Thursday, November 18, 2010

Smarty Ants and Phonics Reading Pup Review and Giveaway

This is a sponsored review from BlogHer and SmartyAnts.


I think this is my kids' favorite review program so far: a FedEx truck delivered us a singing, talking stuffed dog. The Smarty Ants Phonics Reading Pup comes with 10 songs already in his fluffy repertoire, which was good news because it kept the children busy squabbling over it while I went to the computer to set up the included one-month membership to the Smarty Ants reading program.

If I'd known he would start playing with it before
I even recycled the box, I would have cleared off the counter first.
I mean, salt? a crumpled towel? an electrical plate? PROFESSIONAL.


When I see a computer-based toy, I always want to know what is involved in it: I can use a computer, but I want to know how much information the computer will need from me and how long/difficult/confusing/frustrating it'll be to get things working. So that's the part I'm going to tell you about now.

It had me start downloading some software, and then it asked me for my email address and my birthdate, and then for my child's birthdate (it's one child per membership) and whether the child should be represented by a boy ant or a girl ant, and what the child's ant should be called. I felt squirrelly about the birthdates but I just fudged it a few days: this still gives the game the info it needs, without bothering my privacy issues. I also used a nickname for my child's ant's name, instead of using her actual name.

The next step was one of my favorites, as you would suspect if you read my baby name blog: choosing a name for the dog. Furthermore, there is a LIST TO CHOOSE FROM. How much would I have wanted the job of making a list of possible dog names?? SO MUCH!! I spent probably ten minutes trying out each name on our dog to see which I thought was best. This would have been really fun for the kids, if I had let them help. (I chose Murphy.)

(screenshot from SmartyAnts.com)


The next step is choosing three ant friends to play with, and I did call Elizabeth over for this part. There are three girl ants and three boy ants to choose from, AND you get to NAME THEM. Elizabeth chose the three girl ants, and she named them Kyra, Olivia, and Katie.

(screenshot from SmartyAnts.com)


Then I chose her reading level from a list of possibilities and entered the free one-month membership code that came with the dog. And...that's where it stopped helping me. There I was, looking at my account info, wondering what I should do next. I looked in the FAQ (click the "get help" button at the top of the screen) and followed the directions to unzip the software I'd downloaded (by clicking on the SmartyAnts.zip file on the desktop), then I put it in the Applications folder as instructed---but it didn't start installing as it said it would. So I double-clicked it, and THEN it started installing. (Computery types are rolling their eyes and asking each other if in the next version they should include "Continue breathing while installing this game.")

It took over 3 hours to install. According to the web site that's about double the time it would take with a slow internet connection, but we have a fast internet connection. The downloading was done before I was finished registering, and the installation is what took hours---but the web site says the installation speed depends on the internet connection. In any case, if you're giving this as a holiday or birthday gift to your own child, I recommend doing the installation ahead of time just in case you have the same experience.

Fortunately, the children were still playing with the Pup.


This is where we have Sadness and Woe, because after struggling to get the installed application started, it turned out the problem was that my computer didn't meet the system requirements. There was a hasty consultation with my bosses, and we decided this was a good opportunity to tell YOU about the system requirements.


(click it to see it bigger)


The Smarty Ants game really does look cool. The kids were very excited as we were setting it up and reading about it---so excited that Paul and I had a couple of discussions about whether it might be time to upgrade my computer ANYWAY. It's a reading game for pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade reading levels (even if your child is older than that), the kind that adjusts itself to the child's ability level and learning pace. I thought this was a good summary from the handbook:
For children who grasp reading concepts quickly or have advanced skills, the program accelerates to keep them engaged and challenged. For children who are struggling, the system slows the pace and increases the educational support and scaffolding.
The ants are appealing, and all three of my little kids found it very exciting to get to choose and name their little ant friends. It would have blown their little minds to learn that playing the games would let them earn "Smarty Coins" to spend on ant clothes and ant accessories.

Also, GET THIS: you plug the Phonics Reading Pup into your computer and it will automatically download the songs that go along with what the child is working on with the Smarty Ants. Then the dog can go with your child as, like, a mobile review unit! Plus, the dog shows up in the ant games, and the child can use the Smarty Coins to buy toys for him.

