apps for worthwhile screen time, from the perspective of a former educator and mom to an autistic 6 year old

If you are getting or already have a tablet for your child and are looking for some quality apps to add, I got you! 

I have pretty high standards for what I let Abby do on her iPad. Screentime can be very regulating if we avoid things that lead to frustration! Things I look for in a tablet game: 

- no ads, because they either interupt the game or she ends up clicking on it thinking it's a game she can play and then is frustrated when she can't

- self paced: games that move at her pace, not games with time limits or that move quickly 

- either educational, creative, or an eploration kind of game with lots of cause and effect (click something and find out what happens)

- easy to figure out by herself: no complicated rules, controls, or steps to master 

- intrinsicly motivated: not trying to level up or earn anything 

Without further ado, here are mine and Abby's favorites! 

(Titles are all hyperlinked to websites to download or learn more.)

Endless Reader

  • Word puzzles reinforce spelling using lower-case letters and the sentence puzzles teach definition and usage (in addition to sight recognition).
  • No high scores, failures, limits or stress. Your children can interact with the app at their own pace.
  • Abby plays this one on her Amazon Fire Kids tablet as part of the Amazon Kids+ subscription, but it is available for other tablets!
  • There are also apps in this family for letters and numbers! 

Sago Mini School

"A new learning platform created with child development experts that builds early reading, math, sciences and problem solving through holistic, child-led activities."

This one has been one of Abby's favorites for over a year! Intrinsically motivated, self paced, adorable animation, engaging games, and educational. What more could you ask for? We first found Sago Mini on Abby's Amazon tablet! A lot of their content is included as individual games with the Amazon Kids+ subscription. 

*There are 2 other Sago Mini games mentioned in this list, so I'll just go ahead and tell you now, Sago Mini recently joined Piknik, and has released a subscription package for all of their games for only $13 a month. This is an incredible deal for the amount of games you have unlimited access to! 

Writing Wizard

"Writing Wizard is designed to help every child learn how to trace letters, numbers, and words through a fun system carefully designed to maintain motivation." • Fun tracing using 50+ animated stickers, sound effects and interactive games that animate letters at the end of tracing • Uppercase & lowercase letters, numbers and words • Add your own words and create word lists • Fully customizable to suit every child’s needs (letter size, difficulty,…) • Shapes tracing activity for toddlers and more!

Abby's occupational therapist 2 years ago told us about this one, and she's been a fan ever since! 

Paw Patrol Academy

This one is an absolute must for any Paw Patrol fan! Practice making letters with Rubble, join Skye in some Pup Pup Boogie, help Chase build some words and review phonics, master numbers with Marshall and shapes with Rocky, and do some coloring with Zuma! Abby had been seeing ads and preview videos for this one on YouTube for months, and it was finally released a few weeks ago. She is obviously a big fan of this game! 

for reading


In the interest of full disclosure, this one is actually not on Abby's iPad. I added it for her, and I think she might still be a little young for it. I used to use Epic with my 4th graders when I taught, and it was a daily go-to! It's available on a variety of platforms, and my students even used it on their Chromebooks. Epic is basically the Netflix of books. There are over 40,000 ebooks, videos, and songs. Some of them are just for fun, some of the are educational. It's an extremely well done and massive platform! 


I recently found out about this one, and while it also not on Abby's iPad (yet) it is definitely on my phone! You sign in with your library card information, and get access to thousands of ebooks, audio books, movies, music, etc. And it's free! AMAZING.


"Vooks is an entire library of storybooks brought to life with beautiful animation, read-aloud narration, engaging music and sound, and read-along text. We’re educational, safe, and ad-free screen time that inspires a lifelong love of reading! And now, you can become the narrator of your favorite Vooks stories with our newest feature, Storyteller!"

Abby found their channel on YouTube Kids a few months ago, and I recently realized there is an actual app. I am not totally sure she needs the subscription at this age, especially because the YouTube channel is free and is much of the same content as the app. I will say, it's a really well done app. Very aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate. The videos are amazing, there are additional features on the app! 

for playing

Pok Pok

"A collection of digital toys that spark creativity and learning through open-ended play."

If you have followed me on Instagram for any amount of time, you probably have figured out that we are big fans of this game. The animation is beautiful, the toys are so clever and fun, and it is hands down the most calming game out there. It is currently only available on iPad, but they are releasing an android version soon! 

Save 25% on a yearly subscription with the discount code abby25! 

Sago Mini World

As with Sago Mini School, we first found this one on the Amazon tablet. I downloaded a few individual worlds on her iPad for when the Amazon tablet needed to be charged, and then discovered you could just download this app and get all of the worlds there are in one place! Magic. I absolutely adore the animation in these games. They are so open-ended, there is so much cause and effect to discover, and they are genuinely so calming and entertaining. Cannot recommend the Sago Mini games enough! 

Dr. Panda

This is another one that Abby first found on Amazon tablet. We actually don't even have it on her iPad because so many of the Dr. Panda games are part of Amazon Kids+. Much like the Sago Mini games, they are very open-ended, self paced, and calm! 

from favorite shows

Bluey: Let's Play

"Explore, imagine, create & play in Bluey's house. Wackadoo! Come join Bluey, her friends & family! For real life."

Seriously the cutest game. Definitely a must-have for any Bluey fan! Self-paced, calm, open ended, imaginary play with all of the Bluey characters in the Bluey worlds, plus the background music from the show! An absolute delight. Not the cheapest, but ad-free and SO much content! 

Paw Patrol Rescue World

This is one of the first games Abby really got into on her iPad! Another one that isn't the cheapest, but holy moly there is so much to do in there. You can navigate in a first-person perspective through all of the worlds in Paw Patrol (and I do mean all of them). If you stick with the free version you can choose between 2 of the characters to be and just access a few of the worlds. With the paid subscription you get all of the characters and worlds unlocked and avoid a lot of frustration on the part of your child (that's how they get you, evil genuises). BUT, this is another self-paced, open ended, exploration kind of game. And if your child's special interest is Paw Patrol, they are going to absolutely love this one!  

World of Peppa Pig 

"Jump into the World of Peppa Pig – filled with lots of learning and fun! Your little piggy can enjoy plenty of interactive games, videos and activities, all in a safe and ad-free environment."

A must for any Peppa Pig fan! 

Peppa Pig: Jump and Giggle

"Jump up and down as you use your whole body to control your best friend Peppa. Keep your little piggies active and entertained in one player mode, or get the whole family involved in two player mode. Wiggle and giggle together with friends and family, jump in muddy puddles and bounce to your heart's content. Tons of fun and games to get your little ones moving with Peppa."

This one is so unique and fun! Your child has to literally stand up in front of the iPad and move their body to control the character on the screen. It reminds me of the Nintendo Wii concept but they don't have to hold a controller! SO FUN

Unfortunately, it's only on iPad. But it is a one time purchase instead of a subscription! 

for language development

Sago Mini First Words

Another fun and adorable app from Sago Mini, this one focuses specifically on speech and language! There are 20+ categories, lots of modeling of how to say words or have conversations, and interactive components to get your child talking and to reinforce the concept of each word. Abby has had a lot of fun with this one!

This one is only available for iPad, and only in English. It is pretty new, but I am hopeful they will expand! 

Speech Blubs

Another app designed specifically to get your child talking, and is designed for kids over 12 months, including those with Down syndrome, articulation issues, or who are autistic. This one is available in multiple language! 

*Neither of these say anything about being intentionally designed for Gestalt Language Processors and generally operate by modeling single words at a time. But, we do know GLPs learn well through repetition and seeing language modeled, and both of these apps have lots of that!