Before kids learn to read, they first need to learn how to combine letters to build words. This might come as a challenge for some kids, but there are ways to make the learning process more fun. I recently discovered such a way in Planet Lettra, an app from Studio Goojaji, which aims to facilitate a child’s exploration of letters and word building in a stress-free environment.
Let's Build Words
On the imaginary planet of Lettra, the sky is filled with letter bubbles. When two bubbles are bumped together, they can combine and form a new word. If the word is among the 100,000+ recognized by the app, it will be read aloud by the narrator.
You can distinguish the contents of a bubble by observing its color. Single letter bubbles are white, multi-letter bubbles are yellow, bubbles that contain real words are orange, and bubbles that contain nonsense words are blue. The app is like a sandbox where kids can test out various letter blends to discover new words, without any repercussion should they fail.
What makes the app more interesting is the creatures on the planet’s surface. They’ll slurp up bubbles you drag near them, and react to their food in various manners. They might dress up or play a tune if the bubble contains a real word, and spit out letters if the word doesn’t make sense.
Other useful features in Planet Lettra includes the Moon of Undo, which breaks up bubbles should you change your mind about a combination, and Planet Permea, which controls bubble blending. You can also spin the planet to discover controls such as for clearing out the bubbles on screen and for changing the content of a single letter bubble.
Parents Need to Know
If you are using the app for the first time, I highly recommend watching the tour video on how to play. It will help you understand all the available features, as some functions might not be obvious at first glance. The video is fully narrated, so early readers should be able to follow along easily.
Planet Lettra has good localization options. When using English as the main language, you can also select from several dialect options such as American, Australian, British, and Irish. In addition, the app fully supports Spanish and French.
The app contains no advertising, no in-app purchases, and no external links. No Internet connection is necessary to use the app. It is available as a Universal app, but do note that it requires iOS 8.1 or later.
Things I Like
What makes Planet Lettra unique compared to other spelling games is that, well, it’s not a spelling game. Rather, it’s a free-play environment that encourages kids to combine letters and see what comes out of it. As the iTunes listing puts it, the app is “a set of letter blocks that your child can arrange any way they want and hear what they’ve built.” On the other hand, I do like how efforts to spell real words are also rewarded with playful animations.
A great thing about the app is it can be used by different age groups. There’s a feature called Planet Permea, which allows you to adjust how easily bubbles blend. You can make it so that bubbles will almost always blend when bumped together, or select the option where you have to drag both bubbles to combine them. The former option is great for kids who are only beginning to explore word building, whereas the latter is suitable for older kids who already have accumulated enough words in their vocabulary.
For my wish list, it would be great if kids could review all the real words they’ve discovered in the app. Such word list would also help parents or teachers monitor their child’s progress.
Update: as of version 2.1, you can now review the words you've made and fed to the creatures on Planet Lettra. You can tap the bubbles to listen to the words, rearrange them by hand, and sort them by size, time last eaten, or alphabetically. The update also introduces new costumes for the creatures.
Planet Lettra is a relaxing sandbox where kids can experiment with letter blends to discover new words. Playful animations keep the gameplay light, while flexible customization options allow the app to meet the needs of various age groups. The app supports play in English, French, and Spanish.
App was provided for our honest review.