(screenshot from SmartyAnts.com)


It's exactly the sort of thing my kids would go nuts for, and if I'd seen it before the review I would have bought it for them for Christmas. (Remember to install it ahead of time!) The dog comes with a free 1-month membership, and when you go online for the first time you're offered a 2-week trial; I was wondering if the 1-month would get ADDED to that, or if it was INSTEAD, and it's added---so you get a month and a half right off the bat, which might be as long as the child would play it (a Christmas toy lasting well into February is very good). If the child was still crazy for it, or if you have a child who needs either reading help or more reading challenges, a year's membership is $24.99 for 3 months, or $49.99 for 12 months (twice the money for quadruple the time) (you will not be surprised to discover I have a math medal) (from seventh grade, WHATEVER). The Pup is $29.99, and since the grey/white version has a boy voice, and since half the dog name choices are girl names, my guess is that the white version has a girl voice. (It isn't necessary to have the Pup to play SmartyAnts, and children can still have a Pup online even if they don't have a real Pup.)

One of my twins can read but is timid about it: lots of saying, "But I CAN'T!!"---even when he can, and reluctant (to the point of tears) about sounding out words he hasn't seen before. And yet when he plays video games (and he LOVES video games), he reads all the instructions easily. This is why Paul and I were thinking, "Maybe the computer could stand to be upgraded anyway...": Smarty Ants is practically custom-made for Edward, who would be frantic to play the computer games and wouldn't even notice it was helping him with his reading confidence.


The giveaway is for your own Phonics Reading Pup AND a one-year ($50!) subscription to Smarty Ants AND a $100 Visa gift card---all from BlogHer. To enter the giveaway, do one or two (two maximum) of the following by December 17, 2010, each with its own comment so I'll be sure to enter you the right number of times:

a) Leave a comment saying which Pup you prefer, the grey/white or the white (you can see both here: Smarty Ants store).

b) Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post.

c) Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post.

d) Follow this link and provide your email address and your response to the sweepstakes prompt, and then come back here and leave a comment saying you did so.


This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older.

Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail.

You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. For more information, see the BlogHer.com Smarty Ants official rules.

To read more reviews and get more chances to win, visit the BlogHer.com exclusive offers page.

For more about Smarty Ants, visit SmartyAnts.com, or go see Smarty Ants on Facebook. To shop, visit the Smarty Ants store on Amazon.com

119 comments:

Jess said...

I like the gray and white one. The white one looks like it would soon be gray and white anyway, am I right?

Julie said...

I vote for the gray and white one. So adorable, and it reminds me of my gray puppy when I was little. Memories!

I also followed your link and begged to win at the sweepstakes site, too. My son totally needs this!

Misty said...

Oh, I would love to get the white one. So cute!

barb. said...

I think my kid would love the grey/white one the very best!

barb. said...

I also entered via the sweepstakes! :)

Kathi A said...

I entered from the link--this looks like a great Christmas gift possibility!

LiciaLee said...

I prefer the gray and white. SO cute. This looks like an awesome program!

Nowheymama said...

The gray and white one would be a great present for E. Sounds as if he and Edward have some reading similarities. :)

beyond said...

i like the frey and white white one. what a great present it would make for my nephew...

Erica said...

Maddie chose the white puppy.

I also filled out the google doc with my info.

Erica said...

Gah. It would help if I could follow directions, wouldn't it? Please consider this my second entry for doing the sweepstakes prompt thingy.

Mimi said...

Oooh, my kids would like either. I would choose grey and white.

Julie said...

Gray/white :)

Shel said...

I'd love the gray and white pup

shel704 at aol dot com

Shel said...

Tweeted:
http://twitter.com/auntiethesis/status/5580858920542208

shel704 at aol dot com

Tracy said...

I love the grey/white pup

tsmithski@gmail.com

Brenna said...

My 4 year-old would love the white one!

Brenna said...

I also entered my info via the link. :)

AStarrA said...

The grey/white pup is so cute!
disintegratingstarr@hotmail.com

AStarrA said...

Responded to the sweepstakes prompt
disintegratingstarr@hotmail.com

Little-Bit said...

I entered the sweepstakes :)

Little-Bit said...

And I would love the all white one. My son would too :)

2Forgetful said...

I think the white and gray one is cuter. Which is surprising since the white one is all poodle/fuzzy/cuddly.

ask23 at drexel dot edu

Also, I think it's hilarious that my word verification is "bling."

Melanie said...

I like the white one, but they are both pretty cute.

melduke26 at gmail dot com

Melanie said...

I entered the sweepstakes too!

melduke26 at gmail dot com

Amber said...

I like the grey and white puppy!

amberf_03@hotmail.com

Amber said...

