I have a confession to make. I've had the Monkey Preschool Lunchbox app ($1.99 Apple/Android) on every device I've owned since I first discovered it several years ago. It's so simple, so fun, and so rewarding that even though my kids first started playing with it when they were each about 18 months old, they still play at 5 and 3. Here's why:
It's varied: there are 7 different mini tasks - counting, letter recognition, matching, colors, puzzles, shapes and sizes. A sweaty-palmed 2 year old may have trouble with the puzzles at first, but that same child in a few short months will be waving your expensive phone/tablet around in triumph.
It's repetitive: yes, this is also one of its drawbacks, but young children thrive on repetition. It provides opportunity to both practice emerging skills, and gain mastery of the concepts presented in the game. Before she'd perfected the art of the swipe, my daughter would simply hand me the phone when she reached a task she couldn't complete. I would help her do what was asked, and she would take over again. We both win.
It's fun: I mean, it has a little Memory game in it. The monkey does flips when you pack its lunch! Flips! And then you get to choose stickers that dance around because they're so excited that you're such an amazing genius. Or your kid is. Whomever. I also sort of like the calypso/calliope music...for a little while.
Since they've discovered YouTube, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox is no longer the go-to app on any of our family devices anymore. But if we're out at a restaurant, or stuck in a doctor's office, or really anywhere there might be a long wait and no wifi, we are playing this game and loving it. I downloaded the app when it was featured for free, but if you have young kids and smartphones, this may be the best $1.99 you ever spend.
If your kids, like mine, have pretty much mastered these skills, you may want to try Monkey MathSchool Sunshine. It's got 9 more mini-games that teach sequencing, patterning, counting, adding and subtracting. My 5 year old son loves the connect-the-dots to help the baby turtle find the ocean.
I didn't know until right now that they'd also developed a reading game. I'll bet you can guess what I'll be using our next app store credit for...