12 apps that support learning through play

Simple Machines  Tinybop

Lately, there’s been a lot of discussion about the negative effects high-stakes testing has on learning and the development of children. Education advocates like Nancy Carlsson-Paige have spoken out: the emphasis on testing in our classrooms leaves little room for learning through play.

At Tinybop, we believe in play. Our apps steer clear of “drill and test,” in favor of “choose your own adventure.” No two kids will have the same experience playing  our apps. We try to preserve children’s autonomy to choose what they will discover. This power to choose nurtures an enduring, intrinsic motivation to learn.

Kids can learn through play in our apps and many others. Here are some of our current favorites that make learning (even Common Core-aligned content!) feel more like fun, and less like a chore:

Motion Math Zoom

Image from Motion Math Zoom


  • Motion Math Zoom explores the magnitude of numbers (including negatives and decimals) and their relation to the number line through a game complete with bubbles, elephants, frogs, bees, and more.  
  • Montessori Geometry is a beautifully designed app that teaches kids how to recognize and identify relationships between shapes through a series of games and activities.
  • Kids can learn the basics of balancing an equation on Dragonbox, a zen-like puzzle app that introduces algebraic concepts in a fun, gradual way.
Marinaandthe Light

Image from Marina and the Light

ELA & literacy

  • Research suggests that as children begin to read, they need to develop self-regulation, shape recognition, and basic conversational skills. Marina and the Light is a beautifully illustrated storytelling app that encourages these skills in pre-readers.
  • Another top storytelling pick, Toontastic, gives kids the power to create their own tale through story-boarding, scripting, and animation.
  • Reading Rainbow Skybrary is technically a library, not a game.  But the level of interaction and engagement that each ebook provides makes reading feel like play.  Major bonus points for the vast selection and option to read independently or aloud.
Homes Tinybop3

Image from Homes by Tinybop

Science & social studies

  • Explore our home planet’s geological history, structure, and plate tectonics in The Earth by Tinybop, an app that inspires learning and curiosity for earth science.  
  • Simple Machines by Tinybop is a wonderful introduction to mechanical physics, featuring a series of interactive activities that reveal the underlying forces of simple machines.
  • Homes by Tinybop transports kids around the world and allows them to “play house” in a diverse selection of international homes. This app serves as a wonderful introduction to the social studies concepts of culture, people, places, and environments.
Toca  Boca  Tea  Party

Image from Toca Tea Party

Social & emotional intelligence

  • Toca Tea Party is highly imaginative and engaging app that encourages role-play. The simple, clever format of this app encourages kids to develop their social skills and sense of empathy by responding to the needs of their tea party guests.
  • Self-regulation of emotion is an important skill for children to develop. The Monsters by Tinybop provides kids the opportunity to regulate their fears by confronting and exploring the monsters of their imaginations.
  • Adults and kids alike may benefit from Mood Meter. Developed by Yale researchers, this app helps us identify our emotions and understand why they fluctuate through various situations.

P.S. You can save more than 20% on all Tinybop apps with the Tinybop Collection!