Coding Critters Skye The Unicorn REVIEW

Enjoy some much needed Screen-Free Family Time.

As a parent, birthdays and holiday shopping often represent a new level of struggle.  I do not feel that monetary gifts satisfy the spirit of giving and would prefer to find a thoughtful/memorable gift, despite the requests of my older children.  My wife and I are tired of junk, doodads, odds-and-ends, and things that simply take up space.  Honestly, my kids would rather become iPad Zombies and vegetate in front of their tablets/smartphones.  Our goal is to inspire and encourage creativity and provide activities that stimulate their curiosity.  We have found various STEM-based coding options for them, and they seem to enjoy returning to the action.  Consider picking up a Learning Resources Coding Critter as you finalize your holiday shopping this season.   

The Coding Critters MagiCoders Skye the Unicorn arrived in a vibrant, fun, 10 inches wide by 5 inches thick by 9 inches tall retail package.  The cover provided the “Learning Resources” logo along the top left and information about the 22 piece setup and the 100% Screen-Free nature of the device. You will find an Ages 4+ STEM logo along the top right, a choking hazard warning for kids under 3 toward the bottom left, and a small picture of a coding spellbook along the bottom right of the panel.  The main showcase was the colorful, playful image of Skye the Unicorn, the magic coding wand, and accessories.  Personally, the cover panel was rather eye-catching and did a great job at capturing the interest of my children.  

The right side panel provided the same topper icons as the cover while adding a pleasant paragraph about the company, and a clear image of the magic wand “learn coding with a fun magic wand.”  The left side panel listed the same topper icons as the cover/right panel but provided two add-on pictures. The purple picture detailed the spell casting and the “Magical Merry-Go-Round!,” while the lower blue picture showed the rainbow horn “twinkle.” The rear panel, like the front panel, provided the Stem logo along the top right of the panel.  The Coding Critters product name was provided along the top left of the panel, while the remainder of the panel was devoted to information about the product, and a colorful image of Skye and her accessories. The blue-colored top panel provided the same topper icons, the Coding Critters product name, and a nice oblique image of the unicorn and magic wand.  The bottom panel provided product information in French and Spanish.  Like the cover panel, the accessory panels successfully utilized color and imagery to draw in the consumer.

I cut the tape along the top of the box, lifted the lid, and removed the three product accessory bags and the 5 7/8 inches wide by 8 5/8 inches tall by 4 3/8 inches thick tan cardboard box.  The smallest bag had a variety of cardboard program cards (3 5/16 inches wide by 3 1/4 inches tall purple-colored cupcake, 4 3/4 inches wide by 3 9/16 inches tall smiling star with rainbow, two green-colored left turn ovals, two blue-colored right turn ovals, two yellow-colored backward motion cards, and six orange-colored forward motion cards).  Each of the oval-shaped cards measured 1 3/4 inches wide by 1 13/16 inches tall.  The medium-sized bag contained a purple 3 1/2 inches diameter plastic ball, a yellow/purple/blue teeter-totter catapult (deconstructed), a blue 1 1/8 inches long star, a yellow 1 1/8 inches long star, a purple 1 1/8 inches long star, two small translucent-blue cloud stands, two large translucent-blue cloud stands, and a 0.91-ounce unicorn panda figure.  The largest bag contained a 9 3/4 inches wide by 6 inches tall purple plastic rainbow, a sticker sheet, Coding Spell Book, and instruction manual.  I applied the stickers to the purple rainbow, added the two large cloud stands to the base, added the cupcake and rainbow star cards to the smaller bases, and turned to the cardboard box.  Within the box, you will find the 2.85-ounce blue/purple magic coding wand and the 5.53-ounce purple/gold Sky the Unicorn character. 

Before starting with the coding device, you will need to insert three AAA batteries into the unicorn and two AAA batteries into the wand (batteries not included).  You will need to locate the battery compartments on the unicorn’s abdomen, remove the Phillips screw, insert the batteries, then reinstall the battery door. I loved that the unicorn had a nylon battery removal cord and included useful battery orientation diagrams.  The wand had five buttons in a D-pad style arrangement (forward, turn left, back, turn right, central go, and a lower star-shaped spell button).  The multilingual instruction manual provided a useful quick-start guide.  To start, the manual recommended sliding the power toggle to the “on” position along the underside of the Skye Unicorn and on the back of the wand.  Next, place the unicorn onto a hard, smooth surface.  We then followed the initial instructions provided by the instruction manual.  My three and six-year-old daughters took turns pressing the forward button twice, followed by the central go button.  They loved the chime/jingle of the unicorn/wand and had quite a bit of fun making the unicorn move forward, then backward, and then into a combination of circles.  For reference, a forward or backward command will allow the unicorn to move approximately four inches toward the programmed direction.  Each of the turn commands will rotate Skye 90 degrees.  I found the movements to be quite reliable but the grooves in my hardwood floor did cause a bit of friction and angle change, thus resulting in a slightly varied experience.  However, despite the minor variations, we found that we were nearly able to return the unicorn to its starting position. 

Once the kids were content with basic commands, running the unicorn under the rainbow tunnel, completing the recommended (longer) program (forward, forward, right, right, forward), and several variations of made-up mayhem (up to 40 commands), we turned to the included Coding Critters Spell Book. I loved the rhyming meter, the cartoon pictures, and the step-by-step coding process.  Beyond simple press and control, the book allowed for some reading and thought.  The first spell (back, forward, back forward) will help Skye follow her ball, and then the second left, right, left-right, will help her to eat her treat.  The following panel provided a Guard Unicorn Spell to patrol the room, and another for a dance party (back, back, forward, forward). Interestingly, my children absolutely loved the Mood Horn Spell (back, back, back, back).  When you wave your hand in front of Skye, the nose sensor will activate and the unicorn horn will illuminate a color based on Skye’s mood (grumpy green, surprised yellow, excited orange, angry red, tried blue, silly white).  There were spells for a Happy Birthday song (forward, back, right, left) and other singing activities.  Lastly, you can use the included catapult to launch the stars and then code Skye to try to navigate to the fallen stars.  The commands were easy to learn and proved to be a fun experience for my twelve and ten-year-old sons as well. 

If you are looking for hours of screen-free STEM-based entertainment, the Coding Critters Skye the Unicorn will not disappoint.  Even before I had the contents removed, my three and six-year-old daughters begged me to play with them.  Despite the 4+ warning, I suspect children aged 2-4 could use the device if the stars were removed (smaller choking hazards).  This may be the perfect gift for your 4 to 8-year-old child/grandchild this Christmas.  If the unicorn theme does not resonate with your child, consider picking up the Ranger & Zip Dog theme, the Blazer the Dragon theme, the Dino Bundle, the Bunny Bundle, or a variety of other animal-themed coding options.

Learn more about the Coding Critter Interactive Toys
Learn more about Skye the Unicorn.

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