The 7 Best Phonics Toys for Preschoolers

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When children enter preschool during the ages between 3 and 5, there are many important skills they learn. Children learn to sing songs, hold a pencil with their fingertips, write their name, cut with scissors, put on and take off a coat, and manage their personal items, such as a backpack or a lunch bag. 

They develop the understanding that when these letters are put together, they make words and that these words can be sounded out when reading. Through a lot of repetition and practice, these skills are foundational for early reading and phonics. 

Here are some phonics toys that allow kids to explore letters and sounds in a more relaxed way, which may help them when they enter school and make the complicated skill of reading a little less challenging.

Our Top Picks
Kids will learn about the alphabet, how to spell their name, and more on this pretend play computer.
It is small, portable, and even includes a magnetic backing to be placed on a refrigerator, metal door, or magnetic whiteboard.
Parents and gift-givers can choose a tablet with different features that is the best size and experience for their child.
Best for Reading:
LeapFrog LeapReader at Amazon
Many LeapReader books include popular children's titles from Dr. Seuss or stories featuring Disney characters.
Using spiral-bound books with beautiful illustrations, kids can answer multiple-choice questions using the stylus pen.
Best for Educational Games:
VTech InnoTab Educational Tablets at Amazon
Educational learning tablets like this encourage children to play letter and phonics games utilizing a durable touchscreen.
Best for Beginners:
VTech Lil' SmartTop at Amazon
Children can enjoy four modes of play that teach stories, shapes, letters, phonics, and music on this laptop-shaped toy.

Best Overall: LeapFrog My Own Leaptop

LeapFrog My Own Leaptop
Pros
  • Teaches children how to spell their name

  • Four learning modes

Cons
  • No headphone jack

  • Only available in English

Leap into learning with this educational laptop designed for children ages 2 to 4 years old. Kids will learn about the alphabet, how to spell their name, and more on this pretend play computer.

Dance along to 16 songs and watch your child learn through four different gaming modes: ABCs, Messages, Games, and Music. The laptop teaches the alphabet, sounds of letters, words, let’s children engage with Scout while also playing fun learning games to keep their mind sharp.

Best Budget: LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set

LeapFrog Fridge Phonics
Pros
  • Budget-friendly

  • 26 interactive alphabet tiles

Cons
  • Only offers English

  • No storage bag for magnets

This is a great first phonics toy for younger children who are learning to identify uppercase letters and their corresponding letter sounds. It is small, portable, and even includes a magnetic backing to be placed on the front of the refrigerator, on a metal door, or on a magnetic whiteboard. Children choose a letter, use their hands to maneuver it into place just like a puzzle, then push it to hear the letter and letter sound through a short song.

Best Splurge: LeapFrog LeapPad Educational Tablets

LeapFrog LeapPad Ultra XDi
Pros
  • Teacher-approved websites

  • Educational games/activities

Cons
  • Some tablets need Wi-Fi

  • Costly

Educational tablets in the LeapFrog LeapPad series provide children with phonics games and activities using a durable, touchscreen tablet. Kids play games through individual cartridges or by downloading apps from the LeapFrog App Center. Kids can safely surf the internet on teacher-approved websites. There are a variety of LeapPad tablets of varying price ranges, that include the LeapFrog EPIC and LeapFrog Platinum tablets. Parents and gift-givers can choose a tablet with different features that is the best size and experience for their child. 

Best for Reading: LeapFrog LeapReader

LeapFrog LeapReader
Pros
  • Large stylus pen

  • Several different book options

Cons
  • Only English versions available in U.S.

  • Pen does not actually write

LeapReader books are amazing. A LeapReader (previous known as the TAG reader), is a large stylus pen. Kids can touch the pen to the pages of the book and learn vocabulary words, how to sound out words, and answer questions by playing reading comprehension games. This toy will grow with your child as their skills advance. The pen is also able to read entire books out loud and on special paper, kids can also use it to learn to write. Many LeapReader books include popular children's titles from Dr. Seuss such as The Cat in the Hat or stories featuring Disney characters. The LeapReader Jr. (formerly known as the TAG Jr.) is for younger children ages 1-3 and uses durable board books.

