As any parent would know, keeping kids entertained is a full-time job. Thanks to tech, a host of interesting, engaging kids apps have cropped up but knowing where to go to find reliable, quality children’s app developers can be challenging. With the acceleration of tech disruption globally, combined with increasing career emphasis on STEM and tech skill sets, there’s never been more pressure on parents to have little Tommy start to code and play around with computers.
But unlike more standard industries like education, media, finance, the world of children’s app developers is a little more opaque. Most are employed behind-the-scenes, representing some of the most beloved kids entertainment institutions such as PBS Kids, Mattel, and Nickelodeon. But with a little bit of digging, you can find the tech brains behind the bright lights…or you can simply read our guide that follows.
How to find top app developers for children?
As mentioned before, it’s not easy to uncover the app developers that create kids’ products. A quick Google search doesn’t garner a ready-to-compare list of technology vendors, instead plunging you down the rabbit hole of Quora and Reddit with thinly-veiled self-promotional recommendations. Rather than waste your time with non-verified development companies, we at Spinlight have collated a shortlist of who’s who within the kids app development space. Spending years in the B2B tech shadows ourselves, we knew who to contact in this relatively tight-knit industry to uncover the real superheroes that bring joy to children right across the globe.
3 Best Children’s App Developers: Spinlight Recommended
The kingpin in the space is Boston-based FableVision. A veteran of 20 years, these guys know the keys to building a successful product for kids. Primarily driven by gamification elements, FableVision’s extensive client roster includes some of the most beloved icons including Sesame Street, Bob the Builder, Cyberchase, Zoombinis and more. The primary client project type is digital product companions to popular TV shows, providing an additional interactive way for kids to learn and be entertained, even when the TV show itself is not airing. Given the fragmentation for how children now consume media (across TV, tablets, and even smartphones), FableVision has built a reputation and solid network with content creators and production studios specifically targeting kids and early childhood development.
Rhyming-named Toca Boca’s team is spread across San Francisco and Stockholm, creating a uniquely globalist outlook on children’s product development. Unlike adult apps, which are geared to achieve a specific purpose within an efficient amount of time, Toca Boca subscribes to a kid-first philosophy of exploration, imagination, and creativity, preferring to use their kids apps to facilitate this philosophy rather than achieve an end.
Adhering to the principle of micro-conflicts, Toca Boca deliberately places obstacles in their educational games, knowing that children’s sense of accomplishment is greater when they’ve had to overcome a challenge. At the core of their digital products is the value of the ‘power of play’, understanding that not only is it a uniquely child-like trait but that children themselves are not merely miniature people, but people in their own right.
Owned by New York City and Boston-based Webby Central, AppsChopper takes a route towards children’s apps that’s on behalf of the parents. AppsChopper knows that kids are hard to keep track of, with a host of expertise in digital products for kids management. One notable highlight of their tech team, based in India, is Cheqdin, a kids activity tracking app that helps parents keep abreast of all the various tasks that their child does on a daily basis including school, homework, sport, music, dance, and other extracurriculars. With competition always at a high for college applications, parents are enrolling their kids into programs to give their child the edge at an unprecedented rate, making the demand for apps like Cheqdin not likely to go away anytime soon.
Their award-winning puzzle education app, Balance Benders, is another popular kids game that teaches children about algebra in a fun (and non-sleep inducing way). As any parent knows, getting their child to sit down and do math homework is a challenge to say the least, and Balance Benders has made it that much easier courtesy of the development work by AppsChopper.
Where are the best children’s app developers located?
As tech is largely culturally agnostic, there’s an argument that, within reason, the best children’s app developers could be located anywhere. Seeing the theme within our recommendations, however, it’s obvious that when you build digital products for kids of a certain nationality or culture, you should at least have a few representatives of that culture to pick up on nuances and provide that particular developmental perspective.
As such, the best children’s app developers that we’ve recommended are all located in the USA, either fully or partially, given we are primarily concerned with the American market. Needless to say, with that homegrown expertise comes American expense. A single junior developer in a major metropolitan area in the US will run you north of 6 figures in salary. So provided you have team members who can act as the representative for your young target market, you can look further afield for children’s app developers.
My personal pick is Latin America, specifically the countries of Argentina and Uruguay. The region is what’s known as ‘nearshore’ for the US market. This means that although the app developers are located overseas, they have unique benefits when compared to other offshore locations.
In the case of Latin America, the benefits are threefold:
- Tech Talent Pipeline
- Time Zone Proximity
- Cultural Familiarity
The tech talent pipeline of Latin America is second-to-none. With a strong policy push towards early-childhood STEM education, developers crop up left, right and center in this region with a digital-first mindset. Requiring a American Master’s equivalent of education just to complete a Bachelor’s degree, tech graduates have a holistic approach from a very young age when it comes to both theoretical and technical prowess.
The time zone proximity benefit facilitates easy communication with your children’s app development company of choice. With only a 1 hour difference between Argentina/Uruguay and New York City, the extensive overlap of the working day means that technical issues are caught early and development sprints are run efficiently.
The final benefit is the most pertinent when it comes to kids apps specifically. As we mentioned before, cultural familiarity is essential, especially when building digital products for children who have their worldviews considerably shaped by the culture, community and environment they grow up in. In the case of Latin America, the developers have been exposed to American culture more implicitly than other regions around the world, allowing these children’s app developers to grasp the nuances of American kids quicker than those from say, India or Eastern Europe.
How much does it cost to build an app for kids?
A common question for anyone in B2B app development but one without an easy answer. Depending on the type of application or software you are trying to build, the cost can vary enormously. Are you trying to build a kids game? Are you trying to help parents teach their kids a skill? What if it’s school-based? Or maybe you app is designed for kids who are home-schooled? These are the questions you have to ask yourself when you are trying to gather an accurate estimate for how much a children’s app costs to develop. That said, there is a rule of thumb you can follow.
If your features are very basic, and it isn’t going to require too much development effort, the cost to build an app for kids is US$50,000. However, if you’re looking to clone some of the most popular kids games on the market, with multiple interactive features, you’re looking more in the ballpark of $250,000 to $500,000. Here’s an example to illustrate this. Angry Birds cost $140,000 to develop its Version 1 - that doesn’t include extra features, new updates, and everything else that has gone into the app following that initial release. As you can see, the costs to make a children’s app can stack up fast.
What is the best children’s app?
A very subjective question to say the least, and it all depends on what your child wants to accomplish. But having been in tech for a number of years, I have a few opinions on what makes a good kids app. My personal nod that I’ve been following throughout the pandemic for best children’s app is Caribu, a video-calling app that facilitates bedtime stories and other childhood activities.
Heralded by Apple as one of the Best Apps of 2020, this was tech’s perfect response to Covid-19. With families unable to meet in-person, vulnerable grandparents bore the brunt of the social isolation from their grandchildren. Caribu enabled those two groups to reunite virtually, allowing families to stay connected and continue to build important emotional and intellectual bonds, vital for early childhood development.
If your kids are a little too old for a bedtime story from Nana, my other pick for top children’s app is Smule, a karaoke app that helps everyone discover that vocalist inside of them. Most known for the Duet feature that allows kids to sing alongside their favorite Disney Animated Classics like ‘You’re Welcome’, by Moana’s Maui, voiced by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Smule is an instant hit with slightly older kids (and even the oldest of kids, i.e. adults) that keeps them entertained with tunes for hours.