Toy of the month – January 2017

I hope you have started your 2017 with joy, love and happiness and that this year you have set many mindful intentions to perhaps be less busy, be more present and to enjoy each and every day.

I have had the boys the past 6 weeks over the summer school holidays and normally I am a little apprehensive as to how I will keep them entertained but this holidays seemed, well a little easier. As they get older there is more interaction, sustained play and for a longer period of time. There have been tantrums don’t get me wrong, they have been loud and long but perhaps parenting is getting that teeny tiny bit easier…well until next week when things will no doubt change again.

This month sees us review the brilliant French Marbotics range. This is a range that I took notice of last year as I was intrigued by the idea of mixing wooden toys and technology. The Smart numbers and Smart letters range are distributed exclusively in Australia by Keld Industries who kindly sent me the range to test out and review.

After realising this review will become much too long for you my lovely readers, I have decided to split out the review and for January review Smart Numbers and for February, Smart Letters. Each product deserves its own review as there are 18 different applications across the 3 free apps provided. This product is one where you definitely get your money’s worth!

Aimed at ages 3+ the Smart Number range requires a tablet and wifi/ 4G in order to download the apps.  As part of the Smart Number product (which comes in a very nice white box and almost looks like the tablet itself), you get to download three free apps. Once downloaded you unlock the app with the smart numbers provided. The smart numbers each have 3 rubber nobs on the back that interact with the app on the tablet, bringing the app to life.

You can also put a timer on each game with a maximum of 10 minutes. There is also a parents corner, only accessible by adding up 2 numbers. This area gives you more information about the app and allows you to rate it. Go into the parents corner first for each app to get an understanding of how each one works.

10 Fingers was the first numbers app we played with and it has 6 activities once you are inside the app. To switch between the 2 options for each of the 3 games below, you choose either the yellow monster or the green monster in the right hand corner.

Discovery of objects collections a) the child pops any wooden number on the screen and it will tell the child what that number is, by presenting them with the equivalent amount of whales for example as per the image below.

b) changing the app to the green monster, the game changes and shows different creatures or things like for example 8 turtles. The child counts the turtles by tapping on each one, the app then reads out each number as the child taps and darkens out each one as they go. Once the child reaches 8 turtles, they then need to find the correct wooden number and pop it on to the tablet. If correct, stars appear behind the number and are then used to read back the number again and interact with the turtle.

Discovery of digits a) the child can use any wooden number and tap it onto the tablet and it will read out the number.

b) the app then displays a number and the child needs to find the matching wooden number and tap it on to the screen.

Discovery of addition  a) if the child stays within this first option, being the yellow man in the right hand corner, this game allows the child to find pick any 2 wooden numbers they like and put each number side by side the dividing line. The app then reads out the numbers presented by the child but only the first number and the answer. ie say the sum is 8+3=11, it will only read out 8 and 11.

b) The child has a further option by clicking the yellow man in the right hand corner and changing him to green. In doing so the child has a new game. The game provides them with a sum of 3+6 = ? , the child must find the correct wooden number and the app adds the 2 numbers together and tells the child the answer by both speaking out loud the full sum and its answer, and also by counting up the wooden numbers on the  screen, using stars and visually providing.  If the child gets the 2 numbers correct, it the app then provides the correct answer.

Up to 100 app uses 6 activities designed with the help of teachers to help a child identify numbers up to 100. It has 2 options to start with numbers and counting and then in the top corner, a small chicken, medium size chicken and then a rooster. It goes up in difficulty which allows the child to learn and develop their numbers and maths skills with Marbotics rather than it just being a static toy. The child has to be able to read written numbers for the rooster section in order to work out the number in question.

Up to 100 app is clever in that it pronounces the numbers, writes the numbers in numeric as well as in written form, so the child is really learning their numbers inside out.

More or Less app again has 6 different activities, relating to addition and subtraction. Again with rising level of hardness via the chicken to rooster meter. Each of the 6 activities allows the child to count using the small dots representing the number much like counting with their fingers or the child can count using the number on the screen.

Over summer, I have been trying to keep the boys busy with board games, marble run, creative play, swimming and bike riding the last few weeks, however, I knew they would love a little tech time to break things up. You have to understand in our household, they do watch TV and DVD’s but in terms of  iPad/ phone or tablet usage,  I severely restrict it in our household due to massive meltdowns and fights over who is using the tablet.

I am also conscious that little minds shouldn’t be spending hours upon hours using technology on a daily basis, but rather should be outside playing, running around and letting off energy.  I have seen with myself as well as friends and family, that the use of tablets and smartphones can become addictive. It releases dopamine when used and children find it difficult to understand how to control this release of happiness each time a screen is put in front of them.  But I also think that with everything in life, moderation is key.

If you show a child that they can use a tablet for a certain purpose or restrict their time on a tablet, it gives them the ability to control those emotions. Tablets can be used brilliantly for educational purposes and Marbotics have mastered this with their Smart Number range.

The boys loved playing Marbotics, they played it together without (hardly) any fights and it was thoroughly enjoyable to watch them interact with a tablet in such an educational way. I was really impressed with how much my youngest son who is 4, knew of his numbers in particular. I thought perhaps he might not know them all that well but I was pleasantly surprised. It would seem that being outside of his normal learning environment, he thrived with this new way of learning. My eldest who is 7 was able to move through all the stages in the apps fairly quickly. I may need to buy the additional app for him to progress him further.

One thing I really like about Marbotics, is that there is a time limit you can place on the app with a maximum of 10 minutes, so you can set the time your child plays on the app and their tablet. I love that Marbotics has been developed using Montessori principles, traditionally anti technology. However, with Marbotics they have used wooden toys manipulating this once traditional material with a tablet and thus stimulating a child’s ability to learn basic concepts like maths and the alphabet, outside of their normal environment.

I think we will start to see more and more merging of traditional toys and education apps like this in the future but that Marbotics have certainly mastered this genre thus far.

Toy of the month: Marbotics Smart Numbers

Helps to teach kids:  their numbers up to 100, identifying, pronouncing and recognising numbers as well as addition, and subtraction. Through the use of the wooden numbers, it helps to teach kids about fine motor skills, problem solving, mathematical thinking, 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 their numbers and counting, and to help a child develop confidence in not only knowing their numbers but in improving their mathematical 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.

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.