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When it comes to engaging your child at home, teaching them to read, or giving them a varied curriculum, it can be tough to (1) find something that works, (2) is affordable, and (3) you can trust.
However, it’s not a direct comparison. Hooked on Phonics is a great app for teaching kids how to read and ABC Mouse is a great learning tool for a variety of different subjects including reading, math, art, science, and language arts. So, depending on your needs, one might be a better fit than the other.
I will dive into more detail regarding the specific features of each app, how they work, and which solution is best for most situations so you can make a better decision about which might be the best choice for you.
Although Hooked on Phonics was first marketed in 1987, you may remember it from the mid-1990s when their phone number was 1-800-ABCDEFG and their tagline was “Hooked on Phonics worked for me!”
They use phonics to teach letter sounds with scaffolded stories to engage children in reading. What started out as a program that only used books soon expanded to a CD ROM for your computer.
Today, it’s composed of a variety of tools and materials including books, music, videos, computer games, flash cards, and an app.
- No distracting or dangerous ads
- $1 trial for 30 days includes all hard materials
- Mobile app on three devices, available offline
- Affordable monthly subscription
- Uses the phonics method for teaching
- Only three child profiles
- May require parent involvement to monitor progress
ABC Mouse hasn’t been around for quite as long as Hooked on Phonics, but their product offering covers a lot more ground in terms of subject matter.
It was founded in 2007 and offers an online learning platform for children to engage in a variety of activities including games, puzzles, videos and more. It’s directed at children ages 2-7 with a parent dashboard to monitor progress.
The great thing about ABC Mouse is that it caters to many different learning styles. The curriculum is developed by professional educators, and with a variety of different activities, every child will be captivated, no matter what type of instruction works for them.
Parent interaction will also help to guide them through the most difficult parts. You can also monitor their progress in one subject at a lower grade level than another subject, based on their abilities.
- Free trial
- No ads or external content
- Profiles and personalized curriculum
- Unlimited devices
- Parent dashboard for monitoring progress
- Monthly subscription cost
- Only three child profiles
Hooked on Phonics vs ABC Mouse: Side By Side Comparison
Both of these programs have a variety of features, but they vary so widely across the board that there will be some very clear winners in each category and you’ll be able to determine very quickly which you like better.
On the other hand, they’re both so great, maybe it will be hard to choose.
I’m not sure about you, but when it comes to giving my child access to online tools, I like to know they won’t have access to anything dangerous. And I definitely don’t like ads.
Hooked on Phonics is a fully contained app. Once you sign in and set up your child’s profile, they won’t have access to any outside content, material, or apps. There won’t be any distracting ads and they won’t be able to click out of it at any point.
This is great, because I think we all know how kids are. Any little thing that could possibly lead them to something more exciting, and they’ll click on it the first chance they get. Hooked on Phonics is pretty safe.
The look of the site is professional, and they offer a lot of detail when you read about the product to build your confidence. It’s not overly spammy and you’re not annoyed with popups.
ABC Mouse is the same way. In fact, the app is fully COPPA-compliant. There are no ads, no links to outside content, and the app is fully contained. Your child won’t be able to navigate away from it.
You even have to have a special code to get to the parent section of the site, so they can play and learn in their own zone without having access to anything they don’t need.
The Hooked on Phonics app is really fantastic. You still get reading materials every month when you subscribe, but the app is what really makes your monthly subscription worth it. It’s just so convenient.
When your child opens a game or activity, it’s automatically made available for them offline, so the next time you’re not connected to the internet, your child will be able to play it. Even when you’re sitting at the doctor and you don’t have Wi-Fi, your child can practice reading.
Unfortunately, it’s not the same for ABC Mouse. Your child won’t have offline access to any of their progress, so that’s not something you can count on.
However, Age of Learning, the parent company for ABC Mouse, does have other programs you can use in offline mode, some of which you may have access to with your ABC Mouse subscription, so you may need to look into that further for more information.
Other than that, the ABC Mouse app is well designed and quite easy to use. The graphics are great, although I don’t think it’s as great or as easy to use as Hooked on Phonics. ABC Mouse is really good at updating their displays for the season, though.
Winner: Hooked on Phonics
Hooked on Phonics offers a 30 day trial for just $1. While some other apps offer it for free, Hooked on Phonics really is a bargain. Your child, if dedicated enough, could breeze through the app and learn to read in 30 days for how good the app is.
Plus, you’ll get books in the mail, a progress chart, and reward stickers, too. With your help, this could be a really great value for you as a parent. You can also cancel at any time for any reason and you won’t be charged another penny.
You have a full 30 days to try the product, and you will likely see some really great progress with the product, even with the most reluctant readers. Phonics is one of the most effective ways to teach reading.
ABC Mouse offers a free trial, but it’s only for 14 days. It’s a great way to test out the product before you pay, which is also pretty dang affordable. The trial gives you unlimited access to all features so you can really try it out.
If you cancel it before your trial is up, you won’t be charged anything. There’s no penalty.
