After mastering interactive books and the latest learn-to-read apps, your child's ready to tackle writing apps. For kids getting ready to enter preschool or kindergarten, reading readiness is certainly important—but she'll also need to be familiar with early writing skills.
Apps that emphasize composition, creation and "kinesthetic" (physical) skills are key components for writing success throughout your little learner's career.
Once your child has the basics of early reading and spelling down, "look for apps that go a little deeper, teaching kids about story structure...or responding to writing prompts," suggests Shira Lee Katz, director of digital learning at Common Sense Media. According to Katz, quality educational writing apps share some fundamental characteristics, such as fostering a love for letters, sounds, and storytelling and providing repeated opportunities to practice and reinforce skills.
Look for apps that promote the skills outlined above, as well as age-specific abilities. Letter-tracing apps are perfect for preschoolers looking to hone the fine motor development needed for physical writing. As your child grows, interactive "story-building apps" encourage creative thinking, while keeping a "digital diary" can keep older kids engaged in jotting down their thoughts daily.
Check out these favorites to engage and stimulate your budding author for future writing success:
- iWriteWords ($2.99, ages 2-5) Can your little learner help Mr. Crab collect the numbered balls by tracing her letters? This adorable app—featuring a cheery palette and child-like graphics—teaches writing by touch as your toddler traces letters and spells out simple words. Sound effects and a voice prompt will help your child stay engaged and follow instructions. After 3 or 4 letters, simple words like CAT and MOON are spelled and sounded out. This app is highly interactive with a lot of sense appeal for the tiniest tots. The big bonus? On top of ABC familiarity, this app promotes physical and kinesthetic learning.
- Little Sky Writers ($0.99 - $1.99, ages 2-5) Grab your pilot goggles; it's time to fly! Watch your child's letter knowledge soar as she follows a plane that traces the letter's shape. A narrator talks about the letter, makes words associations, and even tells jokes. Featuring bright colors and cute animation, this teacher-created app is a great introduction to physical writing—with tons of bells and whistles and even positive reinforcement that make it perfect for physical and kinesthetic teaching. Your kid will be so engrossed in the game, she won't even realize she's learning.
- ABC first words - learn to spell musical instruments: Letters, Sounds & Writing ($0.99, ages 2-5) This spelling, writing and word recognition tool is visually stunning with healthy a dose of early music education. Help your kid drag and arrange colorful letter blocks to spell the musical instrument that's pictured. With each correct spelling, she'll be treated to a tune; spell "piano" and you get a snippet of a piano medley—spell "cello" and cello music plays. This app hones fine motor skills and is especially appealing to auditory learners.
- Sentence Builder ($5.99, ages 5-10) Building sentences can be tricky; give your kid a leg up with this easy slot machine-esque tool, featuring basic nouns, verbs and articles. Line up the words correctly to match the pictures, and she'll be rewarded by a cheering animated pal. This app is especially great for practice with grammar and connector words, and is appealing for visual learners because of the graphic illustration of how grammar works. Three levels of play are possible and there are many additional settings, allowing the app to grow with your child.
- Shake-a-Phrase: Fun with Words and Sentences ($1.99, ages 7+) Shake things up with this hilarious writing app, which creates silly sentences with a flick of your wrist. Boasting four kid-friendly themes, 2,000+ vocabulary words, touch-definitions, testing mode and story introductions, this app is a great way to get your budding author's creative juices flowing. A super way to stimulate imagination and make creative writing fun.
- Story Patch ($2.99, ages 5+) Nurture your youngster's creativity with this garden-themed app. Either choose a theme or start from scratch, and get to writing! After she's penned her tale, help her choose from over 800 customizable illustrations to pair with the text. Your kid will be awed when her story leaps off the page; this tool makes composition and storytelling a truly multimedia experience.
- Toontastic ($1.99, ages 6 +) Lights, camera, writing! Encourage your kid to create her own cartoon story with this app. Instead of just throwing random elements together, Toontastic's "story arc" feature guides her in the basics of narration—your budding storyteller must choose a conflict, a climax and a resolution for her tale. This is a great tool to teach the essentials of good composition while sharpening writing skills and stimulating creativity.
- iDiary for Kids ($1.99, ages 5-13) An interactive diary, journal and scrapbook all in one, this app is flexible enough for younger children but engaging enough to keep the interest of older kids. Formatted like a standard diary, kids can write everyday and add photos, drawings and other personal touches to their journal entries. Users also have the option of sharing some content online or emailing specific entries. This app encourages self-reflection, imagination and daily writing practice.
As always, tech is best when parents are actively involved. Chosen wisely, writing apps for kids can lay the foundation for a love of writing that last a lifetime.