Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Review: Gadget Toys

Been a while (yes, I know I'm bad) since I posted any reviews. This doesn't mean we haven't been playing with toys but yanno, life gets in the way sometimes. In all the parcels we've received from Toys R Us, there have been a few gadgety type things for kiddies that you might be considering for Christmas presents. Here is our low down on them. 

First is the VTech Kidizoom Video Camera in blue, costing £59.97, although it's also available in pink. Monkey loved this - he particularly liked the face-tracking stuff that allowed him to add animations to the videos, and he enjoyed the games on the camera. It's pretty robust, although Monkey managed to stick a plastic coin in the slot meant for external cards but we managed to remove that without too much incident. It was great for the way our kids play but it did seem to eat batteries at an alarming rate. Whether or not that was because neither Monkey or Missy Woo ever remember to switch things off, I'm not sure. Overall, we liked this and is a great first video camera as it does so much more than just take videos. 

Next, we got sent the Leapfrog Leaptop in pink for Missy Woo (£14.97). Now, this is a "first" laptop and is actually intended for a much younger child - from around 2 years old. You can connect the laptop to a real computer and download a limited selection of songs, customise emails and so forth. I set it up for Missy Woo so that it said her name when it opened up (Monkey was not impressed when he opened it and it said her name!) and read her "emails" from various people. She was initially delighted with this - I think it says a lot that she wanted her own laptop to be like mummy and read emails - but she soon got bored with it. This would be suitable for a younger child and I do like the way you can connect it to a PC and change what's available to the child. Still, it's not real and the biggest problem I have with toy laptops is the screen - they are consistently dreadful. So, this was a qualified win but I think we will give it away to a younger child who will really get the best use out of it. 

And then there is another Vtech product - the Storio Animated Reading System (£59.97) which is a child's version of an e-reader. It included a Toy Story 3 cartridge, but you can buy other cartridges featuring other characters - like Scooby Doo or Dora the Explorer - for £17 each, which I think is quite steep. There is an inbuilt game you can play and a dictionary to find out the meaning of diffcult words. The cartridges have games on them too. I like the fact it has a full QWERTY keyboard as they are used to this layout at school and that they can interact with the stories as they progress. I'm not totally convinced of its educational value but then anything that gets children reading has to be good, right?

The children loved this. We took it with us on a long car journey to Devon and back and Monkey played with it both during the journey - obviously not good if your child gets car stick - and whilst we were away so it is a good toy for travelling as it's easy to pack and pretty light. You don't have to buy additional cartridges - if you can get an SD card, you are supposed to be able to download more stories from the VTech Download Store but as I have yet to find it, I can't say what this is like nor how much they cost. The price of extra cartridges does seem a little steep so it's definitely worth investigating. As a piece of kit, it's pretty neat actually - and it even has a headphone socket if you want some peace whilst your child plays. For the price, I think it's very good value. 

(I was provided with the above toys to review and have received no other compensation. The opinions stated here are my own, and have not been influenced by the aforementioned compensation.)
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