5 Moms Review Osmo: Combining Hands-On Play with Innovative Technology


This post is in partnership with Osmo, and we participate in Amazon’s Affiliate Program.

Osmo Detective Agency Game

A big challenge in modern parenting is figuring out how much screen time we should allow our young children. What often gets missed in this conversation is that not all screen time is created equally. There’s little developmental value in letting our kids watch YouTube videos of other children playing with toys (although most of us here at San Francisco Moms Blog have let our kids do this!), but when children play educational games online, they are engaged and learning new skills.

What Is Osmo

Osmo, an award-winning educational games system that works with iPads and Amazon Fire tablets, takes this idea a step further by incorporating real-life play into their apps. It’s really cool—Kids use tangible pieces to play the Osmo games. Osmo prompts the child to use game pieces to build a letter out of sticks, create a picture out of shapes, spell a word, etc, and then it can “see” what your child has created, making a real-time connection between your child and the game and actively engaging your child in the learning process. Osmo creates unique, hands-on learning experiences in a variety of areas: problem solving, creativity, fine motor-skill development, spelling, reading, math, and coding.  

We asked five of our writers to try Osmo with their kids and share their honest opinions. Our writers’ children ranged in age from 3–6, but Osmo games are actually designed for children ages 3–12. Learn more about how the system works and read on for their reviews.

Little Genius Starter Kit (Ages 3-5)

Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit

Genius Starter Kit (Ages 6-10)

Genius Starter Kit

Creative Starter Kit (Ages 5-10)

Osmo creative set

Osmo Starter Kits

Little Genius Starter Kit (Ages 3–5)

4 games with pre-reading, storytelling, and fine motor-skill development

Genius Starter Kit (Ages 6–10)

5 games with problem solving, spelling, puzzles, and math

Creative Starter Kit (Ages 5–10)

3 games with storytelling, problem solving, early physics, and creative drawing 

Explorer Starter Kit (Ages 5–12)

A combination of the Genius Starter Kit and Creative Set — 7 games with an emphasis on coding, drawing, and creativity

How Osmo Works

Each kit comes with an Osmo base and red reflector that sits over your iPad or Kindle Fire’s camera. This points the view of the camera down to your child’s work surface so that Osmo “sees” their work. The kit also comes with all of the game pieces you’ll need to play the games, and of course, grants you access to the apps you’ll download to your device. The suite of games that comes with each kit is well-rounded, covering appropriate developmental skills for that age range and offering several levels of difficulty to grow with your child.

Once you’ve got the Osmo base and reflector that comes in the starter kit, you can add on other games to mix up the lessons for your kids.

Our Reviews



Jenn’s Review

I think my husband described Osmo best, “This is super cool and exactly how kids will be learning in the future!” We got the Little Genius Starter Kit. My son just turned three years old and LOVED the costume dress up game. He had fun dressing his character up for the party, and as he gets older, I think he’ll appreciate the alphabet game more than he did at this stage. I like how my son will be able to grow with this product. 

Osmo was easy to set up: take the kit out of the box, download the Osmo app and the corresponding apps to the games your child will be playing. Place the red mirror on top of the iPad camera after you remove your iPad case. Then, lay out the mat and game pieces and start playing. 

Osmo created an Osmo Case that makes it possible to play Osmo without removing the iPad’s case. This would definitely make it easier to switch back and forth between playing Osmo and using the iPad for other things.  

My son could easily play with Osmo for 30–60 minutes before I called last time. I would absolutely recommend Osmo to a friend because I really enjoyed the product and look forward to my son using this as he gets older. The company offers lots of additional games, especially for older children.

The Osmo device and game pieces are well made, and I think for everything you get, this is a great value. You could even add this to your bag to travel because everything is pretty compact. You won’t be a disappointment if you pick up one of these amazing Osmo products for your kiddo!  


