Literacy & Language Apps and Websites


Developing healthy routines and habits around screen use starts as soon as children are born. Mobile phones, tablets, TV’s, computers and other electronic devices are present for many children right from birth. At the Niagara Children Centre, we encourage parents to be aware of their child’s screen exposure and to establish positive screen routines early.

Guidelines for establishing family screen routines:

1. Parents are role models for a child’s early learning- we encourage parents to be mindful of their own screen use particularly when children are present.

2. Share screen time –take time to join your preschooler in front of the screen. By observing how your child engages in screen activities you can make the most of opportunities to build social communication and language skills. Comment on the fun elements of screen experiences and look for ways to extend those experiences into other daily activities.

3. Know your child- take time to consider your child’s age and abilities when selecting an app or television show to watch; common sense media provides reviews of apps and other screen media (TV, Films) by age and content to help guide your selections.

4. Set Limits –Limit daily screen time to one hour for children 2-5 years of age and create tech-free zones in your home (i.e. no screens at the dinner table, no screens in the bedroom). Understand that background TV noise can impact a child’s attention and learning during play. For more information visit this link

5. Preserve Traditional Play- Ensure that your child participates in a variety of unplugged activities daily including book sharing, creative play, song and outdoor experiences.


Helpful Parent Tips

Remember to consider your child’s individual needs and interests as you select apps and educational programming.  Consult your child’s Speech-Language Pathologist if you have specific questions about the best content for your child.

“Guided Access” allows you to add parental controls on app use.  This will prevent your preschooler from exiting the app you have selected for them and randomly exploring the iPad.  In order to exit the app your child will have to communicate to you that they have finished with current app and request another.

Setting up Guided Access Starting a Guided Access Session Ending a Guided Access Session
  • —  Tap Settings to open the menu
  • —  Tap General
  • —  Tap Accessibility
  • —  Turn Guided Access ON
  • —  Tap Set Passcode
  • Tap Home Button
  • Open the app you want to run
  • Triple-click the Home button
  • Tap Start
  • Triple-click the Home button.
  • Enter the Guided Access Passcode
  • Tap End

* It is important that you keep your password secure as children are very bright and can often figure out a passcode just by watching you do it!

Before you purchase apps, remember that the iPad and many mobile devices are equipped with many features that can be used to build language.  The following is a list of features and language based activities that you can try out on your tablet or smart phone:

1. Camera – take photos of your child and the people they are familiar with (e.g. grandma, grandpa, sisters, brothers, family pets); sit together and scroll through the photos talking about each relative using their name, talking about what they like to do, where they live, what color their eyes are, the possibilities are endless.  Your pictures can focus on words beginning with a specific sound if your child is working on certain speech target (e.g. cup, car, comb, cucumber); similarly if you are working on locations take a picture of your child or their favourite toy sitting on a chair, behind a chair, in front of a chair, beside a chair.

2. Video – capture your child or other family members in action as they go about their daily routines, play activities or special events.  Sit together and talk aloud about their accomplishments.  This type of activity is great for building action words (e.g. running, jumping, riding, washing, brushing, building, cleaning, baking). Capturing a sequence of events can help retell a story or event from beginning to end.

3. Facetime – when loved ones live far away or are away for work, Facetime allows for face to face communication that combines both visual and conversational exchange.  Granparents can read a favourite book via Facetime, telling the story and showing the pictures or they can simply have a conversation about the day’s events.  Children can connect with a favourite aunt or uncle to tell them about the awesome painting they made at preschool or their class trip to the pumpkin farm.

4. Notes – lets you practice drawing, play with letters and practice printing, you can insert a picture from your photo library and type or print words onto the note to create your own story.  You can even email or message to a friend or family to share the masterpiece.

Recommended Speech-Language & Emergent Literacy Apps and Websites

To provide you with a starting point we have compiled a list of our favourite speech-language and emergent literacy apps that we use in our practice with preschoolers.  Additionally, we have included web links to guide you to additional resources as you work with your child to build communication and early literacy skills.



cartoon panda doctor

Dr. Panda Apps, Dr. Panda Ltd

This series of apps offers a variety of interactive themes to choose from.  The app itself does not require the child to speak consequently adult participation is required to model the language that describes how you and your child help Dr. Panda as he tends to the animals in the hospital, flies a rocket ship to the moon, guides his animal friends through the airport to take off or delivers mail around town.

Extended Play: Join your child as he or she learns more about the world in these fun and engaging app.  Talk about similar real life experiences or dig through the toy box and re-create the events through pretend play.


Fairlady Media Preschool Pack: Fishing with Grandpa, Grandma’s Garden, Grandma’s Preschool & Grandma Loves Bugs

This Preschool Pack (also sold as individual apps) offers a multitude of learning opportunities from the development of basic concepts such as colour, shapes, numbers, matching and letter knowledge to vocabulary development, following directions and sequencing.

Extended Play: Check out your local toy store or consignment store for fishing games, kid’s garden tools, or classroom toys.  Plan a fishing trip, plant a garden, go on a nature walk and hunt for bugs or set up a mini classroom at home with stuffed animal students.  Remember to join the play and reverse roles every now and then to let your child play the “teacher”.

articulation station pro app icon

Articulation Station, Little Bee Speech

Sounds may be purchased individually or as a complete set.  This app contains digital flashcards and games to help your child practice speech sounds in words, phrases and sentences.  Adjustable settings allow you to select specific vocabulary and targets.

