Best Apps for Handwriting
Handwriting is an essential skill for early childhood development. Learning to hold a pencil or marker and then construct meaningful lines is a process that leads to learning letter and number formation.
Many of the following apps work not only for handwriting, but also for other skills associated with reading development. Learning to name letters, form them correctly, and associate the correct sound with the letter are all processes developed during the pre-reading stage of development. Try out these apps to develop early handwriting skills. If your child is able to hold a pencil, try a stylus for easier transfer of the skill from the iPad to paper.
abc PocketPhonics: letter sounds & writing + first words brings several important language skills together into one app. In abc PocketPhonics, children learn to recognize letters, hear letter sounds, form letters by tracing, and use the letter sounds to build words. Parents are able to create multiple users, control the font and letter types, choose the letters their child will work on, and determine how skillful the writing needs to be. The app introduces letters in small groups and works on each individual letter before moving on to the next group of letters. As each letter is introduced, the app gives the letter sound and tells your child to repeat it. Encourage your child to say the sound out loud as they play the app. Parents can opt into a weekly email that provides an update on your child’s progress. The app tracks the user’s answers and does not advance them without first demonstrating mastery of the basics. This app is appropriate for children ages 4-6 and costs $6.99.
LetterSchool learn to write letters and numbers is another best app to add to your child’s collection of letter and number writing experiences. Letter School clearly introduces each letter, sound, or number (1-9) with an additional 3 levels of interaction that supports your child from tracing a line to forming the letter all on their own. A variety of animations keep the content fresh and interesting for kids. Use bubbles or railroad tracks to trace over the lines. The positive, motivational feedback encourages your child and will keep them wanting to use this app! Check out the lite version to try out some of the content for free. The app is appropriate for children starting to use crayons and markers for the tracing portion of the app and should last up through mastery of the letters, approximately ages 3-5. The app costs $4.99.
iTrace – handwriting for kids provides a simple approach to practicing handwriting. The main menu offers clean choices of practice with uppercase letters, lowercase letters, or numbers. In addition, there is word section that has an area to practice writing your child’s name, thematic words, or a customizable word list. The app has a few distinctive features, such as left-hand friendly modeling and individual tracking, and it supports multiple users.
Related Blog Post:
Does My Child Still Need to Learn Handwriting? (Demme Learning)
Tags: development, early childhood, handwriting, language arts, letter sounds, letters, pencil grip, practice, Reading, tracing, words
Back to School Learning Activities
Back to school time is upon us and KinderTown has some fun educational activities for your 3-8 year old to complete at home. Most of the activities can be completed in 10 minutes with little to no preparation.
Bingo Board #3
Draw shapes together, talk about a family photo, or make popcorn. Check out the latest Bingo Board to find these educational activities and more. Also included on the Bingo board are 3 recommended educational apps for your preschooler including a free app.
Bingo Board #2
Have a preschooler at home? Or a child between the ages of 3-6? Try this Back To School Bingo board with your child. The activities are perfect for at-home learning and designed to use very few materials. Mark the activities off as you go and reward your child for their work. The Bingo boards are easy to print and use and can be hung on your fridge or bulletin board.
Bingo Board #1
To use the Learning Bingo Board, simply complete any activity and have your child mark it off in some way. Color the square or use anything else that you have around the house to mark the squares, such as stamps or stickers. Decide on an incentive or reward for completing the board that works for your family or child. Check back soon for more activities!
Be sure to download KinderTown, the Educational App for Engaged Parents, to find additional educational apps to support your child’s learning. KinderTown is dedicated to improving early childhood education by empowering parents with the tools to support their child’s learning. KinderTown only includes apps that have substantial educational value as determined by an objective review process conducted by childhood educators. Search by age, device, or subject area.
Tags: activity, back to school, home, language arts, math
Apps for Building a Love of Nursery Rhymes
Nursery Rhymes are important to develop a love of language and build a foundation for future reading skills. Read this blog post to learn more and enjoy these apps.
Baa Baa Black Sheep by Duck Duck Moose makes the familiar childhood nursery rhyme come alive with interactive silly characters and a search-and-find game, which links all the screen play together. The app is a wonderful activity for kids who love to explore and discover. We appreciate how it encourages young children to be inquisitive. Have “ Baa Baa Black Sheep”. The app includes pleasing music and young children’s voices to accompany the game play. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.
Little Miss Muffet lets your little one interact while listening and reading a familiar childhood nursery rhyme. Each line of the rhyme is presented on a page with many hotspots that your child can tap to listen and learn. For example, count the daisies and the apples. Our child testers liked that the apples fell with letters on the app. Put the letters together to spell the word apples. Each page is dedicated to learning either letters and words, numbers and counting, or colors. Two other nursery rhymes are hidden in this app as well. Overall, this app is a fun and valuable tool for learning nursery rhymes. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.
