Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The 10 *Best* Alphabet Apps for Toddlers

And by *best* I mean my totally subjective list of what's awesome.

Because let's face it, "best of" lists found on a blog like this are reflective only of my classy opinions and inspired whims!   At best.  

But really, I've poked around in a lot of alphabet apps, and I've tested them on my toddler, and these are the best :)

A few words about how I chose:

~ Graphics count.  I like charming and artsy, quirky and creative.  

~ Sounds count.  I can't stand apps that sound like a carnival midway.  Raucous sound effects don't make the cut.  Cute music and minimal sound effects?  Good.

~ The apps I'm recommending are truly for toddlers (1-3 year olds, in my book)  They are simple, easy to navigate, and are (for the most part) just ABC's (flashcard-style) (So, no tracing letters, matching capitals to lower case, find the missing letter, etc..  That's more preschool stuff.)

~ I've included the prices for each app, but note that I got many of them for free with email notifications of "sales" from  Sign up.  It's free. 

~ Finally, you will notice that this list reflects a trend which I neither support nor understand, but it's out there and it cannot be avoided: nearly all alphabet teaching tools for kids are about animals.  WHY IS THIS??????  It drives. me. nuts.  If you are an app developer and you are making a charming, artsy, quirky, creative alphabet app that is not about animals, I love you. Could you hurry up and finish it, though?  I need to give it to my kids before they outgrow their impressionable young years lest they leave childhood with the impression that the only "Q" word worth knowing is quail.

The *Best* Alphabet Apps for Toddlers

(And don't forget to scroll all the way to the end for the absolute best ABC teaching tool yet!)

1. Mini U: Zoo Alphabet, PopArt Factory
My very, very, very favorite ABC app of all!  The retro-style graphics are gorgeous - a real delight for the eyes!  The app's settings allow you to choose whether you'd like the narrator to say the letter name or sound. (bonus!)  She also speaks the animal name, and then you may tap for a simple animation.  Much to my pleasant surprise, some of the animals are different when you go through the alphabet a second and third time!  For instance, when viewing the letter "O" you may see "owl" or "octopus," or "orangutan"!!  If you only have $3 to spend on an alphabet app, spend it on this one.
*this app references quails

2. An Animal Alphabet, Jason Walters

Beautiful artwork.  For each letter you can tap to hear the letter name, a delightful sound effect (for instance, you hear the seashore on the "Crab" page), and the "sentence" that accompanies the graphic.  No animation.
* references quails

3. Funimal Phonics,  School of Happy

Basic letters, sounds, animals flashcards.  Somewhat quirky graphics!  Minimal animation.
* references quails

4. The Lonely Beast ABC, James Kelleher

So simple, yet so fun.  Quirky :)  Have fun playing the drums on the "D" page!  
* makes no mention of quails

5. The Animal Alphabet, Fish the Mouse Media

The artwork in this app looks like expensive ABC wall cards you'd see in a pricey catalog nursery!  It's lovely.  Has the look of an old-time traveling carnival show, delightfully onomatopoeic and alliterative narration, simple animations, and "easy" games to play on each screen.  
* references quails

6. Starfall ABC's, Starfall Education

All the great stuff you're already familiar with from the ABC portion of Starfall's on-line offerings.  Worth the money (I think) to have the info available to my toddler who can use a touch screen but not a mouse pad.

7. Interactive Alphabet, Piikea St.

Lots more here than just ABC flashcards.  You can set this app to "baby mode" and just get the flashcards with some simple animations, or you can play through the more interactive version.  Also has setting for older kids to practice tracing letters and typing words using a QWERTY keyboard.
* no quails were harmed in the making of this app

8. Talking ABC,  Jutiful

Claymation!!  Tap the letters to see them morph into... an animal (Except the "Yeti."  What's that all about?) I have to admit, even though it's more animals, they are cute.  And did I mention  claymation?!?   In addition to the alphabet flashcard setting, there are also a few moderately fun activities/games to play (and an alphabet song that I won't mind if I don't hear ever again.)  
* and then God said, "Let there be quails."

9. Animal Alphabet, Happy Kids/Yabra

Again, so simple, but my two-year old and I both love it.  Sweet music, animals wearing amusing costumes, silly animations.  
* quails...

10. Animal Alphabet BookAnna and Ava, LLC

Sweet illustrations.  No animation or music.  Three different voices to choose from, and three different settings: "A is for...", "Alligator starts with A," or "A".
* and more quails.

*   *   *   *   *   *

What are your favorite apps for toddler learning time?

*   *   *   *   *   *

Clearly, I'm a fan of iPad learning.  

But you want to know the all-time best ABC teaching tool ever??  Good old fashioned time curled up in a parent's lap.  Learning.  Loving.  Cuddling.  No app can replace that. 

*   *   *   *   *   *

I have tried my best to alert you to all apps in which you will encounter quails.  If quails are against your religion, you have been forewarned... and good luck teaching your kid the alphabet without that word in your vocabulary.  It appears it can't be done ;)


  1. Laughing so much at your quails :) Seriously, who decided that there needed to be a Q, K, and X in the alphabet anyway? So unnecessary. Every time I'm trying to teach reading I am BAFFLED at the ridiculousness of our language. THere are more exceptions than there are rules. ANYWAY...I don't even have an i-anything but I still loved this :)

    1. I agree with you on how bizarre our language is. It wasn't until I started teaching the boys to read that I wondered how does ANYONE ever learn to read at all??

  2. Such a great list! I want to be able to print some of those graphics. They are fun!

  3. I was wondering what the rationale is behind why you would want to teach toddlers letters.

    1. No rationale other than it flows from my personal decision on how we use our iPads. Ever since we got them, they've been designated as "school tools" and we primarily use them for lessons, educational games, and listening to stories.
      I'm not concerned with Clare actually learning any letters or sounds, but since the little girls usually are using the iPads at the table while I'm working on lessons with the boys, I guess it's a way to help set the tone for "school" across the board. I sometimes "do" alphabet cards or puzzles with Clare, but again, it's less about teaching her phonics yet, and more about giving her attention during the busy mornings that typically focus on the older kids.
      It's a quirk of mine that I try to have things be "educational" if possible. I have a tendency to turn everything into a "learning experience" (and probably could use some practice in enjoyment for enjoyment's sake...) so, that's probably why we don't play many game-games on the iPads.
      Last reason - we have a nice collection of alphabet-y stuff (puzzles, wall cards, stickers) and I think they're pretty enough that even I like to use them!
      Long answer. Sorry :)

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