Summer with Play Osmo
The summer holidays are about to commence, planning another six weeks at home with the kids after four months of lockdown seems almost crazy! We’ve covered every messy play idea imaginable and it’s fabulous that parks and tourist attractions are starting to open. Like most families we all still need a bit of down time at home, whether that’s a calm hour every day as part of your routine or just for those moments when you just need the kids to sit still so you can get a meal prepped or those dreaded days when rain cancels your outdoor plans. At times like this when you’re looking for something fun to do Play Osmo is the solution.
I wrote about our experience with the Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit in May and have been regularly using four different apps with Arlo (aged 3) ever since. I had so many enquiries 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 look at two more game add ons, I jumped at the chance. Logan is aged 8 and will be starting year four in September. He’s extremely diligent for his age, over lockdown he has missed school and 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 likes to try and predict the game play. The Pizza Co Game was perfect for him – pitched as suitable for ages 5-12, I gave him the box to open almost as soon as our PR package arrived and he was so excited. 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. Logan was able to set up the reflector and base unaided.
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 nicely inside the Osmo containers which neatly stack with our others for storage which is another little design feature from Osmo – the attention to detail continues from the physical pieces and into the game play.
Turning the Pizza Co. game on for the first time, you are introduced to a character who owns a pizza shop and he very quickly tells you he’s going to go on a holiday and leaves you to run the place. The game play is more complex and challenging than the ones we have experienced before. It’s intuitive to follow and so would be suitable even for children who have never experienced the Osmo system before.
You begin with some easy challenges, replicating pizza designs on the screen which ‘customers’ request. I think the first challenge was adding 3 mushroom play pieces to the pizza base and then sliding the entire mat to the right to put it in the oven. The device picks up the reflection of the play pieces and the movement and you immediately 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! That’s a lesson in emotions all by itself!
Once the characters have finished their pizza you get notifications and are asked to collect their payment and organise their change. You can swipe across your play scene on the tablet from the pizza prep area across to the diner counter. Once they finish their pizza you end up flipping the play mat over and then children must do the maths. When we first started playing, the game play was simple to get used to the process, with quick sums such as 10-7, 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. Logan had to think and invent his own recipes, working out a balance between olives and tomatoes, to appease the customers emotions. The game also added in customers with different levels of patience and VIP’s to take care of. We soon learned to not rush through this game play and take our time to make sure we understood each request.
The settings within the app allow you to adjust the difficulty and Logan chose himself to increase this because the maths was “too easy” to begin with. 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 without me changing the settings 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, so you also have a chance to add up your takings and then factor in 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 for the next few weeks and so has to stay off his feet which is tough as he’s a particularly energetic child.
Logan recognised that Lincoln could help him with the Pizza Co. 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, whizzing through the maths problems and completing customer orders more quickly. These two boys never sit still for long and rarely together. I don’t think I’ve come across a digital game which offers the same level of team work opportunities as Play Osmo.
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 rather than lots of play pieces.
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 working as 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. The first clues helped us figure out how to use the magnifying glass with the reflector and mat and was super simple to get the hang of. It’s really easy to pick up and if you get stuck the game characters teach how to utilise hints. The positive feedback within the Osmo world is fabulous. If you make a mistake the characters don’t just give you the answers but gently ease you in to finding the answers yourself – having constant praise for completing tasks creates a positive learning experience and for Lincoln who loves role play this game was perfect. He was immersed from the beginning.
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 for each child. As the game progresses it asks you to utilize different maps to follow your international criminals – and very quickly we were pouring over a map of Rio de Janeiro. I noticed characters 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. They were delighted to share their knowledge with us.
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. This feature can be switched on and off within the settings 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 packs we have tried 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 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 organize 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 realize they’re picking up new skills. Watching Logan adjust difficulty settings himself to make maths challenges harder was a wonderful highlight.
Guest Blogger, Lavania Oluban. @arloriverrex