App review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2015
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Simple alphabet review with animal drawings that escape off the screen

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Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, World Languages, Creativity

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Pros: Creative combination of digital animation and pencil-and-paper drawings.

Cons: There's still room to expand how this app might blur the lines between what kids do on- and off-screen.

Bottom Line: Basic letter learning gets a bit more exciting with this activity that blurs the lines between the digital and physical worlds.

Teachers can use Drawnimal as a fun way to review and reinforce alphabet learning. Kids can create their own alphabet posters, for example. Give kids a big sheet of paper and have them draw each animal side by side. Let them fill in the empty space left by where the device used to be with their own versions of the animals, and have them write the corresponding letter and animal name. Talk with kids about letter sounds as well as letter names to help them grasp how letter sounds form phonemes and words.

Use the language options to reach kids whose native language is included in the available selections. Or, help kids learn a foreign alphabet and introduce them to animal names in a foreign language.

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Use paper and pencil to complete animal drawings and explore letters and corresponding animal names in Drawnimal. Instructions direct kids to lay their device on a drawing surface and choose a letter (kids can work in alphabetical order or choose at random). Each letter is associated with an animal and a partial drawing. Kids see a demonstration of how to complete the animal by drawing body parts like a tail, ears, or fins on the paper around the edges of the device. Tap when finished to hear the letter and animal name (for example, A is for Alligator). Tap again to see a mini-animation. Scroll to keep moving through the alphabet, or tap to choose another letter. There are five languages available: English, Spanish, German, French, and Italian.

Drawnimal's "outside the device" approach is a unique and creative way to integrate a screen-based game with activity beyond the screen. The device becomes just another drawing tool rather than the be-all, end-all entire experience. For this, Drawnimal gets top marks for taking an innovative first step. At this point, though, the interplay between screen activity and non-screen activity is limited to kids making just a few drawing marks on a piece of paper. There's still a lot of room for expanding ways to blur the lines between and synchronize what kids do with a screen and what they do off-screen.

Kids work on creativity and fine-motor skills as they draw around the device. They also get a simple review of the alphabet from seeing letters and hearing the letter names spoken out loud. Five language options make Drawnimal accessible for kids who speak those languages, or for kids who want to learn the alphabet and some animal names in another language.

Overall Rating


Kids' own drawings steal the show and make for a fun, engrossing experience. Silly animations are fun, but very short. Content is limited, though five language options provide a bit more material to keep kids engaged.


Kids express their creative side through following along or expanding on drawing suggestions. They'll practice fine motor movements as they draw around the device. Plus, kids review letter and animal names through visuals and audio narration.


There's good how-to play support, and five languages make the app accessible to kids beyond the English-speaking world. Extension suggestions would take learning to the next level.

Common Sense reviewer
Mieke VanderBorght Researcher

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