This charming e-book app comes to life with pages of classic Mother Goose nursery rhymes. The table of contents includes ten classic nursery rhymes with pictures reminiscent of your childhood. Each page of the app has interactivity; including making Jack jump over the candlestick and making the rain in “Rain, Rain, Go Away” disappear. In addition, your child can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. This app allows your child to have the app narrate the story or read it aloud themselves. The app costs $4.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.
Goosed Up Rhymes gives nursery rhymes a modern twist. The most popular nursery rhymes that we all know and love are read and acted out on the screen with modern animation. KinderTown likes how the animation helps children comprehend the rhymes. Our child testers enjoyed all the special interactive areas on the screen for each rhyme. There are eight animated nursery rhymes that include features such as fixing Humpty Dumpty. This is a fantastic app to listen to nursery rhymes over and over again. The app costs 2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.
Related Blog Post:
Developing Language Skills with Nursery Rhymes
Tags: ebook, language arts, nursery rhyme, Reading
Language Arts Apps for Elementary Students
Here are a few Language Arts Apps for elementary students, approximately grades K-3.
If you are using Spelling You See – Listen and Write, check out Starfall ABC’s and Gappy Learns Reading.
Language Arts Apps
Bluster Deluxe (iOS only)
Bluster Deluxe challenges students to make connections in word patterns as they read. Content focuses on rhyming, prefixes and suffixes, synonyms, homophones, adjectives and more. The game offers options for playing against others or working independently. Children will need to have a solid foundation with reading word lists in order to avoid frustration. If your child is beginning to read chapter books, this app would be a great fit to boost their vocabulary.
Starfall ABCs (iOS, Kindle Fire and Google Play)
Starfall ABCs brings each letter to life with pictures, animation, games, songs, and stories! Using a clear and articulate voice, each letter is identified by name, sounds, and words. Children interact with each letter by tapping, sliding, sorting, and dragging objects through five or more screens of engaging phonics learning. Many of the letters include real pictures as well as animations. The most exciting part of this app may be the sign language animations from the bottom menu! Starfall ABCs is a must-have app for children learning their letters, letter sounds, and beginning to read.
Gappy Learns Reading (iOS, Google Play, Kindle Fire)
Gappy Learns Reading supports young kids by building words letter by letter and sound by sound. Gappy gets lost from his home and your child needs to build 10 words to get him to his house. After building 10 words, prizes can be earned to customize the house. There are four levels in the app to accommodate a wide variety of abilities, from early learners who are beginning to work on letter identification, to early readers who have greater knowledge of how words are formed. Customization in the app includes turning on and off word sets and letter formation. This is a well-designed app for learning about letters and sounds while building words.
Reading Raven Vol. 2 – iOS only
Reading Raven Vol. 2 continues the excellent language development play from the original app. Designed to build on Reading Raven Vol. 1, kids work through digraphs (sh, qu), blends (spr, mp), and reading words and sentences with word lengths up to six letters. The play is the same with colorful thematic areas for repeated practice that thoughtfully build on each other. Adults can customize the activities for their child’s needs, and learn about all the levels right inside the app.
Related Blog Post:
Winning Word Apps
Tags: adjectives, demme learning, digraphs, language arts, prefixes, Reading, rhyming, sentences, songs, spelling you see, suffixes, synonyms, vocabulary, word patterns
Vocabulary Power Pack for 2nd Grade Ages 7-8
Do you have a second grader at home? If so, then your child’s homework probably consists of some combination of sight words and phonics to bolster and train their minds in one of the most grueling efforts they’ll ever experience in academics: learning to read.
Use the techniques in the Vocabulary Power Pack to support your learner at this level. They won’t stay in the trenches for long! Believe it or not, they are on the path to using their growing reading skills to learn about more sophisticated topics.
Access the Power Pack through the KinderTown app (remember, you must be signed in!) to read the full review. Below are some of the apps included in the Power Pack:
Word Games for Kids Futuba
Tags: free, language arts, learning map, offline, power packs, resources, skills, vocabulary
Power Pack: Storytelling
This week’s Power Pack focuses on Storytelling for children ages 5-6.
Children of this age frequently tell stories aloud that you probably wish were in print. Their creations are often humorous and fantastic. In this Power Pack, you’ll find activities and app recommendations that support your child by translating all their creative stories into print. As you spend the next weeks and months focused in this area, your child will develop stronger oral storytelling abilities with more experiences seeing how stories can be communicated with text and images.
