15 Hot Holiday Gift Ideas for Kids

Circuit Scribe Ultimate Kit

For the budding engineer Circuit Scribe Kits provide a great introduction to electronics. A really neat feature of the Circuit Scribe sets is you can complete the projects and make connections without needing to solder- you just draw the wires with the included conductive silver ink pen. The Ultimate Kit contains over 30 electronic components and instructions for lots of projects. Not only does the kit provide a lot of projects but it also teaches kids about electrical components – so they really understand what components like resistors are and learn to draw circuit diagrams as well as build projects. As the students learn about the components they are encourage to be creative and design their own circuits, the Ultimate kit is even compatible with Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Available from CircuitScribe.com,Amazon and other retailers for US$99.99, other kits are available for a variety of prices including a mini kit at $9.99, Basic Kit at $44.99. A great #STEM gift for ages 8-adult. Read our review and enter to win a Maker Kit

Design Your Own Maze Plus VR Viewer

Design Your Own Maze Plus VR Viewer

maze Design Your Own Maze by Seedling not only lets you create your own wooden marble maze but it lets you use Virtual Reality to step inside it too! The kit also includes a cardboard VR viewer which you can use with your smartphone. Maze is a classic labyrinth game where you use the knobs to tilt the playing field to guide a metal marble from start to finish without falling down any holes. Instead of coming with a pre-made maze it contains bases and 42 wooden wall pieces that you use to create and re-create your own mazes that you can make as simple or as challenging as you like. Once you have created a physical maze you can turn it into a virtual maze by scanning it into the free Maze app. You can customize the maze by adding music, photos, traps, themes and more. If you put your smartphone into the included cardboard Virtual Reality Viewer you can even step inside your maze, turning your head to turn as you weave through its labyrinth. A very cool and creative #STEAM gift that combines both hands on creativity and Virtual Reality. Ages 6+ Available from Seedling.com, Amazonand other retailers for US$59.99

Puzzlets Starter Kit- learn to code

kidsPuzzlets from Digital Dream Labs is a hands-on physical toy that allows children from Kindergarten age upwards to learn coding principles whilst playing. The starter pack includes  a Bluetooth enabled play tray and 22 programming puzzlets plus a Cork the Volcano video game which can be played on an iPhone, iPad, Mac or Android smartphone/ tablet.  The kids place the puzzlet tiles in the play tray to control the characters on screen and thus use them to solve a variety of challenges. Puzzlets combines hands on play with interactive gaming and encourages kids to be creative, as many of the levels can be solved in more than one way. It can be enjoyed by 1 or 2 kids at a time and is suitable for ages 5 and above (under 6’s may need some help from an older child or adult).  #STEAM. Available from Amazon and other retailers  for US$99. More games due to be released in 2017. Read our review and enter to win

Square Panda Phonics Set

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.  Read our full review to learn more and enter to win. Available from Square Panda for US$119 USD

Sphero Star Wars BB-8 App Controlled Robot

We are Star Wars Junkies at our house.  Check out this BB-8 app-enabled Droid that includes an adaptive personality as you play including emotions and lets you give voice commands. Connect BB-8™ to the app and watch your Droid™ come to life. Drive BB-8 by sliding your finger on the driving pad, send him on patrol to investigate your surroundings, record and view holographic messages, and more. BB-8 droid is more than a toy – it’s your companion. You can even watch the force awakens with him and see his reactions! This is a “hot” must have toy that we can’t wait to get our hands on!Available from Sphero, Amazon and Target for US$149

Pokemon Go Plus

pokemon-go-plusPokemon Go has been the big mobile app hit of the year with millions of kids (and adults!) up and walking around searching for Pokemon, Poke Balls, Berries, and Pokemon Eggs. I love how it gets my kids out and active but don’t always love how they hog my phone when playing. The much anticipated Pokemon Go Plus is a wearable device that links to your smartphone through Bluetooth. It lets you know when a Pokemon is nearby by the LED flashing and the device mildly vibrates. With it they can collect Poke Balls, Berries, and Pokemon Eggs without having to look at your smart phone and receive notifications when they are near a Pokestop. They still need to have your phone nearby but it can spend most of its time in your pocket and they can look at their surroundings instead of at a screen. This is such a hot item that it is really hard to find but we’d recommend you keep checking Amazon in case more come into stock. Available fromAmazon and other retailers RRP US$39.99

