Phonics instruction helps children learn the relationships between the letters of written language and the sounds of spoken language. Children are taught, for example, that the letter n represents the sound /n/, and that it is the first letter in words such as nose, nice and new. We've found great apps that give kids practice with basic phonics skills, including recognizing the letters of the alphabet, learning upper case and lower case letters, alphabet matching, and word building. These apps help kids work on listening skills while also practicing spelling and building their vocabulary.
Many of the reviews we link to are from Common Sense Education, a trusted resource for learning about apps and other edtech tools.
ABC Song Piano
ABC Song Piano uses music to teach the alphabetic principle. This app can also tap into children's musical creativity; it is colorful and has piano keys that light up. Furthermore, this app introduces letters A-Z, objects, animal and instrument sounds. Songs are played on a variety of instruments such as the banjo, xylophone, harp, flute, bells and much more.
ABCmouse.com - Early Learning Academy
ABCmouse.com - Early Learning Academy is the companion app to the subscription-based ABCmouse.com. Teachers can sign up for a free account online and use the same login for the app. Kids explore different activities in a virtual world. They can go directly to the day’s featured activity or work through a learning path that features five activities for their level, which can be customized by the teacher. Kids can learn letter and number skills as well as animal facts through simple games, books, puzzles, and coloring pages.
Alpha Writer is a Montessori-style learning app that helps teach kids letter sounds and how to form words by combining different letter sounds. There's a tactile approach to the learning here, as kids can physically manipulate the letters onscreen. They'll hear the sound of each letter as they touch it, and can position them in any order they please to form words. The app has two sections. The first asks kids to spell words after seeing a picture of the word and hearing it spoken. The second section lets kids use letter and images to write their own story. Stories can be saved as photo files on your device.
Alphabytes is an educational app that helps kids learn their letters, the sounds letters make, how to write both upper and lower case letters, and how to spell a few words. The game has four sections: Alphabet, Trace, Spell, and Play. Trace teaches kids how to print both upper and lower case letters. The play section of the app has a memory game where kids match letters with the picture of an item that begins with that letter.
AlphaTots is a tool for helping children learn the alphabet. Filled with creative and clever interactive activities, the app reinforces letters with interactive elements that are fun to do (such as assembling a building for the letter B or cutting strings for the letter C). Letters are sounded out and the app is easy for kids of virtually all ages to navigate.
Articulation Station provides speech professionals, teachers, and parents with ways to help kids improve pronunciation and articulation. Using very specific exercises, games, and stories that focus on just one letter sound for 22 English language sounds, this app can improve pronunciation and understanding of how letter sounds form words. With more than 1,000 target words, kids will likely not get bored with this app. Adults have easy ways to track kids' progress and can track up to six kids at once. Note: To get full use of this app, you have to purchase the Pro version or buy individual letters with an in-app purchase option.
Avokiddo ABC Ride
vokiddo ABC Ride continues the adventures of the sibling team Beck and Bo, this time discovering letters. Parents can customize kids' experience in the "for parents" section, choosing uppercase or lowercase letters, letter name or phonics sound, including word spelling or not, presenting letters in random order or alphabet order, and turning off narration and background music. Kids can also choose a specific letter to discover. With minimal instructions, kids discover the fun and learning on their own.
Bob Books Reading Magic #1
Bob Books #1-Reading Magic is an educational experience that will teach your young children early phonics. This app teaches the sounds that letters make and how to combine them to make short words. Drag the letters for the given word to the proper place below the picture, while the app sounds out the letters and reads the word aloud. Children's efforts will be rewarded when the black and white screen transforms to color and the drawings become animated.
Bob Books Reading Magic #2
Bob Books is an interactive book app that uses spelling, repetition, and phonics to build beginning reading skills. Each 12-page book can be played at 4 different difficulty levels — beginning readers drag and drop letters to match words while the app sounds out the letters and reads the word aloud, more advanced readers select letters on their own. Children's efforts are rewarded when the black and white illustration fill with color and become animated.
Dr. Seuss's ABC
Dr. Seuss's ABC has three levels, "Read to Me," "Read it Myself," and "Auto Play," which allows children to grow with this app. Words highlighted are read out loud when tapped, and when narrated, children can follow along with the highlighted text.
Elkonin Boxes helps beginning readers of all ages practice an important foundational reading readiness skill: the ability to segment and blend the sounds that make up words. This app will also help students understand that some letters are silent and others work as a team to make a single sound. The skills are vital for developing reading and spelling proficiency.
Letters transform into living toys that voice their names. Children quickly learn that one letter works with others to build words and sentences. Another app in the series, Endless Spanish, is ideal spelling practice for both native English and Spanish speakers. (Note: Requires an Internet connection and a lot of storage space for full functionality.)
FirstWords Deluxe helps kids learn to spell words in five categories with FirstWords Deluxe: Animals, At Home, Colors, Shapes, and Vehicles. Parents can add more categories with in-app purchases. Touching the picture reveals the name of the object. As kids drag and drop letters into boxes to spell the object featured, they can practice sounding out letters with the phonics feature or hear the actual letter names as they're placed — or go all out and turn off the sound. Kids get good spelling practice while working on listening skills and building their vocabulary.
Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read
Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Classroom Edition includes 12 steps; each teaches rimes and letter sounds to help kids build words. Within each step, videos with catchy songs introduce letter sounds and sight words, and games help kids build words using onsets and rimes. Note: This Classroom Edition is unlocked and contains teacher instructions and teacher controls. The non-Classroom edition of this app is free.
