Square Panda Phonics Playset by Square Panda – Review & Giveaway

Square Panda Phonics Playset by Square Panda – Review & Giveaway



Square Panda Phonics Playset

What we love…

ability to use a multisensory approach to learning letters which includes apps and physical letters placed on the playset to form words; included parental dashboard to track your kids progress

What we’d love to see…

ability to customize words in all apps, a mobile friendly version of the Square Panda Playground website

Summary

The Square Panda Phonics Playset is a great demonstration of how you can use your iPad and integrated playset to provide learning both on the screen and using tactile letters to complete a goal – I can’t wait to see what else this company will bring.

Our Rating

 

recommended-by-the-imums

The Square Panda Phonics Playset by Square Panda which features a bluetooth enabled playset to engage kids in learning a variety of activities from learning letters, spelling, letter sounds, rhymes, learning new vocabulary words and more.  The set consists of 45 Smart Letters, a Playset box which you pair to your iPad and holds your device while in use, access to the Square Panda Playground where you can manage a parent account, see information about your child’s progress and additional learning opportunities as well as 4 AA Batteries.  The Square Panda Playset requires either iPad 3, iPad 4, iPad Mini, iPad Air 2 or iPad Pro in order to run and you must be running iOS 8.x and above.  The Square Panda Phonics Playset provides a multisensory tactile learning experience which combines content on your iPad with letters and visuals within the app. It includes 14 levels of phonics play as well as an integrated dashboard to track progress.

Setup is quick and easy.  First, you set up an account on Square Panda with your email and other information.  That gives you access to the parental dashboard.  After that you can unpack the Phonics Playset, install the 4 included AA batteries, download the apps and be using them within 10 or less minutes.  I spent some time in the Square Panda Playground website because I wanted to check out the features there.  There are so many great things!  You can add your own custom words including your child’s name – and for me when I last had my son use the playset I included words from his spelling list that week!  When you enter custom words they are put into your child’s games and you can even upload a picture to go with them!  Words must be between 1-8 characters, so more complex spelling words won’t work here, however, it’s a great way to practice.  The Square Panda Playground also lets you choose words for specific types of situations like bathroom and body anatomy as well as even excluding a specific letter if you misplaced it from the playset.  You can also block specific types of words if you wish which gives you a great level of customization.

iPad Screenshot 1

The playset includes 45 smart letters.  Vowels are yellow and consonants are yellow to make for easier differentiation between the letter types.  These all stored inside the playset case when not in use.  You can have up to three players per playset, and the content dynamically changes depending on which user is selected so with my 2 year old we are simply working on even identifying letters while with my 8 year old he is working on spelling words and earning badges.  The Square Panda Playset includes access to two apps, and one of the two apps Square Panda Lagoon allows you to use the custom words that you have created.   Square Panda Bowling (above) has you bowl with your finger to knock down the pins and spell out words.  It combines a multi-sensory approach where you do an activity, get a letter with your finger on your iPad and then properly place it in the try to spell the word.  Kids are taught to spell words correctly from left to right which is the way that The National Reading Panel recommends as well as the way that reading is taught in school.

iPad Screenshot 4

First of all – this is not the plastic letters that I grew up with!  Many of us may remember growing up and having the magnetized letters that we used to spell things on our refrigerator.  I loved that the app required letters to be correct before allowing you to move on.  Letters are placed individually in a white box at the bottom of the playset.  The must be positioned correctly and placed on the playset in the correct order.  The photo above is from Square Panda Lagoon and includes a photo as well as the word below to reinforce learning.

It isn’t often as a mom that I find a toy that both my 2 year old and 8 year old can use.  One of my favorite things about the Square Panda Playset is the level of customization that is included especially with the Square Panda Lagoon.  I can see it is a great way to practice “trick words” or words my son might be having challenges with at school and having a great way to keep track of what he is learning in terms of letters.  With my 2 year old, we can work on understanding letters and teaching him that my iPad is a learning device.  I also liked that we could store the letters inside the playset which meant that they were not misplaced the next time we went to use it.  I use a Griffin Survivor case on my iPad Mini because even though it’s “mom’s iPad” my kids use it a lot and I loved that we could leave on the protective case even when it was in use with the Square Panda Playset, this isn’t always the case with other products on the market.  I really liked the Square Panda Playground where I could keep track of what my kids were doing with the apps – I knew what my 2 year old was doing because we were playing together but with my older son I usually help him learn how to use something and then let him try and figure it out on his own.  I liked seeing the badges of the items he accomplished as well as the ability to add in the custom words for his spelling list that week!