BlueBee Pals Pro

Hudson the Puppy from Bluebee Pals is a talking toy that works with your smartphone or tablet. It is designed for toddler through early elementary school age children, and by pairing it with apps can be educational as well as fun. You don’t need to buy proprietary apps for Hudson to work- he works with the educational apps you already own.  The Bluebee Pal connects to your iOS, Android or Bluetooth enabled device and the mouth of the toy moves while connected to a huge variety of apps including the ability to read a story including from an app on your smartphone, play music, interact with AAC apps, and speech related apps. My two year old loves to hear stories and will sit and have the “read to me mode” activated while he listens to his favorite stories and looks at the pictures on my iPad Mini.  Available from BlueBee Pals and Amazon for US$64.99. Read our review and enter to win

Skylanders Imaginators

Skylanders , the original and immensely popular, toys-to -life action figure and video game is back with a new adventure- Skylanders Imaginators. Kaos is back and with the ancient power of Mind Magic creating an unstoppable army of Doomlanders! But Eon is undeterred and is fighting back with the help of a new series of characters: Skylands’ greatest mystic warriors, the Senseis. As well as the Senseis you can use all your old characters from previous Skylanders games and  use the power of your imagination to create your own Skylanders help to save Skylands. It is available for Wii U, XBox 1, XBox 360, PS3 and PS4. Available from Amazon , Target and many retailers for US$74.99 

Malia’s House

beach_house_2_web_large-800x546Malia’s House from Build & Imagine combines dress up dolls, a building toy and a dolls house all-in-one. The award winning Build & Imagine toys were designed to get girls interested in building by providing them with a more creative, imaginative experience than standard building blocks. The kit has 10 square, 4 triangular and 2 rectangular panels. These are illustrated on both sides and snap together magnetically. The child can use their imagination to decide which scenes to include and what shape to build, every time they play they can rebuild it in a slightly different way. There is a working door and lots of different rooms and scenes illustrated on the panels, including furniture and indoor and outdoor scenes such as a kitchen, bedrooms, beach, garden and pool. The kit also includes 2 magnetic dolls- Malia and her friend Skyler plus lots of magnetic clothes, pets and accessories than can be used with the set. I love how my daughter not only creates different scenes and dollhouses with it, but that she also loves to tell stories about what is happening as she plays. A great #STEAM gift and it can be combined with other Build & Imagine play sets for even more creative possibilities. Read our review and enter to win
 Available from Amazon and toyshops for US$59.99

Zumo Learning System with Android Tablet

Zumo Learning System with Tablet from 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 turtle switch and use it with your own tablet or buy the entire Zumo Learning System.  Read our full review to learn more about the great apps and how the turtle makes items accessible
Available from Amazon for US$159

RCA PRO12 Android 2-in-1 RCA PRO 12 inch HD 32GB 2-in-1 Android Tablet Hybrid

rct6223w87sk_black_2Many kids and college students are doing a lot of schoolwork now on Chromebooks or tablets. For many Google docs seem to be replacing using Word. A great gift for older kids, teen and college student is a 2-in-1  such as the new RCA Pro12. This allows them to use it like a Chromebook or laptop to work in Google documents and search the web, but also acts as a touchscreen tablet for educational apps. The new RCA Pro12 has a 12.2″ HD screen and 32GB built in storage which you can affordably expand by up to an additional 128GB by adding a Micro-SD card such as the SanDisk Ultra 128GB . It comes with a removable folio keyboard case that attaches easily and securely via a magnetic connector. The PRO12 has a 13.GHZ quad core processor and uses native Android Marshmallow 6.o as it’s operating system. Users can choose from the huge range of apps available from the Google Play Appstore. It can be powered by the included AC adapter or via micro-USB, it has a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 8hrs. This is a great gift for students of all ages that they can use to do homework, listen to music, watch videos, search the web, answer emails and play fun and educational apps. Available from Amazon and other suppliers RRP  US$279.99. Look at for it on Home Shopping Network on December 2nd too!

