When my in-laws visited Harry Potter World recently for my mum-in-law’s birthday, I could barely contain my jealousy. Although I’m a bigger fan of the books than the films, I still find them magical and will never pass up the opportunity to get swept up in the magic of the movies, if one happens to be on TV.
I’ve deliberately avoided our family WhatsApp group so that the photos and videos of their day didn’t spoil it for me. As I sit here writing this, I’ve been excitedly dreaming up with my husband that when we go (which will be this year, I’m determined!) that we’ll most definitely dress up in crocheted house scarves – Slytherin for me, Gryffindor for him – home-sewn movie-quality cloaks with a serpent and lion cloak pin, respectively (hey, I said dreaming) and custom wands to match.
Allegedly, none of the other visitors were dressed up other than Harry Potter themed sweaters and ONE house scarf, so it gives me all the more reason to be completely over the top when I finally make it there.
Ever since I was a child and I received my copy of the Philosopher’s Stone for Christmas (the book, not the stone, of course) I’ve been completely spellbound by the characters, plot, and universe.
Usually, magical stories are either completely modern and futuristic or are set hundreds of years in the past in some fantasy universe where ‘everyday humans’ don’t exist, but I love the blend of magical lore and normal, everyday life. The thought of witches and wizards living among non-magical people made it feel all the more plausible as a child (and now, who am I kidding?)
So when I found out that KANO have invented a wand that you can code from home without any prior knowledge, I knew I HAD to try it out. Majestic Ram was sent a wand to try out on stream, and now it’s my turn to play with it!
Note: I was not paid by the company to review this product, I just think it’s super cool and wanted to share my experience with you!
Unboxing the Harry Potter Coding Kit
For a product retailing at £99.99, I expected the packaging to be somewhat luxury and well-made.
It was exactly that.
The parts come cushioned separately in the well-padded, velveteen box, enrobed in mystical-looking organza for added effect. There are TWO sets of batteries (generous considering most companies expect you to rummage through your junk drawer to find your own batteries) and the beautifully presented instruction booklet which conceals underneath it a few sheets of very cute stickers and a poster of spells with corresponding wand movements, for those moments where you need to cast in a rush 😉
The first time I opened everything up that was inside the box, I was blown away at the attention KANO have put into making it look exciting and appealing – the wand’s parts not only look authentically magical but feel sturdy and expensive, not tacky, shiny, or plasticky.
What surprised me most was the instruction booklet. Admittedly, this isn’t usually something to get hyped over, and depending on the kind of person you are, it’s either idly glanced over at the very beginning, or haphazardly tossed to the side and never given the time of day.
However, this one’s different.
The attention to detail was such a pleasant surprise. Each page adorned with beautifully simple illustrations and step by step instructions – even the battery compartment page kept the font and whimsical design. Arthur Weasley would be in his element!
You might have rolled your eyes at the mention of the instruction booklet, a seemingly pointless part of the product beyond telling you how to operate the thing, but here’s why its stunning design is so important:
The Harry Potter Coding Kit is aimed at all ages. This means children as well as adults. Also, most people will have never played with something like this before (including me), so if the instruction booklet consisted of paragraph after boring paragraph of technical gobbledygook, with no drawings and printed on cheap A4, there’s a good chance you’d already be annoyed at how difficult the wand is to assemble and use.
This beautiful booklet looks and feels like something right out of the Hogwarts Library. It’s so easy to follow because not only are the step by step instructions separated onto individual pages, but the booklet explains not only what you need to do to build the wand, but what to do if certain bits don’t work the way you expect, or why certain things happen.
It’s certainly a charming booklet that you’ll want to keep!
Setting things up
Assembling the wand
As the pieces of the wand house the delicate circuit board, I’m glad it was strong plastic, yet easy to clip together without being worried that I’d snap the thing in two. Again, the instructions were so broken down that I knew what to expect, what noises were normal, and that the crack sound of the wand clicking together was totally fine and I hadn’t broken it.
It’s pretty, with a button and RGB LED light at the front to show you when it’s powered on, connected to the app, and later, you can programme it to change depending on what spells you’re doing. Fun!
The cute little circuit board that I was terrified I’d snap because I’m ham-fisted
This was the bit I was worried about most, because originally, when Ram played with this first, I went out and bought a Bluetooth adapter which turned out to be a V2.0 which doesn’t work. We had to put off playing with the wand until our V4.0 one arrived. This was purely because neither of our PCs have Bluetooth integrated, so if you’re planning on using this with your tablet, you should be good to go without buying anything separately.
