Learning to read is such an important milestone for children. There are so many individual skills required before a child is able to read words and sentences. First, kids need to learn to identify letters by sight. Next, they have to remember each letter's individual sound. Once they learn about letters and remember their individual sounds, they will have to sound out each letter in order just to pronounce a word.
Every single one of the individual skills needed for reading is difficult. It can take children years to master them. Most adults remember learning to read in the first or second grade. Now, most children are expected to learn many of these foundational reading skills before they enter Kindergarten, by age 5.
Many children learn these skills easily. But for others, learning to read can be very frustrating and overwhelming. In order to learn new skills, research supports multi-sensory learning. This means that children are more apt to learn new skills when they have had an opportunity to use as many of their senses as possible, after they have had a chance to see it, hear it, say it, and touch it, with a lot of repetition. Most agree that children learn best when they are having fun and it does not feel like work.
Many kids are motivated by technology toys, and the iPad can be an invaluable tool that also engages many children in learning through apps.
Square Panda is a multi-sensory phonics curriculum for kids ages 2-8 to use with an iPad. There are 10+ apps (phonics learning games) that help target different foundational phonics and reading skills.
Unlike other phonics apps for the iPad, Square Panda includes a bluetooth connected tray and 45 uppercase smart letters. These letters, when placed in the tray, are accurately recognized by the app. Depending upon the app game they are enjoying, kids can follow the prompts from the app to find the correct letter to answer a specific question related to letter sounds or recognition. Or, kids can explore words on their own, by placing letters into the tray and forming their own words.
Play with the Square Panda apps and toys requires that children touch, tap or swipe on the app. They will also need to listen for specific directions, then use their hands to search through a pile of letters and place it in the appropriate section of the tray.
Each app is beautifully illustrated, and easy for young children to follow the instructions. Games are fun and interactive, while offering natural opportunities for repetition and practice to learn. Should a child choose incorrectly, mistakes are never highlighted negatively and positive reinforcement is offered.
The Square Panda Playground provides parents and teachers with information regarding the skills and information children are learning when accessing the apps through play.
Through the wifi connection on the iPad, information from the apps are automatically uploaded into the playground website. Parents can input specific names and photos that will also be incorporated into the app games and individually track each child's progress. Should children misplace one of the letter tiles, it is possible to configure the app and identify the missing letter, so that the games are still playable.
With the demands of education, it has become a requirement that being a parent not only involves teaching children children right from wrong, but also being their chid's first teacher. Sharing educational toys and experiences in their early years is important to the future academic success. Activities like Square Panda provide a fun way to balance the work with play, while helping kids learn new academic skills for reading.
While Square Panda is currently only supported by an iPad 3, 4, Mini 2, Mini 3, Air, Air 2 or the iPad Pro with Bluetooth 4.0, it will be available for Android, too. More apps will also be accessible in the future.
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.