Kensington Hi-Fi Headphones with Mic


If your kid loves playing games, doing schoolwork, or watching videos on a tablet or computer a must-have to save your sanity is a good pair of headphones. Kensington’s Hi-Fi Headphones with Mic are a great option and good value for money too. They are designed especially for kids head, yet look grown up enough that a teen or tween won’t be embarrassed to use them. They are well made, durable, have good sound quality, will fit a variety of head sizes and are a great choice both for home and school use. Priced at under $25 they are a great value. They even have a microphone which folds away when not in use. Available Kensington.com, Amazon and other retailers.from  for US$24.99. (Currently only $19.99) Read our review.

Motion Pen Kids

motionpen_kids_product-640x640

The MotionPen Kids Stylus by Widevantage is a rounded thick stylus designed especially for kids, even younger ones that may not yet have a mature grasp pattern.  The stylus is rounded and has a rubberized tip on each end.  There are native apps made by Widevantage that you can use, which include erasing simply by flipping over the stylus, hovering your stylus over your device and more.  No batteries to replace, no Bluetooth to connect, simply pull out of the box, enter the number of your stylus and you are on your way to drawing fun.  My 8 year old had so much fun with the Motion Crayon app and we even played Pictionary using our iPad Mini. Read our full review and enter to win. Available from Widevantage and Amazon for US$22.25

Galaxy ZEGA Tank Battle Game

In Galaxy ZEGA, the real and virtual worlds collide. The kit comes with 2 remote control tanks (others can be purchased separately) and a magnetic snap together battlefield. Galaxy ZEGA is a tank battle toy,  played with individuals and teams on a real-world battlefield using palm-sized tanks (called ZEGAs). Players shoot their opponents with lights to gain points and eventually earn up to 30 more skills so they can disable other ZEGAs with virtual ‘oil spills,’ freeze opponent’s speed and more to win battles.  I got to play this hands-on recently and it was really fun, the ZEGAS are very fast, responsive and easy to control via your tablet or smartphone. If you want to play quickly they can be used as remote control vehicles without the battlefield, but using it gives places for the tanks to hide and using it adds anther dimension to the play.  Starter Set available from GalaxyZEGA.comand other retailers for US$149.99

Know Yourself Adventure Series

The Know Yourself Adventure Series is a monthly subscription kit which explores a new system of the human body each month.  I tested a kit that included the five senses which included an interactive comic book,  time travel, hands on experiments including the cylinders to capture items related to our senses, historical figures and stories which explained the body or a mystery of the mind.  This is a great monthly gift that keeps on giving.  Be sure to read our full review for a chance to win a 3 month subscription. Available from Know Yourself for US$29/month or $359/year.  As a subscription box this is a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year. Read our review and enter to win a 3 month subscription

These are The iMums Top Picks for gifts for kids this holiday season. We have gifts in a variety of price ranges to suit children from tots to teens. #STEM and #STEAM gifts are hot this year and we have plenty of gifts that are educational and help kids to nurture their love of science, technology and creativity. Let us know which of these gift choices are top of your kid’s wish list.