I entered the Sweepstakes!

amberf_03@hotmail.com

Nicole C said...

Wow! I rarely comment on review blogs but this toy looks amazing for my almost 4 year old daughter. I think she’d love the white dog!

Nicole C said...

I also followed the link and gave my response to the sweepstakes survey. Thanks for this opportunity Swistle!

Felicia said...

I like the gray/white one better. At least that's what my 4yo son said. :)

Jen in MI said...

The white one.

JEN said...

Wow, someone stole my username. Anyway... the white one.

I also followed the link and registered.

Tuesday Girl said...

We had a boy that would love the grye and white!

nanann said...

This would be great for my kindergartener!

I think she'd love the white one!

nanann said...

And I entered the sweepstakes through the prompt for entry #2. Thanks!

DanielleCorrelle said...

The grey/white :)

juliloquy said...

For myself, I'd choose the husky, but I know the kids would prefer the white, since (to them) it would look more girl-like.
Thanks!

Susan said...

Definitely the grey and white!

Susan said...

And I entered the sweepstakes!

Becs said...

The little gray and white one is super cute!

Sabrina said...

I kind of prefer the look of the grey/white one, but if the all white one really is a "girl" character, I'd be inclined to buy that.

Christy said...

I like the grey and white dog, but I'm a little dismayed that there's a girl dog and a boy dog at all. That wasn't advertised, was it?

Swistle said...

Christy- They might both be boys. Our grey/white one sings in a male voice, and yet the dog name choice list has girl names and boy names---so I'm just guessing. I emailed the company using their web site questions form, but haven't heard anything back.

kakaty said...

I'd love the grey for my preschooler. Anything to help her read!

kate AT kakakakaty DOT com

kakaty said...

tweet:

http://twitter.com/kakatywins/status/6729262568574976

kate AT kakakakaty DOT com

Erin said...

OH MY GOODNESS. My daughter would absolutely FLIP for this dog. I like the grey & white dog, even though he's a boy (Mommy thinks too much white = dingy dog after some lovin').

Erin said...

I also went to the sweepstakes website and filled out the little form deal. :)

sunnymum said...

My daughter would adore this pup as she's learning to read! I think she'd prefer the grey & white husky since she looks like a friend's pet.
cbeargie at yahoo dot com

sunnymum said...

Also tweeted: http://twitter.com/sunnymum/status/6892551504142336

susan1215 said...

I filled out the form and I like the white pup.

s2s2 at comcast dot net

susan1215 said...

http://twitter.com/susan1215/status/7071484652556288

s2s2 at comcast dot net

Emily said...

I like the gray and white one.

Emily said...

I signed up for the sweepstakes.

Lanes said...

My son would LOVE the gray and white one! So adorable.

Sheila said...

I like the gray/white one, might be easier to keep clean.

Sheila said...

I followed the link and left my e-mail address.

Just call me "B" said...

Oh, I love the white one.

Danielle said...

I like the grey/white one.
dgoodridge84@yahoo.com

Danielle said...

I followed the link and entered.
dgoodridge84@yahoo.com

gmissycat said...

Love the grey/white pup and my grandson would really love it more! What a wonderful giveaway!

gmissycat at yahoo dot com

gmissycat said...

Tweeted here too

http://twitter.com/gmissycat/status/7614569379790848

gmissycat at yahoo dot com

Susan said...

I would prefer the grey/white puppy. My nephew would be the recipient of this if I were lucky enough to win it!

prizeentry @ wesharewithyou dot com

Susan said...

I tweeted http://twitter.com/rsmstahley/status/7624487696605184

prizeentry @ wesharewithyou dot com

Karina said...

i like the white dog

karinaroselee at gmail dot com

robinj2001 said...

grey and white one please

marybug2 said...

yes,yes,yes, I want to win this for my new grand baby.
marybug2@yahoo.com

marybug2 said...

I tweeted
http://twitter.com/#!/marybug2/status/9052172960407552
marybug2 at yahoo.com

Kerry said...

I like the white one.
nuthouse(at)centurytel(dot)net

Kerry said...

tweeted: http://twitter.com/KerryBishop/status/9067145140895744
nuthouse(at)centurytel(dot)net

sodahoney said...

I like the gray and white

sodahoney said...

http://twitter.com/sodahoney/status/9128209564045312

Emily R said...

My kids picked the white dog. And it staved off a fit. Thanks!

Emily R said...

entered the sweepstakes! And I knew a good dog named Murphy once.

