This is the first in a new series of Oh Pisi recommendations. We want to help you find great products for children that meet our high standards and also give you a behind the scenes look into how we evaluate products. To make it easy for you to buy, simply click through our links to buy directly on Amazon or the manufacturer.
Osmo Game System for iPad
We typically stay clear of apps & games for young children. There is the obvious difficulty of determining if a child or family has the right model of tablet, phone, or computer when giving software as a gift. However, our main concern is related to child development - specifically brain and fine motor skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to recommend limiting screen time because human brain activity changes to a passive mode when looking at a digital screen instead of actual objects. In addition, young children need to develop fine motor skills by manipulating items of different shapes & sizes - swiping with a finger inhibits that development.
Given all that, why are we recommending Osmo? Because they've developed a whole new system that relies on interaction with physical objects to control the software application on an iPad. The Osmo system combines the benefits of a software application (interactivity, multiple levels, graphics, sound, upgrades, etc) with developing children's fine motor skills. In addition, it overcomes the negative aspects of screen time by alternating viewing of the screen with physical objects.
More than these technical aspects, Osmo has multiple activities to keep children (and adults!) interested. Some examples are:
- Monster - children draw objects which Mo (a Pixar like monster) interacts with on the screen. To continue with the show, children will draw more objects and can create a custom video of Mo's activities.
- Numbers - educational game using numbered tiles and dominoes to engage children in learning math. Physically manipulating tiles make math games tangible with screen animations to make it fun.
- Coding - much of STEM education focuses on getting children to code. Osmo follows a familiar path of teaching children instructional code by breaking it down into simple building blocks which combine into a program. In the Coding game, the instructional blocks consist of actions + directions which are used to move a character names Awbie around the screen to collect strawberries.
There are also puzzles, drawing activities using a physical pen & paper, word games, and even a business game running a pizza shop! Osmo requires an iPad but will work one as old as an iPad2. It is sold as a game system (stand plus mirror attachment), individual games, and kits that combine the system with multiple games.
The Genius Kit (MSRP $99) offers a nice variety of games but does not include the Coding game (MSRP $49). Or you can buy individual games or sets. For budding artists, there is a Creative Set (MSRP $49) with the Monster, Newton, and Masterpiece games along with a white board and markers. One of the beauties with Osmo is that you can start with just one game and expand as your child's interests and abilities grow.
While it is rated for children aged 5 - 12, only certain games such as Monster will be suitable for the youngest children. Based on your child's grasp of numbers, letters, and ability to draw, you can expand to other games based on the child's abilities.
Osmo earns our recommendation as innovative children's software which not only overcomes the downsides of screen time but actually helps to develop children's fine motor skills.