tiggly.jpgThere are plenty of toys that integrate physical products with digital, and many that work with the iPad. The Tiggly app toys are really neat in that, while they’re ideal for kids as young as 18 months old, kids can still enjoy using them, or just the complementary apps, up to the age of 4, or even older.

I, along with my 3-year-old son, had the chance to try out two sets: the Tiggly Geoshapes and Counts Counting Toy, both of which work with any generation or model of the Apple iPad. Here’s our take.

Tiggly GeoShapes 

The idea with these toys is to help children aged 18 months up until about 4 to develop spatial thinking, motor skills, creativity, language skills, hand-eye coordination, and pattern recognition.

The Design

The Tiggly Shapes come in a cute package that includes four coloured plastic and silicone shapes: a red square, blue star, green circle, and yellow triangle, along with a convenient carry pouch.

Visit the Tiggly Website, and you’ll find four apps that you can download to use with the shapes: Tiggly Safari, Tiggly Stamp, and Tiggly Draw, which are all free; plus an Xmas app, which costs $2.29. Each is available in eight languages.

tiggly geoshapes ipad toy - shapes.jpgHow It Works

The idea is to match the Tiggly Shape with the virtual shape on the screen. And this set doesn’t mess around – your kids are put to the test right off the bat, required to match three shapes in a row to unlock the app.

Once the app is unlocked, kids can use the shapes to interact with various games in each one. I downloaded the first three at once so we could try them all out.

In each of the apps, you choose a setting of your choice, like a farm, a desert, or underwater.

Safari App

Place shapes overtop the ones that appear on screen to make cute virtual animals. For example, you might match two circles and two triangles to create a little piggy. Tilt a square to the side, add a face, ears, and some wings, and you have a bat. In each app, the kids not only learn to identify the shapes, but also the names of the animals as they are created, further enhancing the learning experience.

tiggly geoshapes ipad toy.jpgStamp App

Place the shapes freehand onto the screen and watch an interactive scene take shape (literally). For example, place the triangle on the screen, and watch it morph into a mushroom plant, right before your eyes. A circle becomes a raccoon, a star a falling leaf. Don’t like what was created? Just drag it to the little trashcan at the bottom, right of the screen. Once your child is happy with the picture he’s devised, tap the star at the top, left to snap a photo of the creation. Your child can even animate it by tapping the video camera icon, then dragging items around on the screen and saving it as a video clip. Mom or dad can swipe left with two fingers to pull up a share menu and post the masterpiece to Facebook, or send it as an e-mail (grandma, perhaps?) You can also save the photo or video to the iPad’s photo library.

Draw App

This was my son’s favourite app of the three. Use the shapes along with a library of animated eyes, noses, ears, mouths, hats, and other body parts to create funny creatures that you can also snap a photo of and save.

What’s particularly great is that all of the apps can be played with or without the actual Tiggly Shapes. To play without them, use on-screen shape icons and drag and drop them onto the centre of the screen instead of placing the physical shapes on top.

Bottom line

My 3-year-old actually preferred, in some cases, using the on screen shapes. And the option lets kids continue to have fun with the app while away from home without the physical shapes in tow. That said, the shapes do add another level of interactivity that will be appreciated, particularly by kids that are just getting used to gripping, feeling, and recognizing objects.

tiggly2.jpgTiggly Counts 

Tiggly Counts is meant for kids that are a bit older, at age 3 and up, which made them perfect for my son.

As the name implies, the idea is to use the magnetic counting toys to learn how to count, add and subtract, plus enhance language and motor skills.

The Design

It comes with five plastic and silicone pieces that interact with the iPad: there’s a single red square, a double yellow, a triple green, four blue, and five pink. Kids can start simple by matching the shapes to the ones that appear on screen. But then get into more complex games using the three free apps available for download: Tiggly Addventure, Tiggly Chef, and Cardtoons.

How It Works

Tiggly Addventure

 tiggly counts counting toys for ipad.jpg

There’s a small creature that needs to get from one side of the game board to the other. The only way to get him there is to place the appropriate number of squares on the screen. The first jump might be easy – just place the green three-square piece on the screen to match the number 3. But when you get to six, for example, the child needs to figure out that he can place the green piece down twice to register 3 + 3 (which equals 6), or the blue and yellow (4 + 2), or the pink and red (5 + 1.) If the numbers selected don’t add it up correctly, the creature falls through and the game starts over. The child goes through several levels that include both bridges for adding and ladders for subtracting, learning math in a fun and engaging way. At the end, the creature successfully delivers a present to a friend. There are only a few levels, but since so many number combinations can be used to get across the bridges, the child can have fun playing over and over again, trying new number combinations to make it across.

Tiggly Chef

Hands-down, my son’s favourite of them all, this one works similarly except this time, the child must help the mustache-faced portly chef make delicious creations by tapping the appropriate number of squares on the screen to correspond with the requested ingredients. With the version that doesn’t use the shapes, the chef dictates what ingredient and how many he needs, then the child watches as various foods appear at the top of the screen and selects the right one when he sees it.

As with the Tiggly Shapes, all of the apps can be used without the actual shapes. My son loved, for example, playing the Chef app by simply dragging and dropping the ingredients into the bowl. As you drop them, the screen displays the addition. Three tiggly counts counting toys for ipad game.jpgcherries (1+1+1=3), one banana, five cucumber slices, two eggs, and four pickles later, and voila! A scrumptious stack of Piggy Pancakes.

Cardtoons

Place the squares, freehand style, on the screen and the corresponding number of circles will appear. Tap them to count, and watch them fly around the screen, grab and drag them into cut-out shapes. The circles will turn into objects that the narration names, then create a fun animation. For example, place the blue four square shape on the screen, place the circles overtop the black cutouts, and they magically turn into yummy gumballs that a frog eats up then blows into a big bubble.

Bottom line

The apps on their own are fantastic learning apps for pre-schoolers, and those just starting out in school. But the Tiggly Squares really help to make math – a subject many kids often dislike – much more fun than simply putting pencil to paper or chalk to board. There’s something tangible they can work with – it’s not just about tapping a screen or inputting numbers. And the five square pieces force kids to think about addition – it’s not just about 1 + 1, but if I already have a 6 and need 7 more squares to get to the other side, what combination of squares do I need? And let’s face it: it’s a lot more fun to figure that out using cool shapes than the old fingers-on-your-hand trick we used as kids.