Playground HD3 – ABC Edition by Jan Essig – Review

Playground HD3 – ABC Edition. The kids app to learn how to write letters by Jan Essig is a universal app designed to help teach your child letters via flashcards, practice looking at small versus big letters, freehand writing practice, words, matching small and big letters, sequencing and pairs. The app is multilingual (British English, German, Italian, Spanish, French and Swedish) and you can change the languages on the fly which allows you to practice in multiple languages. Skills such as spelling, memory and association with letters will be secondary ones that you learn as a result of playing with this app and give it potential to be used with both younger and older children. This app is suited for preschool through early grade school and can also be used to practice turn taking skills among multiple children in the memory match game.

The colors and concepts in the app were bright and easy to understand. We used a stylus versus a finger to do the letter tracing and most of the activities within the app except for the matching game. I also really liked the timer option which meant that after the timer was set, they could use the app for a set period of time and then it closed down. This was a nice feature which prevented too much time using the iPad. I also thought this was an app that parents and children could use together especially in an educational context. The animals and colors within the app were well drawn.

In terms of improvement, one big improvement I would like to see is the addition of an American English dialect. The person who narrates the app is not a native English speaker and it can be challenging at times to understand what is being said. I also found a few instances such as the splash screen where words were not in English even though we had the app set to English. Due to this, I often muted the sound and then let my son use the app rather than having him listen to pronunciation that was not correct. During the tracing/freehand writing practice, it would also be nice if in addition to having the numbering sequences for drawing the letter if highlighting was available if a child was not sure of where to start. This would help the app appeal to a wider audience such as preschoolers who are learning to write. I would also like to see more fonts available for the tracing pattern which could be localized to specific countries ensuring that children learn letters and numbers similar to their school curriculum. The “initial sounds” option in the flashcards and practice mode does not meet American English standards – the pronunciation and quality can be hard to discern and for some of the letters such as Z is simply not correct – we worked around this by muting the sound and simply working together with our child on the sounds. I would also like to see a “help” section built in that was easily accessible as there were several times I got “stuck” using the app with my son and was trying to figure out next steps.

There are no in-app purchases and the “parent” section is protected by holding down your finger on a button for a period of seconds. This is where you set the timer, choose the language you wish to work with, visit social media links and learn more about the app. The app provides good value for the purchase price and once an American English localization is added, I know the app will provide more value and allow your child to to use it without having to use the mute section. The app provides important early literacy skills such as letter recognition, hand writing via tracing, spelling, memory, visual association and allows your child to practice not only in their native language but also in a variety of other languages, something that is very important in today’s global society.

NOTE: I had an email from the developer that she is currently working on an American English fix for this app which he anticipates being available in late January. There will also be a fix for the British English version as well. Until then if you use the mute on your device, this would be a great way to teach your kids. Thanks for the update Jan!

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Playground 3 – ABC Edition: