Puzzlets 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. Two more games – Abacus Finch (Math) and Swatch Out (Color Theory) are due to be launched via Kickstarter in January 2017.
The target age range of Puzzlets is 6-10 so I had my nine year-old son act as my tester – he really enjoyed playing with it, and his thirteen-year-old brother was fascinated by it too and kept wanting to “help!” We tested it using an iPad Air 2.
Puzzlets is compatible with iOS, Android and Mac OS X. To play you first need to download the free Cork the Volcano app from Google Play or iTunes or the Mac App Store.
Next you charge the Puzzlets Play Tray using the included USB cable and when it is charged connect to your device. When playing on the Mac you connect the Play Tray via the USB cable, for an Android tablet or iPad you connect via Bluetooth.
Once you have set up the Puzzlets the first time it is really simple for kids to start playing without any adult help. The Play Tray automatically switches off when not in use. When they want to start playing again as soon as they open the app the Puzzlets Play Tray automatically wakes up and connects to the device without the player having to do anything. They can choose to continue a saved game or start a new one.
There are 22 Puzzlet tiles which the players place in the play tray to control the characters on screen and thus use them to solve a variety of challenges. These tiles each represent a snippet of code.
There are 3 types of tile:
Commands: These are main moves:
- Move Left (3)
- Move Right (3)
- Jump (4)
Modifiers: These enhance the command tiles
- (+) Intensify (3)
- (-) Lessen (3)
- (x2) Double (1)
- (x3) Triple (1)
Characters: These let them switch between 3 characters with different powers
- Rus the Gator (1)- walks over gaps
- Hippo the Hedgehog (1)- fits through gaps
- Sydney (1)- jumps high
As the kids work their way through the levels the different tiles are introduced and they are taught how to use them. They can then solve the levels using any combination of code tiles. The commands are read in the order they are placed in the tray- like reading a book from left to right, top to bottom.
Puzzlets is designed to be used alone or in co-operation with another child or adult. In solving a level the first step is to work out what commands to use and in what order. Once the player is happy with the commands, they press the play icon on the bottom right of the screen. The character then performs the first command and continues following it until they tap the screen again to change to the next command they have programmed.
Solving a level involves not only problem solving in creating the correct combination of commands, but also timing and hand eye co-ordination in deciding when to switch to the next programmed command. I love how it combines both an on screen game and a physical manipulative toy and that the players need to use both together to solve the puzzles. There is no one “right way” to solve each level, the child can use their own problem solving skills to find a method that works for them. To beat a level they need to overcome obstacles to collect a puzzle piece, there is also an additional challenge of trying to collect as many water droplets as they can whilst completing the levels.
My kids love Puzzlets as they are playing a fun video game with lots of levels to beat, I love Puzzlets because without realizing it they are also learning basic coding skills as they play. Puzzlets are a very clever combination of an on screen video game and a physical toy that between them let the child control what the on screen characters are doing and solve challenges. This is a great, educational, #STEM /#STEAM toy that combines technology and hands on play to inspire creative problem solving skills. The target age range for Puzzlets is 6-10 years, though younger children may enjoy playing with adult help and I also found that older children (such as my 13 year-old) also enjoy it. There is a lot of replay value because it has many, many levels and you can solve each level in a variety of ways. Collecting all the water drops does add a significant extra challenge (and I haven’t yet worked out how to do this on every level!!) Two more games – Abacus Finch (Math) and Swatch Out (Color Theory) are due to be launched via Kickstarter in January. 2017.
Available from Amazon, Digital Dream Labs and other retailers for US$99.
iTunes link: Cork The Volcano – Puzzlets – Digital Dream Labs LLC
Cork The Volcano - Puzzlets
by Digital Dream Labs LLC
Purchase of the Puzzlets Starter Pack required -- Contains 22 Programming Puzzlets, Play Tray, and micro USB charging cable.
If you would like to win a Puzzlets Starter Pack with Cork the Volcano (RRP $99.99), 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 USA Only and a valid mailing address is required to claim the prize. Please ensure you have read and understand our Terms & Conditions. Good luck!
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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).