Technology is everywhere and for everyone these days. My 7 year old has an old iPhone that he uses for games and learning apps, my almost 5 year old knows how to work pretty much any phone you hand her, and I can only imagine how tech savvy my almost 1 year old will be soon.
Digital devices like tablets (we have one) and smart phones (we have three between us) are the norm for what they are calling the I-Generation (those born after 2003). Schools have integrated them into their everyday classroom life, some schools have transitioned away from books altogether and solely rely on digital devices. One company has created a cool new item for toddlers as young as 18 months that may have some parents changing their minds on digital devices.
Creative Baby is a company that believes in unlocking a baby's creative potential by stimulation with fun and engaging activities. Based in California and founded just a few years ago, Creative Baby has set out to develop products that excite, entertain, and challenge young children, while empowering parents to participate in their development.
Their creation, the I-Mat, is a soft and colorful interactive foam mat that are made of four interlocking sections and themed with such things as My Animal World, the first in the series, and will soon include My Alphabet and Under the Sea. The mats are geared for
young toddlers up through preschoolers.
We were approached about doing this review because we luckily fell into a great category, we had a 4 year old and an almost toddler. This provided a prime opportunity to let both children interact with the mat and see how it went.
Our Creative Baby package is here!
It was big and we had a few friends over who were really intrigued as to what the box was holding. They couldn't wait to come back and see.
Before we opened the box, we had to investigate baby style
It passes C's inspections and S agrees, this is a good place to sit.
Inside our box, we found another box, this one was pretty cool to check out and both girls were interested in seeing more.
Inside our second box we found the Creative Baby I-Mat: My Animal World.
"Go ahead and roll on the floor with this soft play mat, ideal
for between nap and meal times! Featuring a full color
illustration of animals from around the world, the I-Mat
serves as a fun visual play land with dozens of cute animals
that toddlers can't resist nor their older siblings. Animal
name clouds stimulate the visual connection of the words
with corresponding images and animal names."
We first found all 4 of the interlocking foam pieces. Each piece had a different "habitat" area and a large assortment of animals you would find within each habitat.
The colors are bright and illustrations are true to each animal. Both girls were drawn to it immediately. It measures 27 x 5 x 26 inches and is phthalate, lead, and heavy metal free, so safe for all to play on. There are no electronics within the mat, so it can't be damaged from spills that will quickly be wiped up. The mat retails for $29.99 singularly or $79.99 with the Voice Pen included.
We then found the second part of the I-Mat, the Voice Pen.
"Creative Baby’s unique tool is sold separately for families or preschools that wish to allow several children to play with more than one Voice Pen at a time on the same mat. This upgradeable “pen" is what brings the I-Mat to life. By touching the pen to the I-Mat, the objects on the foam floor mat “talk” and songs play. As new I-Mat themes are introduced, parents can simply connect the Voice Pen to any computer (with the USB cable provided), download the newest sound file from the Creative Baby website to the I-Mat Voice Pen. Then get ready to explore a new adventure. A special bonus is the voice recorder ready to capture first words, giggles and beginner foreign language expressions."
Instructions, USB cord, and the pen were all easily described so we knew how to work it. It did require batteries, which we had on hand. The Voice Pen alone retails for $49.99 or $79.99 for the mat and pen combination.
The Voice Pen is really the life of the I-Mat. With its 2GB memory the pen is activated when pressed onto the mat with talking, sounds, and singing. Across the top of the mat is an on/off button, volume button, 3 language buttons (English, Spanish, and Chinese), and 2 leveled games.
Watch our video for an explanation on how to get started:
The great thing about the I-Mat is that it is great for both toddlers and their older siblings. While C crawls around and can visually see all the animals, one of us names them and points to them. You can point both to the animal and the corresponding name bubble.
C's favorite animal is a cat, which she calls ki-ki, watch her find it.
If you use the Voice Pen, the child is instantly rewarded with a sound, word, music, or a language translation depending on game level.
Watch as S plays a few rounds
The I-Mat is a great brain workout for everyone and the games are both beginner level to start and progressively become more difficult. The language choices are wonderful too, B has been learning animal names in Spanish class at school, so this made a great tool to help him study. They all love the Chinese version and have been spending a ton of time listening and trying to figure out what animal it is. I love seeing them all get so excited about learning.
Coming soon, the My Alphabet and Under the Sea mats will be available. Parents will be able to connect the Voice Pen to any Internet accessible computer and using the included USB cable, download the new sound file from the website to the pen. I know we will be watching for them and adding them to C's birthday list, the Creative Baby I-Mat has been a huge hit. Everyone who has seen it wants to know what it is and has been given a demonstration. The kids love how interactive it is and I love the fact that all three of them can play with it together, the learning going on is just a bonus!
Creative Baby recently received the Spring 2014 Academics Choice Award.
The "Brain Toy" Award was given to the I-Mat after an advisory board (consisting of leading thinkers and graduates from Princeton, Harvard, George Washington University and other highly reputable educational institutions and product-appropriate volunteer reviewers) decided that it was something that exhibited "mind-building excellence."
Want It? Buy It!
I-Mats can be purchased online from www.CreativeBabyInc.com or Amazon. They will also be releasing the newest themed I-Mat, Under the Sea in July 2014. You can preorder now for a limited sale price of $24.99 (not including the Voice Pen). You can follow Creative Baby on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Thanks so much to Creative Baby!