Mayhem said...

Grey and white!! My boys would love this.

mayhem.mama @ yahoo dot com

Jaci said...

Grey and white! How cute.

Anonymous said...

Tina said...

I will choose the white one, but I am not picky when it comes to tricking my daughter to realize she can read. Thanks so much!

mytien_le at yahoo dot com

Naddez said...

I would choose the white Pup. Thanks! :D


sam94son05(at)sbcglobal(dot)net

Naddez said...

Tweeted - http://twitter.com/Naddez/status/10538773758615552


sam94son05(at)sbcglobal(dot)net

Charity said...

I like the Grey and White one:) Very cute. Please enter me in this giveaway. Thanks!!

esterried[at]yahoo[dot]com

Charity said...

And I tweeted about it.
http://twitter.com/kingsdaughter24/status/10559579230306304

esterried[at]yahoo[dot]com

mollie said...

the white one is cuter

molliemam87 at gmail dot com

mollie said...

tweeted here

http://twitter.com/#!/molliemam87/status/10800950029590528

molliemam87 at gmail dot com

Rachel said...

I love love the white pup!

Thanks for hosting the give-away. COunt me in!

Anonymous said...

I prefer the white pup. I have a totally white cat.

MCantu1019@aol.com

thellfamily said...

Grey/white is so cute!

Jenni said...

I like the husky-ish grey and white pup.

velocibadgergirl said...

Sounds neat! I like the gray and white pup best.

velocibadgergirl at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

I'd love the white pup!
dibz a t hot mail do t com

Anonymous said...

I tweeted!
http://twitter.com/WendyLohr

dib z at hot mail d ot co m

fostertam said...

I like the gray and white one best too!

fostertam said...

http://twitter.com/#!/fostertam/status/11912665735630848

fostertam said...

I responded to the prompt

Anonymous said...

I prefer the white dog. Enter me please :)
rachelkrych at hotmail dot com

Angel Jacklyn said...

WOULD LOVE THE GRAY & WHITE ONE. MY COUSIN WOULD LOVE IT! kytah00@yahoo.com

Angel Jacklyn said...

2ND ENTRY TWITTER twitter.com/#!/kytah00/status/12339581353459712 kytah00@yahoo.com

Pamelotta said...

My daughter loves stuffed animals and I think the all white one is more girly. Thanks for such a great giveaway!

margaret said...

I like the grey and white, will remind my grandson of his aunts dog

Smarti said...

The grey/white one looks cute
rmartinclarke at gmail dot com

hrhpomegranate said...

I think the grey and white is the cutest!

Tabathia said...

I like the white
tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

Tabathia said...

tweet'
http://twitter.com/ChelleB36/status/13103741985103872
tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

shiloh said...

I think my niece would choose the Husky as he looks like my sisters dog.

Rickey said...

God love my little granddaughter who is repeating kindergarten. I would hope that this would really help her. Phonics is how I learned to read! Thanks for the opportunity this is great!

bdiane34 said...

I like the white one!! I also followed link and explained why I wanted to win this for my daughter
sweokgrl@gmail.com

bdiane34 said...

my tweet
sweokgrl@gmail.com
http://twitter.com/bdiane34/status/13518937526374400

Mary said...

I like the white one.

Jennifer said...

I totally like the grey and white one. The previous poster is right, the white would soon turn dark anyway.

angie lilly said...

I would love to win the gray/white husky doggie one! So cute!
Angie
one 4 earth at aol dot com

angie lilly said...

I tweeted here: http://twitter.com/#!/FotoMacro/status/14721841461469184
Angie
one 4 earth at aol dot com

Scott said...

def have to go with the gray/white one!
Scott
nynekats at aol dot com

Scott said...

my tweet http://twitter.com/#!/RePurrPussed/status/14728497440231424
Scott
nynekats at aol dot com

Anne said...

I'd go for the grey/white one
ajolly1456 at gmail dot com

Anne said...

I tweeted
http://twitter.com/lunaj1456/status/14873869416407040

ajolly1456 at gmail dot com

jillyrh said...

I'd go with the gray/white one!

jillyrh said...

Tweet

http://twitter.com/jillyrh/status/14889304354459649

~dab said...

I'd pick the grey/white one :)

~dab said...

tweet http://twitter.com/simplydab/status/15475293636534272

Deanna G. said...

I love the white one! :)

Deanna G. said...

Tweeted:

http://twitter.com/#!/calidreamin87/status/15611429289721856