Have you struggled to find apps for kids that are worthwhile and educational? I know that I have and I was determined to find the best apps for kids to build literacy skills. When it comes to technology for kids, there is a lot to choose from. It has been a very long process, but I’m super excited to share the worthwhile ones with you.
First, I want to talk a little about the role of technology in literacy instruction. I think that apps, videos, podcasts, audiobooks, and music all have their place in our children’s lives. They should be used in moderation and with adult interaction. And, they should never replace daily reading of books you actually hold in your hands.
With all technology, there are a lot of subpar and worthless options. But, if you do some digging, you can find some great options. So which apps did I find that were the best? Let’s dive in and take a look.
Best Apps for Kids to Build Literacy Skills
Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
I discovered the Metamorphabet app when I served as a judge for the Cybils awards this year. My 3 year-old was immediately drawn to it. Each letter of the alphabet (capital letters only) transforms into images of words that begin with that letter. A sprouts antlers, transforms into an arch, and ambles across the screen. My son loves I which becomes an iceberg with an igloo. The iceberg opens and shows two kids bouncing a ball. When you touch the ball and press, the ball inflates.
You can progress through each letter of the alphabet in order by touching the star in the top right corner or touch the top left corner to select the letter you want. It’s a very clever and artistic app. The focus is a bit more on the story side vs the teach the letters of the alphabet side.
Astro Cat was the 2016 Cybils app award winner. Kids learn all about the solar system by earning medals while they read and learn. It is highly interactive and packed with facts that kids read on their own. When the child is ready, they can take a Jetpack Challenge by answering true or false questions. This would be a fun app for kids who are reading independently and enjoy non-fiction.
Reading Rainbow Skybrary
Do you remember watching Reading Rainbow when you were young? Now your kids can enjoy it too. Skybrary is full of hundreds of books and video field trips. You can try it for free.
Montessori Crosswords is packed with so many learning options. Practice can include cvc words, ccvc & cvcc words, words with digraphs or you can focus on a particular sound. You can also set font choices, the number of letters displayed, force spelling from left to right and so many more features.
A word is pronounced and a picture appears first. There are white boxes to show how many letters are in the word. The letters needed are highlighted below and the child drags the letters to spell the word. When the child touches the letter, the letter sound is heard. When the word is built, you hear it sounded out and then the whole word is read. There is a bit of animation play time after each word which you can also adjust from 7 seconds to 2 minutes. There is also an option to manipulate the letters and build your own words.
I like that there aren’t a lot of distracting bells and whistles with this app. It’s great to use for building words especially if you don’t have the money for a set of Montessori alphabet letters. And, you can track progress in the app to see which words your child has worked on while using the app.
Endless Reader was an instant hit with my kids. Kids practice building and reading high-frequency words. First, the word is introduced, scrambled, and then the child builds it back together using a model. One thing I wasn’t crazy about is that when you move the letter, it makes a sound and the sounds aren’t always crisp authentic sounds. It’s important that extra phonemes aren’t added. Check out this video for the correct way to pronounce sounds. Then, the word is pronounced again and a visual cue to help you with the word is displayed. Next, kids drag high-frequency words to a sentence. The sentence is read to the child and a short little animation occurs. My kids felt like they were playing a game and I was excited that they were learning along the way. There is a free sample version you can check out before investing in additional packs.
Starfall Learn to Read
Starfall Learn to Read app is the same content that you can get on a desktop computer for free. Kids play by building words, listen and/or read a story using the words they built and then work on a literacy skill.
If you are looking for something interactive and systematic, but not overwhelming then Hale’s Tale should hit the mark. I was so appreciative that the music in the background wasn’t overwhelming and actually complimented the work the kids are doing. Kids start on an island visiting different buildings and sections to solve letter sound tasks. My 5-year-old loved to use the metal detector to find sounds and then dig them up from the ground. It has just the right amount of fun and playful rewards to keep kids engaged.
Trace It, Try It
Becky at This Reading Mama has a new Handwriting app called Trace It, Try It that she sent me to check out. I was super excited because I was already a fan of her word work apps. One of my favorite features of this app is that the kids have to form the letters correctly (top down) instead of how my son insists on writing most of his (bottom up). I’m already seeing him taking this new habit into his pencil and paper writing.
Writing and Storytelling
My Story Book Creator for Kids
Kids can create their own books with the My Story Book Creator for Kids app. They can choose to draw or use the sticker stamps for illustrations. They can type the text for each page and record the story with audio.
Lego Movie Maker
We have been using the Lego Movie Maker app weekly. It is so easy to use and perfect for storytelling. Kids create their own stop motion videos and can add sound effects and music. I love this app and it’s free!
I’ve got more apps to share with you soon. Do you have a favorite app not on the list? I’d love to hear about it.
P.S. For more great book recommendations and literacy ideas sign up to receive our newsletter each week.