5 of the Best Apps for Helping Your Toddler Get from A to Z
26 is an unreasonably large number for a toddler. In fact, at that age, they almost certainly have no concept of any figures over 5, so learning all 26 letters of the alphabet can be a mammoth undertaking!
The classic ABC song can certainly help them in their time of need, but if your child isn’t actually associating the words in the song with how letters look and sound, it’s still going to be a rough journey.
What they need is something that combines visual, audio, and perhaps even tactile cues to help them form a deeper understanding of the alphabet.
Well, luckily for you and your little one, we here at Geeks with Juniors spent the last few weeks researching the best alphabet apps around, and we’re presenting our shortlist to you today, right here, right now!
OUR TOP PICK
In our opinion, Teach Your Monster to Read is currently the best way, not only to teach kids the alphabet, but to get them excited about it.
It turns what can be an overwhelming task into a whimsical adventure full of awesome, educational mini-games.
A lot of the content is quite advanced, which is why we recommend the First Steps version, designed especially for kids who have just started learning about letters and the way they sound.
It’s an app that puts an emphasis on fun without diminishing any of its educational aspects, and it makes for a very immersive experience.
For example, your child actually gets to create their monster, providing a warming sense of ownership and kinship, encouraging them to truly invest themselves in the process. Suddenly, they’re not going through this ordeal alone, but with their monster friend too!
The only issue we can think of is that it’s so dang fun, it’ll be hard to tear them away from it once the day’s screen time is all used up.
- Super Fun - Your child will love it!
- Well Structured - Tiered challenges to streamline the learning process.
- Customizable Characters - Gets children invested in the app.
- First Steps - Specialized version for alphabet learners.
- Price - It’s not free, but it’s so well-designed that we’re not complaining.
- British Accents - Can be a little jarring to the American ear.
Animal Flashcards is a very simple app, but that’s actually one of the things that makes it so great for introducing a child to the alphabet.
You can flick through the flashcards by swiping the screen, but if your kid is having trouble with the swiping action, you can set it to slideshow mode and have the cards switch automatically.
The animal illustrations are endearing, but the animal noises are where this app really shines — they're incredibly high-quality for a free product.
The human narration is also crisp and clear, ensuring that your child gleans as much as possible from each learning session.
- Simple Design - Easy for kids to use unsupervised.
- Slideshow Mode - Great for kids who have trouble swiping.
- Free - It won’t cost you a dime!
- Ads - The price you pay for free content.
If you’re looking for a hands-on app that doesn’t just teach letter appearance and sound, but actually gets your kids learning how to form the letters, then ABC Kids Tracing and Phonics is perfect for you.
The animal characters are pleasant and playful, and the backdrop is super colorful without being too distracting. As the letters are traced, they’re also sounded out, which can really help children commit the information to memory.
There are some brilliant games within the app for drawing links between uppercase and lowercase letters as well, which can be a hurdle for young learners, and the absence of ads means your child can work independently, distraction-free if they want to.
It also has a lovely sticker reward system, and it’s truly heart-warming watching your child’s virtual whiteboard fill up with accolades.
- Colorful, Calming Backdrop - Enticing but not distracting.
- Tracing - Kids learn to write letters.
- Reward System - Tons of positive reinforcement.
- Zero Ads - Safe for independent learning.
- Size - Not tons to do.
Whilst doing our research, Endless Alphabet kept popping up all over the place, so we decided to give it a try, and it didn’t disappoint.
Not only does it teach children individual characters using phonics and games, but it eases them into how they operate within simple words.
The narration is friendly, chirpy, and clear, establishing the phrasing and meaning of a word before putting it into a relatable, real-life context to reinforce the information in a child’s memory.
Taking a leaf out of our “best overall” pick’s book, your little learning helpers in this app are well-illustrated monsters that succeed in making the whole process an absolute blast.
There are over 100 words to learn and 7 free letter and word puzzles (the rest are available via a one-time in-app purchase).
What truly makes this app great is the unmitigated positivity. There are no failures or high scores, no stress, just an easy-going, good times experience that your child can take at their own pace — perfect!
- Teaches Beyond the Alphabet - Great for beginners and intermediates.
- Lots to Do - Your child won’t get bored.
- Positive Vibes - No winners or losers, just fun.
- Narrator - Very friendly and clear.
- In-App Purchase - But it’s only the one.
Alphabet is a wonderfully designed app brimming with fun illustrations to help younger children learn the shapes of letters.
Each letter is zoomorphic, meaning they resemble an animal, and each animal corresponds with the letter it presents. For example, the duck forms a “D”, and the bird forms a “B”.
The animals also make noises, which makes the whole experience really fun and immersive.
While this app leans more into enjoyable illustrations than intricate character details, it does impart their general shape in a striking and memorable way, easing your early learner into alphabet acquisition.
With all these charming animal characters in mind, they’ll find moving on to more detailed alphabet apps as they get older a total breeze!
- Straight to the Point - No wasted screen time here, folks.
- Quality Illustrations - Helps to engage children.
- Phonics - Reinforces the visuals.
- Lacks Detail - Only good for learning general letter shapes.
Best App for Learning Alphabet Buying Guide
Teaching the alphabet doesn’t seem too hard when you first think about it, but as children have short attention spans, it takes some serious wiles to get them to focus up and take the information on board.
That’s why we’ve formulated this brief yet informative guide full of alphabet learning tips and, of course, what to look for in an alphabet app.
Throwing too much at your child at once is a classic mistake. They’re just not capable of processing 52 different characters in a short space of time.
You may think it will do them well to see the scope of the task before diving in with some learning, but chances are, it’s just going to intimidate them.
