Kids and parents alike spend a great deal of time plugged into their devices. Technology can be a divisive issue in many families, keeping members from interacting with each other, but its strengths can also be used to bring everyone together or as a tool to make everyone’s life easier. A device such as the CINEMOOD Storyteller can be a focal point for your family, bringing everyone together for family activities. The CINEMOOD Storyteller was designed with kids in mind, and thus comes preloaded with a ton of kid-friendly content.
When I got the chance to test out a CINEMOOD Storyteller Mini Cinema, I was excited. I’d never personally used a projector before, but this device was supposed to be easy to use, so I wasn’t intimidated. I was right to not worry. The whole thing is self-contained.
Right away, the CINEMOOD exuded quality. Packed in a sturdy, snug box, it also opened easily. No fingernails or special tools required. The package included the CINEMOOD cube itself (which measures 3″ on a side), a very thick and substantial silicone stand (which holds the cube at just about any angle), a USB cord charger, an adapter for your own USB flash drive media, and some basic instructions on use.
To get started, I charged up the unit, which, in my trial, went from dead battery to fully charged in less than an hour. It then runs for about 3+ hours on a charge, enough for a full-length movie, some cartoons for the kids, or an extensive slideshow. You can also charge the device while using it if you need it to run longer.
I didn’t have a spare large wall to test it on, so I checked out some content on the side of the box, which is only a few inches wide, before locating a much larger wall to test it on later. It worked well in both locations. The device is quite easy to focus, with a +/- button, and successfully projects on anything between 1 foot and 15 feet away, even your ceiling. Or on the inside of a tent or fort. It even has an option to reverse the projection to use as a rear projector.
Its intuitive navigation takes you through an easy setup, including connecting to wi-fi, and then to a menu. You can control the device with its top buttons, or download the free CINEMOOD app to control it like a remote control. The app is low on features, but does allow you to navigate and select anything on the menus.
The CINEMOOD Mini Cinema menu gives you access to all of its built-in content and other operations, with more content and features coming in the future:
- Listen—Includes music (some of which sounds very MIDI-esque), nice lullabies, and stories that are read out loud to you.
- Watch—Includes dozens of cartoons, most of which I haven’t heard of, but are all kid-friendly.
- Read—Displays picture books with words on the screen in film strip form, for parents to read to their young children (or vice versa).
- Stream—Allows you to stream video from YouTube or YouTube Kids, cast from another device. This is a super cool feature for expanding the use of your device. I hope they add other streaming sources in the future.
- Discover—Smart Covers unlock additional content and are available for purchase separately from the base unit. Each one adds a cute new look to your device along with themed content. (I wasn’t able to test any of these covers.)
- Play—With Shadowmood, your family can make shadow puppets in front of the white screen. (Check out their website and Tumblr for a couple of tutorial videos.)
- Settings—This is where you can update the device’s software, change language to English or Russian, set up Bluetooth and wi-fi, and change to rear projection mode.
- USB—If you have a USB stick plugged in, this menu option shows up, allowing you to access your own content. You navigate this menu as you would on your computer.
10 Ways Your Family Can Make the Most of Your CINEMOOD Storyteller Mini Cinema
1. Watch a movie as a family, anytime, anywhere. As long as you have a light-colored wall, sheet, or other surface available, you’re set. Even if you don’t have a surface to place the device itself, it’s designed to be held if desired. The unit doesn’t get too hot, and it’s sized for even small hands. You can even take it camping and shine on the inside of your tent!
2. Enhance story time at bedtime. With the CINEMOOD’s built-in stories, parents can read to their kids from images as large as the ceiling. Kids can still turn the pages by pushing the proper navigation buttons.
3. Have a shadow puppet show. With the Shadowmood option, the device shines mostly white light at the wall or screen, making it easy for families to create their own shadow puppets. Their website has a few tutorials on some basic shapes, but we all know kids will be creative and come up with their own as well.
4. Have a slide show. With your extended family or friends, show off the photos and videos you took during your recent trips or holidays. Keep things fun by also providing drinks and snacks. Encourage your kids to share their photos and videos as well. You can even use old family photos to share your genealogy stories.
5. Involve the grandparents. Grandparents can send video or audio messages to your kids, and you can all enjoy them through the CINEMOOD. Encourage grandparents to record favorite family stories and songs, which your kids can play through CINEMOOD over and over, preserving another part of your family’s story.
6. Make art! Since the CINEMOOD Storyteller can project images, put some of your favorite on a USB stick, insert it, and shine the images on the wall. Hang up paper, and kids can trace their favorite images to make their own art. You can also use this method to create wall murals for your kids’ rooms. Additionally, you can use this method, but with the Shadowmood option, to trace old fashioned silhouette drawings of all of the family members.
7. Create nighttime anytime, indoors. Shine images or video of the night sky onto your children’s ceiling, and they can play under the stars in a climate-controlled environment. Find a video of a planetarium show and have your own educational experience, right in your own home. Bonus points if you have a domed ceiling.
8. Host a family dance party. Since the device plays music, both built-in tunes and from your own on a USB memory stick, the CINEMOOD Storyteller can play host to a family dance party! Just be sure to include some music to match everyone’s preferences.
9. Improve education and public speaking skills. Since the CINEMOOD can project PDF files, have kids prepare presentations on some of their favorite topics, saving all visuals in PDF form. They can then use a stick or laser pointer to keep their place as they present their material do their attentive audience.
10. Help your kids fall asleep. Some kids fall asleep more easily to music or other sounds. The CINEMOOD Storyteller includes a sleep timer which can be used at bedtime or at other times, while it lulls your kids to sleep with stories or music.
+1. Use the CINEMOOD separately from one another. Even if your family isn’t using it all together, the CINEMOOD Storyteller is useful for such things as a kids’ sleepover or parents to have a quiet movie night of their own. The possibilities for this device are almost endless, and the makers plan to add more content and functionality as time goes on.
Some other cool features of the CINEMOOD Storyteller:
- It will shut off on its own if it isn’t used for a period of time.
- There is a microphone for future voice activation features.
- It has silent cooling functionality. This is one of my favorite bits.
- It includes an audio jack for headphones or other audio output.
- According to their website, the CINEMOOD Storyteller’s light doesn’t affect your kids’ ability to sleep.
- You don’t have to worry about your kids getting into any content that isn’t kid-friendly. All of the included content is chosen to be safe for kids, and the YouTube Kids app can provide even more.
Check out CINEMOOD’s FAQ for compatible file types and answers to all your other questions. Some of the FAQ answers are a bit out of date (for example, you can watch YouTube and YouTube Kids on the CINEMOOD now), but it’s got a lot of useful stuff. Also, just on a lark, I tried hooking the device’s USB adapter up to our external DVD drive to play a movie. It didn’t work, but that wasn’t a surprise.
The base model of the CINEMOOD Storyteller retails for $399, which is a bit expensive, but it’s not too bad if you think of all that it can do, and all in a self-contained fashion with no need for anything external. You can literally put it in your kids’ hands, show them the basics, and let them enjoy and create. You may be surprised at the new uses they come up with for the device. Also, the Smart Covers each retail for $49 and come in KikOriki, HooplaKidz, Om Nom, and Kit^n^Kate varieties.
I think the CINEMOOD Storyteller is a wonderful tool for drawing your family together, and allowing everyone have fun on your own as well. The company keeps their focus on ways to keep your family interacting with one another while also providing something that functions on everyone’s level.
Note: I received a sample for review purposes.