Wee Kids ABC from letters to words is part of a series of educational apps from Italian app developer EBooks & Kids. It is a universal app designed for children from age 5 upwards. It contains 7 activities to work on language and spelling skills at both the letter and word level, they are all based around a circus theme. The app has lively background music, which can be muted, it no narration or spoken word. It is child-safe with no adverts, in-app purchases or external links.
The seven games are as follows:
A large upper case letter is in the center of the screen, with the lower case and cursive versions below it, there are six line drawings in a circle around it. The child taps on the picture illustrating words beginning with that letter, and they turn full color. If they pick a wrong image there os a subtle “uhh uh” and they can try again. Once they have successfully found all the correct images the names of each object appear and they have to match the object with its name.
A letter is shown on the screen and a bunny tells the child how many they need to catch e.g. 5 x N, or 8 x S. Other bunnies pop up from top hats and the child has to catch the right number of the target letter, “whac-a-mole” style. This is good for hand-eye co-ordination, and fine motor skills as well as letter recognition.
The third game is a classic card matching game. There are twenty cards in a 5 x 4 grid, each contains a picture and it’s associated word. The child turns over two cards at a time and when they get a match the cards disappear. I would prefer to see the cards remain face up when a match is found – then the child would have longer to study the word and image together.
A picture of an animal or object appears on the screen above a railroad carriage containing the letters of its name. The child has to drag the letters into the right order to create the word (they won’t stay in place if incorrect). The word choices in here seemed rather random some I wouldn’t expect a child to easily get e.g. gnome, polar or grub (illustrated by a caterpillar like creature), the words vary in length from 3-8 letters. I would really like the child to be able to hear the word in this section so they know what word they have created even if they don’t recognize what the picture is showing.
Letters are spread across an 8x 8 grid (illustrated as a trapeze net), and the child has to find 12 hidden words. My children always enjoy doing these kinds of word searches, and it is good to help them start recognizing words.
This is a simplified child’s version of a crossword puzzle – it is partly filled in with word beginnings and endings; one word at a time appears on the screen and the child has to put it in the correct spot on the grid.
This is like the classic hangman game but instead of creating a drawing the child looses a star for each incorrect letter. Again this is a game where I would really like the ability to hear the word after it is revealed – then if it is an unfamiliar word to the child it is a learning experience rather than just a jumble of letters.
Wee Kids ABC has a lot of content for the price and although we played each mini game many times I have not yet seem them repeating. The graphics are bright, colorful and fun, and the background music is quite catchy and upbeat (and I like the option to mute it for children who are distracted by background music). I really like that there are so many different ways for the child to interact with words and letters and build familiarity with the written word. I also appreciate the fact that it is kid safe with no in-app purchases or external links. The navigation can be a little confusing -you have to go via the pause button to navigate, find the help screen, or menu. The instructions are done by images instead of text, which can be a little confusing at first but the games really are pretty straightforward once you spend a little time with them. Although I understand that the developer is trying to concentrate on the written rather than spoken word in the app I think there are some sections that would really benefit from the addition of a limited amount of spoken word. In the hangman and word train I’d really like the child to be able to hear the completed word, and it would be nice to have some option to pick what level words are presented in the word train and hangman, and to easily skip to the next word if it is too hard. A child just learning to do 3 or 4 letter words can easily become frustrated when an eight letter word pops up next. Overall I think this app has a lot of potential, but needs some tweaks to really fulfill that potential.