 

Circuit Scribe Ultimate Kit

circuit-scribe_electroninks_wallpaper-logo-3-1_lrFor the budding engineer Circuit Scribe Kits provide a great introduction to electronics. A really neat feature of the Circuit Scribe sets is you can complete the projects and make connections without needing to solder- you just draw the wires with the included conductive silver ink pen. The Ultimate Kit contains over 30 electronic components and instructions for lots of projects. Not only does the kit provide a lot of projects but it also teaches kids about electrical components – so they really understand what components like resistors are and learn to draw circuit diagrams as well as build projects. As the students learn about the components they are encourage to be creative and design their own circuits, the Ultimate kit is even compatible with Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Available from CircuitScribe.com,Amazon and other retailers for US$99.99, other kits are available for a variety of prices including a mini kit at $9.99, Basic Kit at $44.99. A great #STEM gift for ages 8-adult. Read our review and enter to win a Maker Kit

 

Design Your Own Maze Plus VR Viewer

maze Design Your Own Maze by Seedling not only lets you create your own wooden marble maze but it lets you use Virtual Reality to step inside it too! The kit also includes a cardboard VR viewer which you can use with your smartphone. Maze is a classic labyrinth game where you use the knobs to tilt the playing field to guide a metal marble from start to finish without falling down any holes. Instead of coming with a pre-made maze it contains bases and 42 wooden wall pieces that you use to create and re-create your own mazes that you can make as simple or as challenging as you like. Once you have created a physical maze you can turn it into a virtual maze by scanning it into the free Maze app. You can customize the maze by adding music, photos, traps, themes and more. If you put your smartphone into the included cardboard Virtual Reality Viewer you can even step inside your maze, turning your head to turn as you weave through its labyrinth. A very cool and creative #STEAM gift that combines both hands on creativity and Virtual Reality. Ages 6+ Available from Seedling.com, Amazonand other retailers for US$59.99

 

Puzzlets Starter Kit- learn to code

kidsPuzzlets from Digital Dream Labs is a hands-on physical toy that allows children from Kindergarten age upwards to learn coding principles whilst playing. The starter pack includes  a Bluetooth enabled play tray and 22 programming puzzlets plus a Cork the Volcano video game which can be played on an iPhone, iPad, Mac or Android smartphone/ tablet.  The kids place the puzzlet tiles in the play tray to control the characters on screen and thus use them to solve a variety of challenges. Puzzlets combines hands on play with interactive gaming and encourages kids to be creative, as many of the levels can be solved in more than one way. It can be enjoyed by 1 or 2 kids at a time and is suitable for ages 5 and above (under 6’s may need some help from an older child or adult).  #STEAM. Available from Amazon and other retailers  for US$99. More games due to be released in 2017. Read our review and enter to win

Square Panda Phonics Set

squarepanda-638-edit1080_grandeSquare 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.  Read our full review to learn more and enter to win. Available from Square Panda for US$119 USD

Sphero Star Wars BB-8 App Controlled Robot

bb8
We are Star Wars Junkies at our house.  Check out this BB-8 app-enabled Droid that includes an adaptive personality as you play including emotions and lets you give voice commands. Connect BB-8™ to the app and watch your Droid™ come to life. Drive BB-8 by sliding your finger on the driving pad, send him on patrol to investigate your surroundings, record and view holographic messages, and more. BB-8 droid is more than a toy – it’s your companion. You can even watch the force awakens with him and see his reactions! This is a “hot” must have toy that we can’t wait to get our hands on!Available from Sphero, Amazon and Target for US$149

 

Pokemon Go Plus

pokemon-go-plusPokemon Go has been the big mobile app hit of the year with millions of kids (and adults!) up and walking around searching for Pokemon, Poke Balls, Berries, and Pokemon Eggs. I love how it gets my kids out and active but don’t always love how they hog my phone when playing. The much anticipated Pokemon Go Plus is a wearable device that links to your smartphone through Bluetooth. It lets you know when a Pokemon is nearby by the LED flashing and the device mildly vibrates. With it they can collect Poke Balls, Berries, and Pokemon Eggs without having to look at your smart phone and receive notifications when they are near a Pokestop. They still need to have your phone nearby but it can spend most of its time in your pocket and they can look at their surroundings instead of at a screen. This is such a hot item that it is really hard to find but we’d recommend you keep checking Amazon in case more come into stock. Available fromAmazon and other retailers RRP US$39.99

 

