Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978
More Articles Browse All Articles >>

You are in:  Learning | Skill Builders - Pre-K through Kindergarten

Skill Builders - Pre-K through Kindergarten

For early learners beginning to explore math, reading, spelling and telling time, these award-winning products offer fun and engaging opportunities to practice their skills.
Injini Child Development Game Suite Injini Child Development Game Suite
Ages: 1 - 5 yrs.
Contributions From: Sooin Lee   Contributions From: Sangjun Park   Contributions From: Kathleen Bliss  
NCSoft/Project Injini,

This beautifully paced and elegantly designed suite of games was developed for children with developmental delays. And while Injini may be of great significance for children with learning challenges, these games will be an early learning treasure chest for children of all abilities. Cause and effect, spatial awareness, memory and matching, visual processing are among the skills presented to be practiced in more than 100 games that beckon the touch.

Animal Alphabet HD Animal Alphabet HD
Ages: 2 - 5 yrs.
Artist: Norm Magnusson   Contributions From: John Blanco   Contributions From: Paul Millman  
Fish the Mouse Media ,

Though there are many apps for teaching the alphabet, Animal Alphabet HD distinguishes itself as one of the best. The deceptively simple title refers to an alphabet enriched by gorgeously illustrated animals who perform tricks for alphabet explorers. In fact, the app is themed as a wondrous carnival side show, complete with a baby bear on a unicycle for the letter B, a confrontational ostrich for O, and a coy chameleon for C. An effervescent voice-over alliteratively introduces each creature, and many screens include a fun fact, framed as a circus-style pitch, about the animal.
Ages: 2 - 6 yrs.
Producer: Age of Learning  
Age of Learning,

This may be the first website that I have seen that is truly an online classroom, terrific for pre-school through kindergarten students. Parents create an account and can add up to 3 children for a fee of $7.95/month (for up to 3 children) or $79.00/year. Once a child is created, they may go to the classroom to begin working through a series of lessons appropriate for their grade level. Lessons are offered in reading, math, the world around us, art and music. There are also a number of activities to work on in the classroom, such as learning time with the clock, practicing computer skills, coloring, puzzles or learning music with the piano. In addition to the classroom, there is a zoo and a farm area, both of which include numerous songs, stories and activities to teach children about animals. As children work through their lessons, the site automatically keeps track of their progress.

Elmo Loves ABCs Elmo Loves ABCs
Ages: 2 - 6 yrs.
Contributions From: Jessica Yin  
Sesame Workshop,

Elmo's not the only one who loves these ABCs. When your little learner opens the app and selects play, Elmo will enthusiastically prompts the user to pick a letter to get started. He then asks children to trace the letter by following a clear, dotted yellow line. Next, three objects that begin with that letter are revealed. A slider on the right of the screen lets children choose whether to watch a video about the object, color a page containing it, or search for it on screen. All of the videos are Sesame Street favorites, and the coloring and finder activities are simple, but rewarding. Additionally, children can play games with Elmo or listen to music. Parents can track their children's progress and favorite activities.

The Cat in the Hat Knows Alot About That!  for PBS KIDS The Cat in the Hat Knows Alot About That! for PBS KIDS
Ages: 2 - 8 yrs.
Contributions From: Scott Gordon   Contributions From: Kate Klimo   Contributions From: Lynn Kestin   Producer: Jesse Dunne  
Random House,

The Cat in the Hat website is totally entertaining and full of educational opportunities that take the series far beyond just a TV show. Like other PBS Kids sites it's simple to navigate, free to use, and full of content. Games, printable activities, "Snap-o-Rama", and Cat's Math Mayhem offer opportunities to interact with the computer and practice age appropriate skills like counting and concepts like weather and matching. For curious kids and parents looking for learning activities, the Cat in the Hat is a great resource.

Bob Books #1 - Reading Magic HD Bob Books #1 - Reading Magic HD
Ages: 3 - 5 yrs.
Learning Touch,

Early readers and spellers will benefit from Bob Books' Reading Magic app. There are four levels: Drag and drop letter to match; Learn left-to-right order; Spell without visual hints; Pick letters to spell words. The app will calibrate its difficulty according to a child's skill. In the first level, a simple sentence is read aloud. Then, readers are asked to place the scattered letters of a word from that sentence in to place. The same sentences appear in each difficulty level. In the second level, the letters will be scrambled, but not in order. In the third level, the bottom part of the screen will not give hints as to in which order the scrambled letters should be placed. Finally, the last section provides more letters than necessary for spelling the designated word. Children are challenged to pick and correctly orders they need to spell each word. Once completed, the app will have taught children to be more comfortable with the concepts of spelling, listening, and phonics.