Extended Play: make a list of the words you practiced on the app and start a scavenger hunt to look for those objects around the house in books, toy boxes and cupboards or outsides as you go about your daily activities.

bear, mouse and cat cartoon with words: first phrases

First Phrases HD, Hamaguchi Apps

This app targets early phrase production with flexible settings to individualize to each child’s needs.  Animated characters act out the practice phrases as you practice saying simple commands using verbs, objects and location words.

Extended Play: act out the actions with your child or with toys in play.  Use your device camera to recreate the scenario with your child and introduce new characters or actions as your child’s skills grow.


More Fun With Directions, Hamaguchi Apps

Build language and listening skills with this adaptable app.  Settings permit you to select specific concepts and difficulty level for commands.  Location concepts are targeted along with familiar vocabulary.

Extended Play: use objects around the house or in your toy room to practice location concepts such as on, in, under, behind and in front as you play.


my playhouse app icon

My Playhome, Shimon Young

Build vocabulary and phrases for daily routines as you explore this animated dollhouse with your child.  Every imaginable household activity awaits your discovery with this app.  Endless opportunities to talk with your child about daily activities. Take turns talking about the mom, dad and children as you interact with them on screen.

Extended Play: Challenge yourself to find and talk about five activities around the house that match what you discover on screen (i.e. looking for popsicles in the freezer, picking flowers in the garden, putting rubber duckie in the bath, trying on fancy hats in mom’s closet or blowing bubbles in the bedroom.


endless alphabet logo

Endless Alphabet, Originator Inc.

Build Letter knowledge and vocabulary with this animated children’s dictionary. Children have fun listening to letter sounds and matching letters.  Listen together to the word definitions as the animated characters act them out.

Extended Play: Pick a word of the day from the app, write it out together, draw a small picture to accompany it and place it somewhere easy to see.  Think of ways to use the word appropriately in daily conversation and play.

Toca Tea Party, by Toca Boca AB

Toca Boca produces a series of apps that set the scene for talk about daily activities (e.g. Hair salon, Kitchen, Musical Band, Vacation, Farm, School).  The Tea Party app has many interactive features from setting the table and selecting the desserts to cleaning up spills and washing the dishes.

Extended Play: Set up a kid friendly tea set or picnic set along with your child’s favourite drink and snack.  Invite a friend, sibling or favourite dolly to join in the fun.  Practice pouring, requesting and using courtesy words (please, thank you) as you replay your Tea Party in real life.


Story Creator Pro, Innovative Mobile Apps

Bring your own stories to life by crafting a personalized story with photos and drawings you create with your child.  Document your preschooler’s experiences by taking photos of his or hers most memorable artwork, first trips, friends and family, birthday parties, sporting events and much more.  You can add text to each page and record voices as you tell the stories aloud.

Extended Play: Have your child share the digital book with a loved one.  As you snap your next round of photos with your device think about the story they will tell.


1.      The Hanen Centre Canadian based organization offering “Feature Articles” and “Tips for Parents” that are excellent resources for both parents and therapist looking for research based guidance to speech and language therapy.

2.      Mommy Speech Therapy  This website provides Free therapy resources including Speech handouts that provide sounds specific tips to elicit sounds and images for practice.

3.      Baby Chatter: Early Intervention for Speech & Language Click here to access a resource for parents and professionals on toys, playtime, early literacy and topics related to speech and language development.    Developed by two speech pathologists sharing practical tips and activities to engage your child.  

4.      The Friendship Circle This website is an on-line resources for parenting, special education, therapy tips, products and other supports for families of children with special needs.

5.      ASHAsphere   The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association Blog offers contributions from a variety of audiology and speech-language pathology professions related to current events and news in the field.

6.      Sandbox Learning  This website provides an array of resources for developing social communication skills.  A subscription allows you to create personalized social stories, however, the Articles under the Resources section are free and full of useful tips to enhance social skills across a wide range of daily routines and activities.

7.      No Time for Flashcards Creative ideas for play, crafts, books and early education with your infant, toddler or preschooler.  Trying to find an activity to build language or just pass the time on a rainy day check out this site.

8.      Teach Me to Talk This resource provides articles, resources and blogs on child language development and therapy tips.

1. Reading Rockets   This website offers a wealth of reading strategies, lessons, and activities designed to help young children learn how to read and read better. Our reading resources assist parents, teachers, and other educators in helping struggling readers build fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.

2. Kizclub-Learning Resources for Kids  Learning resources for kids featuring free worksheets, colouring pages and activities, stories and more!

3. ABC Life Literacy Canada  ABC Life Literacy Canada provides information that inspires Canadians to increase their literacy skills.  They connect communities and individuals to support lifelong learning. ABC Life Literacy Canada envisions a Canada where everyone has the skills they need to live a fully engaged life.

4. PBS Kids/Read  PBS Kids is a curriculum based media with a multitude of resources for parenting young children.  PBS Kids is a simple, safe first online experience for preschoolers.  Kids who are learning basic skills already know many of the characters featured here from popular PBS shows like Sesame Street and Barney will enjoy the interactive activities featuring their television friends.

5. Starfall  A systematic phonics approach, in conjunction with phonemic awareness practice, is perfect for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, special education, homeschool, and English language development (ELD, ELL, ESL). Starfall is an educational alternative to other entertainment choices for children. Our method of instruction motivates children in an atmosphere of imagination and enthusiasm, provides opportunities for child-directed instruction, and supports English language learners.

6. The KERA Kids & Family  A website designed to help parents and caregivers raise children who are socially and emotionally healthy and ready to succeed in school and life.

7. Get Ready to Read    An early learning resource to support parents, educators and young children.  The website offers Early Literacy Games, Webinars and Parent Checklists for home based literacy practices.

8. The Canadian Pediatric Society   Resources and recommendations to promote language and early literacy.