Best vocabulary-building apps for kids

Best vocabulary-building apps for kids
A wide vocabulary will help your child succeed at primary school, secondary school and beyond. We've tried and tested the best apps for helping them learn new words.
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Best for learning new words

Vocab Ninja – Word of the Day, free, Apple

Taking a slow and steady approach to teaching children new vocabulary, Vocab Ninja delivers a new word every day to your child’s device, with a flossing ninja theme that’s certain to appeal to primary school kids.

Each day, the app provides your child with two new words, at Grasshopper and Shinobi level. Grasshopper level is intended specifically for kids, with words such as scratch, frighten, wrong and together. Shinobi level offers more complicated words which are better suited to older children, like foliage, dishevelled and reverberate.

The app gives the definition of the word of the day, an example sentence, synonyms and antonyms, possible prefixes and suffixes, and a challenge for your child to complete using the new word.

Best for Early Years children

My First 1000 Words – Flashcards and Kids’ Games, £2.99, Apple

This picture-based app is aimed at children aged six and under, and introduces them to a whole range of words – over 1,500 of them – that they’ll encounter in everyday life.

The words are grouped by category (such as Animals, My Home and Around Town), and then into more specific sub-categories (like Birds, Primates and Large Mammals). Each word has its own flashcard with a photographic image of the object and the word written underneath, helping your child learn the relationship between the item and its name. They can also hear the word spoken aloud (although the voiceover is American).

There are various vocabulary-boosting games for your child to play, such as Find the Word and Find the Image, and you can ‘favourite’ the flashcards that they like looking at the most. You can also create your own flashcards by adding photos and recording your voice saying the word.

Best for learning National Curriculum vocabulary

Let’s Do Spelling, £3.99, Apple

The Let’s Do Spelling apps from Andrew Brodie are a suite of age-differentiated apps for children age five to six up to age 10 to 11, and will help your child master spelling and using the words they’re expected to know during primary school.

Aligned to National Curriculum word lists, the apps have three different modes: Quick Quiz, Practice, and Progress Tests. Each question has a sentence with a blank to fill in, using the ‘learn, write, check’ method used in most primary schools. The sentence is read aloud, and the missing word repeated. You can also devise your own tests based on words your child finds difficult.

These apps are good not just for practising spellings, but also for learning to use new words in context. The age 10 to 11 app is particularly suited to SATs preparation, containing all the words your child needs to know to succeed.

Best word games

VocabularySpellingCity, $34.95 per year, Apple and Android

VocabularySpellingCity may be on the pricey side, but with over 40 different vocab-building word games for your child to get stuck into, and thousands of new words to learn, it definitely offers value for money.

The app includes a range of activities, from simple spelling and sentence-writing tasks to interactive games that make learning new words fun, such as Splat ‘n’ Spell, crosswords and Hangman (or rather, Hangmouse!). There are over 1,000 premade word lists for your child to play with, covering all ages and stages from Reception to Year 13, or you can create your own – for example, with their weekly spelling words.

The app is proven to help improve vocabulary and reading comprehension, with your child’s progress reports stored in the Grading and Records area. Your subscription covers up to five students, so it’s great for ensuring that siblings all get equal opportunity to build their vocabulary.

Best for children with special educational needs

Spell Aid Kids UK app

Spell Aid Kids UK, 99p, Apple

Spell Aid Kids UK is a brilliant vocabulary app for all primary school children, but especially those with special needs such as dyslexia, with a database of over 10,000 words.

There are four different search methods, including one where children can input the letters in the word they want to find in any order: ideal for kids who find spelling a challenge. Each entry gives a definition of the word and extra information like synonyms and example sentences, and many also have images. Your child can choose to have the word spelled out by either a male or female voice with a British accent.

Special features for children with additional needs, such as dyslexia, colour blindness and visual processing disorders include the ability to change the font, size, colour and background colour, and the split-screen function means they can have it running alongside their word processing program.

Best thesaurus

Thesaurus by Meedo Media, 99p, Apple

Using a thesaurus can drastically improve your child’s writing by giving them alternatives to commonly used words. Thesaurus is a simple, user-friendly app that, although not aimed at kids, will help broaden their vocabulary.

Your child types in their chosen word in the search bar, and Thesaurus will quickly provide them with a selection of synonyms, related words and similar terms, plus antonyms for many words. They can then choose which to use in their writing to make it more colourful.

Your child can ‘favourite’ words that they use regularly for quick reference. The cute dinosaur logo also gives the app an extra dash of child-appeal.

Best dictionary

Oxford Dictionary of English app

Oxford Dictionary of English, free or £9.49 per year for premium edition, Apple and Android

While using a paper dictionary is an important skill for children to master, electronic versions can be very handy at times. The Oxford English Dictionary is world’s most trusted English dictionary, and puts over 350,000 words and phrases at your child’s fingertips.

As well as searching conventionally by typing in the word, your child can do an audio search by saying the word aloud – handy if they don’t know how to spell it – or scan a word using their device’s camera. Each word has a plain English definition plus an example sentence, and your child can ‘favourite’ their most used words.

The app is constantly being updated with the latest vocabulary, and there’s a word of the day option to keep expanding your child’s word knowledge. The free version of the app is fine for most purposes, but paying for the premium version removes ads and unlocks features like audio pronunciations.

Best for a challenge

Vocabulary Builder by Magoosh app

Vocabulary Builder by Magoosh, free, Apple and Android

This app will put your child through their paces by testing them on the definitions of 1,200 words.

Words are grouped by difficulty level; don’t be put off by the Americanised terms, which simply equate to basic, intermediate and advanced. Each level contains a number of quizzes, where your child is presented with a word and has to pick the correct definition from a choice of four. Once they’ve made their selection, they’re given an example sentence using that word. Words that they get wrong are repeated until they’ve mastered them, and will then disappear from subsequent quizzes.

There’s also a game mode, where your child is pitted against a random opponent and has to correctly match as many words as possible with their definitions, against the clock.

Best writing aid

The Creative Writing Companion, free, Apple

This free app will help your child improve their writing skills by boosting their vocabulary.

It features an extensive range of word banks, including verbs, adverbs, connectives, feelings, character traits, synonyms for ‘said,’ sensory adjectives and sentence starters. By clicking on any category, your child will be presented with a list of words that they can use in their writing. The only slight drawback is that the app doesn’t provide definitions, so it’s a good idea for your child to keep a dictionary close by to look up meanings.

The app also includes guides to various different types of writing – such as writing a story, writing to describe and writing to argue – with explanations of the features of each kind, plus examples for your child to model their work on.

Best for 11+ preparation

11+ Vocab Builder by Eleven Plus Exams, £3.99, Apple

Having a wide vocabulary is essential if your child is taking the 11+. This app will help them learn new words, chosen to mirror those commonly found in grammar school entrance exams.

The app features around 4,000 words, divided into eight question types, including synonyms, antonyms, compound words and anagrams. Your child is tested on 50 questions at a time – a similar number to the 11+ test – with points awarded according to how long they spend on each problem.

It records your child’s progress across the 10 most recently taken tests, so you can review which areas need more practice, and there are reward certificates for them to collect as an incentive.