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How to Tell If an App or a Website Is Good for Learning

Get tips for finding apps and websites that will help your child with lifelong learning.

Topics: Learning

Some apps and websites claim they can teach your child to read or do math. But media that's actually good for learning may not produce results that are quick or easy to see. The best ones help your child learn how to learn -- and make them want to come back for more.

Apps and websites that nurture lifelong learning encourage questions, curiosity, and critical thinking. They teach by engaging kids, building concepts, and deepening their understanding. Plus, they offer feedback and teach them how to adjust accordingly. Kids will even find opportunities to strengthen learning beyond playtime.

Use these pointers to find apps and websites that are really good for learning:

Consider what you'd like your child to learn.

Do they need help with school subjects like math and reading? Would you like to build skills for creativity, logical thinking, or emotional awareness? Our "Best for Learning" lists offer hand-curated picks that support learning in any of these areas.

Let your kid's interests be your guide.

Find apps that tap into your kid's passions or stretch them a bit. For example, if your child isn't excited about reading, find books related to what they like in apps like Epic! and Skybrary. There are also plenty of free educational apps for a wide variety of interests.

Choose age-appropriate apps and websites.

Not everything for kids in the app store is as educational as it says it is. Based on research, here are some important things to consider:

  • Age 0-2: Babies and toddlers are likely to be attracted to screens. But there isn't much evidence that apps or websites will benefit their learning.
  • Age 3-8: Young kids benefit from content that supports problem-solving and school-readiness skills like reading, writing, and math. The best apps will be easy to navigate, with simple and interactive features.
  • Age 9-12: Preteens have strong digital skills, which can help when it comes to schoolwork. But they may want to play things designed for teens or adults, so always check that it's age-appropriate. Look for content that helps with academic subjects and other skills they can practice outside the classroom.
  • Age 13+: Teens usually know a lot about tech, so you'll need to decide how much you want to be involved. Valuable lessons can come from anywhere. Encourage diverse media experiences, and emphasize responsible behavior online.

Do some research.

Read more than just the description in the app store. Read unbiased reviews (such as ours), and make sure the apps come from a trusted developer. Keep in mind that free apps sometimes show inappropriate ads, offer in-app purchases, or collect your data.

Try it out for yourself.

Once you've found something interesting, download and test out the game if possible. If you can't test it out, watch a demo of it on YouTube before suggesting it to your child.

Look for learning in what your kid already loves.

Even if a game or app doesn't relate directly to school subjects, it still might have learning opportunities. Look for strategy, critical thinking, creativity, and more in what your kid already loves to do.

To learn more about what content is appropriate for your child, check out How We Rate and Review on our website.

Ashley Canales contributed to this article.

Christine Elgersma
Christine Elgersma is the editor for learning app reviews as Senior Editor, Learning Content. Before coming to Common Sense, she helped cultivate and create ELA curriculum for a K-12 app and taught the youth of America as a high school teacher, a community college teacher, a tutor, and a special education instructional aide. Christine is also a writer, primarily of fiction and essays, and loves to read all manner of books. When she's not putting on a spontaneous vaudeville show with her daughter, Christine loves to hike and listen to music, sometimes simultaneously.