Our family are already in love with Sphero toys after test-driving the Ollie Darkside edition (see the review here). Over the last year we have put it through everything two little boys can think of and other than surface scratches it just keeps going and going and going. Whenever we take it out to the playground other kids flock to it and parents ask about it. I can recommend it because I know that Sphero makes a good, built to last toy. That’s what it was to us…a toy, and then Sphero sent us the SPRK+….which is oh so much more than a toy!!!
On the surface Sphero SPRK+ is a clear ball with all its wires and circuitry visible. You download an app and connect to Bluetooth and you can drive Sphero around like a remote control toy. It lights up and is fun, fun, fun to play with. Any kid kindergarten age (and probably even younger) can work the basic function of Sphero but add on the Lightening Lab app and you are in for a whole world of learning.
Sphero SPRK+ and the Lightening Lab teach kids (and their mamas) about programming. The learning curve starts super easy with drag and drop coding that even I could master after watching a step by step learning video. It starts easy-peasy but it possibilities are absolutely endless. In the beginning you don’t even know you are learning the basics of programming.
For my son’s first try he was just following a simple set of instructions shown on a quick video clip. He learned how to control the speed and distance that the Sphero was travelling to make the shape of a square. He was instructed to try these steps, but even though all of the speeds and distance were equal the Sphero did not travel along a box-shaped path. Why? As the lesson then taught us, a stop needed to be added to the code to keep the ball from rolling and enabling it to make a sharp corner. By trying the steps both ways he was able to grasp how this simple step made a huge difference in his coded instructions.
With hundreds of ‘lessons’ created by Sphero and other users he can go from drag and drop coding up to complicated coded sequences of programming. The SPRK+ and Lightening Lab are being used by high schools to give kids hands on learning and inspiring them to learn more and more about programming. I can as an ‘educator’ set lesson plans for my son to perform increasingly more complex commands.
Now back to mama mode–how does it stand up to play and learning? It is water-proof and in fact many of the activities are in water. This little robot can even swim! The clear plastic is pretty scratch resistant but when used outside I would recommend the different covers which slide over the robot easily and protect it and help it grip different surfaces. And if you want to just have some fun the ramps and terrain park look like they would be a blast. Don’t worry about small drops, Sphero makes the SPRK+ to handle the impact. We have the Chariot which pops onto any Sphero and can be adorned with Lego bricks and mini figures. It also can fit a phone or i-Pod to make a video while racing it around.
While the little robot itself costs $129.99 USD, which I admit is maybe a bit pricey, you don’t need to buy batteries ever (it uses a USB charger that you just set it into) and because it is a sturdy toy it will not need to be replaced after a few months of play like a remote control car might. The Lightening Lab is a ‘teaching’ tool which costs nothing, just download the app! There are also many fun accessories which can be added on and the prices are super reasonable-FIND ACCESSORIES HERE. I like that I could order an accessory for a fun birthday or Christmas gift later on to keep it interesting.
I have told several moms in my circle of friends about the SPRK+ because I know it would make a great gift which is a toy and so much more!
Disclosure: I received a sample of a product to facilitate my review. No other compensation was provided and all views and opinions stated on this post are 100% my own