Read Design

Language and Reading Encouragement from the Square Panda Playset

A workstation that turns your iPad into a next-level phonics and spelling tool

Anyone with a young child understands first-hand their attraction to technology and their innate ability to use it. Square Panda has tapped into this connection and delivered a physical playset to accompany an iPad (and Android tablets soon) along with a series of dedicated educational games, all with a focus on phonics development for very young readers. The Square Panda playset and its magnetic letters and multi-level gamified learning make for an engaging fit for those aged two and over. It’s more than a CES award-winning product; it’s a technological development that incorporates adaptive learning, and we love the way it harnesses the draw of shiny tablets with physical letters that kids can pick up and play with.

One of the keys to Square Panda’s educational approach is this multi-sensory learning. Beginning with 45 magnetic “smart letters” that can be affixed into words at the base of the playset, they in turn sync with the apps on the iPad. When arranged these letters initiate interactive animations and audio in the apps. Pronunciation is affirmed through well-known phonics techniques. The goal here is “Reading Readiness,” a term developed by the National Institute for Literacy, understanding the sound each letter produces becoming the foundation for spelling.

There are currently 10 app-based games that coincide with the playset—all of which are free. The most popular (and our favorite), Lagoon, is guided by a chameleon who can recognize 3,000 words (and 400,000 combinations of letters). Special words actually trigger a color change of the chameleon. If you spell out a word, it recognizes it, pronounces it and then provides an animation; rewarding kids for their input. Other games feature bowling, bubbles, fishing and farming—each with their own focus and set of skill levels. The robot-themed Letter Lab offers a place for children to select smart letters needed to complete words proposed by robots. It’s exciting, colorful and judgment-free.

Behind each app is a proprietary cloud-based tracking system. This allows for progress tracking (for up to three users) and even establishing a curriculum. All progress can be charted online through Square Panda’s parent portal, known as the Playground. The games within appeal to children up eight years old, and the lessons stretch up to that level. It’s an effective series of tools that even we enjoyed getting familiar with. We’ve even been gifting them to friends.

You can buy the Square Panda playset online for $120. iPad or Android tablet not included.

Images courtesy of Square Panda


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