Poio phonics app - review 2019

QA Education editor Victoria Galligan reviews the new Scandi Poio phonics app that's proving a hit with parents…

When I heard about the new app Poio, which is a phonics learning app for children aged 3-8, I knew my three-year-old daughter Amy would love to try it. And with reviews online saying it had helped children learn to read after they'd had difficulty in the past, my curiosity was piqued. What made it better than other phonics apps?

Amy has been using a tablet since she could swipe – that’s not to say she can’t turn the pages in a book though! As a qualified primary school teacher and mum to a seven-year-old, I have downloaded a number of educational apps over the years with varied results. A truly worthwhile app (especially one you have paid for) must not only teach children and show their progress, but also hold their attention and develop enough as the game goes on to provide play longevity. 

Phonics app with variety 

When we began using Poio, Amy had already learned most of the letters and basic sounds in the alphabet through talking and singing, reading books at home and picking up on letters and sounds in her nursery lessons. But she had yet to master blending – often coming out with sentences like: “B-E-D –– cat!” Amy also loves to be like her big sister and do “homework” on the iPad. So we sat down with the Poio app and got started on learning together.

Poio phonics app - review

The game is centred around an island which you navigate through level by level – a mixture of dark and spooky backgrounds, with bright and colourful touches, the design is bold and the animations are slick. As you meet the characters one by one, it’s clear they have been named carefully – Anna, Ebbe, Poio, Otto and friends all have different characteristics. Anna, for example, only eats the letter A.

We had to move the characters around the screen through various levels with different letters and words on them. There are crystals to crush, bubble words to form and coins to collect – all of which made Amy very excited!

She also had to unlock characters trapped in cages by finding the correct sound key which matched a letter on the padlock. 

Poio phonics app - review


The game also features writing as children can trace the outline of letters. Amy found this hard on her own so I helped her at the start, but after a few tries she began to have a go herself and did very well, focusing on the shape of the letters and writing them carefully through sheer determination!

Learning a raft of words 

Unlike other apps we had used before, Poio showed the user letter and sounds in a wide variety of different formats – as letters, words and in sentences and within multiple different scenarios in the game. 

One scenario is pulling the words apart sound by sound – by doing this Amy also got used to reading digraphs, two letters that make up one sound like ‘sh’ and ‘th’. She had to build the words up sound by sound and blend together to read the whole word. Although Amy still needed some help with blending, she was learning the order of sounds in a word and her guesses at the word were closer –– so “TH-I-S –– the” for example. 

Poio phonics app - review

I can see how continued use of the app, along with Amy’s nursery phonics lessons, will help her to master blending very soon. And emails sent by Poio inform parents of exactly which sounds your child has mastered and which they are still practising – I haven’t come across feedback like this before on a children’s app and this proof that your child is progressing is what really sets Poio apart from its competitors.

Building up a story 

As we “collected” words, which floated in the sea around the island map, they built up to form a storybook called Poio And The Readlings. The first chapter, The Troll That Cannot Read, is built up of words from level 1. After collecting a few words we’d read parts of the story together. This code-cracking exercise is a great way to keep children motivated to find more words and continue using the app.

Poio phonics app - review

In fact, Poio has become Amy’s favourite app and she asks to use it every day now, so she can complete her “homework”. And with her phonics improving week on week, I am happy to spend some educational screen time together!

In school, I can see this app really benefiting children who are struggling to grasp phonics – the creator of Poio, Daniel Senn, has a child with hearing difficulties and wanted to develop an app which focused on play and encouragement, ensuring children don’t get “stuck” on levels which can lead to discouragement. I can thoroughly recommend to parents and teachers and look forward to Amy mastering the whole game as she progresses through her early years phonics education!

Poio is available on the App Store and Google Play, priced £18.99.