Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 3
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Re-use / Replay Value Rating:
I have a friend - a mother and teacher - who looked forward to being part of her young daughter's early childhood education. Much to my friend’s frustration, her preschool-aged child had no interest in learning her letters at all, preferring to draw and play with crafts that are great for her fine motor skills but not much in the way of the beginner academics that her mom was trying to teach. I thought of them while testing a new app, ABC Gurus. There are plenty of alphabet apps available in the App Store, but ABC Gurus gives children the opportunity to decorate both uppercase and lowercase letters with fun sticker elements that include many varieties of eyes, noses, mouths, hats, and other fun elements like scars or bandages - some of which have mild animated details such as blinking eyes or moving mouths. Five colors are also included that one can further decorate letters with.
What is nice about this app is that after announcing the name of each letter when selected, the phonic sound is heard when adding each letter or color to one’s work - thus teaching children these sounds as they can’t help but listen as they are busy spending time decorating. Next, children are brought to a screen where a word that represents each letter is introduced, complete with fun, simple animated moments and basic interactions. These moments are creative and cute, with associations like “O is for octopus” or “N is for ninja,” but parents may raise an eyebrow with the use of Bat, Ghost, or Zombie - complete with his head popping off, which I can imagine being off-putting for the tender-aged children this app is intended for.
ABC Gurus desperately needs a back button as well, as the only way children can find their way back to the menu page to select another letter is to tap a camera button that takes a snapshot of the interactive page they are on, leaving 26 photos on their parents' device if this entire app is explored, to be deleted at a future time. Children can also be fickle with their choices, and one can easily choose a letter at random while scrolling through the letters instead of their intended choice. There is also no mechanism to go back a page for a new selection - an issue that frustrated me as I tested this app.
It may also be worth mentioning that this app includes the British “ladybird” and more importantly “zed” as the name for the letter “Z” - mild issues that children may ask about. Even with these notes, I do like how children are listening to the sounds that these letters make as they add notions to their letters. I wish some of the letter choice words were not potentially scary ones - something to think about for a future update.