Welcome to our list of the best free games for children on both tablet and PC. These have been carefully picked to make sure they are appropriate for kids.
We hear a lot of bad stuff about kids playing games. Back in the 1980s, we were told Pac-Man would herald the end of society, resulting in kids roaming maze-like streets, desperate for a fix of glowing dots.
Naturally, that didn’t happen. And in these more enlightened times, there’s plenty of research to suggest gaming is – in moderation – a useful activity. Video games promote problem solving skills and imagination. They are an active leisure pursuit, versus the passivity of television.
Still, it’s important to ensure your kids are playing games that are suitable. This round-up is designed to highlight 20 great games for kids, aged 5–11. They’re complete as-is experiences, low on violence, and tend to combine immediacy and depth. Most of all, though, they’re great fun to play – whatever your age.
10 great children’s games for Android tablets and iPad
These days, kids are more likely to first experience computing and gaming on a tablet than a home computer. To that end, our tablet selection skews a little younger.
According to Google, everything listed here is rated 3+, and so should be safe for even very young children. Apple is more conservative – it rates the games 4+, apart from Super Stickman Golf 3 and Spaceteam, which are 9+. The games are also all simple to control, easy to get into, and fun to play.
A note on IAPs and ads: Free games need to be funded somehow. Several items in this selection offer in-app purchases (IAPs) for in-game currency, and some have ads. In the former case, disable IAPs at a system level on your device before handing it over to a youngling; with the latter, play a game yourself first to check the ads within are OK.
1. Sago Mini Friends
This sweet-natured set of mini-games encourages creativity, dexterity, and puzzle solving. It starts with you selecting a colorful character, who then explores a neighborhood of cartoon houses.
Knock on a door and you’re invited inside for an animated, entertaining playdate. This might involve dress-up, hammering nails into a birdhouse, or enjoying a tasty snack.
Everything’s bright and cheerful, and the game promotes empathy, with one friend looking glum if spoils aren’t evenly shared.
2. Lego Creator Islands
In all honesty, we’re sure most parents would be happier seeing kids playing with real Lego rather than virtual bricks on a tablet. But when the real thing isn’t an option, this official game’s a nice substitute.
It’s based around the titular islands, on which you collect bricks, to ‘buy’ Lego sets that are constructed with a few taps. Over time, you’ll accrue houses and vehicles, and cute blocky critters that roam about. As an added bonus, there’s no chance of painfully stepping on a plastic brick.
3. Toca Kitchen 2
If you’ve a child who regularly uses a tablet, chances are you’ve already installed some Toca Boca games. They’re a smart mix of education and play, and Toca Kitchen 2’s no exception.
As you might expect, this one’s all about cooking. The game invites you to make meals – however you like. Devise your own recipes, and foist your creations on a colorful cast of characters, whether you’ve carefully constructed a burger, or decided to microwave a melon and cover it in sauce.
4. Llama Spit Spit
Llama Spit Spit is an oddball shoot ’em up, featuring a flying llama blasting crazy cartoon enemies with a mix of spittle and high-powered weaponry.
The controls are incredibly simple, meaning even younger players can get on board. Power-ups and collectable llamas (with their own background imagery) keep things interesting over the long term.
5. Disney Crossy Road
The original Crossy Road cleverly reworked Frogger, with blocky characters hopping across chunky endless landscapes, trying to avoid a dunk in a river or getting flattened by a train. But the masterstroke was a raft of unlockable characters.
Disney Crossy Road is much the same, but uses Disney characters that often radically overhaul the game’s visuals and gameplay mechanics. Over 100 figurines are there to be found, and although IAP lurks, playing and collecting coins in the in-game worlds is all you need to snag them all.
6. Frisbee Forever 2
You’d think flinging a plastic disc about would make for a rubbish video game. Fortunately, Frisbee Forever 2 is more akin to a set of rollercoasters, with you guiding your disc through gates, collecting stars along the way.
There’s a hint of Nintendo about this breezy arcade experience, with its vibrant visuals, smart level design, and a basic control system suitable for all. And although there are freemium underpinnings, you’re rewarded with in-game currency for every second played – even if an attempt at a level ends in failure.
7. Fruit Ninja
In the fast-paced Fruit Ninja, your digit becomes a virtual sword, hacking pieces of fruit lobbed on to the screen in two, and attempting to avoid cutting into game-ending bombs.
It’s ideal fodder for a tablet, since you can make pleasingly large swipes across the display. But also the game offers local multiplayer, so two kids can zealously pit their fruit-slicing skills against each other.
With its tiny isometric worlds you spin with a finger, and landscape-flipping mechanics, Mekorama brings to mind Monument Valley. But this game has no Escher-like optical illusions; instead, it concentrates on straightforward pathfinding as you help an ambling robot reach its goals.
It’s a charming, thoughtful, tactile experience, and on a tablet is suitable for parent/child play, with you working through the puzzles together. Once you’re done with the 50 built-in levels, you can download more from the internet, or make your own.
9. Super Stickman Golf 3
For many kids, golf won’t excite. But the Super Stickman universe doesn’t partake in normal golf. Instead, you’re thwacking balls across larger-than-life side-on courses – massive castles; laser-strewn bases; floating islands.
Although it’s a fun solo game, which makes the most of bigger screens (through you being able to see more of each course and therefore aim more precisely), it also has superb multiplayer modes. You can play turn-by-turn matches with friends, or try your hand at frenetic, madcap ‘race to the hole’ skirmishes.
If you’ve several kids with devices, Spaceteam’s a delightfully bonkers way to have them all yell at each other in a vaguely productive manner that in theory helps them work as a team. Specifically, a ‘spaceteam’ in a ship trying to outrun an exploding star, with control panels designed by a sadist.
Once devices are connected, instructions appear on your screen – but the controls may be on someone else’s. So you’ll have people yelling nonsense like “someone turn on the dangling shunter”, while figuring out if their own screen has a ‘spectrobolt’ slider. Just like in Star Trek.