uKloo, App & Game by uKloo Kids Inc, was created out of love for a boy. Doreen Dotto, a mother, was trying to help her son who was struggling with reading came up with the concept of a treasure hunt to engage him. By allowing him to run through the house and gather clues, she was facilitating the joy of reading by making written words relevant and important in the moment. She also took the anxiety out of having to constantly stay in “thinking mode” when first learning about words and helped reinforce the meaning of words by pairing a kinetic component with a tangible object. Words and writing became an adventure and contained fabulous surprises at the end! She soon found that her children not only loved the game, but so did their friends and classmates. Teachers discovered by placing the game in a child’s backpack for “homework” not only united families in their child’s education, but also helped improve their ability to recognize sight words, sentence structure and sequence in the classroom. Awards from some of the most prestigious companies – Dr. Toy, Creative Child Magazine, Pal Awards, and Able Play – a toy rating system for toys for children of all abilities from the National Lekotek Center, to name a few, soon followed. Let’s take a look at both the physical game and the app.
Gameplay is straightforward and easy to learn for even the youngest of players so the whole family and/or class can become involved. It starts with following a clue that leads to another and ends when the Surprise Card is found. Surprises can be anything – from a trip to the playground to a dollar store surprise picked from a treasure chest. The physical game consists of a set of 5 different card stacks. Clues are graded into 3 different reading and difficulty levels or you can make your own using dry erase pens. (Think about this week’s sight-reading words.) Included is one handy Picture Helper to assist kids in participating on a more independent level by having them look for a word and its pictorial representation in order to decode the clue. After setting up a game, let the kids take the lead. It’s hard, but a child who independently problem solves and looks for solutions, grows up to be an independent and more capable adult. Using the game with paired children or if in a classroom, having multiple groups follow different pathways is a great way to have children work and help each other. By leaving the structure up to the teacher or parent is genius. One can set the number of sequences to the cards and also choose a highly motivating prize to the child or group. Each game can be tailored to the child/group as they are able. This way “just the right challenge” is being presented to keep interest and motivation up. A “just right challenge” is keeping material in the 75-80% success range.
uKloo the app is co-produced by uKloo Kids Inc and Smiley Guy Studios. The app is not only a stand-alone game, but in some ways serves as an extension of the physical game to refine skills. The goal is tuning into directives and executing the demand by visually scanning and problem solving to find the clues and the surprise. Using both the game and the app in conjunction with each other is a powerful learning tool and helps set a child up for the foundations of reading. There continues to be an auditory, visual and kinetic piece, however the target is more contained to the size of an average reading surface area. Giving kids a physical warm-up before playing can help ready kids to settle and then work on reading skills by refining their visual focus to the screen. Scanning initiates to the right and far right by scrolling the screen, and reinforces the pattern of reading and writing. The Picture Helper is under the book icon. It is more refined and specific than the physical game by containing what is needed to follow a specific clue. Every time a clue is found, a little animation is played. Finding the surprise card is really reinforcing in itself,
and most kids are happy to just yell the word surprise, rather than getting something. By the way, no one has said that kids have to sit the whole time. Making a run for it between games to a specific destination, allows them to refocus and also experiment with near and far space. That experimentation not only pairs a child’s listening skills to a speaker (teacher or parent), but also teaches them about the shape of space – which is reading and writing in a nutshell. I love how incredibly thoughtful and adaptive the app is, as again the level of play and number of clues can be synched with a child’s capabilities. There is also room for adaptation…building social skills by pairing children, opening the field for discussions of different environments, and just how hilarious words can be in their sound and form. Currently the app has two playing fields, the farmer’s market and the farm. New themes are in the works.
uKloo.com has a wealth of information for best use of the app and game, and goals to tie in while playing. This game/app is incredibly adaptive and can serve parents, teachers, and therapists in achieving early literacy goals. As an OT, I’ll be using both the game and the app. The app is currently free, and well worth a look. Highly Recommended and a TWA Pick!