Interactive Alphabet offers alphabet matching for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Your child can hear words, letters and phonics sounds. This app also includes a "Baby Mode." It auto advances every 15 seconds. This interactive game also teaches upper and lower case letters.
Match phonic sounds with letters, through colorful illustrations, pictures and accurate pronunciation, while playing the age old game of I Spy. It provides a fun and highly interactive way to help children learn to recognize letters and their phonic sounds. iSpy Phonics allows children to match phonic sounds with letters, through illustrations, pictures, and accurate pronunciation while playing the game of I Spy.
Learn With Homer
A learn-to-read app incorporates drawing, voice recording, stories, songs, and more, along with more traditional phonics exercises. Encourages kids to think critically about what they've read or listened to through answering questions.
Monkey Word School Adventure
Monkey Word School Adventure is an early-reading app for preschoolers and young elementary-school-age kids. It's an for kids who are ready to start recognizing letters and words. It is well-designed with young learners in mind, challenging kids age 4 to 7 by using technology that quickly adjusts the words to the appropriate level.
Montessori Crosswords helps kids develop literacy skills by dragging and dropping letters into a crossword grid to form words that correspond to the given pictures. Young children can drag letters around in the moveable alphabet and practice linking phonetic sounds to letters, while older kids can expand their vocabularies in the higher of three difficulty levels. Crossword levels include simple words with one-sound, words with consonant blend, and words of any complexity.
Planet Lettra is an app for experimenting with word building and hearing what you've made. Children arrange a set of letter blocks any way they want and hear what they've built. Blocks are designed to guide your child in building the most important sight words for reading fluency and exposure to important letter blends.
PocketPhonics uses a phoneme-centered approach to teaching kids to read. When kids see a phoneme, they say it, write it, and then use it in a word. When they've completed a packet of phonemes and word constructions, they get a number of stars (from one to three) based on how well they traced the letters and how many mistakes they made choosing phonemes to form the words. Teachers can set up multiple accounts for individual students and sign up to receive progress reports for each.
PocketPhonics Stories is a comprehensive phonics program to teach kids to read. It's designed for multiple kids, so it's great for a classroom or family with more than one emerging reader. Parents set up a class or group and then add each reader. Kids master a set of letter sounds, a mix of vowels and consonants, and then read books built around those sounds. Parents can view reports of a kid's progress through the letter sounds and books as well as how much time a kid spent on them. You can get emailed notifications, if enabled, when kids complete a lesson, and you can print a certificate. There is a version that's free to try and allows you to buy certain letter sounds individually.
Simplex Spelling with Reverse Phonics: Lite
Simplex Spelling Lite is designed to improve spelling and reading skills in a fun and interactive way by using "reverse phonics." Simplex Spelling Lite contains over 50 high frequency English words; it also enables students to build on each word, which goes above and beyond the sheer memorization of words. Simplex Spelling Lite enhances understanding in a variety of students as it appeals to audio, visual and tactile learners. It is a great tool to have for kids learning to spell, remedial students, or those learning English as a second language.
Sky Fish Phonics
Sky Fish Phonics combines logical problem-solving puzzles (think Where's My Water? or Cut the Rope) with multiple-choice, basic reading-skills questions. Kids choose a costume and tap a succession of machines to launch a fish through an increasingly complex obstacle course, answering phonics questions and collecting stars along the way.
Starfall Learn to Read
Starfall Learn to Read is an app version of the stellar learn-to-read website, Starfall. The app has the same content as the "Learn to Read" section of the site. There are 15 mini-books, each focusing on a specific vowel, along with videos and activities to enhance literacy learning. As with other Starfall apps, the thorough and careful design keeps kids focused on learning.
SUPER WHY ABC Adventures: Alphabet
SUPER WHY ABC Adventures: Alphabet is very similar to the original SUPER WHY! app. The main difference here is that the activities center solely on the alphabet: capital and lowercase letters, letter sounds, and letter writing. Each character leads a cute mini-game; kids earn a sticker to play with in the sticker activity when they finish a game. A couple of new additions are some ABC sing-along videos and a progress tracker for parents to see which letters their kids worked on. An iPad-only version is also available for a dollar more.
The Electric Company Wordball!
The Electric Company Wordball is a phonics game that integrates video clips from the TV show to teach reading and spelling. The game consists of two parts: watching a video about a letter sound or letter combination and tapping the "wordballs" with the featured letter or letter combination; then using the collected wordballs to complete words as they move across the screen. The object of the app is to teach lessons about phonics, reading, and spelling.
Wonster Words: Spelling with ABC and Phonics uses entertaining, silly videos to introduce young readers to pattern words and word families by having them match letters to their outlines to spell the words on the list. Each list contains eight words that have the same ending pattern or a matching phonic element such as th, sh or ch sounds.
Word Wagon by Duck Duck Moose
Word Wagon helps kids learn about letters, phonics, and spelling with Word Wagon. Parents and kids can set it to one of four progressively harder levels: letters, phonics, and spelling of short and long words and also to display either upper- or lowercase letters. In the first two levels, kids can match the letters to form the words; in the latter two levels, there is no visual cue, and kids have to arrange the spelling of the word on their own. There is also a nice variety of word topics such as animals and food to choose from. The level of customization makes Word Wagon a good fit for kids at different skill levels.
Word Wizards for Kids
Word Wizards utilizes natural sounding text-to-speech voices to help kids learn word building and spelling. Movable Alphabet help kids hear the text they wrote, as well as verify spelling using the built-in spell checker. This app has the ability to turn whatever words kids create — even words that do not exist — into spoken words. This app also consists of the most frequently used words, body parts, family members, and more.