Apps featured in this Power Pack include:
Pirate Scribblebeard’s Treasure
Access the Power Pack through the KinderTown app (remember, you must be signed in)!
Tags: free, language arts, learning map, offline, power packs, resources, skills, storytelling, writing
Winning Word Apps
Playing with words is an excellent way to develop vocabulary, develop spelling skills and learn new words along the way. Check out these winning word apps!
Curious Words is an exploratory app that inspires children to make connections between words and their personal surroundings. My children love to create videos on their iPad. This app works to direct a child’s learning while making videos. The app prompts children with words, and then they are to take a picture that coordinates with the word. Children can swipe to the left or the right to choose new words. The app then combines the words and pictures into a unique video for the child. If the child does not like the video they can easily deleted the video and rerecord. For young readers, the words are read aloud, so the focus of the app is word associations not learning to read the words and developing creativity and curiosity. Curious Words is $1.49 at the time of this review and is appropriate for children ages 4-7.
Word Sundae is a smart spelling game for kids and their parents or peers. Word Sundae can be played in different ways, but always involves 2 players. Play against the computer, a parent, a friend or sibling. Children are presented with Scrabble-like tiles that they must combine to make a word in their sundae bowl. KinderTown likes how scoring is different for kids and parents to level the playing field for friendly competition. A child friendly dictionary is automated within the app, so children must submit real words not nonsense words. Children earn rewards along the way such as extra turns, bonus tiles and extra points. Word Sundae is .99 and appropriate for children ages 5-8.
The lovable monsters are back! This time with a focus on reading rhyming words. The monsters travel around a map with stops along the way. Once the monster stops his mouth opens with a rhyming word. The word is sneezed out and the letters are scattered. Your child must reconstruct the word. The letter sounds are made when the letters are touched and the word is read once the word is reconstructed. The app does require the child to reconstruct the word in letter order. The words continue to be presented and all relate to a rhyming family; ran, can, pan, tan. Once a series is complete a sentence is presented with the rhyming words in context and the monsters act it out. The app is free and does have in-app purchases ($4.99) to buy more rhyming families once you complete the 3 free rhyme families. A great app for the beginning reader in your family.
Tags: language arts, Reading, rhyming, spelling, vocabulary, words
Buy This, Not That: Word Games
KinderTown reviews lots of apps for kids that never make it to the KinderTown store. This week I thought that I would share an app I didn’t choose, and why, and recommend a better replacement that exists, but may not be on a banner ad in the iTunes store right now. This will be the first in a series of posts called “Buy This, Not That App.”
This week: Word Games
Futaba Classroom Games for Kids comes highly recommended as a multifaceted game to use with your family or in your classroom. The app is completely customizable for what you want kids to learn and play. This is one of the few apps designed completely for social play. Either play with the provided content or create your own. Up to four players can sit around the iPad. Tap “start” and the game begins. One game might have the center showing a picture of a pig. The first player to tap the word “pig” on their panel scores a point. After winning three rounds, the child is awarded a Futaba which is a small seedling. Futaba comes with several learning sets, but what makes this app exceptional is the fact that you have complete control of the content. Design your games by using the camera on your device or add your own text. The latest update provides an option to use Dropbox to upload images. The amount of customization allows both parents and teachers to get creative. The options seem limitless. Futaba is free, but KinderTown recommends the in-app purchase for $2.99 to unlock all the features.
At first glance, Mad Libs appears to be an educational app for kids. I remember playing Mad Libs as a kid, so I assumed that today’s digital version would be even better. I assumed the app would read aloud directions to children, give them feedback on the words inputted, make suggestions for nouns, and detect whether the words inputted fit the grammatical category. These are all the things my mother did for me as a child to create a learning experience. I was disappointed to learn that it did not include these features, and appeared as sadly lacking in interaction as it was when I was a kid. When the app opens, the words and graphics appeared fuzzy on the iPad. To get started, children choose a theme for their story, for example, bowling. The app assumes children know what to do, and can easily begin adding nouns, adjectives, etc. in the appropriate blanks. The app also accepted non-words typed in by children (tlsdjgs), and the app does not evaluate if the word is actually a noun or not. The app does provide a sliding bar at the top to define what a plural noun is, and give examples. This was the best feature I encountered.
Once the story was finished, the children had to read the story themselves, and most of the time the story didn’t make any sense based on the words that children picked. The app congratulated the child for their work with the words, “Word, Playa!” regardless of the quality of words inputted. This is not how I think children should be given feedback. The bottom line is that Mad Libs does not aid in a child’s comprehension and understanding of language skills, so why not spend your money on an app that does? Don’t fall for the nostalgia you associate with the name Mad Libs.
