15 iPhone Apps Every Tween Needs


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Photo: Luiza Kamalova (Shutterstock)

Children and their devices, am I right? Parents constantly wonder if and how to limit screen time. But maybe we have to accept the inevitable, it’s really hard to keep them away from their phone, especially when we’re always glued to ours, whether out of necessity (for work) or due to our own bad habits (or both!) – and instead try to make the time they spend with their screens a little better.

If you want to wrap your tween’s iPhone or iPad

with more useful programs than fortnite and less annoying than ICT Tacyou can start with these 15 apps, covering everything from helping them learn, to helping them create, to giving them better ways to have fun and waste time.

Khan Academy

Khan AcademyThe ambitious goal of is to provide “free, world-class education for everyone, everywhere”. This app offers lessons on everything your child will study in school, from learning shapes in kindergarten to AP math for high schoolers, and it costs nothing. It’s also the MVA (Most Helpful App) when it comes to homework help. If you only download one app for your child, make it Khan Academy.

box island

I’m generally against games that try to be educational – it’s a trick that rarely works, and I’d hate for anyone to try to do me learn something from a video game, but box island is an exception. This story-based adventure/puzzle game teaches the basics of computer programming through puzzle solving on a cartoonish tropical island. And it’s actually fun, not “learn while having fun”, but having fun-having fun.

The universe in brief

The universe in brief gives children a way to count with the scale of the universe by introducing a way to compare objects of different sizes. You can go from a tiny quark to an entire galaxy in seconds of scrolling, and clicking on one of the many objects in between gives you interesting and often hilarious descriptions of what you’re looking at.

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minecraft pocket edition

minecraft pocket edition

I can’t make a list of “good software for kids” without including Minecraft. Survival, crafting, and building gameplay promotes creativity, cooperation, and critical thinking, plus tons of skeletons to slay. Mobile version lacks some PC and console features Minecraftbut it’s still a unique experience that belongs on every child’s iPhone or iPad.


There are note-taking and organization apps designed specifically for kids and tweens, but most kids want to be more grown-up, and Evernote is so easy to use and contains many tutorials that they can skip the baby versions. Your 12-year-old probably won’t need the more advanced features like scanning business cards or organizing plane tickets, but an app that does the basics – organizing your appointments and notes – is useful at any age.

high school history

Gamers love it high school history. This interactive fiction game tasks you with building your own high school, recruiting students, and solving the problems of mixing athletes, nerds, and other stereotypes. It confronts some of the anxieties tweens often have about entering high school — bullying, attendance, fitting in — without being bossy or preachy.

Mudguard set

Every child should learn to play the guitar, or at least try honestly. Mudguard set offers a complete video-based guitar lesson that starts with “I’ve never picked up a guitar” and works its way up to “I can play with my friends.” It’s a lot cheaper than in-person lessons, and kids will love the friendly, patient instructors and clear progress indicators.

Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail is an American institution. The iOS version of the classic video game about journeys across the plains of the Pacific Northwest has been updated and modernized, but the core gameplay (driving a border wagon through hostile wilderness) remains. Kids will learn a bit about American history, a bit about resource management and organization, and have a lot of fun, if they don’t die of dysentery along the way.


GarageBand is really good. Apple’s music creation software is simple enough that any tween can pick it up right away, and deep enough that it can be used for radio-like production. It lets you combine preset loops and drum tracks to create beats and songs, even if you don’t know how to play an instrument. If you get more advanced, you can plug in your guitar or keyboard and rock out and even lay down vocals.

Launderer’s report

Sporty kids also need apps. The laundry report is a comprehensive sports news app offering all the sports news you could want, at the time you want it. You can set alerts for your favorite team, instantly share items on social media, and more. This app is not designed for kids, but if you have a sports-obsessed 11-year-old in your house, only the real thing will be good enough.


While iOS offers basic video editing with its camera app, Magisto goes a step further by allowing you to edit videos and slideshows almost instantly. It’s packed with templates, fonts, and more, and it’ll even cut your video for you with its smart AI-powered editor. Just what your tween needs to create (and hopefully monetize!) their videos.

Plain Toca

If you have a tween who wants to play God, give him Plain Toka. This nature simulator lets you create your ideal world by terraforming mountains, rivers and more at the touch of a button. Once you place animals, you can watch them live their lives in the environment you have created. You could take this as a lesson in the interconnectedness and fragility of the natural world if you wanted to think about it seriously, but you don’t have to.

Head space

There are many meditation apps out there, but Head space stands. These guided meditations are primarily for adults, but they’ve recently added meditations for kids and families designed to help kids focus better and be more aware of how they learn and think. If you have a tween that needs to relax and learn some mindfulness, Headspace might be just what the guru ordered.

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Capture: your dream journal

Capture: your dream journal

    your dream diary

Children are fascinated by their dreams, especially as they approach adulthood, and Capture: your dream journal offers them a simple and fun way to record and categorize their night visions. I don’t do much about dream interpretation and analysis, but it would be just amazing if I had a searchable journal of what I dreamed about when I was 12.

Little Alchemy 2

I like Little Alchemy 2. It’s just a pure idea perfectly realized. In this sandbox game, you are given a few simple elements – earth, air, water, fire, etc. – and you combine them to create something new. Then you combine the combinations to make a more complicated creation, and so on, until you create many more advanced things like machines, Godzilla, or a human, as you can see in the video above .

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