There are literally thousands of free and low-cost apps for kids, but they vary wildly in quality. How can you tell which kids apps are good? No-one needs a disappointed child in their life, after all. We asked all the parents in the PC Advisor office to let us know which apps their kids love. We've picked out the 18 best free (and cheap) Android apps for kids, and split them into the correct age groups according to our panel of young experts.
And we've plucked out 10 great apps for kids that you can get for iPhone and iPad, but not for Android.
Best free Android apps for babies
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. See also: Best Android apps for new smartphones and tablets.
Best free Android apps for pre school childrem
If your children like Peppa Pig, you have little option but to get them this app, even though it costs a couple of quid. And although we're not entirely enamoured of it, at £1.99 you won't be disappointed. All of the P2 Games apps featuring Peppa Pig- and Fireman Sam are good, and as there is a lot of over-priced rubbish bearing the names of Peppa and Sam it is worth looking out for that publisher.
A virtual colouring book for younger children, Potato Head Color makes up in simple free fun what it lacks in UK SPELLING. Cough. Rant over.
All the Toca Boca games for kids are great (except 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. Toca Boca games are great - hey have the design aesthetic of Swedish wooden toys and 'feel' a lot like real world toys that encourage imagination. Critically, they are great fun too.
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).
Simple, charming identify-an-animal games. Younger kids love these, especially as the developers release updates each Christmas that Christmas-ify them.
See also: Best maths apps for children.
Best free Android apps primary school children
A game of imagination and building skill, LEGO App4+ 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.
Find things in shapes made up of thousands of objects with this beautiful and addictive free app for children.
A free game enjoyed by children from a surprisingly young age. You suit up with a selection of jetpacks and take to the skies on an exciting adventure.
Best played on a tablet you're a mouse evading cats while you try to drag cheese around a house. More tense than you'd expect.
What child doesn't love trains? Train Conductor 2 lets them guide trains to their destination while avoiding disastrous collisions (or not, depending on the child in question). To play kids must simply drag each train to the correct track with the swipe of a finger. The free version of the game will keep kids entertained for hours, too.
Featuring artwork by illustrator Christoph Niemann, this is very silly but fun. And great to look at. You pet cartoon animals, they do funny things. What's not to like?
Wombi Treasures is a basic but fun and graphically rich treasure hunt game for kids, available as iPad, iPhone and Android apps. It engages young children in scouring locations to find hidden artifacts, rewarding perseverance, and keeping kids gripped with their challenge. While the graphics are rich the gameplay is relatively basic but keps children excited to keep playing again and again.
Best free Android apps for teenagers
With Tap Tap Revenge you tap the targets on your touchscreen to the beat of music from a variety of beat pop combos (it's young people's music). Tap along well and you score points for accuracy and timing. There are multiple diffculty levels, hundreds of songs and live online battlegrounds. Our teenage correspondent said she likes how you can choose different songs for the game and tap along to the beat.
A useful free tool for music study/practice. Our teenage app fan told us she finds this app useful for finding a specific note, before auditioning for a drama or music performance. And for the post-Glee generation that is high praise indeed.
Best free Android apps for kids of all ages
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 gaem costs £2.99, but if you're not convinced, try the free Lite version first.
You know that bit in every adventure film where the hero or heroine gets their hands on the treasure but has to navigate a maze of booby traps to get out alive? That's this game in a nutshell. It's free, and according to our panel enjoyed by kids aged from four upwards.
9 great iPhone and iPad apps for kids we'd like to see on Android
The Android app store on Google Play is pretty good these days, and you'll note that there are many great free apps for which you have to pay on other platforms. But there are still a lot of apps missing. Here is a run down of the best apps for kids that our parents like and use with their children on iPhone and iPad, but cannot install on Android phones and tablets.
This 69p iPad app by Gabaduck for younger learners is based on the traditional learning tune 'Jenny Jenkins' that teaches kids about different colours using song, games and great animal graphics. As it’s for younger children we wouldn’t expect them to sing along to the karaoke-style lyrics but they’d soon pick up the words if a parent sings along with them. If you can’t sing, don’t worry as the app includes vocals by Grammy-nominated Lisa Loeb. Alongside the sing-along songs are fun memory and colouring games and activities, making it great value for money. There’s a free memory game version (Music Matching with Lisa Loeb) to try out first.
If you want to teach your kids the phonic pronunciation of letters and how to write them PocketPhonics is the only app you need, but only when you're not near pen, paper and a flat writing surface.
A geography quiz (countries, flags, cities, landmarks) combined with a game to try to stack scale country outlines on top of each other without the pile falling over. Surprisingly good fun.
A challenging and fun hidden object game via which you can teach your child letters without them realising. Stealth education is the best, right?
One of many great Toca games you can't get on Android. Why?
A similar plea. There are so many rubbish Thomas games it's good to know that those by Callaway Digital Arts are good and to be trusted. But where are they on Google Play? Don't the offspring of Android users deserve good games, too? DON'T THEY?
A great free app that turns any iPad into a colourful drawing pad, without ruining the wallpaper or table. Good times.
Hairy Letters is helpful in learning to write letters, and Alphabetic is sort of educational as you have to spot the each letter of the alphabet in increasingly hard animated patterns.
Enough with the education. Let's finish with some fun. Bike Baron is the ultimate motorbike game for iPhone and iPad, and a firm favourite with children of all ages. We'd love to see it on Android.
See also: Best time-telling apps for children.