As father to two toddlers, I am continually on the lookout for new and unique alphabet apps that could keep my juniors excited to learn. This is not an easy task, as Camila and I have collectively reviewed a large number of alphabet apps within the past few months, thus making it more difficult for new apps to impress us, unless they really have great quality and unique value proposition.
Today, I will share about an app that focuses on the letters in the alphabets and their associations with animal names while offering unique learning and playing experience. Both of my sons enjoyed the app, so hopefully your juniors would too.
ABC Day is an iPhone app that offers a wide range of activities related to the letters in the alphabets, i.e. reading, tracing, playing and singing, in an underwater setting. Even though there are already plenty of apps that try to teach alphabets by associating them with animal names, I believe ABC Day is one of the most complete ones that I have reviewed in terms of activity types.
In the first activity, i.e. reading, ABC Day shows a letter in both uppercase and lowercase as well as an animal name that starts with it inside a bubble. A voiceover will then read that letter and the animal name, and a short animation will be shown as the letter is pointed out to you. Tapping on the animal will repeat this sequence, while tapping on the bubble will cause it to pop and the app to transition you to the next letter/animal.
At the bottom of the screen, you will see three buttons: the star button, the A-Z button, and the pen button. The star button will take you back to the main menu, regardless where you are. The A-Z button will take you to a page that allows you to jump to any letter you like. Finally, the pen button is a switch button that will take you to the second activity - tracing. Later, you will see a book button in the tracing screen that will switch you back to reading.
In the tracing activity, you will see the shape of an uppercase letter and a turtle which acts as your pointer. You would then use your fingers to follow the turtle along the trail of stars to trace that letter. Some letters may require you to trace along several paths, but rest assured as the turtle will stop at each step and show you where to go next.
Once you have completed tracing a letter, the voiceover will read the name of the letter, and the app will transition you to its lowercase form. When you have finished tracing the lowercase letter, the voiceover will read the phonics sound instead. This small feature really helps my 3-year old, Philip, who is still having problems transitioning from letter names to phonics.
In the third activity, you will see a mini game - a hangman-like game, very similar to what Camila and I have built in our app, Akzara. To trigger each puzzle, you would need to smear on the lips of the clam. When the clam shell finally opens, it will show an animal, its name with one letter missing, and four floating bubbles containing the possible correct letters. Once you tapped on the right bubble and solved the puzzle, the app will move on to a new puzzle with a different animal.
In the final activity, we have the ABC song, which has a perceived image so attached to the process of learning the alphabet that without it, an alphabet app could not be considered complete. ABC Day includes a unique ABC song where it shows bubbles containing letters from A to Z floating towards the top of the screen in sync with the lyrics of the song. When you tap on a bubble, it will pop and an animal will be shown falling down to the bottom of the sea.
What makes ABC Day special
Even though ABC Day is not the only alphabet app with an underwater theme, I really like the way it uses air bubbles as its main mechanic. I think bubbles are very intriguing for juniors; based on my experience, they like tapping on bubbles to pop them and see what comes out of them. It is also an intuitive way to transition from one letter to the next compared to swiping up/down or left/right that other apps tend to use.
ABC Day also has a unique way of implementing phonics alongside the standard letter name voiceovers. My 3-year old son, Philip, is used to letter names but not to phonics, and he's been having problems transitioning from one to the other. I believe that ABC Day offers a great way to help him with the process.
Finding a good alphabet app that uses animal associations might be easy, but finding one that showcases unique animals while also providing a lot of activities is quite rare. ABC Day uses animals that are less commonly seen in other apps, such as Angelfish, Chameleon, Dragonfly, Hedgehog, Newt and Seahorse. It also has a complete set of activities from reading, tracing, phonics, playing, and singing. I believe these attributes help make it a special alphabet app.
What I like about the app
It's quite rare to find a good alphabet app for the iPhone because most developers are aiming for the iPad. While it makes sense to create for a bigger screen, sometimes we also need a solid app for the iPhone - especially when we're traveling with our juniors. The fact that ABC Day's pop-the-bubble mechanism is so intuitive that my 1-year-old, Noah, is able to enjoy playing it is also a big plus for me.
I also find the hangman-like game is very forgiving. You can pop all the wrong bubbles before eventually stumbling upon the correct one, and the app will not punish you for it. As the app is aimed for younger toddler from as young as 1 year old, I believe this is a correct strategy.
One thing that I would like to point out is that the app currently does not support Retina devices yet. I have contacted the developers, and they have stated that an update is in progress.
Even though ABC Day may not look like a fancy app to you, it does the job very well. You can put it on your iPhone and have it with you anywhere you go, and the controls are very intuitive that any 1-year-old could learn it in seconds. The fact that it can also be used as a gateway for older juniors to learn phonics and spelling is another big plus. I highly recommend this app if you're looking for a "Swiss Army knife"-like iPhone app for your younger juniors.
Note: Thank you to the wonderful people at HomPimPlay for providing me with a promo code so that I can try the app with my sons.