The alphabet is learned most efficiently and fluently when it’s broken up into tiny, digestible pieces — we’re talking 2–3 letters at a time.
In light of this, it’s important that you look for an app with well-paced lessons. Repetition of small amounts of information is going to be far more effective than breezing on to the next thing before the current lesson has had a chance to settle in your toddler’s mind.
Okay, so I know I was just waffling on about how learning the alphabet is all about slowing things down and taking it one step at a time, but the best alphabet app also needs to cut to the chase pretty quickly.
Kids of 2 and above are only supposed to have an hour of screen time per day, and that’s including the cartoons they watch on TV in the morning and afternoon.
Kids between 18 and 24 months of age have even less screen time to work with, and younger children aren’t technically supposed to use screens at all.
Every minute counts, so choosing an app with short, highly structured lessons is a strategic move, but bear in mind that it should also be fun. No matter how old or young we are, we stop learning when we’re bored, so entertainment is key!
Aspects of Engagement
Children respond well to sensory activities, so an app that engages them on multiple levels is bound to hit home with greater clarity and aid in memory recall at a later date.
Apps that combine audio and visual learning have the potential to be far more effective than those that only use visual cues. Some even take things a step further, giving your child the opportunity to trace the shape of letters with their finger or a stylus.
Getting a toddler to register each letter in multiple ways is sort of a form of transitory repetition. It solidifies a single bit of information in a child’s mind, but they’re actually learning multiple things at once.
Ideally, you want your child to be able to use an alphabet app without your assistance, so it’s best to avoid those with overcomplicated user interfaces or tons of ads.
Combine the App with Toys
Some alphabet apps are incredibly well-designed and can help children a great deal, but they shouldn’t be relied upon exclusively.
Reinforcing what your little bundle of joy has learned in the app after the fact with nifty alphabet-based toys is the perfect way to bring the day’s learning to a close.
As there’s no screen involved, you can spend way longer learning with toys. Plus, it prevents toddlers from becoming over-familiar with the teaching mechanisms of the app. Allowing them to use their knowledge in slightly different contexts can be a good confidence booster.
Toys also offer you the opportunity to become more involved in the learning process, giving your toddler lots of love and positive reinforcement when they get things right.
Where to Start?
The logicians out there will no doubt think that this is a silly question. The alphabet is linear, so why not start at the start, right? Well, you can, but it’s not actually the best jumping point for the alphabet journey ahead of your young one.
Although “A” is included in the list of suggested first-learned letters, B, C, E, and D are not. In fact, the next in line is “I”. Then it’s “N”, “P”, “S”, and finally “T”. The reason being, these are the letters most commonly used in the formation of words.
Another common and effective method is to start with the letters in a child’s name.
As such, it’s best if an app gives you the option to start learning at any point in the alphabet, rather than dragging you both through it from start to finish.
Life After the Alphabet
If you and your child really warm to the teaching style of an alphabet app, it would be neat if you could carry on using it for more advanced English lessons as your sprog develops their linguistic skills.
Some apps do have more advanced tiers that you can move on to once your kid has the basics down. Not only will it streamline the learning process, but it will save you forking out for a new app once your kid is ready to move on to the next difficulty level.
Here’s a bit of awesome general advice that stretches beyond the topic of this article. When your child is learning the alphabet, resist the urge to compare to other kids their age or siblings that went before them. It doesn’t get you anywhere and will only cause you and your child stress.
Kids take things at their own pace, and even if it seems sluggish, it doesn’t mean they won’t be great at it eventually, perhaps even better than those who pick things up incredibly quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we go our separate ways, and you prepare some alphabetti spaghetti for your little learner, let’s take a quick look at some alphabet app FAQs.
What is the best free alphabet app?
We think the best free alphabet app is ABC - Animal Flashcards. The use of animal images and sounds helps to make the learning process super fun and memorable.
Should I teach uppercase or lowercase letters first?
Whether you should teach children uppercase or lowercase letters first is a fiercely debated topic.
Many believe that due to the stronger visual presence and the fact that a child’s name starts with a capital, it makes sense to teach them uppercase letters first. There are also fewer rounded edges in the uppercase, which some think makes the characters easier to draw.
On the other hand, the copy in children’s books (or any books really) is predominantly made up of lower case letters, so if they start with uppercase, it could throw a spanner in the works when it comes to reading.
There isn’t really a right answer here. It all comes down to personal preference. You may as well ask your child what they’d like to study first.
How many letters should a 5 year old know?
A 5 year old should know 10 letters at the very least, but if you’ve been using some of these apps since they were 2 or 3 years old, they’ll have the full 26 lowercase and 26 uppercase letters completely committed to memory.
Where can I find apps for learning the alphabet?
You should be able to find a wide selection of alphabet apps in the App Store and Google Play Store.
Is it best to allow my child to use a learning app in the morning or afternoon?
Studies have shown that passive screen time before school can have a negative effect on the language ability of children, but engaging, educational screen time has little to no negative impact on attention or language.
So, if you want to play it safe, save alphabet learning time until the afternoons, but it’s not the end of the world if you can only find time for it in the mornings.
As you can see from this list, there is no shortage of apps you can use to get your kids excited about the wonderful world of the alphabet and spelling. We’d recommend trying a few of them out and seeing which resonates most with your child.
You may also want to start their learning journey off with the more simplistic apps, such as Alphabet and ABC - Animal Flashcards, before moving on to some of the more fleshed out and adventurous content you’ll find in apps such as Teach Your Monster to Read.
Whichever of these wonderful educational supplements you decide on, we wish you and your child luck as you tackle this epic educational milestone together!