Best children’s apps about space
If your child is mad about all things intergalactic, they'll love exploring these space-themed apps.
Best for pre-schoolers
Your child can customise their spaceship and then blast off, using their finger to drag it around and explore features of space such as planets, meteors and even black holes. Along the way, there are activities to get stuck into, such as repairing a satellite, helping Dr. Panda through a maze (which develops fine motor skills), and growing plants for aliens to eat.
The app may not teach your child many concrete facts about space, but with its colourful illustrations and soothing music, it’ll appeal to young kids who already have an interest in the Great Beyond.
Best for KS1 kids
My Spacecraft – Rocket Science for Kids, £2.99, AppleThis beautifully illustrated interactive app is ideal for kids who dream of becoming astronauts, with 20 different sections letting them explore space travel, our solar system and the universe beyond
It’s packed with features that will appeal to young children, from dressing their chosen astronaut in a space suit to taking a picture of their favourite teddy to accompany them on their adventures. They can build a space station, launch and land a lunar module and even record their own instructions for their space mission: an introduction to computer coding.
The clear, child-friendly narration will help your child learn as they play and explore, while pop-up text introduces further facts and trivia, making them an expert in space science.
Best for KS2 kids
Your child can interact not only with planets, but also with satellites, moons, comets, stars and spacecraft. There’s detailed information about each item, including facts and figures, cut-away illustrations showing what lies beneath the surface, real images from observatories, and educational movies.
Your child can zoom in and out, make virtual flights from one planet to another, and even explore the planetarium using 3D glasses for a completely immersive experience. There are also additional mission packs to buy as optional extras, including animations of Curiosity, the Mars rover, and repairing the Hubble space telescope.
Best for learning about the solar system
Your child can explore the planets of our solar system one at a time, with stacks of information to learn about each one. Clever features, such as the ability to ‘unzip’ planets to see their core, and to calculate their age on different planets, will hold their attention as they hoover up new facts. When they’re ready, they can take a test about their chosen planet to earn medals. The ultimate goal is to build their own rocket by completing missions, and blast it into space.
This app – a deserved winner of a 2016 Webby award – is perfect for kids who are learning about the solar system at school, or who are mad about space and want to extend their knowledge.
Best for budding space engineers
NASA HIAD, free, AppleEnquiring minds who relish a challenge will have lots of educational fun with NASA HIAD, an app that puts them at the heart of space science and engineering.
A HIAD is an inflatable spacecraft that could one day be used to transport cargo and even people to and from other planets. This app challenges your child to get hands-on with some of the engineering puzzles that NASA’s scientists face, choosing the right shape and materials to build a HIAD and the right trajectory and thrust to survive atmospheric re-entry and a safe landing.
There are four separate missions for your child to tackle, each with a number of different stages clearly explained in plain English and stars to collect along the way as an incentive to persevere with building and landing the perfect spacecraft.
Best for fact-finders
Each time your child finds an object, they can read key facts about it and listen to three short narrated clips. There’s also a 60-second animation for each that includes child-friendly facts relating to space science and astronomy (did you know it would take 10 years to walk to the moon?).
At the end of each mission, there’s a short quiz to test your child’s knowledge based on what they’ve learned so far. If they get the questions right, they move onto their next discovery mission.
Best for games-based learning
What’s In Space?, £2.99, AppleThis colourful app is packed full of learning opportunities covering the solar system, planets, constellations, spacecraft and more.
It’s divided into four sections: The sky, Solar system, Travel to space and Live in space. Each area has labelled pictures of relevant space objects. When your child clicks on them, it brings up a real-life image (such as a photo of the Milky Way taken by the Hubble space telescope) and narrated information about that object.
Once your child has explored each area, there are games to play, ranging from the purely entertaining (help the astronaut fix his spaceship) to the educational (correctly dragging constellations into the correct hemisphere), with stars to collect along the way.
Best for wannabe astronauts
As the newest member of the International Space Station (ISS crew), it’s their job to familiarise themselves with the station and help out with the plant growth experiment. They can fly and flip around the ISS in zero gravity, get mission instructions on their virtual tablet, and help astronaut Naomi with her plant growth experiment, answering questions like how do plants grow when there’s no gravity, and how do you water them in space?
Your child can collect mission patches for completing tasks and making discoveries. Can they grow enough plants to make a salad for the astronauts to eat?
Best for astronomy enthusiasts
By pointing your device at the sky, you’ll see stars, planets, satellites and constellations, all in the right position from your location. As you move the screen around, it updates the map in real time. With over 200,000 celestial bodies to learn about, just tap the ‘i' symbol next to an object to bring up information about it.
You can use the app to find out about the sky above you, or use the search function to help you locate a particular constellation, planet or spacecraft. There’s also a calendar of celestial events to help you and your child witness spectacles like comets and meteor showers.
Best for understanding astrophysics
Playing with the laws of nature, your child can create their own galaxy, adding planets, moons, stars, asteroids, comets, pulsars and black holes. All of the celestial bodies move and interact in accordance with Newtonian and astrophysics laws.
Tilting and moving the device lets your child see their galaxy from different angles, and zooming out allows them to see where it fits in with the galaxies created by other users.