Welcome to our list of the best free games for children on both tablet and PC. These have all 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.
Now, obviously, nothing like that happened. And, in these more enlightened times, there’s a ton of research that suggests gaming is – in moderation – a productive activity. For example, video games promote problem solving skills and imagination. They are also an active leisure pursuit, versus the passivity of watching 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, feature no 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.
Get Sago Mini Friends for Android and iOS. A Windows PC version is also available. This game has no IAPs/advertising.
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.
Get Lego Creator Islands for Android and iOS. This game has no IAPs/advertising.
3. Toca Kitchen 2
If your child regularly uses a tablet, you’ve likely already installed some Toca Boca games. They’re a smart mix of education and play, and Toca Kitchen 2 is no exception.
As you’d expect, Toca Kitchen 2 is all about cooking. This game invites you to create meals – however you prefer. Devise your own recipes and foist your creations on a colorful cast of characters, whether you’ve carefully constructed a burger, or decided to throw a watermelon into the microwave and cover it in sauce.
Get Toca Kitchen 2 for Android. This game has no IAPs/advertising. A paid version exists for iOS.
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.
The one snag is it’s the spit of Shooty Skies (Android/iOS), which is the better (and more surreal) game – although the lack of ads and IAP means the llamas get the nod for this particular list.
Get Llama Spit Spit for Android and iOS. This game has no IAPs/advertising.
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.
Get Disney Crossy Road for Android and iOS. This game features advertising, and has non-essential IAPs for buying new characters.
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.
Get Frisbee Forever 2 for Android and iOS. This game features advertising, and has non-essential IAPs for more rapidly unlocking discs and zones.
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.
Get Fruit Ninja for Android and iOS. This game features advertising, and has non-essential IAPs for purchasing in-game currency.
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.
Get Mekorama for Android and iOS. This game features optional IAP for tipping the developer.
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.
Get Super Stickman Golf 3 for Android and iOS. This game features advertising, and IAP for unlocking a premium upgrade (more courses and slots for turn-based multiplayer) and in-game currency.
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.
Get Spaceteam for Android and iOS. This game has a single optional IAP that unlocks new features and themes