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Teaching Phonics with the iPad

As a parent, you want to do whatever you can to make your child’s start in school an unmitigated success. One of the best ways you can do that is by providing a strong foundation in phonics. A great phonics background turns your child into a capable decoder, able to break down any word into its constituent parts and read them like pro. 

The iPad is a great tool for teaching phonics, and your child can learn the letter sounds almost effortlessly while playing games, listening to stories, and watching songs and mini-movies. Just make sure you’ve got your iPad in a protective case before you hand it over to your little one— for instance, a 6th generation  iPad mini will fit perfectly in an iPad mini 6th generation case.

Here are the best apps we’ve found for teaching Phonics on the iPad. You’ll find something here for everyone— free apps, paid apps, simple apps, and complex kindergarten apps that try to do it all. So download a few apps, slip that iPad mini in its iPad mini 6 case 2021, and let your child begin learning! 

Starfall ABC

Starfall has long been a favorite phonics website for educators, and now their child-friendly learning content is available in an app. There are three sections— short vowels, long vowels, and phonics & clunking; and each section includes both mini-books and exercises. Fun colors and graphics make this an app children love, and the focus is on crucial skills that will help your child understand how vowels work to make words. 

If there’s anything wrong with Starfall ABC, it’s just that it is done too soon—- long before your child is a comfortable reader. That said, it’s a great start, and one of the other apps recommended here— or a library of great beginner books at home— can be used as a follow up.

Blending Board

This free app doesn’t feature any games, songs, or cartoon characters, but it's still great at what it does: providing a interactive blending board. Best used under adult supervision, this blending board enables children to see how sounds and phonograms come together to make words— and what happens when we switch them around.  If you’re a phonics educator, you’ll love the ability to create your own boards and share them with others through QCR codes. 

Learn to Read— Duolingo

Everyone’s favorite language learning app now has a phonics app too, and children who see their parents running through flashcards with Duo the owl will be excited to get their own chances to do Duolingo.

 This app is meant to be used for short daily lessons of no more than a few minutes each, with consistency over time being a big goal.  According to the creators of the program,  kids improved their literary scores by 28% in 9 weeks, which isn’t anything to sniff about. 

Pocket Phonics

Here’s a phonics app that is widely used by schools and educators in both Britain and the US. Letter sounds, letter writing, and 170 first words are covered comprehensively, in a step by step manner that lends itself well to classroom use. The creators suggest that, given fifteen minutes a day to play on the app, it won’t be long before your child will be reading. 

ABC Reading Eggs

A popular reading website turned into an app, ABC Reading Eggs is a fun app for children to explore letters sounds, reading, and comprehension. With the largest age span of the apps listed here (2-13), you’ll find something for everyone. A placement test can help you find out where to start your child, and from there on it is clear sailing. The only problem you might have is limiting iPad time— but the creators have though of that, too, and if you want to get your child off the app you can tap in on some of the 100s of printable worksheets available through a parent dashboard.

Teach Your Monster to Read

If you’ve found it hard to get your children interested in more academic apps, download this Usborne app and let them explore it on their own time. They’ll love the fun characters, bright landscapes, and intriguing storyline. If there’s anything wrong with this app, it would be that it’s so gamified the phonics is hard to find. 

It’s there, though, and your child will be learning even as they play, even if they don’t know it. Level one is matching levels and sounds; by the final stage, your little monster-trainer will be reading little books.  According to the makers, it’s been played more than 300 million times by 30 million kids— and we aren’t surprised. 

Hooked on Phonics

Hooked on Phonics isn’t meant to be used as a fun phonics game— it’s meant to be full curriculum, and there’s enough there to qualify.  36 lessons go through almost everything your child needs to know to be an accomplished reader, and there are more than 100 storybooks to go along with it, as well as many songs, games, and videos. A pre-reading section can get your preschooler ready for the real content, and the rest of the program is correlated with state standards from kindergarten into the second grade.

Phonics apps on the iPad are a great way to get your child ready for reading, but remember, everything in moderation! Punctuate your child’s learning sessions with outdoor time, indoor sensory explorations, and time just sitting on the couch reading storybooks together. After all, your child learns best through play, and the phonics sessions will be that much more meaningful if they are well spaced throughout the day.