Kids these days are all about the electronics. It's almost like they are born with an inate aptitude, skillfully finding the games on Mom's smartphone by the age of 2 or 3. These phones and tablets can be wonderful learning tools, with so many educational apps and websites available to explore. Now there's a new twist on educational apps, with the award-winning Osmo system.
Osmo is designed to work with your iPad or iPad Mini, and provides a way to combine electronic and hands-on, real life play. The system comes with a base to hold your device, and a reflector to aim its camera down to see what you are creating in front of it. The base system, available from Amazon.ca (affiliate link), comes with 4 games - Words, Masterpiece, Tangram and Newton. Other add-on games include Monster, Coding, and Numbers.
Boo and I tried out Tanagram, Coding, and Words.
The Osmo system is suggested for kids aged 5-12, and individual games may be better suited to one end of that range than the other. Words, for instance, displays pictures and prompts the user to guess the image and spell out the word. You can play on your own in Zen mode, or choose versus mode for a competitive challenge. The game comes with 150+ images, and you can download more from myOsmo online. Boo found this one pretty basic, and I would think it would be great for the 4-7 age range. That being said, the Osmo website mentions that the words do get more difficult as you progress in the Classic mode, and can become challenging even for adults, so we will have to give this one another try. I think Boo just got bored pretty quickly with how easy it was to start.
Coding is the one I was most excited for, and it was pretty cool. You code with physical blocks, to instruct Awbie, a strawberry-loving character, how to move through a maze (left, right, up, how many steps, etc.). Kids need to use logic and problem-solving to give Awbie the correct directions. In the image above, you can see Boo starting the code with the first two commands. Once the pieces are laid out, you hit play and the camera picks up the instructions, sending Awbie off on his adventure. It is very basic coding, but it gets the brain working in the way a coder's mind must.
Boo's favourite of the three games was Tanagram. I didn't realise how old the game is, but apparently it's been around for over a thousand years. In this version though, you get instant feedback from your digital device, to let you know you've placed the correct piece. Tanagram provides over 500 different puzzle shapes to recreate, organised in to skill levels from easy to difficult. The game screen shows you the image to create, and you use physical Tanagram pieces to bring the creation to life. In easier levels you are aided with colour-coding, but as you progress, the images to re-create are all in outline only. This game develops visual problem-soving skills and spatial awareness. And it's fun!
You can purchase individual games to go with your Osmo kit. All games include a free app download. Monster allows you to interact with Mo, a big furry monster. You draw things that appear in the app with him. Masterpiece guides you in recreating pictures into your own drawings. Upload an image, and Masterpiece will convert it into a line drawing, then project that outline onto a page for you to trace. Newton teaches physics, and Numbers, of course, teaches math concepts. Newton and Masterpiece do not require any special physical pieces, so you can simply download those free apps once you have the base kit.
A couple of notes. The Osmo system is super easy to set up and use. Just be sure you have wi-fi or data to download the apps you need. We were playing at first on carpet, and it seemed that a firmer surface would have been better, to keep game pieces from moving around, and to keep a steady camera. Also - be aware of the lighting. Your iPad camera may have trouble picking up the details of the pieces in low light, or if the sun is shining right on your play area (we encountered that, and it took a minute to figure out the problem.)
Osmo is currently available for iOS only, but they are looking in to adding an Android version in future. The kit is sold without the iPad, so you have to have your own device.
Disclosure: I received complimentary product for review purposes. No financial compensation was received. All opinions on this blog remain my own, or those of my family.