Marbotic Smart Letters and Smart Numbers review: Toys + tablets = educational fun
IT & Systems Management

Marbotic Smart Letters and Smart Numbers review: Toys + tablets = educational fun

Where kids are concerned, pairing an iPad with apps is second only to the unbeatable combination of peanut butter and jelly. Thanks to the App Store, a new world of learning and entertainment is available at the fingertips of a new generation.

One thing missing from most educational apps is the tactile feel of real-world objects. Although most of us have adapted to the glass surface of smartphones and tablets, nothing beats the touch and feel of holding a toy.

Interactive education

French developer Marbotic came up with an ingenious compromise: A series of six tablet apps for iPad or Android devices that work in tandem with wooden letters and numbers children hold in their hands. When stamped against the screen, the apps respond accordingly with spoken words as well as animation, sound effects, and music.

smart numbers with ipad Marbotic

Stamp one of the 10 wooden digits included with Smart Numbers against the iPad screen and watch as math becomes more fun.

Smart Letters ($50 on Amazon) and Smart Numbers ($35 on Amazon) are sold separately, as well as in an $80 Smart Kit combo (available on Amazon), a savings of $5. Smart Letters includes a complete alphabet of 26 wooden letter blocks, while Smart Numbers offers ten numbers, zero through nine. The kits are recommended for ages three and up, but even my 17-month old daughter had fun with them; several of the connected apps are aimed at kids as young as two, or as old as seven.

Each wooden block has three soft pads on the back to prevent scratching the display, along with a metal handle used to stamp pieces while playing. Conductive plastic powers each toy using the body’s natural static electricity rather than batteries, and requires no Bluetooth pairing. This approach works well and is safe for kids, although toys are often misread when held upside down.

smart letters soft pads Marbotic

Soft pads on the bottom of each letter or number trigger educational fun on the iPad without scratching the display.

Apps for learning

There are currently three apps for each set: Alphamonster, Vocabubble, and Bla Bla Box work with Smart Letters, while 10 Fingers, Up to 100, and More or Less work with Smart Numbers. Each is available in paid versions priced between $2 and $3 that work without the connected toys, as well as free versions which can be unlocked by touching a series of requested letters or numbers to the screen.

Smart Letters apps are available in six languages—American and U.K. English (the latter excluded from Bla Bla Box), French, Spanish, German, or Dutch, with up to 16 languages supported with Smart Numbers. The apps require no Wi-Fi or cellular data connection, so they work as great in the car or on an airplane as they do at home. I would have preferred to consolidate into a single app per set, but once installed they’re fun and easy to use.

All the apps have educational value, but a couple were standouts. Alphamonster gobbles up the alphabet with a “Monstromachine” to help children learn the sounds and shapes of each letter, while Up to 100 uses methods taught in Montessori schools to start teaching kids about tens and units.

smart letters alphamonster app Marbotic

Included free with Smart Letters, Alphamonster reinforces Pre-K education by teaching what each letter looks and sound like.

Bottom line

For parents with children between the ages of two and seven, Smart Letters and Smart Numbers provide a great way to mix real-world play with entertaining, educational interactive apps for a winning combination.

IDG Insider

PREVIOUS ARTICLE

«The controversial 'six strikes' Copyright Alert System for piracy warnings is dead

NEXT ARTICLE

How to choose the best Wi-Fi replacement for your Apple AirPort routers»
author_image
IDG Connect

IDG Connect tackles the tech stories that matter to you

Add Your Comment

Most Recent Comments

Our Case Studies

IDG Connect delivers full creative solutions to meet all your demand generatlon needs. These cover the full scope of options, from customized content and lead delivery through to fully integrated campaigns.

images

Our Marketing Research

Our in-house analyst and editorial team create a range of insights for the global marketing community. These look at IT buying preferences, the latest soclal media trends and other zeitgeist topics.

images

Poll

Will Kotlin overtake Java as the most popular Android programming language in 2018?