Both of these companies have pretty good trial programs, so I guess it depends on what you’re looking for. $1 is a steal for Hooked on Phonics, but how can you beat free? It’s a toss up.
As previously mentioned, neither app has ads. One thing I hate about free learning apps is all the ads. After every activity, every level, or every quest, there’s a 30 second ad. I don’t know what kid has a 30 second attention span to the next exciting thing, but it’s not mine.
They’re clicking on that thing, which means I’m either downloading it or paying for it. Luckily, that’s not happening with either one of these apps.
Once again, Hooked on Phonics offers offline availability and ABC Mouse does not. If you want your child to be able to keep track of their progress so they can do it on the Wi-Fi at home and in the car when there’s no internet, Hooked on Phonics is the clear winner.
However, ABC Mouse’s parent company may have some alternatives available to you. You’d just have to look into it to see if it’s an option.
Winner: Hooked on Phonics
Number of profiles
Hooked on Phonics allows you to register up to three users on the app. If you have more than three kids at a time that are trying to learn to read, which I suppose is possible, that’s somewhat of a limitation. But that would be an edge case.
I say three profiles is plenty for most families when it comes to the number of children needing to learn how to read at once.
ABC Mouse allows up to three profiles as well, which is probably more in line with their line of products, because their offering is for more subjects and a larger age group. It’s more likely you’ll have more children in the 2-7 year age range than the reading age range at one time.
In fact, you run the risk of this being more of a limitation than the three profiles for Hooked on Phonics. When you find your children graduating to the Adventure Academy product offering for ages 8-13, you may also find this limitation frustrating.
Winner: Hooked on Phonics
Number of devices
Hooked on Phonics limits the number of devices you can install the app on to three. If you and our spouse both have a phone and a tablet, you’re already over the number of devices you’re allowed to use.
This can be a frustrating limitation, and one I’d like to see go away. In fact, it seems to me that in the days when technology rules that this is a silly limitation. I understand its purpose, but 5-6 is a bit more realistic.
ABC Mouse allows you to install the app on an unlimited number of devices, which I appreciate. In our house, we have four kids and, like, 1000 devices. That’s an exaggeration, but some days it feels like that.
Because ABC Mouse doesn’t limit me, I feel like it’s much more usable for my family than Hooked on Phonics.
Winner: ABC Mouse
Hooked on Phonics sends reading materials to your door. Pretty cool. However, some people appreciate saving paper, and when they do want physical books, they appreciate being able to pick them out themselves.
The books Hooked on Phonics does send are in line with the curriculum your child should be completing at the time. However, there’s always a chance that they’re not. In which case, they’re kind of useless.
You can always opt for the printable activities that Hooked on Phonics offers to customize your child’s experience, which makes it better for you to give your child something they can use when they need it most.
ABC Mouse doesn’t send anything, but you can always print what you want from the app, and there are plenty of opportunities for that. It makes it easier for you to choose what will work best for your child, if anything at all.
Winner: Hooked on Phonics
Hooked on Phonics offers a dashboard for parents to monitor progress and see what activities your child is completing, but it’s really better if you’re engaged in your child’s learning at this age, and ABC Mouse is the same way.
Both parent dashboards give you some insight into what your child is doing, but you never really know unless you’re involved. I never like parent dashboards too much. I’d rather just interact with my child.
Stand out features
Both programs have features worth noting, so we shouldn’t pass up this opportunity to reiterate what’s unique about each. This should hopefully give you a better idea of which learning app will work best for you.
Hooked on Phonics
- Teaches reading through phonics: Phonics is a proven technique for teaching a child how to read. Because it teaches the child how to identify letters and the sounds they make, it will set them up for blending words rather than memorizing them by sight. This is a much more efficient way to learn and a much better way of setting a child up for long-term success.
- Offline availability: If you want the opportunity to allow your child to use the app both while you’re at home and while you’re out running errands, Hooked on Phonics allows this capability, whereas many other apps don’t. This is a great feature for parents who would rather entertain their child with something educational.
- Variety of subjects: Supplementing your child’s education with an app that can offer fun games, puzzles, and other activities is ABC Mouse’s specialty. It’s a great way to engage your child in a variety of different learning styles and keep them entertained so they’ll be able to learn at their own pace and stay engaged.
- Number of devices: For a program that will allow you an unlimited number of device installations, ABC Mouse is it. Once you sign up, you can install it on everything you own. You’ll never be without it again, which means your child can learn anytime, anywhere. Forgot your phone at home, but remembered your tablet? No problem!
While both of these programs are fantastic, it should be pretty clear by now which you should use.
Use Hooked on Phonics if:
- You’re struggling with a young child who needs to learn to read and you’d like to use the phonics method
- You want a program that offers an extended trial with a great value
- You want an ad-free, safe experience with an app that’s well-designed
- You need offline availability
Check out our comprehensive Hooked on Phonics review.
Use ABC Mouse if:
- You need more subjects than just reading
- You want to be able to install the app on an unlimited number of devices
- You want to be able to try it out with a free trial first
Check out our comprehensive ABC Mouse review.