Best for Independent Learning: Educational Insights Pete the Cat Hot Dots

Pete the Cat Hot Dots Jr.
Pros
  • Promotes independent learning

  • Red/Green lights responsive for correct/incorrect answers

Cons
  • Pen does not read questions

  • No headphone jack

Pete the Cat is a famous friend of preschoolers. Kids love when their teachers and parents read Pete the Cat books. Using spiral-bound books with beautiful illustrations, featuring Pete the Cat and friends, kids can answer multiple-choice questions using the stylus pen. Placing the pen on the correct "dot" will either make lights and sounds or both to indicate whether the choice was correct or incorrect. Parents should work together with their children using these workbooks, as some children may not be able to read the questions.

Best for Educational Games: VTech InnoTab Educational Tablets

New InnoTab Max Android Tablet for Kids
Pros
  • Can be personalized

  • Up to six hours of battery life

Cons
  • Memory card not included

Educational learning tablets such as the VTech InnoTab series of tablets also encourage children to play letter and phonics games utilizing a durable touchscreen. Games are downloaded online through the Learning Lodge or with cartridges purchased at retail stores. With these tablets, children can browse the internet, watch videos and text family members through a secure connection with teacher-approved websites VTech also has an Android-based tablet, the InnoTab MAX.

Best for Beginners: VTech Lil' SmartTop

VTech Lil' SmartTop
Pros
  • Budget-friendly

  • Four modes of play

Cons
  • Only available in English

  • Screen is not backlit

If you're wanting a phonics toy that's great for beginners, check out this toy from VTech. Shaped like a laptop, children ages 18 months old and up can enjoy four modes of play that teach stories, shapes, letters, phonics, and music. Within those four modes of play, there's 20 melodies and 10 different activities.

There's also a built-in handle, so children can transport the toy wherever they go with ease. It requires two AA batteries and comes with a USB cable to hook up to a computer for more personalization.

If you’re still stuck on what phonics system to go with, check out our Best Overall pick, the LeapFrog My Own Leaptop (view at Amazon). Dance along to 16 songs and watch your child learn through four different gaming modes: ABCs, Messages, Games, and Music. There’s also the VTech InnoTab Educational Tablets (view on Amazon), which are a series of tablets that encourage children to play letter and phonics games utilizing a durable touchscreen. Games are downloaded online through the Learning Lodge or with cartridges purchased at retail stores.

What to Look for When Buying Phonics Toys for Preschoolers

Entertaining

Whether your child will be using their phonics toy at home with you or by themselves, you want a toy that’s entertaining. While learning won’t always be fun for children, you can help make it fun by purchasing an entertaining phonics toy. 

Look for a toy that not only hits the mark educationally for your child, but also features games and activities. These games can also be educational, but they keep learning fun and your child engaged so they don’t become bored too quickly. 

Some phonics toys also come with a camera that can help pass the time for your child. These can also help your child tap into their creative side and maybe even a new passion when they’re not learning school work. 

Age-Appropriate

Before buying a phonics toy, you want to ensure it’s age-appropriate for your child. Check the manufacturer’s age recommendation before purchasing, but also consider your child’s learning level. 

If your child is behind on learning the alphabet or just needs some extra work at home, consider a phonics toy that teaches specifically reading. Or, if they need help with reading, some phonics toys focus on that subject by teaching words and how they sound. Overall, you just want to make sure the toy matches where your child is at academically while also challenging them. 

Challenging

As for a phonics toy that is challenging, you want to encourage your child to continue learning past what they already know. Look at a phonics toy that focuses on an area your child could use help with, but also delves into more subjects your child hasn’t hit yet. This will ensure your child is learning at their academic level while still encouraging them to learn more. 

Why Trust Verywell Family?

Katrina Cossey has been a digital content producer and news and feature writer for more than six years. She has covered topics ranging from local and national news as well as writing and researching parenting content. Katrina is a parent herself, and bought the LeapFrog LeapReader for a young family member. She loved how the large stylus pen taught children vocabulary words and how to sound them out.

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