Toy of the month – February 2017

This month is a little follow on from last month’s awesome Marbotic Smart Numbers range. This month we look at the Smart Letters range from this fabulous French company.

The Smart Letters range is all about alphabet recognition, learning the sounds of the letters, getting familiar with lower, upper case and even cursive letters. It has varying degrees of difficulty but overall is best suited to 3- 10 years old.

I will say that although I have outlined a very extensive review of the Smart Letters range below, my children worked out how to complete each app and its variations intuitively without any of my guidance. However, for us adults, I found it most helpful to look up the parents corner in each app to read about what the app entailed.  I thought it would be useful to provide an overview for you to understand exactly what you get for your money.

The Smart letters range are distributed exclusively in Australia by Keld Industries who kindly sent me the range to test out and review.

For the Smart Letters range from Marbotics, again they offer 3 free apps with the product and within each app there are different variations for the child to play with.

Vocabubble: 

Vocabubble is the first Smart Letters app we downloaded and it is an app ideally suited to 2 people.

Using illustrations by John M. Carrera from a Pictorial version of Webster’s Dictionary, you are presented with 2 boxes, titled “Letter 1” and “Letter 2”. The child alongside the adult, sibling or friend, picks a wooden letter and taps it in the box. It sounds out the letters and once the 2 letters have been chosen, you click “Ok”. Pictures start dropping down that represent vocabulary for the letters, for example for E, pictures of an elephant or egg drop down and for F there are pictures of a flower, factory, ferret, and fish.

An older child may be able to do this app him or herself using both hands as I found I could do this as an adult, but younger children would need to play this app with another person.

I found some of the pictures limiting for the letters but the kids really enjoyed this app possibly the most out of all of them, as it was the most like a game.

Alphamonster:

Once you click through for the Alphamonster app, you are presented with a set of scales. If you click on either side of the scales or indeed the bottom of the scales, you enter into a different part of the app. There are 3 elements to this app which is great!

The left hand side of the scales takes you to a monster with a screen, some chutes and big empty space for his face. If you pop a wooden letter on his face, it comes out his top chute with the sound for the letter.

In the example below, it is an L. If you pop the wooden letter on the screen to the left, it then provides a picture for the letter, in this case L for Lion. If you click on the Lion, it says “Lion”. If you then pop the wooden letter on the right hand chute, it then gives you the letter L in  both cursive and print letters.

The noise for the sounds in this section of the app, are a little strange, and for an adult quite annoying but I think the kids seem to find it funny. Fortunately,  you can turn it off in the settings. 

The right hand side of the scales, has a star on it and once clicked through, you are presented with 4 different options.

Lowercase a – takes the child through the entire alphabet and once the alphabet finishes, the monster is filled with spots!

Pineapple – comes up with a monster and a little screen. On the screen shows an image for example, hippopotamus and once you click on the object it tells the child what is and then they need to locate the correct wooden letter for the object, for example H.

Uppercase A – this option, gives the child the upper case letter coming out of the monster’s chute and the child needs to find the lower case equivalent.

Cursive – in this last part of the app, the child needs to find the lower case version of the cursive letter in the monster’s chute. I have to say even I found this part of the app, the most difficult as the cursive script is hard to read. This is probably my least favourite part of Marbotics Smart Letters.

The bottom of the scales, takes you to the entire alphabet and a picture against each letter. Here you can click on a letter and it takes you to a separate screen with a picture of for instance, M for Monster and how it is written underneath.

If you click on the highlighted M, it will sound it out. If you click on the rest of the word, it will say the word.  If you click on the picture, it animates the Monster.

The only slightly annoying part about this section of the app, is the sound it makes to animate the picture. Again, sound can be turned off in the settings.

Bla Bla Box: 

This is possibly the cleverest app in the Smart Letters arsenal just for the capabilities this offers the child. Bla Bla Box is all about the child trying to make words using the wooden letters provided. If the child gets a word correct, the dotted line links up and the word is said, for instance, “egg”. You can tap on the letters so that the child can hear the sound of each letter too.

It suits a 3 year old learning his or her letters and creating basic words with their parents or carer but it also suits older kids 7+ who are learning to spell more complex words at school. Just by making the letters smaller in the top right of the screen, the older child can create a longer, more age appropriate word. Whereas a 3-5 year old might be learning the word “cat”, a 7 year old would be more interested to spell out the word “awesome”. This app allows for both possibilities and is great then for siblings to learn together as they can both help and teach each other.

I have to say considering I am quite anti- tech, I am really enamoured with Marbotics and the capabilities it holds to teach children their alphabet in a fun, yet educational way.

I think for the price point of $89.95, Marbotics Smart Letters is honestly a brilliant educational toy cleverly mixing traditional and tech. The amount of time and effort the team behind Marbotics has put in to create their product is clear. It is well thought out, beautifully presented, the kids find it fun to use and most importantly they are learning through play.

They have thought about everything in allowing sounds to be heard or not heard, to use the wooden letters provided or to let the child use the alphabet displayed on the screen. The ability to make the word recognition harder means the product can grow with your child which means it is an investment toy. I also love that siblings can play and learn together.

The only thing I can fault with the Smart Letters is the cursive font used in one of the apps, I think it is hard to read for an adult and even more so for a child. But it is one tiny element and doesn’t detract from the awesomeness of this product.

As I have said above I am quite anti tech or rather I think there is a time and place for it and it needs time restrictions so kids learn not to become addicted. I like that within the settings Marbotics has given parents an option to restrict the time used on the apps knowing too much tech causes issues with children.

Overall, I think this is a fun and new way for a child to learn their Alphabet and coupled with other more traditional ways like flash cards, books, singing and the like, Marbotics Smart Letters will certainly help your child master their ABC’s!

Toy of the Month; Marbotics Smart Letters

Helps to teach kids:  the alphabet, identifying, pronouncing and recognising their ABC’s as well word recognition and spelling. Through the use of the wooden letters, it helps to teach kids about fine motor skills, problem solving, creative and social skills such as sharing, cooperation and self-confidence.

Great for:  kids who love to learn, for toddlers needing to be exposed to the Alphabet, who learn visually as well as aurally and to help a child develop confidence in not only knowing their letters but in improving their English skills through additional levels of interaction within the apps.

These would be awesome in preschools as well as the first years of school. Please note as with all technology, there should be time restrictions on their use with children under the age of 10.

RRP: AUS $89.95

Ages: 3+

Marbotics are designed in France and distributed exclusively in Australia by Keld Industries. You can follow them over on their Instagram.

Here is a video I did of my fave app found within Marbotics Smart Letters, Bla Bla Box.

 

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post; however I did receive a sample for my review. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.

I would love to hear your thoughts