I’ve said this more than once, but kids really learn best when they’re playing and having fun. That’s why I always get excited over new apps that bring a fun learning environment for my kids.
My app pick for today is called Teach Your Monster to Read: First Steps. It’s a great iPad game for kids ages 3+ who want to learn phonics the fun way.
Help the Island Kings Reclaim Their Missing Letters
Kids start the game by creating a monster as they like. Once ready, the monster will board his spaceship and take off to the galaxies. Unfortunately, there’s his spaceship crash lands on a magical planet.
The Island King promises to help fix the spaceship as long as kids help him reclaim his missing letters. To do so they must play various mini games. The King will give them a reward for every letter collected. If they can find all of his letters, he will fix one part of the spaceship and take them to a neighboring island king who can help them fix the other parts.
There are eight islands in this game. On each island, kids must find up to four graphemes. For example, the first island consists of s, a, t, and p, and the last island consists of x, y, z, and zz. The game includes 31 graphemes of English words, including ck, ff, ll, ss, and qu.
To unlock each letter, kids must play one of the following five activities. As soon as they have unlocked the activities, they can choose any one they prefer to claim the letter.
- Sheep. Listen to the phonics sound, and gather the sheep together in the right pen.
- Build. Listen to the sound, and pick up the right block to build the spaceship.
- Run. A mini endless running game where kids choose the correct path based on the sound they hear as they hit the giant flowers.
- Factory. Suck up the right letters as they pass through the assembly line based on the sound heard.
- Climb. Climb the windows of a multistory apartment while building a CVC (Consonant-Vocal-Consonant) word based on the hint provided.
Parents Need to Know
Teach Your Monster to Read: First Steps is the perfect game for kids ages 3+ to practice their phonics. The game itself is adaptive such that graphemes that kids struggling with will come up more often than the others.
The entire activity was designed in collaboration with phonics experts from Roehampton University, and has been tested by a number of teachers in their classrooms. Parents can visit this website to play the full version of the game in a Flash-supported web browser. The developers have also provided a great guide to what you can find inside the iPad game in this downloadable PDF.
Things I Like
I like how the game is designed with a reversed reward offering order. Most games would start with the activity and then offer rewards, but in this game kids can pick their reward first. This helps motivate kids as they know what they’ll be getting if they complete the activity.
The game in itself is a long journey for the monster to rebuild his spaceship. This can take days or even weeks, depending on how long your kids play each session. Once they’ve have completed the journey, the app will offer to restart the game.
If you, like my family, enjoy the game, do take a look at its sequel. It’s currently only available as a free web game, but I hope that it will be available on the iPad as well. The sequel is called Fun with Words, and offers 18 new graphemes and more complex word building schemes, such as CVCC, CCV, and CCVC.
You should also read the app developer’s excellent blog posts where they offer ideas for DIY phonics games that you can play with your kids at home. I’m especially intrigued to print this Tricky Words Poster.
Teach Your Monster to Read: First Steps is a great game for kids ages 3+ to learn phonics the fun way. It offers five mini games and 31 graphemes wrapped in an engaging story. If you still need a lot of convincing, go and play the free web game first and see it for yourself.
Get it on the App Store: iPad
App was provided for our honest review.