The Letters Game

The Letters Game - Fox

A game for toddlers for learning letters and animals.

"Find the letter H..."

The Letters Game - Gameplay

"I is for Iguana!"

The Letters Game - Gameplay

The Letters Game

With a toddler bouncing around in our home, we decided to build a learning game. We asked ourselves, “How do we best teach our daughter?” She was 24 months old at the time.

These ideas were appealing:

  • Speak calmly, clearly, and with a normal voice
  • Toddlers like searching for something that can be found without too much effort
  • Toddlers enjoy looking at animal photos (and so do we)


The game has two modes.

  • Challenge Mode - "Find the letter C" from among 4 random letters
  • Reward Mode - "C is for cheetah!" while showing a high quality photo of a cheetah

Alternating between these learning modes turned out to be very effective. We fine-tuned the timing. We were very happy to see multiple play sessions in excess of 10 minutes. After seeing the learning modes in action, it really makes sense.

In challenge mode, the toddler is excited to find the letter in order to see the new animal photo. In reward mode, the animal photo is shown for approximately 5 seconds before the game reverts back to challenge mode. We found this to be the optimal amount of time between enjoying the animal photo and not losing focus. The toddler is left itching to find the next letter so they can see the next animal photo.

  • Extra large buttons are easy for a toddler to press (or mash). When our daughter started playing, she used full-hand button-mashes. As she approached age 3, she advanced to finger touches.
  • The correct button begins to bounce after approximately 5 seconds. The child will learn with or without adult supervision.
  • In addition to learning their letters, they learn the names of 71 different animals.
  • Multiple background scenes are rotated for variety.
  • The UI is designed for Toddlers. There are no complicated menus or extra buttons that a toddler can accidentally hit.

Something for the Adults

The game was designed and built for toddlers. It works great! What about the adults? We developed several nice anti-annoyance features

  • We are parents. We get it. Repetition is annoying.
  • The same letter-to-guess will not be repeated for several game cycles
  • When the same letter does eventually come up for guessing again, the various animals for that letter will be rotated. It may take 5 minutes or more of game play to see the same animal twice.
  • When the same animal does eventually come up again, a different photo is shown. It may take 15 minutes or more for the same photo to be shown.
  • We recorded many audio clips for variations on “Correct” and another set of clips for “Incorrect”.
  • The high-resolution, creative-commons photos are pretty nice to look at
  • And finally, No Advertisements!

Why Photos?

Why use animal photos when so many games go for illustrations? Illustrations can be quite effective at teaching about animals. However, we felt that showing real photos of the real world would create a better learning mechanism. Additionally, and nearly as importantly, the photos are high quality and quite interesting for parents and teachers to look at.