Six Apps to make Learning Letters as easy as ABC

Looking for some fun ways to begin looking at letters with your toddler or pre-schooler? We have found several iPad apps brilliant for firstly introducing the alphabet and then supporting more formal learning, without the kids feeling bored or forced into doing it. Mr Tall now knows all his letter names and sounds as a Terribly Grown Up Year 1 pupil (age 5-6) and Little Miss Chatterbox is just starting to be more confident in recognising some letters in her second year of preschool (age 3-4).  Here are six apps I would recommend – with a great giveaway too!


Best for Traditional ABCs

First up, The Lonely Beast ABC (Pilcrow) is adapted from a picture book by Chris Judge. A traditional ABC book using letter names rather than sounds, it has bright appealing block colours, amusing illustrations and simple interactions on each page (one page per letter). It is a great app for younger children exploring letters for the first time.  The Lonely Beast himself is a quirky, enigmatic character who features in most of the pages. Thanks to Pilcrow, I have 5 copies of the Lonely Beast ABC to give away to the first five readers to leave a comment on this post – so be quick!

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Best for Phonics and Tracing Letters

A great app for those in preschool or the first year of school, Hairy Letters (Nessy) uses the same phonics methods they are likely to encounter in school, and introduces letters in roughly the same order. Each level introduces a few new letters – listen to the sound, trace the letter with clear guidance, and watch an animated sequence linked to the sound. Then spell simple words to get a funny fanfare from the hairy letters, which always makes us laugh out loud! Because letters are gradually added, it isn’t overwhelming, and it is particularly good for tracing letter shapes.

See my full review here.


Best for Interesting Vocabulary

If you are looking to entertain and stretch your children’s imaginations at the same time, Endless Alphabet (Originator) is a must. How often does an ABC book or app have words like gargle, demolish, bellow, gargantuan and rainstorm? First drag the letters to spell each word – they will make their phonetic letter sound as you drag, and wiggle and jiggle too. Then watch a short fun animation with cartoon monsters and listen to the definition of the word. New words are added regularly to keep it fresh. Note that the app uses US spelling and pronunciation, but this hasn’t been a big problem for us – in fact it has been interesting to discuss why words might be spelled differently sometimes.

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Singing alphabet

Best for Musical ABCs

If you are fed up with the usual ABC song, then The Singing Alphabet (Ministry of Letters) is for you. I’ve covered this app before on the blog, but it is a surprisingly addictive and simple app which sets all the letter sounds to a catchy tune. Activate random letters or spell a word to see how it sounds. Activate all the letters to hear the full choir!

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Best for Flash Cards

Flash cards are always a popular method of learning. Bertie’s ABC (The Story Mouse) is a comprehensive flash card app covering letter names and sounds, with upper and lower case modes. It uses Bertie, a cute guinea pig character, along with his friends and related words to create a lovely themed ABC. You can watch and listen to the whole ABC in sequence or tap individual cards. The bright red letters and clear narration are a big plus. It is a good app for those in the first year of school, as there are also three games to test your knowledge which can get quite tricky!

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Best for Beautiful Design

Finally, we love the developer Wee Society (we reviewed another of their apps here) and their ABC app Wee Alphas has a unique concept – the letters are hidden in each illustration. Press the letter to reveal all the places it is hiding in the picture as well as to highlight it in the text. Each illustration also has interactions (such as popping the bubbles in the angelfish picture above). It is beautifully designed and has very unusual characters for this sort of app (a fox film critic for example!) It is fun to find the hidden letters, and good for letter recognition as they are often at a different angle, and can be upper or lower case.

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These are our favourites, but which ABC apps would make your list?  And as he moves beyond this stage, I would love recommendations for any apps to help Mr Tall with more complex spelling.