Best Apps for Building Language and Literacy Skills In Young Children

Bridget Hillsberg
May 9, 2020

In today's day and age it can be difficult to avoid screen time. Screens and devices seem to be everywhere. Allowing your child to have screen time is YOUR choice and decision. YOU know what is best for your child.  At Speech Sisters, we get asked all the time which apps are the best for promoting speech and language development in young children. So, here it is... Two things that we take into consideration when using apps with our own children and clients are:

  1. Quality- choosing educational, interactive and meaningful apps and getting help from a great ios app developer
  2. Quantity- duration of usage (the amount of time your child has access to the screen)

*We refer to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for screen time usage (see below)

American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations:

  • For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.
  • Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing.
  • For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.

Remember, this is just a guideline. We are only human and sometimes screen time usage duration will exceed these guidelines (especially right now during this pandemic). And guess what? ....That’s ok. Just be cognizant of the quantity of usage. If your child goes over a bit (or a lot) for screen time usage over a few days, then dial it back for the next few days. We get it. This is a new reality and wiggle room is acceptable. Guilt free.

With that said, if you do choose to allow your child to have screen time on an iPad or tablet, we want you to be educated and confident about the apps that your child is using. Many apps can be educational and beneficial to your child’s language learning, especially if you are involved in using the app with your child! So, we put together a list of our favorite apps for building language and literacy skills.

Toddler Apps: (AGES 2-3)

These apps are intended to be used with your little one, meaning you sit with them and treat the app like an interactive book or game! We encourage you to ask them questions, give them directions and highlight new vocabulary. This will help to build their receptive and expressive language skills.


  • Pinkfong songs: I have been a fan of Pinkfong Songs & Stories for the last 7 years. When my daughter was a toddler she loved to sing-along to these educational songs. Some of our favorites include “Word Power Songs” and “Healthy Habits Songs” because not only are children enjoying the characters dancing and singing, they are also learning about different concepts and routines!
  • Five Little Monkeys: What child doesn’t love this song?! Well, this app is just as fun! It is interactive and targets counting, opposites and singing. It has always been a favorite with my kids and my clients.


  • Peek-A-Zoo: We love this inquisitive app! It asks lots and lots of WHO questions about animals, actions, emotions and sounds.
  • Animal Train: This is a fun and interactive app that helps your little one learn about all kinds of animals and the sounds they make!
  • Sago Mini Forest Flyer: We recommend using this adorable app for building and expanding language! Talk to your little one about what the bird does along his or her journey. Target action words! “The bird is singing!”  “The bird is flying!”
  • Sago Mini Puppy Preschool: This app will introduce your toddler to so much language! It is interactive and can be used to target nouns, verbs and adjectives! There are so many opportunities to teach your little one new words with this app!
  • Eli Explorer: This app targets (and says) the first 100 words most children will say. It’s adorable, fun and educational all at the same time!
  • Ben On The Bus: This is an action-packed interactive app that toddlers love! It’s great for building vocabulary and expanding expressive language skills. There are tons of people, animals and all kinds of everyday objects ready to label and talk about.
  • Beck and Bo: This is another interactive app that builds vocabulary and helps little ones learn new words! Be sure to point out and label all the people, objects and animals.
  • Trucks: We love this interactive app, as it teaches sequencing, sorting and problem-solving!
  • Toca Tea Party: We think this app is awesome because it incorporates pretend play as well as social skills!
  • Toca Boca Doctor: This is a fun and interactive app that allows children to pretend play doctor! We especially love it for targeting body parts.

Preschool Apps: (AGES 3-5)

Even at this age we still encourage you to sit with your children and use these apps cooperatively, as they will reap greater benefits when they are learning with you and not just from the screen.

Some of our favorite preschool learning apps focus on pre-reading skills - like identifying letters and sounds! We also love apps that continue to build language and boosts vocabulary for this age group. In addition, it is important for these kiddos to learn about emotions, feelings and other social skills. To help with this, we have highlighted some apps that target those skills as well. And of course, every preschooler still loves to play, so some of our favorite apps are interactive play apps that foster language along the way!


  • Peppy Pals Farm: This app is all about social-emotional skills. From friendship to problem-solving to identifying different emotions, this is definitely a favorite!
  • Daniel Tiger’s Grr-ific Feelings: This app is all about emotions. It focuses on emotional regulation through songs and play, giving children strategies to help cope with their feelings.


  • My Playhome: My Playhome is basically a virtual dollhouse. Children are able to manipulate people and objects, both inside and outside the house. This app is great for building vocabulary, as well as expanding both receptive and expressive language skills.
  • Peg and Pog: Peg and Pog is another play app designed to help children build their vocabulary and understand the world around them. This one steps beyond the home and allows children to explore the ocean and space!
  • Toca Kitchen 2: This is a fun and interactive app that allows children to “cook” and play with food in the kitchen! We especially love it for targeting verbs like, eat, cook, stir, drink, etc.
  • Splingo’s Language Universe: This app is all about following directions and understanding basic spatial concepts. It was designed by speech pathologists so it is a favorite of ours!


  • ABC Alphabet Phonics: This app is a great way for kiddos to practice their knowledge of letter and sound recognition!
  • Phonics with Phonzy: Phonzy is awesome! This little creature actually helps children practice how to make sounds and words. This is imitation at its best!
  • Avokiddo ABC Ride: We love this app for learning about letters and sounds while exploring the world and solving problems along the way!
  • Starfall ABCs - ABC Mouse - Reading Eggs: These apps are all amazing for teaching letters and sounds through interactive games and they will continue to grow with your child on their literacy journey.

School-Age Apps (Grades K-2)

Even at this age level, we continue to recommend cooperative learning whenever possible. So, if you can, sit with your school-aged kiddo and help them to navigate these reading apps! The best apps for building language and literacy at this stage are those that focus on pre-reading and reading skills. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Monkey Word School Adventure: This is an early reading app that helps children put sounds together to make words.
  • Phonics Ninja: We love this app for letter, sound and word recognition. Kids get to be ninjas while they are practicing their phonics and reading skills!
  • Phonological Awareness Lab: This app focuses on teaching phonological awareness skills that are essential for learning how to read. Rhyming, syllable and word identification, as well as blending sounds and syllables are all taught in this educational app!
  • Sight Word Flip It: This app is all about practicing sight words. Think of it as using digital flashcards. Kids (and parents) love it!
  • Endless Reader: This app ties together phonics, sight words, spelling and vocabulary. It is animated and kids love it!
  • Noodle Words:  We love this app because it makes the connection between words and meaning. This one really helps to build vocabulary!
  • Starfall ABCs - ABC Mouse - Reading Eggs: These apps are all amazing for teaching letters and sounds through interactive games and they will continue to grow with your child on their literacy journey.
  • Epic!: We love this digital library for kids! It has thousands of books, games and learning videos.
  • Toontastic 3D: This is a storytelling app, which allows your child to be creative and practice oral narrative storytelling at the same time. Your child will create a REAL animated cartoon by choosing characters and a story setting! These stories can include a unique plot, problem, and solution. Your child can save their animated story creation too.

We hope you find these apps to be as educational and helpful as we have found them to be with our own children and clients! Remember the best language learning occurs when you co-view these apps with your child. You can use many of our speech secrets (from our online courses) to maximize language learning during screen time.

To learn simple and effective strategies to help get your little one talking, check out our Talk on Track (newborn-14 months) and Time to Talk: Toddler Course (15-36 months). We’d love to equip you to experience the joy of your little one talking to you!

Bridget Hillsberg
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