Chickens, frogs, and aliens, oh my! These critters and other delightful characters star in these fun interactive apps developed to help young kids practice spelling and vocabulary. You’ll find crosswords, a spelling bee, Boggle-style games, word builders, and more.
Many of the reviews we link to are from Common Sense Education, a trusted resource for learning about apps and other edtech tools.
ABCmouse—Early Learning Academy
ABCmouse—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.
Big Bird's Words
Big Bird's Words uses the device's camera and augmented reality to help kids identify words in their environments. It's developed specifically for phones, but it can work on tablets, too. To play, kids will need access to several food packages or items with labels so they can find the words and scan them with the camera. The app includes a free download of word labels that parents can print if they don't have access to the foods labeled.
Bob Books Reading Magic #1
Bob Books Reading Magic #1 is an educational app 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 Reading Magic #2 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.
Chicktionary is a chicken themed spelling and vocabulary-building word game. Children create as many words as possible out of seven letters. Completed words can be tapped to view their definition. There are multiple levels and children can choose a timed or untimed mode. *Note: This is a noisy app — incorrect words receive scolding squawks.
Clifford's BE BIG with Words
Clifford's BE BIG with Words, from PBS Kids, is a spelling app that helps children practice spelling three letter words. Kids are guided toward spelling words by choosing from a selection of letters. Once a word is completed each letter is read out loud. Additionally, each word is pronounced showing kids the connection between sounds, words and their spellings — building an understanding of words through alphabetic and phonemic awareness. No need to worry about spelling mistakes — the app is designed so that whatever letter kids choose will spell a word.
Duck Duck Moose Word Wagon
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.
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.
Licking Letters is an app that helps kids practice identifying capital letters and spelling three-letter words. Players, with the help of Hoppy the Frog, complete words by tapping the letters as they move across the screen. Hoppy then licks the letter to add it to the word. The first few rounds have three-letter words and only include the target letters, but the app gradually increases in difficulty. Completing a round earns a coin, which can be used to buy costume items for the frog.
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.
Mystery Word Town
Here’s one solution to an age-old challenge: making spelling practice fun. Users explore buildings in a Western town to find lost letters that spell words and unlock doors. Choose between three challenge levels, each with about 80 common words.
Pogg is a little green alien that acts out spelled words. There are two modes: pictures and spelling. Picture mode offers children that are not yet spelling an icon of the word, when clicked the word is read out loud, and Pogg performs the word. The spelling mode lets the child freely type words into the "What should Pogg do now?" box, encouraging kids to experiment with spelling basic words, and showing short movie clips of Pogg doing that action — for example, typing "hat" results in a short movie of Pogg putting on a hat). The spelling dictionary offers over 300 word/phrase combinations and the developer plans to release many extra word animations as free upgrades to everybody who purchases the app.
Rocket Speller mixes up academics and fun to help kids with letter recognition and spelling. As kids spell words correctly, they earn parts of a rocket to assemble and fly. The free version includes five levels and the choice of upper- or lowercase letters. The paid version, Rocket Speller PLUS, is $2.99 and includes the choice of letter name or phonetic sound and the choice of word category.
Sight Words Hangman
Sight Words Hangman is an app allowing emerging readers to practice sight words in a familiar guessing-game format. In the game, a word is spoken from one of 45 lists of 10 sight words, and four choices appear. Each list gets progressively more complex than the last
Spelling Bee teaches and tests kids on spelling and vocabulary word skills. After studying a wordlist, children are presented with a definition and an audio prompt of the word. Quiz options include the ability to choose the length (5, 10, or 20 words), level of difficulty (beginner, easy, medium, hard), and whether the quiz should be timed.
TeachMe: 1st Grade
TeachMe: 1st Grade is an app that focuses on writing, spelling, and math. With this app, children answer questions and solve problems using their own handwriting. The app then reads the answers using a writing recognition engine. If your child needs help, TeachMe: 1st Grade will show them how to write the correct answer including the proper stroke order. Parents can select which subjects display, set difficulty level, choose specific questions, and even review performance history for each subject to check how their child is doing.
TeachMe: Kindergarten focuses on sight words, spelling, addition, and subtraction. Children answer questions and solve problems to earn sticker rewards. TeachMe: Kindergarten's touch-and-drag controls are well designed for 4 and 5-year-olds. Parents can select subjects, difficulty level, and review performance history for each subject.
The Sight Word Adventure
The Sight Word Adventure is a fun-filled game where children can learn to recognize, read, and write up to 320 sight words. The game of Hide-and-Seek is the central point of the app because it symbolically explores the cognitive skills necessary to remember sight words such as: visual attention, the morphology of the forest setting (i.e. the letters in a word), active listening, and of course visual memorization.
SpellingCity is a word game app designed to help kids learn spelling and improve vocabulary and grammar skills. It's got 10 free sample lists for K–12 students that include math and science words, compound words, sound-alike words, analogies, prefix/suffix words, and SAT prep words. Kids can practice these word lists in any of the app's engaging learning activities (aka games).
Kids start off with the Word Dynamo Challenge, which assesses vocabulary level (starting at elementary school, middle school, high school, or college level) and then gives lists and word studies to improve vocabulary, along with quizzes built into each of the 20 levels. Kids can also create their own lists of words or review the numerous existing lists or search for specific words.
Word Magic a basic spelling app. For each word, the game presents a picture illustrating the word and the missing letter or letters has to be guessed. Difficulty options include: missing one letter or two letters, word lengths, upper or lower case letters, and if the missing letter(s) are at the beginning, middle, or end of words. As the game progresses, it provides a running total of right and wrong spellings, provides ongoing positive reinforcement sound effects, and awards prizes as the child progresses.
Words for Osmo
Words for Osmo is a free download that accompanies the basic gaming system from Osmo. Children can play alone, competitively, or cooperatively, finding the missing letters for the word displayed in a picture. Choose from several themes of words, download other word packs for free by connecting to the Osmo website, or create your own word packs. Difficulty adjusts based on performance but can be manually adjusted for 12 levels ranging from easy to very hard.
Wurdle, is a crossword style game that helps build reading and spelling skills. The object is to find and trace as many words as possible before the time runs out. The default letter grid size of 4x4 works well for beginners but those wanting a challenge can play on larger boards — up to 8x8. There is also the option of playing a timed or untimed game.