Home learning with Play Osmo

The school holidays are about to commence, another few weeks at home, after only being back for a few weeks seems almost crazy! We’ve covered every messy play idea imaginable and it’s fabulous that parks and tourist attractions are starting to open up. Like most families we all still need a bit of down time at home, wether that’s a calm hour every day as part of your routine or just for those days when you just need the kids to sit still so you can get a meal prepped, or rainy days when the kids have exhausted their imaginations, and want something fun to do Play Osmo is the solution.

I wrote about our experience with the Osmo Little Genius starter kit in May last year and have been regularly using four different apps with Arlo (aged 3) ever since. I had so much interest as soon as I shared a picture on our Instagram page and one of the most commonly asked questions is about the longevity of the system.

If you are new to Osmo, it’s a relatively unique concept. The idea is that children use physical game pieces to play with, and these connect via some technical wizardry to your devices and create an interactive game platform. I created a walk through video to demonstrate exactly how one of the games work.

When we were asked to take a look at two more game add ons I jumped at the chance. Logan is aged 8 and in year four. He’s extremely diligent for his age, over lockdown he has missed school. Constantly finding things for an inquisitive young mind is a challenge but watching Arlo with the Osmo system intrigued him.

Logan has been trying to figure out how the device reads the play pieces, and also likes to try and predict the game play. The pizza Co game was perfect for him – pitched as suitable for ages 5-12.

You can use the Osmo Parent app to create profiles for different children and installing the apps on different devices is a straightforward process. Logan uses a Fire Tablet and so he also has his own base now, whereas Arlo uses my iPad. There are no discernible differences with the game play between the different devices which makes things simple for a parent.

The Pizza Co game set comes with two trays of play pieces and a pizza base. One tray contains a variety of pizza toppings and the other has a collection of money in different denominations. These all fit neatly inside the Osmo containers which neatly stack for storage which is another neat little design nuance which is so carefully considered.

Turning the pizza game on for the first time you are introduced to a character who owns a pizza shop and basically tells you he’s going to go on a holiday and leave you to run the place. The game play is more complex and challenging than the ones we have experienced before, it’s fairly intuitive to follow and so would be suitable even for children who have never experienced Osmo before.

You begin with some easy challenges, replicating pizza designs on the screen which customers request – adding 3 mushroom play pieces to the pizza base and then sliding it to the right to put it in the oven. The device picks up the reflection of the play pieces and the movement and you see your cooked pizza appear before a customer. If you get it right they are happy, and if you get it wrong then…. they’re not!

Once they have finished their pizza you get notifications and are asked to collect their payment and organise their change. This is done by flipping the play mat over, and then children have to do the maths. When we first started playing, the game play was fairly simple to get used to the process, but we found it got increasingly more complex.

The game introduced different customers and so Logan had to quickly respond to different orders and instead of being a straightforward request we had customers who shared their likes and dislikes so Logan had to think and invent his own recipes, working out a balance between olives and tomatoes. The game also added in customers with different levels of patience, and VIP’s to take care of.

The settings within the app allow you to adjust the difficulty and Logan chose himself to increase this because the maths was “too easy” – here I found that you could select the complexity of the maths – from basic round numbers to allowing more complex sums with notes and coins required.

As the game play progressed I also noticed that it got increasingly more complex and Logan was really impressed with this, I feel the app responds to the abilities of the child and introduces more challenging problems at a great pace to keep them motivated. There are different levels to complete within this game too. It organises challenges based on paying rent for the day and so you not only have to add up your takings but also consider the delivery charges for stock.

Logan really was fascinated by this game, and I’m impressed with the sheer amount of ways learning objectives have been incorporated. One thing which really surprised us with this game was just how nicely Logan played with Lincoln. Lincoln is aged 5 and has just finished his first year of school in reception. Lincoln also has his leg in a plaster cast at the moment (he’s a particularly energetic child).

Logan recognised that Lincoln could help him with the pizza game and so invited him to join him, teaching him how to follow the instructions and apply toppings so that he could focus on sorting out the change and completing customer orders more quickly. These two boys never sit still for long, and rarely together.

Lincoln was delighted when I revealed we also had a second game to try out, and this one was for him to lead the way. The packaging for the detective agency is lovely, and slightly different to the other games. There’s a selection of different play boards to use and a magnifying glass, all stored in a neat little file.

The only way I can explain this game is to compare it to Where’s Wally – but on a much more interactive level. Each play board is a map of a different location. The game begins in the fictional Osmo Town, and gently eases you in to a fictional plot line.

The concept is that you are a detective and the first game sends you on a search for a thief, who conveniently leaves clues as you chase him around the town. Lincoln had to look intently at the game board to find the clues – and then slide the map along the table in front of the tablet and hold the magnifying glass over the answer to the clue.

This sounds really complex but it’s really easy to pick up and the first few levels teach you the game play, and how to utilise hints if you are stuck. The positive feedback within the Osmo world is fabulous and having constant praise for completing tasks creates a positive learning experience and for Lincoln who loves role play this game was perfect.

Of course Logan was also interested in this game and we were able to flick between child profiles with ease to adjust the difficulty settings. As the game progresses it asks you to utilise different maps to follow your international criminals – and very quickly we were pouring over a map of Rio de Janeiro.

The app pointed out different “real” geographical features based in the city we were exploring giving a fabulous insight in to geography and history which really interested the boys as this mirrored some of the activities they had covered in school and they were delighted to share their knowledge.

As we became confident in chasing clues, they quickly got harder. It went from looking for a specific character or building, to looking for “five food items” – and then I also noticed that we had a timer and countdown clock to find the items on the board too.

The problem solving aspect of the game is probably the best thing about play Osmo, children are given all the tools and resources they need but have to actually think and use a variety of different skills to progress within the game and again, just like all of the other games it uses technology to track your child’s progress and adjust the game play settings to adapt as your child becomes more proficient.

We have been playing with our new games for two weeks now, and still have only just scraped the surface – I love that the kids feel happy that they have had their tech time and have actually been engaging in interactive play rather than absorbed in watching videos on YouTube. We can complete a “level” within 15-20 minutes in most of the Osmo games so there’s an easy way to organise tablet time and create intervals for play for families who like to limit screen time too.

There’s something for everyone within the collection, learning through play like this is great because kids don’t even realise they’re picking up new skills. Watching Logan actually adjust difficulty settings himself to make maths challenges harder was wonderful and finding something which helps Lincoln sit still for longer than five minutes is a win. Take a look at the full range over on Amazon

The products were provided by Osmo for the purposes of a social media campaign, all views and opinions expressed are my own.

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