This is one of the best toys I’ve come across since having kids. It hits a sweet spot for parents like me who want to control screen time and make sure when they do use it is quality content. The current competition is a Strawberry Shortcake cake making game which I admit is very well made, but education focused parents like me will always starts to feel a bit guilty after more than 20-30 minutes on a game like that. It’s not the case with Osmo.
Osmo is different because it marries what’s happening on screen with physical activity off screen. The kit comes with various packs – shapes, letters and numbers – allowing for a range of activities which is essentially learning disguised as fun. For kids who can sit mindlessly watching anything you put in front of them, it’s reassuring to watch them having fun putting something ‘real life’ together while also watching the screen.
I bought the Osmo Genius Kit on Amazon thinking it was an expensive toy, but when I set it up both Natalie and I exchanged comments like ‘wow, this is amazing’, ‘it’s done so well’ etc. The box looks great and each module is a separate box within a box that magnetically click together when you put it away. The whole execution of the product is first class.
This is designed for kids 5-12 so it was always going to be a stretch for Nina who is almost 4. It was interesting to watch because she was immediately drawn in by the fun graphics, but a little put off when it was hard to complete tasks. You download an individual app for each activity, but once you setup an account on one, it works for all so the experience is seamless after the first time. I’ll run through each app below:
This was the first one we tried because I thought it would be the easiest for my kids to pick up. The box includes 7 different shapes (all different colours). On screen it displays different combinations and the challenge is to place the tiles in exactly the same way, often making kid-friendly things like animal shapes. You can choose ‘start’ or ‘junior’ (which we chose), which was an introductory few sets to learn the ropes.
We’ve played it 3 times since buying and have now graduated to the full game. The shapes get gradually more complicated as you go, and they have gamified the experience so that each puzzle solved is another step towards a castle. When reaching the castle and successfully placing the puzzle, a character is freed from the castle. These bits definitely made Nina want to keep going and explore the forest, reach the next castle etc.
Later I set it up and just left it on the kids table and watched as they would drift back to it between doing other things. Given they are too young for it, I imagine kids around 5-7 would really enjoy this and challenge each other to keep moving through the game.
This is the drawing app and it’s based on tracing. You can choose an image from a wide range of categories (food, animals, plants etc). Then you place paper in front of the ipad and whatever you draw on the paper is displayed on top of the image on the screen. The concept is to look at the screen and learn to trace what you see. Tracing as a kid for me was a large part of learning to draw so this makes total sense.
This module is fantastic. We always say to the kids ‘what words start with the letter c’ (or other letters) and listen as they list cat, cake, cookie, crab etc.
This is even better because it shows a picture of something – say a cat (and the pictures are really high quality) – then displays the letters at the bottom with the first one missing. All the letters in the alphabet are provided in small tiles so the kids have to find the letter c and put it in front of the ipad to complete the puzzle. It’s a great example of combining seeing a picture, plus some of the letters and having to physically find the remaining letter. Perfect online/offline interaction.
There is also a versus mode which allows two kids to compete to get the word right first. There are two sets of the alphabet included, one red, one blue, so the app knows which kid gets the word first based on the colour of the tile they use. This is a great way to learn spelling with a bit of competition, and helps in households with multiple kids where one of them has to watch the other playing solo games.
Numbers are a bit beyond our kids at this stage. They can count up to 10, but can’t add 3+4 to equal 7. The numbers app is perfect for kids who are at that stage and can both read numerals (up to 10) and dots (like on a dice).
The game displays a bunch of bubbles with numbers in them and the aim is to pop the bubbles to free a gold fish into a tank below. If a bubble shows 7, you need to find place any combination of 7 in front of the ipad using the dice pieces. Nina and Violet watched me play and liked the concept of freeing the fish, even if the method wasn’t clear to them.
Like the word module, I would be happy for my kids to play this for long stretches of time because its effectively training them to add up fast while they think they are playing a game. It’s also good because it combines numerals and dots, getting them used to switching between the two in their head.
This one is really fun and is equally good for adults. The basic premise is balls dropping every few seconds from the top of the screen and your goal is to draw lines on paper to make them bounce towards a particular target. It’s all about calculating angles and speed, then drawing a line to watch where the ball goes. If you get it right, you can do it with one line, or add more and more so that you still get there. There is some satisfaction in working it out the first time.
After a few weeks with the system, the price is really good value when you consider 5 completely different games, the quality of the product and that it is targeting key skills all parents want to develop in their kids.
There are add on packs called Monster, Pizza Co., and Coding which I would definitely add once the kids get a bit older. The Genius Pack makes a fantastic present for any child, and I would recommend it for anyone else’s children for a special occasion like Christmas or their birthday.
Very high quality product that delights kids each time we play
Great combination of screen and off-screen thinking
Actually fun for parents to play too
Individual games can be a little repetitive after while