In ABC Gurus, kids learn about phonics as they decorate letters
There are many ways to teach alphabet sounds and letter names to toddlers. The most effective way is through play, as proven by ABC Gurus, a new app from Colto, that lets kids learn as they turn letters into silly characters.
Easy as A, B, C
The app begins with you scrolling through the alphabet on a rotating planet. Select a letter you like, and the app will take you to a dedicated screen where you can color and decorate the letter with cartoon eyes, mouth, and other quirky accessories. Each time you color or add features, you will hear the phonetic sounds the letter makes, for example, /b/ for B.
Tap the Play button and a short animation will appear to show you what word starts with your letter. You can interact with the animation; in C for Cowboy, you can tap on the cowboy’s hat to reveal a cow. You can also take a snapshot of your creation to save to the device’s Camera Roll. (Pro tip: you can turn this feature off by going to your device’s Settings > ABC Gurus)
Once you have completed the activity, you can select another letter from the menu screen. The app includes both uppercase and lowercase letters, and you can toggle between the two modes by tapping on the ABC icon on the upper right-hand side.
Parents Need to Know
The design of the app is based on incidental learning, i.e., learning that happens as you are doing something else. In this case, kids learn about the phonetic sounds of a letter as they color and decorate the letter. It’s a low-key but powerful learning experience — we are more effective learners when we’re having fun.
One thing to note about the app is it uses British English, so some letters are pronounced differently from its American counterpart, e.g., “zed” instead of “zee”. The narrator also says “ladybird” instead of “ladybug”. There is currently no way to change the narration into other languages. (Update: as of version 1.2, the app has added language support UK and US English, Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese.)
Safety-wise, the app has no in-app purchases and no third-party ads. A secured section for parents contains app rating request and external links. A link to the developer’s other app is also protected, but visible from the main screen. Fortunately, both sections can be turned off from the device’s Settings menu.
ABC Gurus is available now as Universal app on the App Store. The recommended age range for the app is 2-5 years old.
Tap the Play button and watch the letter come to life
Things I Like
ABC Gurus is a cute app that is also toddler-friendly. It includes many elements that children with love: coloring, stickers, cartoon characters, and funny animations. The background sound is non-obtrusive, and each letter sound is clearly pronounced. The interface is also easy to use by little hands.
The gameplay itself is straightforward without too much gimmick. It is engaging enough for kids, but not addictive in any way. This is not an app that will preoccupy kids for hours on end, rather it provides short but effective bursts of learning. I am a fan of incidental learning, and I think the app is well-designed to accommodate the process.
An issue I had with the app is it doesn’t include a home button on the letter screen, so you can’t leave an activity mid-way. The only way to go back is to complete the activity set all the way through the snapshot. This proved to be inconvenient when you accidentally tapped on the wrong letter.
Additionally, I think it would be nice if I had the option to continue to the next letter without having to go back to the home screen. I would also love to see more words and animations for each letter to add some variety. (Update: as of version 1.2, the app has added a Home button in each letter screen, plus 19 new animations.)
The app includes several sets of cartoon stickers for personalizing your letter
Simple yet fun app teaches toddlers about phonics and the alphabet through creative play. Learning happens incidentally as kids hear the sound a letter makes every time they color and decorate the letter with silly stickers. Kids also get to know what word can be associated with each letter. Suitable for ages 2-5.
App was provided for our honest review.