Recently, I was given the chance to try out the Crayola Light Marker. This piece of hardware, as the name may describe, allows children to use this chubby crayon-like tool - part laser pointer of sorts - to draw and in other ways interact with the free app associated with this Light Marker.
Included with the Light Marker is a simple but nicely functional green plastic stand for the iPad that is thoughtfully included as this app is used on a propped iPad, with children standing between two and three feet away from their target.
One will need to use a very small Phillips head screwdriver to open the marker and install the included AA battery or an AA battery of one’s choice.
When installed, a press of the top button will turn on the power to the pen, while the button on the side of the marker needs to be pressed to draw or otherwise interact with the iPad.
A free app, also named Crayola Light Marker is used as the software for this tool and includes six interactive sections.
Do first calibrate the pen by holding the Light Marker over the front-facing camera of one’s iPad, and note that this app lets children know if they are too close or too far away for optimal results - helpful info to be sure.
Dot to Dot is pretty much what one might expect from this sort of activity as users connects the dots of one of five simple animal drawings. I enjoy how one’s own marker strokes can be seen on the page as the dots become connected and the animal details are added to the image for a nice effect. After the animal is complete, children are able to color in their drawings.
Splatter Paint is an arcade-type shooting game for very young children allowing them to choose from a variety of templates and then pop paint-filled balloons over these areas to create an image as well as to keep score by asking children to see how many balloons they can pop in sixty seconds. Children have a variety of three color palette choices as well as slow, medium, and fast speeds for the ascent of the balloon targets.
A puzzle section is included where one has a chance to put together a few different puzzles in a range of easy, medium and difficult levels.
Coloring pages as well as a blank page to work on are also included which offer users different tools such as paintbrush, crayon, marker, paint bucket mode where one can fill in a section of the drawing with a single tap, as well as some novelty stamps. Three tip sizes can be chosen, and an eraser is available as well as forward, go back buttons and the ability to share art with family and friends.
My favorite section is a section called Hide ‘ N Seek, where players look for hidden objects within six differently themed scenes using the marker as a flashlight and tapping on the objects when found using the side button of the marker. Three difficulty levels are included, nicely making this activity easier with a larger area of the page illuminated with the marker as well as less fun clutter to hunt through. Two more varied degrees of difficulty are also included for older children with more superfluous objects to not be distracted by and smaller beams of light to use during this seek and find activity.
I do wish, however, that there were more activities that were geared specifically towards this new technology, as the coloring and puzzle areas can be better completed in finger mode allowed in these sections, especially the coloring in of the included drawings without the paint bucket function, as it is impossible to color within the lines with the marker in any way. Because of this, I would love to see people be able to color with the marker as if it were a paintbrush, but not be able to color outside the lines of the area being colored.
It is nice how the brush strokes of all the included tools look as if they are glowing for an interesting effect, and children may have fun drawing freehand on the included blank page, as will some adults who may be reminded of tagging the side of a building when they were younger themselves.
Unfortunately, I do find the coloring page drawings to be at the level of clip art, which may not hold the interest of children past toddler hood.
I appreciate this this tool can be used to encourage children to hold a pen or pencil correctly as the Light Marker is designed to be held with an index finger over the side button to engage the light to go from the power-on color of red to the green light that will engage the interactivity of the app. Although children may try to grip the marker with a fist, I think they will soon see that this hold is unwieldy and not accurate when working within these activities, encouraging them to hold this tool correctly.
Because this is an LED device, I would personally want children to have some supervision as I would worry about children looking directly at this light source or shining it into another person’s eyes - misuse that I would be concerned about.
In testing this app, however I did hold the pen close to a wall in a darkened room to see how much light was emitted, which from my very unscientific test was not very much as I needed to get pretty close to the wall to see the red or green light lighting up the surface I was pointing at, making me feel better that this tool is not as powerful an LED as say a flashlight - something bright enough that I do not let my son play with.
The included stand was a welcome extra that I find myself using when watching storybook apps on Auto-Turn as well as other iPad viewing, but my husband and I have noted that a bit of an angle leaning back would be better for longer viewing of a movie or such - not an issue really as this stand works great to keep the iPad in the upright position for best use of the Light Marker.
I feel fortunate that although my son enjoys the iPad and iPhone, his interest in crayons, writing with a pencil, or painting with a brush has not been hampered, and he is getting the hang of holding the pencil correctly.
For those parents who have children who love technology and prefer to spend time tapping and dragging their fingers across a screen instead of working with real world objects that can help with fine motor skills, they may benefit from working with the Light Marker.
It is my understanding that more apps may be developed in the future that incorporate this technology. I would love to see more varied activities that could only be achieved with this Light Marker instead of the basics like Dot to Dot or coloring pages that can be done just as easily with a pen or pencil.
My five year old son was very eager to test this new Light Marker and related app, but when the novelty of the pen wears off, the included sections are not unique enough to keep kids his age interested for very long, and the marker may be too difficult for younger children to use as there is a learning curve to being able to acquire the coordination needed to aim the light source where one wants to move tap or explore. Even with this being the case, I can also see some adults find the ability to let their child explore this app without actually touching the iPad inviting. Because of this, the Crayola Light Marker may be worth checking out.
This post originally appeared on GiggleApps, the app review site for parents and kids.