BlueBee Pals Pro

Huhudson-the-puppy-pro-510x510dson the Puppy from Bluebee Pals is a talking toy that works with your smartphone or tablet. It is designed for toddler through early elementary school age children, and by pairing it with apps can be educational as well as fun. You don’t need to buy proprietary apps for Hudson to work- he works with the educational apps you already own.  The Bluebee Pal connects to your iOS, Android or Bluetooth enabled device and the mouth of the toy moves while connected to a huge variety of apps including the ability to read a story including from an app on your smartphone, play music, interact with AAC apps, and speech related apps. My two year old loves to hear stories and will sit and have the “read to me mode” activated while he listens to his favorite stories and looks at the pictures on my iPad Mini.  Available from BlueBee Pals and Amazon for US$64.99. Read our review and enter to win

Skylanders Imaginators

skylandersimaginatorsSkylanders , the original and immensely popular, toys-to -life action figure and video game is back with a new adventure- Skylanders Imaginators. Kaos is back and with the ancient power of Mind Magic creating an unstoppable army of Doomlanders! But Eon is undeterred and is fighting back with the help of a new series of characters: Skylands’ greatest mystic warriors, the Senseis. As well as the Senseis you can use all your old characters from previous Skylanders games and  use the power of your imagination to create your own Skylanders help to save Skylands. It is available for Wii U, XBox 1, XBox 360, PS3 and PS4. Available from Amazon , Target and many retailers for US$74.99 

 

Malia’s House

beach_house_2_web_large-800x546Malia’s House from Build & Imagine combines dress up dolls, a building toy and a dolls house all-in-one. The award winning Build & Imagine toys were designed to get girls interested in building by providing them with a more creative, imaginative experience than standard building blocks. The kit has 10 square, 4 triangular and 2 rectangular panels. These are illustrated on both sides and snap together magnetically. The child can use their imagination to decide which scenes to include and what shape to build, every time they play they can rebuild it in a slightly different way. There is a working door and lots of different rooms and scenes illustrated on the panels, including furniture and indoor and outdoor scenes such as a kitchen, bedrooms, beach, garden and pool. The kit also includes 2 magnetic dolls- Malia and her friend Skyler plus lots of magnetic clothes, pets and accessories than can be used with the set. I love how my daughter not only creates different scenes and dollhouses with it, but that she also loves to tell stories about what is happening as she plays. A great #STEAM gift and it can be combined with other Build & Imagine play sets for even more creative possibilities. Read our review and enter to win
 Available from Amazon and toyshops for US$59.99

 

Zumo Learning System with Android Tablet

ZumoLearning_Image3Zumo Learning System with Tablet from 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 turtle switch and use it with your own tablet or buy the entire Zumo Learning System.  Read our full review to learn more about the great apps and how the turtle makes items accessible
Available from Amazon for US$159

 

RCA PRO12 Android 2-in-1 RCA PRO 12 inch HD 32GB 2-in-1 Android Tablet Hybrid

rct6223w87sk_black_2Many kids and college students are doing a lot of schoolwork now on Chromebooks or tablets. For many Google docs seem to be replacing using Word. A great gift for older kids, teen and college student is a 2-in-1  such as the new RCA Pro12. This allows them to use it like a Chromebook or laptop to work in Google documents and search the web, but also acts as a touchscreen tablet for educational apps. The new RCA Pro12 has a 12.2″ HD screen and 32GB built in storage which you can affordably expand by up to an additional 128GB by adding a Micro-SD card such as the SanDisk Ultra 128GB . It comes with a removable folio keyboard case that attaches easily and securely via a magnetic connector. The PRO12 has a 13.GHZ quad core processor and uses native Android Marshmallow 6.o as it’s operating system. Users can choose from the huge range of apps available from the Google Play Appstore. It can be powered by the included AC adapter or via micro-USB, it has a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 8hrs. This is a great gift for students of all ages that they can use to do homework, listen to music, watch videos, search the web, answer emails and play fun and educational apps. Available from Amazon and other suppliers RRP  US$279.99. Look at for it on Home Shopping Network on December 2nd too!

