App Review: First Phrases

Our article Technology Use for Children with Down Syndrome: The iPad was so popular, we have decided to expand upon it with a series of app review articles that will allow us to focus on some of the apps we find most-useful here at Talk and Total. Our first article in the series will focus on an app called First Phrases.


First Phrases is currently one of our most used iPad apps. It is available through Hamaguchi Apps, an agency where we have uploaded several of their other apps. First Phrases is suggested for children ages 2-4 years who are just beginning to put together 2-3 words; however, we use it with our older children who are beginning to read too. It provides the child the opportunity to hear, see, and say (by recording) 72 different verb+noun combinations, such as “turn off the light,” or “drive the bus.” Each phrase is then animated by cute animals or children. There are 17 verbs such as drink, eat, jump on, turn on, drop, etc.
What the child does is tell the cute animals what to do by touching the illustrated parts of the phrases in the correct order (verb + adjective + object: “drop the cake.”) The child hears the pre-recorded phrases being modeled, then s/he watches the animal perform the command, and then it’s the child’s turn to say it or to tell the animal what to do. The child’s recording is accomplished by touching the microphone icon and speaking the phrase previously heard.
Options available include having the text under the pictures turned on or off, the recording feature turned on or off, girl or boy voices, the phrases presented in either 2 segments (verb+object) or three segments (verb+adj+object), and where the order of the icon phrases are scrambled so the child has to arrange them in the correct order.


The First Phrases app has several advantages for young children with special needs, such as producing speech sound in context, stringing words together, memorizing immediate phrases, sequencing left-to-right, reading early text, and acquiring new vocabulary words.