Tiggly Submarine: Explore the Depths of Short Vowels & Phonics

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
Tiggly Submarine: Explore the Depths of Short Vowels & Phonics App Poster Image
Unique hybrid app and toy takes phonics under the sea.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn vowel sounds and how they're used in words. They'll encounter short vowel sounds at the beginnings of words and in the middles of simple words. They'll see more complex, sea-related words, too, and complete a word with the correct vowel when given a picture and the beginning and end of the word. If kids use the toys, they'll get to interact with the device in a new way, which adds a layer to learning. Tiggly Submarine: Explore the Depths of Short Vowels & Phonics is a cool way for kids to see vowels in action and learn some new words.

Ease of Play

Very responsive to letter toys and can be played without them. Verbal instructions for nonreaders and kids are free to explore.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

Can be played without purchasing Tiggly Words, but the games are not as rigorous or engaging.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tiggly Submarine: Explore the Depths of Short Vowels & Phonics is one of a suite of hybrid apps that pairs with a toy to give kids a new way to interact with their tablets. The games can be played without the vowel-shaped toys, but they add a different level of play to the activities. The toys -- Tiggly Words, colorful lowercase vowels made of a soft plastic and conductive silicone -- retail for $29.99 and includes a link to download three apps for free. Without the toy, the app can be purchased in the app store.

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What's it about?

After choosing to play TIGGLY SUBMARINE: EXPLORE THE DEPTHS OF SHORT VOWELS & PHONICS with the Tiggly Words toys or fingers, kids navigate a little yellow submarine through the ocean, stopping at different reefs for a vowel-related activity. They can play knock-knock with the vowel toys, tapping a letter on the door to see and hear a word that uses that vowel or feed an octopus foods that include the chosen vowel. The submarine becomes a vacuum to suck out the given object if kids tap the correct letter to the screen. There's some free-play fun thrown in too. Kids can run the sub through a car wash or create vowel-shaped fish by randomly tapping the letters on the screen. 

Is it any good?

With or without the toys, kids can explore phonics in a fun way, but the toys let kids touch the vowels and use the screen in a more interactive way. Also, the phonics covered go deeper than beginning letter sounds to also cover vowel sounds in the middles of words, though sometimes the "a" and "o" short sounds are very similar. Kids are in control of where they navigate and which activities they complete. The words do get repetitive after a bit of play, but many included words are unexpected ("escolar," "inconnu," and "ospry") so some repetition is helpful.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about vowel sounds, emphasizing the vowels in three-letter words to help kids notice and recognize vowels.

  • Play word games with kids -- no toys required. Rhyming will familiarize them with word families. Naming things with the same starting sound will help them recognize letter and phonetic sounds.

App details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love phonics and early reading apps

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