Numberland HD - Learn Numbers with Montessori Numberland HD - Learn Numbers with Montessori
Ages: 3 - 5 yrs.
Contributions From: Valerie Touze   Contributions From: JeanJean   Contributions From: Gael de Dorlodot   Contributions From: Marilyne Maugin  
Les Trois Elles Interactive,

Using the Montessori method of hands on exploration and re-enforcement, children practice writing and understanding numbers in this app hosted by two friendly cartoon guides. Tam & Tao offer mini-lessons on each of the numbers 1 through 9 and, finally, 0. Each number is clearly pronounced and written in a scene bubbling with countable sets of animals, shoes, clouds, and more. Tam carries a notebook with countable blocks, while clicking Tao lets players trace each number in the color of their choice. We especially enjoyed the counting stick activity used to explain the concept of zero.

Eddy's Number Party! from Kinderspark Eddy's Number Party! from Kinderspark
Ages: 3 - 6 yrs.
Scientific Learning Corporation,

Counting and working with numerals are the cornerstones of the early math skills taught in this appealing and user-friendly app. Activities help establish the connection between the names and symbols of numbers to the quantities they represent. Players begin by matching numerals to small sets of items that are easy to count. Levels of difficulty increase as the child progresses through the activities.

Phonics Fun & Games Phonics Fun & Games
Ages: 3 - 6 yrs.
Contributions From: Amy Schwary   Contributions From: Troy Vasquez   Contributions From: Alan Pierrot  
Pre K Scholars,

Phonics Fun & Games is a set of four activities focused on learning the shapes and sounds of the letters of the alphabet. "Phonics Cards" show an upper- or lower-case letter, identify the letter and its sound, and give an alliterative phrase or sentence for the letter. "Trace & Learn" presents the cards in the same way, but also guides the child through the process of tracing the shape of the letter. "Matching & Memory" is a concentration-style matching game that uses the phonics cards. "Guessing Game" has five cards for each letter; each card has three clues to a word that starts with the letter. While the first three games are appropriate for young children who are just learning the alphabet, the fourth often provides an interesting challenge for a wider range of ages, even for an already literate first grader.

Freefall Spelling Freefall Spelling
Ages: 3 - 7 yrs.
Merge Mobile,

This app had my children engaged from the minute they turned it on for the first time. The letters slowly float down from the top of the screen, and the user "grabs" the letters and drags them to the appropriate spot. Once words are spelled correctly, rewards are given. The rewards are fish and trinkets to decorate a fish tank. The design of this app is really clever, and the graphics are adorable. The menu screen slowly fills up with water, and fish swim back and forth. My kids have so much fun decorating their little fish tank, feeding the fish, and cleaning it. For the younger ones who aren't as proficient with their reading, they don't even realize they're actually learning how to spell while they try to fill up their fish tank with the coolest fish. I will definitely be recommending this app to friends. Since they can take their own pictures and add their own words (and I can take pictures and add words they don't even know yet), the learning value of this game is endless, making it well worth the $1.99!

Word Wagon HD Word Wagon HD
Ages: 3 - 7 yrs.
Designer: Duck Duck Moose   Developer: Duck Duck Moose   Producer: Duck Duck Moose  
Duck Duck Moose,

Duck Duck Moose has collected and sorted 103 words into seven different categories and delivers them, with help from Mozzarella and best friend Coco of course, in an iconic red wagon, in learning levels appropriate for preschool to Grade 1. Levels throughout the categories (Animals, Food, Vehicles, Numbers and Colors, Around the House, Mozzarella and Coco's Favorites, All Words) begin with learning the names of the letters, move to learning the sounds the letters make, and progress to mastering spelling words with up to six letters. Self-propelled learning may begin with a game, but it's no joke. The app design takes touch screen technology seriously, and uses it to its age-appropriate best.

Interactive Telling Time Interactive Telling Time
Ages: 3 - 12 yrs.
GiggleUp Pty Ltd,

Learning to tell time is an essential life skill. However, it can be challenging and even frustrating for children. Interactive Telling Time is the answer to this dilemma. This app is not only educational, but it is also amusing, easy-to-use, engaging and visually appealing. On the main menu, which is customizable with music and a variety of accurate clocks, players choose a variety of tasks: Set the Time, What's the Time, Play Puzzle (a clock to which the pieces and numbers must be added), Take the Quiz, Stop the Clock, or Learn the Clock. During all of these activities and games, incorrect answers are met with encouraging words and additional chances. Correct answers earn stars which accumulate toward new fish friends in the player's virtual aquarium. The positive reinforcement for correct answers not to mention the lack of emphasis on incorrect answers, encourages children's excitement and enthusiasm for learning time-telling skills. Its varying activities and difficulty levels add to its longevity.