Downloading the app
Thankfully, the gorgeous little instruction manual tells you where you need to go to find the app that you hook the wand up to. You simply head to the website and there’s no scrolling through endless lists of version numbers to try and figure out which one you need.
Instead, it does the work for you:
And once you download the right one, installing takes a couple of moments and then you’ll be prompted to connect your wand which is again, super easy, providing you follow the step by step correctly.
The KANO App
Everything happens within the app itself, so it’s important that it’s easy to understand, breaks up the lessons into easy to digest chunks, and looks the part. You can absolutely tell KANO have taken a lot of care and time to perfect this app, because it feels 100% part of the Harry Potter world in its design – the map is styled like the Marauder’s map – and is intuitive, guiding you to different locations on the map which unlock new exercises, teaching new how to change the colour of pygmy puffs, throw cauldrons into the air, or fill a train carriage with sweets – through the power of coding.
Being a lover of tech and computers from an early age, but never quite having the patience to sit through traditional coding classes or books, I’ve tried the apps and online ‘learn to code’ courses with little success, mainly because I find them linear and boring. If you’re like me and need something stimulating to keep you interested, this is amazing at it. There’s the perfect mix of interactivity and education – which is why, I suppose, it’s aimed at all ages, including kids.
It’s colourful, has a classical soundtrack, and there’s 80 spells to learn; KANO have honestly just transfigured coding into a video game, and this is its appeal. You’re learning, but the spells don’t feel like tedious lessons. Instead, you’re picking up what commands and lines of code mean what, via immersion. As you explore the various ‘spells’ along your way, the exercises get progressively more complex, starting out by holding your hand and explaining the very basics so ANYONE can learn, but then easing off as you get more of a solid understanding of how certain things function. When you get stuck and something doesn’t seem to work, its easy to navigate menus help you not only figure it out, but make you want to figure it out.
The simple KANO app interface shows you the code in blocks, and the effect it has on the objects in the right-hand window.
If the gorgeous instruction booklet (that I’m probably too obsessed with), the stickers, poster, and amazingly crafted app weren’t enough, you also unlock rewards for completing exercises! So far it seems to just be cosmetics, which you can apply to your very own witch or wizard version of yourself in your profile. Choose your skin and hair colours, clothing items, and pet and accessories like cauldrons or trunks. And you aren’t forced to pick a gender, either. A pretty cute addition!
Creating my KANO profile. Pick green, blue or purple skin if you want, too!
My favourite feature
When I first started playing with the KANO wand, I figured it would be quite difficult to pick a favourite feature. Not because it’s in anyway average, or that there’s anything wrong with it, but rather that because it’s so good, it’s tricky to choose a stand-out feature.
That was until I came across the musical exercises.
Making broomsticks appear out of nowhere and shooting fireworks into the Hogwarts grounds are really fun, but what absolutely floored me was when I got to the exercises that used music and sound effects, which could be controlled by the wand. Changing the pitch and speed with vertical and horizontal wand movements satisfied that little part of me that always wanted to try out a theremin. I must have sat at my desk for about twenty minutes solid with a big grin on my face!
Things I’d change
I’m a picky person and I usually find fault with most things I try out. Not in a grumpy, never happy with anything kind of way – just that I know what I like and I’m not afraid to say what I’d like to change or improve.
It was genuinely so hard to find anything sub-par about this kit, truly. There are two teensy niggles I would improve, but let me say now that they are far from being a deal breaker. I would wholeheartedly say this kit is worth every penny of the £99.99 price tag:
I wish there was an off switch. It’s a bit of a pain to have to remember to take the batteries out every time I’m finished playing with it. Or, an even better solution would be to have it rechargeable.
The ‘map’ design when finding exercises can be, at times, a tiny bit confusing to understand where to go next. There were a couple of occasions where I clicked on an exercise which seemed like I missed a couple of steps.
If you’ve watched the Harry Potter films a dozen times, you’re still feeling lost after finishing the books, and you want to teach yourself or a Potter-mad loved one a new skill, I encourage you to try out this amazing piece of kit – it brought a spark of magic into my life after trying it and I’m so impressed with how fun I found this. It’s like the code version of LEGO to me – it could easily entice all ages to get creative and learn a valuable skill.
Accio your own wand from the KANO website.
Have you given the KANO Harry Potter coding wand a go? What did you think? Tell me in the comments below!