Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Smart Letters

Smart Letters

Spring 2017 Toys
Ages: 3 - 6 yrs.
Manufacturer: Marbotic
Price: $59.99

Smart Letters merges physical and digital play—no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth required. Inspired by the legendary Montessori Method, this charming and effective educational "toy" uses a tablet, smart-touch wooden letters, and three free apps to teach the sight, sound, and shape of letters. Compatible with the iPad and a variety of Samsung tablets, the Smart Letter kit includes a full alphabet of colorful wooden letters and a suite of three free apps: AlphaMonster, Vocabubble and Bla Bla Box.

We began with the AlphaMonster app's five modes of letter play. Place the wooden letter to hear the sound; hear the sound and place the letter; and find and place the first letter of the word pictured. For those venturing into the lowercase world, the app invites learners to match the uppercase wooden letter to the lowercase block or cursive letter on screen. There's even a pictorial alphabet legend with the word's first letter highlighted. In Vocabubble, children stamp the wooden toy letter on screen and move the colorful letters to reveal a hidden black and white illustration of words that begin with said letter. Artichoke, Alligator and Anubis are far from the "A is for apple" alphabet we've seen ad nauseum; these examples raise the bar on artwork and vocabulary. Players move through and find all examples to continue to next letter. Smart Letters uses a star to keep track of completed letters; skipping around to favorite letters is ok. And the Bla Bla Box app invites player/learners to combine letters to form syllables and even words.

The teaching methodology is solid, the playful artwork welcomes children and adults, and the sound design, from the gurgling AlphaMonster to the noise heard when pushing the home button, are a delight. Smart Letters, take a b-o-w.

Claire Green   ©2017 Parents' Choice
Claire is president of Parents' Choice Foundation and cofounder of Sandbox Summit®. She looks for toys and media that will unleash children's interests, and celebrate the fun of learning.

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