Elisa’s Review

We got the Little Genius Starter Kit for our three year old daughter, Kiara. Setting up Osmo was a breeze. All you need to do is download the app and place your iPad in the stand. The only thing I missed was that you need to put the red piece on top, so the mirrors inside it can aim the camera at the work area. We didn’t do this at first and had a moment of confusion (and a good laugh) when my daughter built the letter T and it showed up as my husband’s face. 
She played for about fifteen minutes, making letters and little pictures out of the sticks and rings. Kiara is on the young side of the age limit, and I think that led her to want to copy images exactly. She did not understand the option to be creative. I think that’s a great way that Osmo’s product works for the whole age range actually. Beginners can focus on copying, while those who have mastered that can stay engaged by being more creative.
Kiara did ask to play the game again. I think she liked it because it was hands-on. I personally felt like the game controlled the kid more than the kid controlled the game, and I prefer that ratio to be flipped, from a child development standpoint. But it was certainly both educational and enjoyable. 
I liked how Osmo made learning hands-on, and I think building letters is a great exercise for pre-writers like my daughter. It introduces them to the shapes used in letter formation. 
It would honestly depend on the kid when it comes to recommending this to a friend. For Kiara, I can see her liking some of the games, while others would not be interesting enough for her. This may be because of her young age though.


Erika’s Review

We were so excited to receive our Genius Starter Kit in the mail!  My kids are three and almost five, so this is primarily for my five-year-old at the moment.

We had four different games: Tangrams, Numbers, Letters, and Coding Awbie. Both my kids loved the tangrams—it was super simple to use and understand, even my three year old loved playing it. The letters were also a hit with both kids. My daughter is learning to read site words right now, so she found the letters engaging and challenging. My favorite part was how she could help my son with the sounds and letters. It was both a learning and teaching experience for them to work together.

When we played numbers, I found it challenging to figure out the rules of the game. The numbers kept doubling on the screen and neither my husband nor I could figure out the exact rules of the game.  

When we got to Coding Awbie I made sure to do the entire demo game and even visit the website before we began. It was a hit! My daughter loved the challenge and it really kept her on her toes. She wanted to keep playing! And has asked every day since.  

I loved how the kids felt like they were getting iPad time, but it was really a learning experience, too. They definitely were not just staring at a screen. I also love that it can fill in the gaps where she needs more help in school (math, reading), and I look forwarded to getting more games!

I have already recommended to three friends!  


Kelly’s Review

The Osmo games in the Genius Starter Kit were very intuitive with little instruction needed, so my five-year-old jumped right in and figured out what to do. Our kit has math, spelling, and puzzle games. The numbers and words games have been his favorite so far. These two games in particular really kept his attention, for easily 20 minutes, and he continues to ask to play them over and over again. Once you download the app that matches your kit, your child can play Osmo without any further parent set-up. 

I was impressed with how Osmo works. It uses the camera in your iPad to make all the learning “hands on” and is truly interactive between your child and the screen. I believe this style of learning allows the child to be more engaged, rather than just watching or clicking on a screen. And as my son completes a task correctly, whether it’s a number problem, spelling a word, or figuring out a puzzle, I think he takes more ownership in his achievements because he was doing a tangible activity, not just swiping his finger across a screen.



Rebecca’s Review

Osmo Explorer Starter Kit

I got the Explorer Starter Kit for my six-year-old and almost-five-year old. Setting up Osmo was easy, but they were so excited to start playing that they could barely wait for me to finish.

The Explore starter kit inludes everything in the Genius Starter Kit, plus the Creative Set, and we also got an extra game—Detective Agency.

My five-year-old son loved the Tangram game, where he had to put shapes together to replicate the picture on the screen. My six-year-old daughter loved the Creative drawing games. The technology is amazing—she would draw a picture on the dry erase board that’s provided with the kit, and the character on the screen would pretend to pull her drawing into the iPad. Then, magically, her drawing was there and the character was interacting with it as part of the story!

The Coding Awbie game was intriguing to both of them, and they had a lot of fun with the Detective Agency game, particularly because it comes with maps and a magnifying glass to look for clues. So far, the numbers game hasn’t held their attention as long as the others. It’s a little trickier for them, but since they’re at the low end of the age range, I’m sure they’ll grow into it. 

They’ve been waking up early since we got Osmo to play, and at this point, I may have to get another base and red reflector so they can each play their own games on their respective iPads!

I love how Osmo incorporates technology in a hands-on way. I try to be conscious of how much screen time my children have but also realistic to the fact that technology will be highly integrated into their lives and they’ll need to develop skill sets around it. Osmo gives them a chance to understand how technology can be a powerful tool for learning while supporting the development of their fine motor skills and need for tangible play, which is so important for kids this age. Definitely recommending this system to friends!

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