At a recent Family Camp experience with twenty other young Jewish families, I noticed something that had changed from the previous year’s gathering. iPads. This year, they were everywhere. You might think that it was the adults using Apple’s slick tablets to read books, check email, or play Angry Birds. But it was actually the youngest of participants who were using the iPad, which could be the most expensive toy for the under 5 demographic.

App developers have realized that four-year-olds might not have her own iPad, they are using Mom and Dad’s quite often. And they are creating apps for toddlers and kindergarteners with that in mind. Chicago-based Davka Corp. released Alef Bet Schoolhouse 1.0, a universal app for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad that introduces Hebrew letter basics to children ages 3 and up. Priced at $3.99 and available exclusively through the App Store, it features four activities that teach pronunciation of Hebrew letters, recognition of letter shapes, the order of the Hebrew alphabet, and the differences between letters of similar appearance.

The ‘Meet the Alef Bet’ section displays each Hebrew letter with a picture of a word that begins with that letter, accompanied with delightful animation and audio pronunciation of the letter and word. The ‘Magical Alef Bet Game’ presents a sequence of Hebrew letters that need to be placed in their proper order. The ‘Unscrambulator’ requires players to reassemble scrambled Hebrew letters into their correct shapes, while ‘Name that Letter’ places different letters of similar appearance on the screen that must be identified and distinguished from one another.

Hopefully, Davka’s new app will help thousands of little preschoolers get a head start on their Hebrew literacy with the iPad. That is, if they can keep their parents from playing Angry Birds long enough to get some screen time!