Phonics Island Early Reading, Spelling & Tracing

Common Sense Media says

Ease kids into letter sounds with cute animals and games.






What parents need to know

Ease of play

Very easy to play. Kids are guided through systematic lessons with audio instructions and visual prompts. Stars show game level progress, and, after kids complete a game or level, they can return to that level for more practice. Parents or kids can choose capital or lowercase letters, as well as skipping the intro.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable
Privacy & safety

No personal information is required to use this app. The developer's privacy policy explains in reader-friendly terms that the app collects anonymous data.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Phonics Island Early Reading, Spelling & Tracing explores letter sounds and tracing through a series of mini-games with cute animals on an island. Letters on this app are divided into groups that are often used in Montessori classrooms  (such as A, S, M, and T or H, L, B, and O). Games encourage kids to hear the beginning letter sounds in animal names, choose the correct letters visually, play a memory match card with letters on the backs of the cards, and trace the letters. As kids progress through the games, they earn stars and animal stickers. Once they complete the games for one group of letters, they move onto another group, eventually completing all 26 letters of the alphabet. Parents specifically looking for a Montessori-style learning app should know that even though the app's full name includes a Montessori reference, not everything on this app aligns with Montessori philosophy.

What kids can learn


Language & Reading

  • following directions
  • letter or word recognition
  • naming
  • phonics
  • writing


Thinking & Reasoning

  • part-whole relationships


  • work to achieve goals

Engagement, Approach, Support


The games present just enough challenge but are still lots of fun, which makes this app engaging for preschoolers. Star and sticker rewards encourage multiple gameplay sessions, potentially prolonging engagement.

Learning Approach

Kids learn by hearing the letter sounds, viewing the letters, and tracing the letters, which are grouped into letter groups that can help kids focus on certain letters one at a time and progress in difficulty.


Voice instructions and visual prompts lead kids through each game. Kids can track progress through viewing the number of stars and stickers earned and letter groups completed, although there's no detailed information on progress (or correct and incorrect answers). Parents can read written instructions about gameplay by tapping the "i" button on the app's main page. 

What kids can learn


Language & Reading

  • following directions
  • letter or word recognition
  • naming
  • phonics
  • writing


Thinking & Reasoning

  • part-whole relationships


  • work to achieve goals

Kids can learn basic phonics skills such as letter sounds and the beginning letter sounds in words (animal names), as well as practice tracing letters on Phonics Island. Kids can view capital or lowercase letters, hear the letter sounds pronounced, and view the letters next to cute cartoon representations of the animals that start with that beginning sound. As kids play the mini-games, they practice prereading skills such as visual discrimination, listening for the beginning sounds in words and trying letter formation through tracing (although that formation isn't always standard). Phonics Island's strength is in the simple games that encourage phonics practice.

This Learning Rating review was written by Dana Villamagna

What's it about?

First, kids watch and listen to a brief story intro, then play mini-games with the first group of four letters on PHONICS ISLAND EARLY READING, SPELLING, & TRACING. Games includes tracing letters, popping balloons with the correct letter sounds as spoken by the narrator, matching cards in a memory match game, and dragging the correct animal that matches the requested letter sound onto a train. After earning enough stars, kids choose a sticker for their sticker collections and move on to the next letter group.

Is it any good?


Phonics Island Early Reading, Spelling & Tracing includes fun games with cute animals. The progression through each game is quick enough to keep kids' attention without being too fast-paced for preschoolers. Some of the suggested patterns for letter tracing are not typical and may confuse kids who are learning more traditional letter formation. Some parents who purchase this app because of the Montessori name will be pleased to see familiar letter groupings and the focus on beginning letter sounds, but they may be disappointed to see a star-and-sticker reward system, not the norm in the Montessori learning style.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about letter sounds. Notice and exaggerate beginning letter sounds of your kid's favorite things around the house, outside, or anywhere. Focus on a new letter each week or until it's clear that your kid is hearing and can repeat that isolated sound.

  • Encourage your preschooler to trace letters in sand, flour, or shaving cream -- anything that can help them "feel" their way into writing by having fun and without undue pressure to do things perfectly the first, second, or even 20th time. 

  • Read, play rhyming games, sing, and just talk a lot with your kid. The more ways your kid is exposed to language, the easier it will be for him to distinguish the letter sounds that lead to reading. 

App details

Devices:iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
Pricing structure:Paid
Release date:May 13, 2014
Size:53.20 MB
Minimum software requirements:iOS 6.1 or later

This review of Phonics Island Early Reading, Spelling & Tracing was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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