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Homeschooling Reviews

Interactive learning and hands on play with Osmo

This blog post is part of a paid partnership with Osmo and Mumsnet.
As always, all views are my own and not influenced in any way.

A few months before the baby arrived, I was looking up toys, games, anything that might help with helping the children to get on with things independently whilst I tended to the baby or rested if I had sleepless night (which we’ve had plenty of lately!) and the Osmo game system came up in my search. At first, I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to make the investment, but after I read a few reviews, I decided to take the plunge. The children took to it immediately and absolutely loved the games. They could set it up independently, get going and I could set a time limit on the iPad too. We’ve been using it regularly over the past 9 months, so when the opportunity to collaborate with Osmo came up through Mumsnet, I jumped at the chance because we love the games so much!

We were sent the Genius Starter Kit to review. It is aimed at children aged 6 – 10 (primarily because of Newton and Masterpiece in my opinion, which I’ll elaborate on later in this post), but my 4 year old plays wonderfully with it too. When you open your kit, you’ll have an Osmo base that includes the reflector so that the game can ‘see’ the tiles on the surface in front of you, and game pieces. They also come in stackable boxes that fit perfectly on our bookshelf, that are quite sturdy. If you’d rather not use the stackable boxes, the boxes the tiles are packed in are really nice to display on their own. They’re compact, not garish and fit pretty much anywhere.

The packaging is fun – your child has the opportunity to pretend to be an astronaut, and as a bonus for parents – there’s a QR code on the packaging that gives you a welcome gift – 20% off of Coding Awbie, PizzaCo, Detective Agency, or Monster games! You do have to order this off their US website. Alternatively, all their extra games are available on Amazon UK to purchase individually.

How we use Osmo in our homeschool

Our daily rhythm includes our morning basket, reading, math and some sort of game (a puzzle or actual board game) or activity. We’re able to switch things up a little by including the Numbers and Words games into our reading and math time. The games start up very quickly, there’s no song and dance or messing about. There are different profiles so each of my children have their own profiles and their progress is saved. One child has their turn and then the next will switch over to their profile. It allows me to offer them screen time that is educational and also more interactive than anything else you can play on a tablet because they are combining activity off screen with what is happening on screen. There’s no passive watching or mindless consumption here, the children are definitely working on their literacy, math, spatial and problem solving skills from the get go.

Numbers

This is both the children’s absolute favourite. If your child can read numbers up to 10 and count dots (like on a dice), they’ll be able to work with this. They can add tiles, subtract by taking away tiles and as they progress to multiplication, multiply by putting two tiles together. The game is set underwater and displays bubbles with various numbers in them. The child needs to pop bubbles to free a fish into the tank below. So for instance, if a bubble shows 5, you could put 3 and 2 on the surface in front of you. You could also do 4 and 1 or 3, 1, 1 – it encourages a variety of combinations. My son’s mental math skills (he’s 6) have grown leaps and bounds since starting to use this. I love that the levels will keep changing and becoming more challenging and he can continue to grow his skills for a few years using this.

Words

This one is my favourite! The children are shown a high quality picture of something – and have to fill in the gaps. So you might see a picture of a slice of pizza, with the letters _IZZ_ underneath or just _IZZA (introductory levels) for the child to fill in.

As they progress, the words get harder and there are fewer letters available to guess with, so this is brilliant spelling practice. I have a reluctant writer, he is happy to practice spelling with wooden alphabets, letter tiles etc – but this is far more interactive and he absolutely loves it. Another feature that really sets this apart from other games is that parents can – wait for it – actually create their OWN albums for the children to use! The Osmo community has tons of albums with everything from sight words, numbers and continents, to opposites and riddles. You can simply download these, or create your own using your own photographs. Here’s an example of me creating one with Islamic-themed words that I’d like the children to be able to recognise/ spell.

I’m also currently collecting photographs from family members who live abroad so they can play games to identify them too. Words contains a versus mode so two children can play against each other to identify the word first (the app recognises which child is which because there are two sets of letters provided – one set is blue and the other is red – how clever is that?), or your child can play against one of the Osmo characters.

Tangram

Tangram is such a classic game for spatial and problem solving skills. This combines tangible shapes with an on-screen puzzle. Get the piece in the right place and it will light up. You have to keep going and pay attention to finer details to get a match. It starts off fairly easy and then as you advance through the levels, it’s quite a challenge! There are 500 puzzles included with this game.

Newton

These two games are played with a white piece of paper in front of you or you can purchase the Osmo creative board with markers. We opted to use a whiteboard that we had at home, to avoid wasting paper and so the children could use different coloured markers.

If you’ve got a future physicist on your hands – they’ll spend a fair amount of time in front of Newton! The challenge with this one is to create lines and curves on the paper/ board in front of you to guide dropping balls to their target. When you start off with this, the puzzles are simpler (I found it difficult, but my son came up with a solution!), but as you progress, they get harder and get this – you can use ANY object on the surface in front of the iPad – other game pieces, a pencil, a rock, scissors, anything – that will create a surface for the balls to bounce off of or guide it towards its target easily. If I had been taught about the principles of motion like this, perhaps I’d have been able to retain it better!

Masterpiece

As the name suggests, Masterpiece is all about creating one! My 4 year old is a massive fan of this because it involves drawing, which she loves. You simply pick an image from an extensive gallery, and begin to trace. It’s tricky at first because you’re working on hand-eye coordination and looking at two different surfaces, but they soon got the hang of it and want to ‘display’ their masterpieces in their virtual gallery. You can also take a picture of something and practice drawing that, so my son took one of his stuffed dragon. I love that they’re not drawing ON the screen. It’s on paper/ a board and I can see that this is really going to improve their dexterity as well as give them the confidence to attempt to draw more.

Does this offer value for money?

Absolutely. Once you watch your child play and learn with Osmo, you will find that it is worth every single penny. You can add on games – I recently bought the children PizzaCo which I know they will love (using the 20% off coupon that came in the box) and I intend to add to their games by buying them one game at Eid to add to their collection. These games are aimed at children aged all the way up to 12. I have a 6 year old, a 4 year old and a 6 month old, so I’ve got 12 years left in these games at the very least.

Osmo’s games cover these core areas: maths, spelling, coding, business, drawing, and puzzles. I don’t know any parents that don’t want their children to excel or at the very least gain some exposure in these areas. This game system provides a fantastic way to do just that with the opportunity for real hands on, interactive learning.

This blog post is part of a paid partnership with Osmo and Mumsnet.
As always, all views are my own and not influenced in any way.

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