For more than a decade, Khan Academy has been creating online educational tools for students. Now, the California-based nonprofit is creating an app for kids. Khan Kids was released in July and is equipped with more than 1,000 interactive activities created in-house and using licensed content.
“This space is so saturated and there are so many apps out there, but most of them are really targeted, pinpointed apps for early learning,” says Caroline Hu Flexer, head of Khan Kids.
“It’s either just a drawing app or a math app. There isn’t one out there that is free and has world-class lessons across different subjects to provide a comprehensive early learning experience. That’s what we felt was missing in the market.”
Available for free worldwide (excluding China) through the Apple App Store and in beta on Google Play and the Amazon App Store, the app features thousands of videos, books and lessons for preschoolers covering learning areas such as reading, math, social-emotional skills and motor development. There are no in-app purchases, subscription fees or ads.
Khan collaborated with the Stanford Graduate School of Education to develop the app’s curriculum and library of originals. When a user launches the app, a character welcomes them and explains how it works, and then walks them through different interactive activities supported by licensed content from Bellwether Media, National Geographic Society and Skyship Entertainment.
Skyship brings a raft of more than 100 animated and puppetry videos from its Super Simple Songs YouTube catalogue to the app, including “Baby Shark” and “The Muffin Man.” To enhance those experiences, Khan has added interactive elements to the videos, such as counting, drawing and sing-alongs.
“[Super Simple Songs] obviously has a great following on YouTube, but the videos aren’t interactive. In the app, when you see the videos, you can move the sharks around, count them, and also do some creative activities around them,” says Flexer.
Minnesota-based publisher Bellwether is providing a library of non-fiction books looking at animals and vehicles. National Geographic’s nonprofit arm, National Geographic Society, is licensing its Young Explorers magazine to the app.
Flexer says the team is looking for more partners and will continue to expand the app’s offerings. “I think we’re just looking for media that will engage kids—that we think will bring something into the experience that we don’t already have.”
Flexer joined Khan after it acquired her educational preschool app company Duck Duck Moose in 2016. Since then, she has been devoted to developing this app, and Flexer says it is precisely her past experience that is going to make the app stand out in the busy preschool app space.
Khan, for its part, launched in 2006. It reaches more than 18 million people worldwide every month and has been translated into dozens of languages. While the Khan Kids app hasn’t released user data just yet, Flexer says the team is planning to expand beyond English and localize in different languages.
She is also looking at expanding the content to reach first- and second-graders, as opposed to stopping at kindergarten, before children are bridged into regular Khan offerings.