 

Kensington Hi-Fi Headphones with Mic

KensingtonHeadphoneswith mic
If your kid loves playing games, doing schoolwork, or watching videos on a tablet or computer a must-have to save your sanity is a good pair of headphones. Kensington’s Hi-Fi Headphones with Mic are a great option and good value for money too. They are designed especially for kids head, yet look grown up enough that a teen or tween won’t be embarrassed to use them. They are well made, durable, have good sound quality, will fit a variety of head sizes and are a great choice both for home and school use. Priced at under $25 they are a great value. They even have a microphone which folds away when not in use. Available Kensington.com, Amazon and other retailers.from  for US$24.99. (Currently only $19.99) Read our review.

 Motion Pen Kids – Stylus for Children

motionpen_kids_product-640x640

The MotionPen Kids Stylus by Widevantage is a rounded thick stylus designed especially for kids, even younger ones that may not yet have a mature grasp pattern.  The stylus is rounded and has a rubberized tip on each end.  There are native apps made by Widevantage that you can use, which include erasing simply by flipping over the stylus, hovering your stylus over your device and more.  No batteries to replace, no Bluetooth to connect, simply pull out of the box, enter the number of your stylus and you are on your way to drawing fun.  My 8 year old had so much fun with the Motion Crayon app and we even played Pictionary using our iPad Mini. Read our full review and enter to win. Available from Widevantage and Amazon for US$22.25

Galaxy ZEGA Tank Battle Game

galaxyzega2In Galaxy ZEGA, the real and virtual worlds collide. The kit comes with 2 remote control tanks (others can be purchased separately) and a magnetic snap together battlefield. Galaxy ZEGA is a tank battle toy,  played with individuals and teams on a real-world battlefield using palm-sized tanks (called ZEGAs). Players shoot their opponents with lights to gain points and eventually earn up to 30 more skills so they can disable other ZEGAs with virtual ‘oil spills,’ freeze opponent’s speed and more to win battles.  I got to play this hands-on recently and it was really fun, the ZEGAS are very fast, responsive and easy to control via your tablet or smartphone. If you want to play quickly they can be used as remote control vehicles without the battlefield, but using it gives places for the tanks to hide and using it adds anther dimension to the play.  Starter Set available from GalaxyZEGA.com and other retailers for US$149.99

Know Yourself Adventure Series

adventure_kit
The Know Yourself Adventure Series is a monthly subscription kit which explores a new system of the human body each month.  I tested a kit that included the five senses which included an interactive comic book,  time travel, hands on experiments including the cylinders to capture items related to our senses, historical figures and stories which explained the body or a mystery of the mind.  This is a great monthly gift that keeps on giving.  Be sure to read our full review for a chance to win a 3 month subscription. Available from Know Yourself for US$29/month or $359/year.  As a subscription box this is a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year. Read our review and enter to win a 3 month subscription

 

For additional gift ideas check out our other Holiday Gift Guides.
This post contains affiliate links, if you click on these The iMums may receive a small commission which helps to pay to run this site. Thank you for supporting us by using these links. Some items on this list have been received free of charge for review purposes.

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).

Square Panda Phonics Playset by Square Panda – Review



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.



Square Panda Farming Square Panda Farming by Square Panda Inc

Price: $FREE

Help Old MilkDonald plant, grow, and harvest fruits and vegetables in Square Panda Farming!

When placing Square Panda smart letters in the Square Panda Playset, children learn the alphabet, explore.



Square Panda Space Cows Square Panda Space Cows by Square Panda Inc

Price: $FREE

It's a bird, it's a plane it's... alien UFOs beaming up cows! Compatible with the Square Panda Phonics Playset, children place smart letters in the tray to learn the alphabet, explore letter sounds, and.



Square Panda Fishing Square Panda Fishing by Square Panda Inc

Price: $FREE

What's the best catch in the icy arctic lake? Learning about letters! In Square Panda Fishing, children reel in their fishing line for a chance to catch letter fish! With each fish that they catch, they.

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!

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Alison, the American iMum is from Massachusetts. She lives there with her two sons and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. 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.

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