In terms of enhancements, I wish that both of the apps included the ability to use custom words, my son enjoyed rolling the bowling ball in Square Panda Bowling more than the Square Panda Lagoon game – I’m not sure why he preferred it more other than he enjoys bowling, so having the two app options was great.  Square Panda is planning to add more apps Letter Lab.  I hope that they include the ability to use custom words in this app.  I’d also like to see a mobile friendly version of the Square Panda Playground – I don’t often get time to sit down at my computer so I was trying to look at it on my iPad and it wasn’t as user friendly as I would have liked.

Play with letters and words today...

The Square Panda Phonics Playset is a great demonstration of how you can use your iPad and integrated playset to provide learning both on the screen and using tactile letters to complete a goal – I can’t wait to see what else this company will bring.  The Square Panda Phonics Playset retails for $119 USD and includes a standard one year parts and labor if the letters malfunction or the product itself malfunctions.  It can be purchased from Square Panda for $119 USD.

alison

This is not your mom’s letter playset.  This is a fun and interactive toy which can be used by younger and older children and can customize and provide data about what your child is learning.  It is a true demonstration of what the iPad can do versus other tablets on the market.

Apps


Square Panda Lagoon Square Panda Lagoon by Square Panda Inc

Price: $FREE

A goofy chameleon with a love for dancing introduces children to letter sounds and phonics in a fun, exploratory way where any combination of letters (both nonsense words and real words) create a learning.



Square Panda Bowling Square Panda Bowling by Square Panda Inc

Price: $FREE

STRIKE! Letters meet their match in a bowling alley on a faraway island! With every roll of the coconut ball, your child learns the relationships between letters, sounds, and words. Compatible with the.

Video demonstration

NOTE: A product was supplied by the company for review purposes, no other form of compensation was received, all opinions stated in the review are those of the author and have been offered honestly.

 

Giveaway

If you would like to win a Square Panda Phonics playset , please enter via the widget below. Winners will be emailed and must contact The iMums within 48 hours to claim their prize. This giveaway is open to to those with a valid US mailing address, and an iTunes account is required to claim the prize. Please ensure you have read and understand our Terms & Conditions. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. They have a variety of devices including an iPad, iPhone, and an iPod and is often found with a device! My older son loves technology and loves testing out the “latest and newest” apps and tech. I love sharing information about apps and products with others to help them make decisions without feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices.
Zumo™ Learning System by Zyrobotics – Review

Zumo™ Learning System by Zyrobotics – Review

ZumoLearning_Image3

What we love…

focus on critical thinking, fun and easily adaptable way for children of all abilities to be included

What we’d love to see…

parental dashboard to show progress within the apps as well as  a multi-player capability

Summary

e level of customization is something that I have not seen in any other type of learning system – and the ability to work with kids on #commoncore learning to their abilities and progress upward is a huge step in the right direction.  I can’t wait to see what apps come next!

Our Rating

 

recommended-by-the-imums

 

The Zumo(TM) Learning System by Zyrobotics is a learning system that makes apps switch accessible so everyone can use them.  In the box is Zumo the Turtle, an Android Tablet in a kid proof case which comes pre-loaded with Zyrobotics apps.

You can either buy the switch and use it with your own tablet or buy the entire Zumo Learning System.  As tested we used it both with the Zumo Learning System and with an iPad Mini.  Zumo paired easily to both devices and kept a charge for quite a long time (8 hours) despite multiple uses and play with the apps.  As a mom, I loved that the system made the apps accessible which meant that everyone could participate rather than having to limit it.  This would be great for a special needs child who may have limited fine motor function and has trouble using a regular tablet or stylus.  The ability to customize the games to the level of your child is a huge bonus in my mind!

zumo

 

My older son has loved many of the Zyrobotic math apps for a long time – and one of the things that I always thought was great is that the team has made them switch accessible so that everyone can use them.  You can read our review of Zyromath City Count to learn more about that app – essentially the apps are math or common core based and you can use the Zumo turtle to control the movement instead of having to use your tablet.  I tested the Zumo on both the included tablet as well as my iPad Mini which I used Reflector for to put onto our large screen TV.  It was a huge hit!  Zumo made it fun for my son to play with the apps – and meant we could all play while sitting on the floor and passing the turtle from person to person for each of the games.  My son also loved that he could use a switch to control a screen – and it helped him and I have a discussion about how different people learn using different abilities.  I also liked that the apps engaged and made it fun for my son to play – and that he was able to move from using the iPad with his fingers to the switch quickly and easily.  I had both of my kids using Zumo although my iToddler is a bit young, he quickly got the concept of touching the turtle to make an action happen on the screen. I liked that it could be customized for individual learning goals and also that my son was able to demonstrate mastery of specific counting and math goals by using the provided apps.