Tags: games, language arts, Reading, social, word
Hip Hop Hen Hits the Mark!
If you have a budding pre-schooler at home just learning to write their letters, Hip Hop Hen is for you!
Hip Hop Hen review
Hip Hop Hen is a delightful app to practice writing letters and learning their sounds too.The app opens with pleasing, calming music and cute graphics. When your child hits play an adorable alphabet appears. Click on one of the letters to practice writing the letter. The letter appears on lined paper and children can choose which color crayon to write the letter with. KinderTown really likes how each letter is presented in conjunction with the coordinating sound and shows the letters in lower-case. Lower-case letters are most often seen in print, so children should learn to identify them first in preparation to read. As the children correctly write the letter they earn balloons on a board to pop once the letter is completely written. Our kid testers loved popping the balloons and KinderTown loves that the letter sound is made each time a balloon is popped. KinderTown would like to see the letter name stated as well as the sound when the letter is presented. Both the letter name and letter sound are important early literacy skills. There is also a “free draw” area for kids, when children need to take a break. This app is designed for pre-schoolers (ages 3-5) who are learning their letters and is $2.99. Hip Hip Hooray for Hip Hop Hen!
Tags: language arts, letters, sounds, writing
Top “Learn to Read” Apps
Learning to read is a skill that evolves over a long period of time. Watching kids develop their reading skills is especially fun as they grow in confidence and become excited about books they can read by themselves. Remember that learning to read is a journey and not a race, so enjoy your child’s development along the way. These apps work best as one of a few approaches to reading, including reading aloud to your children, and listening as they read aloud: a perfect recipe for success! Check out KinderTown’s top rated Reading Apps!
Learn with Homer
Learn with Homer is a full “Learn to Read” series of lessons for kids. The app features letter-sound instruction, sight word introduction, read-aloud stories, and a mixed review of concepts. The app introduces a letter and through game play children must identify the sound in the beginning, middle and end of words. This is a essential skill for developing phonemic awareness in preparation for learning to read. Also included in the progression through the lessons is the introduction of sight words. Sight words are words that can not be “sounded out” but rely on more instant recognition to develop fluent reading skills.
The app does a nice job of mixing instruction with a review of previously-taught concepts and the reading aloud of real books, which are all key components of learning to read. This app would be appropriate for children who are learning their letter sounds and are just beginning to read, or who need a review of the letter sounds. In addition, the app encourages children to record their voice saying the letter sounds, and reading the books and words included in the app. Children are most often at this developmental level during kindergarten and first grade. In addition, the developers of Learn with Homer conducted research using their app on children who were beginning to read and showed that the use of the app 15 minutes a day led to an increase in their beginning reading skills. KinderTown agrees that working 10-15 minutes on apps focused on reading skills into your beginning readers’ routine will encourage their development in this crucial area. Check out their website for a free 1 month trial. Read with Homer is free to download but does include in-app purchases to buy additional lesson content.
Reading Raven is a self-paced, phonics-based reading instructional app for emergent (beginning) readers. This app does a wonderful job of creating a variety of phonics instruction activities that will keep children interested. Parents and teachers are thoughtfully given in-app tools for customizing their children’s learning experience. Throughout the app, children are learning about letter sounds and word parts. Make sure to read the parent & teacher guide in the app and visit their website at www.readingraven.com for videos and more information. Reading Raven Vol. 2 expands on the content learned in Reading Raven such as long vowel patterns and blends. Reading Raven is appropriate for children beginning to learn their letter sounds, and Reading Raven 2 is appropriate for children who have learned most of their letter sounds and are ready to identify patterns in words. Most children are at this level when they are ages 4-7. Reading Raven is $3.99 and Reading Raven Vol. 2 is $2.99.
Montessori Crosswords creates a valuable learning environment for children to practice identifying individual sounds in words. The activities are leveled and the app will grow with your child who is just starting to identify letters, to when they are reading and writing words at a first/second grade level. The app uses color coding and chunking to reinforce spelling concepts. Families will find interacting together with the movable alphabet to be quite enjoyable. In addition, the movable alphabet could be used with children to practice spelling words or sight words they are learning. Check the settings to set a time limit for the beautiful and fun sensory rewards. They can be distracting to the overall learning if not limited, but our child testers loved playing with them as a quick reward. Montessori Crosswords is appropriate for children ages 4-7 and is $2.99.
Tags: language arts, lessons, letters, phonics, Reading, sight word