Happy Hour Clock Happy Hour Clock
Ages: 3 & Up
Hape International Inc., $14.95

The Happy Hour clock is a simple, but fun and effective learning tool that our child testers absolutely love. The clock is an attractive toy, simple and colorful. The removable numbers are a bonus for younger toddlers. Our 2-year-old loves taking them out and putting them back, giving us an opportunity to work on number recognition skills with him. At $14.95, this toy is a reasonable price and while there are many tools on the market available to help teach the concept of telling time, there are not many that are appropriate for children in various stages of learning number concepts. This toy's lifespan can last several years, as children grow and develop.

Playful Learning Playful Learning
Ages: 3 & Up
Producer: Mariah Bruehl  
Playful Learning,

This soft-spoken beautifully designed site is a tantalizing resource loaded with truly fun ideas for teaching young children about math, science, writing and more. The site's founder, Mariah Bruehl, an educator and mother of two young daughters, describes her activities as "playful learning experiences." Bruehl draws her influence from a variety of philosophical and research-based teaching methods including the Reggio Emilia Approach, Teaching for Understanding, Constructivism, and Maria Montessori. There are nine categories of playful learning experiences that include foundation skills (reading, writing and math), well-being (social, emotional and physical), seasonal activities and ideas for creating playful spaces. The website also offers an extensive resources page categorized by learning experiences and a store to purchase items such as books, toys and art supplies.

abc PocketPhonics abc PocketPhonics
Ages: 4 - 7 yrs.
Developer: John Friend  
Apps In My Pocket,

A handy app for parents of children learning to write and sound out words, ABC Pocketphonics explains over sixty letter and letter combination sounds. Each letter or phoneme is pronounced by a clear voice. Children then reinforce what they’ve learned by tracing the letter or letters pronounced. The letter must be written correctly--if it is not, children will be asked to try again. Parents can choose whether their child writes in uppercase or lower letters. For older children, there is a cursive option. The app also includes a spelling activity. Parents teaching young ones to read and write will find this app very useful.

Noodle Words - Active Word Game Set 1 Noodle Words - Active Word Game Set 1
Ages: 4 - 7 yrs.
Developer: Mark Schlichting  
NoodleWorks Interactive, LLC,

In this utterly irresistible app, 18 words come to life. They do what they're told, and they tell children what they do. Players choose a word from the box (released at random), or from a list in the conversation bubble. Tap the word to see, and understand, its meaning. Tap the two characters (we're guessing bees, as in spelling) to see how they act out each word's meaning (spin, sparkle, stretch, and laugh).

WordGirl WordGirl
Ages: 4 - 7 yrs.
Producer: Lynn Kestin Sessler  
Scholastic Media,

In her most daring assignment yet, WordGirl transforms a Web site devoted to language arts education into a fast-paced, action-packed site. The site has a variety of navigation options and a vast amount of content for children, adults, and teachers. While content is updated regularly and the site even features a section where users can upload new vocabulary words, repeating games yielded the same questions and skill development, and some games cannot be completed unless the user has some knowledge of the show.

Reading Rockets Reading Rockets
Ages: 4 - 10 yrs.
Designer: Weta Learning Media   Developer: Weta Learning Media  
Weta, Learning Media,

As is implied by the site’s tagline of "Launching New Readers," Reading Rockets is not designed for children to use, but rather is dedicated to providing adults with information to help children learn to read. Segmented into areas for teachers, professionals (including speech-language pathologists, school psychologists, principals and librarians) and families, this bilingual site features articles and tips such as strategies to help kids who struggle to read, techniques for teaching reading and finding great kids books and author interviews.

Sight Words Sight Words
Ages: 4 & Up
Rock 'N Learn, Inc., $19.99 (DVD)   

Rock ‘N Learn presents Sight Words, a DVD designed to help teach young children the most frequently used words in the English language, ones that educational experts want them to automatically recognize on sight. It’s a fun and comfortably-paced program that presents phonics-based strategies through computer animation, songs, and graphics. In addition to the main 50-minute program, this DVD’s Bonus Section includes a feature that focuses on the shape of sight words.

Share This

Keeping Kids Safe on the Internet

Award-Winning Products for Learning

Article Archive

Reference Tools & Homework Helpers

Sign Up
Our news & features delivered to your inbox.