for keeping them amused for short periods of time. 

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Toca Kitchen

Available for iPhone, iPad & Android.

Kids love messy play, but you probably don't like clearing up afterwards. With the second version of Toca Kitchen, kids can chop, fry, bake and now blend food and force-feed it to the new Kitchen characters. Our three-year old tester particularly like blending up pears and Monster Beets, laughing out loud when the sour flavour made the characters spit it out on the screen.

A recent update added peaches, strawberries, watermelon, onions, spaghetti, rice and octopus legs along with ketchup, soy sauce and a deep fryer appliance.

You can enable a 'vegetarian mode' and there are no annoying links (as you get in some freemium games) which take you away from the app to the app store. Well worth the £2.99 price.

Crayola ColorStudio HD

Available for iPhone & iPad.

A great free app that turns any iPad into a colourful drawing pad, without ruining the wallpaper or table. Good times.

Lego Juniors Create & Cruise

Available on iPhone, iPad & Android.

A game of imagination and building skill, LEGO Juniors Create & Cruise is aimed at children from ages four to seven years. Build your own truck, then use it to bring your cargo to its right destination, and collect coins to earn more LEGO parts. Fun, educational and satisfying. And that's just for the parents.

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Artie's Magic Pencil

Available for iPhone & iPad.

Artie's Magic Pencil is designed to help kids learn to draw. It aims to teach the fundamentals of drawing to children aged three to six. It offers a relaxed and encouraging space for potential young illustrators who might need some coaxing into the creative world. Find out more about Artie's Magic Pencil here.

Baby Sign and Sing

Available for iPhone, iPad & Android.

if you're doing pre-speech Sing & Sign with your baby, this offers a visual dictionary. Great fun for parent and child and it helps with development, too.

Jetpack Joyride

Available on iPhone, iPad & Android.

A free game enjoyed by children from a surprisingly young age (as well as older ones). You suit up with a selection of jetpacks and take to the skies on an exciting adventure.

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A Parcel of Courage

Available for iPhone & iPad.

Recommended by an anonymous reader check this beautiful family-friendly book 'A Parcel of Courage'. This interactive reading adventure loaded with educational activities has four unique learning games enhancing logic, spatial cognition, photographic memory and more.

Thomas & Friends: Engine Activity Fun

Available for iPhone & iPad.

There are so many rubbish Thomas games it's good to know that those by HiT Entertainment's are good and to be trusted. And it's free.

Buddha for kids

Available on iPad & iPhone.

An interesting app that focuses on history over religion. App maker Quelle Histoire creates apps that help six- and seven-year-olds learn about the lives of famous people - this case the Buddha. Your children will likely enjoy this app - and they will learn something too. Through 10 illustrated images, the children will follow Buddha from his first steps under the great tree at Lumbini to his Enlightenment near to the sacred town of Uruvela. And the kids stay focused because of games on each.

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Dr Panda's Hoopa City

Available for iPhone & iPad.

Hoopa City has fun and interactive educational values, letting kids role-play and use their imaginations. It's a character game for primary school children. It features Hoopa the Hippo. Kids must combine together elements to help construct cities. Children must build roads, houses, and more. It also features pioneering new mechanics so kids can combine elements to find secret combinations to unlock different building.

Magic Piano

Available for iPhone, iPad & Android.

Available on practically every platform, this addictive - and great-sounding - game lets you play well-known tunes without actually having any musical talent. You just have to tap vaguely in the right area of the screen at the right time to a) make it sound right and b) get a high score.

Let's create! Pottery HD

Available for iPhone & iPad.

Providing you can wrestle your phone or tablet from your kids, here's an app that you can enjoy just as much as they do. It won't teach you how to become a real potter but Let's create! Pottery HD is a great-looking and surprisingly fun game which everyone can enjoy. The full game costs £3.99, but if you're not convinced, try the free Lite version first.

Read our full review of Let's Create Pottery

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Monument Valley

Available for iPhone, iPad & Android.

One of the most beautiful and captivating games ever released, Monument Valley isn't cheap (for an app) at £3.99 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 through and will surely go down in game history as one of the unique greats.

Dumb Ways to Die

Available for iPhone, iPad & Android.

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. All together now: "Set fire to your hair, Poke a stick at a grizzly bear. Eat medicine that's out of date, Use your private parts as piranha bait."

Despicable Me: Minion Rush

Available for iPhone, iPad & Android.

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 power-ups. 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.

There are lots of alternative 'endless runner' games, including Talking Tom Gold Run and Subway Surfers.

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Snail Bob

Available for iPhone, iPad & Android.

A game that is fun and captures the imagination, but is slow enough for younger children to play succesfully. Snail Bob is a physics-based strategy game, your goal is to guide the snail to the exit. Press buttons to control various mechanisms and the snail Bob, try to get to the exit as quick as possible. Rinse and repeat (hopefully long enough for Mum and Dad to have a break).

CBeebies Playtime

Available for iOS and Android

This is a fairly big download and will take up about 1GB on your device, which could be an issue, but this is a brilliant game if your kids watch the BBC channel in the UK.

It includes a good few games based on CBeebies shows (such as Topsy & Tim, Alphablocks and Teletubbies) and lets kids create their own profiles, customising their avatar.

There are no ads or in-app purchases, and it even has educational value too!

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