Zumo Learning System

In terms of enhancements, it would be great if in the future Zumo became compatible with other switch enabled apps.  This would allow for more usage across a wider variety of apps.  I would also like to see some sort of a dashboard which can show the skills that your child is working on and areas that may need focus.  This helped me to understand that my son was struggling a bit and adjust the complexity of the app for him.  I’d also love to see the apps become multi-player like my son and some of his friends did while they were playing with the Zumo Learning System together to solve the Forest Fight.  It was fun to see how he and his friends used critical thinking skills to solve a problem or move to the next section of the game.  My son loves math and he loved learning and experimenting with Zumo to see how different touches made the players or characters on the screen act differently.  Each of the apps includes  rewards and motivators that engage kids and leave them wanting more or to complete a task.

I can’t wait to see what new apps that Zyrobotics comes out with that we can test Zumo with!

Overall, this is a great system designed to help kids of all abilities have a level playing field.    The level of customization is something that I have not seen in any other type of learning system – and the ability to work with kids on #commoncore learning to their abilities and progress upward is a huge step in the right direction.  I can’t wait to see what apps come next!

 

The Zumo Learning System is regularly priced at $299.00 but is currently on sale for $159.99 and includes a 30 day money back guarantee.  You can purchase one at Zyrobotics website.

NOTE: A product was supplied by the company for review purposes, no other form of compensation was received, all opinions stated in the review are those of the author and have been offered honestly.

 

Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. They have a variety of devices including an iPad, iPhone, and an iPod and is often found with a device! My older son loves technology and loves testing out the “latest and newest” apps and tech. I love sharing information about apps and products with others to help them make decisions without feeling overwhelmed with all of the choices.
Review of 3 Inexpensive Products For the Outdoors From Amazon

Review of 3 Inexpensive Products For the Outdoors From Amazon

5 Billion Star Hotel. Camping in the mountains under the starry night sky.

As a family we love to spend time outdoors- hiking, camping and skiing. Although I usually shop for big items of outdoor equipment in places like REI where I can be sure of the quality, for smaller items purchasing on Amazon can be a great way to save money. Here are mini-reviews of 3 inexpensive items I have recently tested that are available from Amazon.com.

Fnova Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle


This is available in 21oz and 35oz sizes and is a double walled stainless steel bottle. I tested the 35oz. In the winter we love to ski and I was looking for something to keep water hot so that at the end of a days skiing I could make hot chocolate and coffee drinks for the family before heading home. This works great for that purpose. I can fill it with boiling water at 8am and at 4pm when we get off the slopes it is the perfect temperature for hot chocolate or coffee. I make my coffee using Starbucks Via instant coffee plus Peak full-fat milk powder which gives a rich creamy taste without cooling it down by adding liquid creamer. The bottle comes with 3 lids- a metal and bamboo stopper (which is my favorite), a black plastic stopper (which I think is most insulating) and a flip-top with straw. For making drinks for the whole family the 32oz is a great size, if I was using it just for myself I’d go for the smaller 21oz version. I tested it alongside a traditional glass- lined vacuum flask and it kept the water as warm or slightly warmer than the traditional flask and is much more durable.


BYB COB LED Camping Lantern

BYB Lantern

We love to go camping and have an array of different camping lanterns for car camping trips. This is much smaller and lighter than most of our lanterns so I wasn’t sure it would really compare brightness wise, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Just after I received the lantern I had the perfect opportunity to test it as we had a 6 hour power outage on Christmas Eve! It performed really well and it has a nice bright light. When not in use the light slides into the base so it is protected and compact, you can also slide it partly shut if you want to decrease the brightness.

In the closed position it is approximately 5 inches tall and 3 /2 inches diameter. When you slide it open it automatically switches on, and switches off when you close it- no fiddling with switches. It runs on 3AA Batteries which are easy to find and contribute to the whole lantern being much lighter than a traditional lantern powered by D or C cells. My only complaint is the LED lights are very bright, and can be uncomfortable on your eyes if you look directly at the lantern- it would be nice if the clear plastic surrounding the light was frosted to decrease the glare. I love how much smaller and lighter it is than traditional camping lanterns and I will definitely be adding it to our camping box.

