Bottom Line: If you’re looking for an app to teach the alphabet, this is the app for you. Each letter features four pictures and rhyming text that is highlighted to sing along. There are even some interactive elements. Download it for free to try out the first four letters.
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What's free: First four letter songs.
What's not free: All additional letters, available with one in-app purchase of $1.99.
Touchzing Media has developed an app that I wish had existed when my eldest was a toddler. Of course, there were no apps when he was a toddler, but this would have been perfect for his interests and learning. And even though she is well past the need to learn the alphabet, my seven-year-old daughter loved every minute of play with this app.
ABC Alphabet Songs For Kids provides 26 songs, one for each letter of the alphabet. Each song features the same female voice and similar melodies. There are four words per letter, too. H features a hat, hen, horse and a house, for example, while O includes an octopus, onion, orange and owl.
The format is the same for each song. An animated uppercase letter dances around on the left side of the screen, while the featured word is pictured on the right and the text scrolls across the bottom. Each line of the song (two stanzas per picture) is highlighted as the song plays, allowing the user to sing along. Those who can’t yet read (probably the majority of the target audience, my daughter excepted), will have their attention drawn to the text, something that research shows increases overall literacy.
The app will play in a continuous loop if desired, or scroll between letters as desired just by tapping them on the top scroll bar. There is no way to advance within each letter song, though. The user must start at the beginning of each song without skipping any pictures.
There are small interactions on each picture. Tap the pencil, and he writes a P (with pencil hands on his hips the whole time). A dog driving a van zooms away when tapped, while a hat dances and hops. The interactions are small, but most of them relate in some way to the song, which is nice.
I loved the vocabulary in this app! The words presented are mostly typical for a preschool alphabet book, but the vocabulary in the songs is rich, including words like galore, royal and bleat. They teach facts about animals (an alligator has a long tail, strong claws and big teeth), objects (different kinds of balls, but they’re all round) and more. The pictures of animals are personified, but most of them still seem somewhat realistic (an eagle flies, an ant carries a sugar cube). Some animal actions do seem odd, such as the lamb standing on its back feet and playing a harp.
The rhyming text was surprisingly tolerable, as many rhyming children’s books can feel forced. However, there were a few that made me laugh, such as this line in the insect song: “Six legs all insects own, I only have two but you don’t hear me moan.”
There were a few things that could be improved in this app. First, I would like a more complete page index, to be able to skip to a particular picture within each song, or at the very least a word list within the app.
I also wished that each song included the sound that each letter makes, because learning to read is so much more than just learning the alphabet letter names. Leapfrog videos showed that even preschoolers can learn that letters make specific sounds, and learning that in preschool does a lot to help kids be successful when learning to read.
I also had some issues with a few of the picture choices, probably because of my natural inclination toward phonics. For example, “ship” is one word under S, but S does not make an /s/ sound in ship, since it becomes the digraph “sh.” And the vowels were prone to inconsistencies in sound, such as using “orange” for O, instead of all words with the short “o” sound.
Overall, though, this app well exceeds my expectations for an app to teach the alphabet through song. Though I know many prefer apps with no in-app purchases, this option allows the user to try it out for free. $1.99 is also a price in line with market value for the remaining content. For teachers and parents of toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners, this app is a must download, at least to try it out for free.
Heather H would like to point out to her Aussie friends that this app says koalas are cuddly. Proof. SmartAppsForKids.com was paid a priority review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.