BYB C8 CREE T6 LED Rechargeable Flashlight 

BYBFLASHLIGHT

 

This LED Flashlight from BYB comes with a 2200mA Lithium ion rechargeable battery and wall charger. It is a very bright rechargeable flashlight and appears sturdy and well made. It has 5 different lighting modes which are accessed via pressing a button on the end of the lamp. The beam is great- it has a central very bright spot with a larger halo of light around it that is less bright. On a dark, stormy night I was able to easily illuminate a fence, trees and shed along the edge of my garden approximately 100 feet away. I love this flashlight to use around the house and garden but I am a little hesitant to use it on a long camping trip as there is no indicator as to how much power is left in the battery and as the rechargeable isn’t a “standard size” you can’t take along AAs or AAAs as a backup. Pros: bright beam, appears sturdy, rechargeable, 5 modes. Cons: to ability to change focus of beam, no indicator of how much power is left in battery.

 
For more info visit www.byblight.com or the BYBlight Facebook page

 

NOTE: Products were supplied by the company for review purposes, no other form of compensation was received, all opinions stated in the review are those of the author and have been offered honestly.

 

Mary is originally from England but now lives in California with her husband, dog, cat and three children. Mary and her family love Apple products and own an iPad2, iPad3, iPad Mini, iTouch, iPhone5 and several MacBook Pros. They also love cub scouts, skiing, camping and hiking. The family iPads are also used for therapy for their daughters Apraxia (speech disorder).
Review & Giveaway for Zuli Smart Plug  #connectedhome

Review & Giveaway for Zuli Smart Plug #connectedhome

Zuli
I am loving the new #connectedhome products that have been coming on the market in the last year. As the technology is maturing I’m coming to expect more from my #connectedhome devices, but I’m not ready to get rid of all my old appliances to replace them with smart appliances.  Zuli iPhone controlled Smartplugs allow you to create a #connectedhome using your regular appliances. Not only can you control and dim lights with Zuli, but you can also control a whole range of other appliances such as your slow cooker, coffee maker, heater or kettle and it integrates with your Nest thermostat. You can schedule your coffee to brew before you get up, or the heater to go on before you get home.

Set up is simple, you plug in the Zuli Smart Plugs and connect them one at a time using a free smartphone app. As you set them up you can label which room they are in your house and name the plugs (important so you don’t accidentally brew coffee when you want to switch on the light!) To control the plugs you can view them room by room or see all the house’s plugs at once (you can also set up multiple locations e.g. if you have Zuli both at home and at the office.) During setup you mark whether the plug is being used for a dimmable light, non-dimmable light or appliance, if it is a dimmable light you can adjust the brightness via the app otherwise you can switch on and off via the app.

One feature that I love is the ability to schedule plugs to turn on and off at chosen times. This is great for security when you are on vacation, but also useful for everyday living. In the cold winter months I like to have an electric blanket warm up my bed before bedtime but rarely remember to switch it on ahead of time- with the Zuli I can schedule it to switch on 1/2 hour before my regular bedtime and switch off before I’m due to wake up. I can also schedule it so that when I get up in the morning my coffee is brewed and waiting!

features-schedule-2Another cool feature is “presence” which, if you have at least 3 Zuli Smartplugs, allows Zuli it to sense your presence in a room and automatically adjust your connected devices to your preferences. This is cool to watch but more practical for someone living on their own than for a busy family where multiple people are using the room other than the person whose smartphone is controlling the Zuli. Like all GPS enabled apps your smartphone battery will drain much more quickly if you have the location feature on.

Overall, Zuli smartplugs are a great addition to the #connectedhome and I especially love their scheduling feature. Available from: Amazon or Zuli.com Price: $159.99 for Presence 3- pack or $59.99 for single smart plug.

recommended-by-the-imums

NOTE: A product was supplied by the company for review purposes, no other form of compensation was received, all opinions stated in the review are those of the author and have been offered honestly.

 

Giveaway

If you would like to win a single Zuli Smart Plug valued at $59.99, please enter via the widget below. Winners will be emailed and must contact The iMums within 48 hours to claim their prize. This giveaway is open to US & Canada and a valid mailing address is required to claim the prize. Please ensure you have read and understand our Terms & Conditions. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mary is originally from England but now lives in California with her husband, dog, cat and three children. Mary and her family love Apple products and own an iPad2, iPad3, iPad Mini, iTouch, iPhone5 and several MacBook Pros. They also love cub scouts, skiing, camping and hiking. The family iPads are also used for therapy for their daughters Apraxia (speech disorder).

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