Leap Frog Tag Reading System:Interactive World Map – Review

We were very kindly sent a Tag Reader plus Interactive World Map by the team at Leapfrog to review over Half Term.

The Tag Reading System is a great way to get your little ones into books. Using the Pen like Tag reader your youngster can scan across the page and the words are read aloud as they go.

I like that real youngsters can start off easy and have the whole page read out to them. Then as they progress with their reading they can move onto just clicking on the words giving them a problem, reading the rest themselves.

We also all love that the books are not just for reading, there’s also some cool games and puzzles to play in them too.

The big draw however was the Interactive World Map. I don’t think the boys had seen anything like this before, and both were fighting over the Tag Reader to see who got first go.

First off the Map is huge, so it’s definitely large enough for families to all get stuck in and play together. This will probably sound a bit weird, but me and the boys had a great time playing with this map (yes playing with a map does sound weird, but it’s so cool!)

It’s so educational, but in such a fun way. Forget the kids, it’s me who’s enjoying learning with this toy. I will admit thanks to a severe dislike of my old Geography teacher, It’s not my best subject by a long shot. So for me personally this has been a great thing for me and the kids to play together, as I’m generally learning along with them.

Plus it’s not only  where countries are that I’ve been learning, but also some amazing facts like how the Marianas Trench is the deepest part of the world’s ocean, or that Oymyakon is the coldest villager on earth (even colder than the North Pole in the winter). Animal facts, different languages and cultures, it’s all here to be explored on the Leap Frog Tag Reading System Interactive World Map.

If you already have a Tag Reader the addition of the Interactive World Map is an absolute must. I cannot believe how much information is contained on the two sides of this map. We’ve been using it everyday for over a week, and there are still things we are finding that no-one has clicked on before. If you don’t already own a Tag Reader if you have a young child from around the ages of 3-8 I would highly recommend one. Honestly even if you’re not sure whether you would use the books, I would even get one just to use with the map.

In my opinion an amazingly thoughtful gift or present for a primary school aged child.

 


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Leapster Explorer Camera and Video Accessory – Review

Ever since we recieved the Leapster Explorer to review last year it’s been constantly played with every day, I could not ask for more from a toy for my boys. Well actually I could ask for a bit more, because as soon as I found out that there was to be a Camera and Video add on for the Explorer I’ve been champing at the bit to test it out. Finally the wait is over and the Leapfrog Explorer Camera and Video accessory has been released, and I’m thrilled that thanks to the kind ladies from Leapfrog i’m now able to bring you the big Toybuzz review.

First thing you need to know is that this is much more than just a camera and video recorder, there are so many games and activites included too that you’ll be amazed when I list them all.

On the main menu you will find 5 different categories

1) Camera and Video Mode  – The main mode which you can choose from either Camera or change to Video

2) Fun Lab – The kids favourite mode which has lots and lots of cool games and activities

3) Photo Album  – Lets the kids create slideshows of the photos, complete with music and even audio commentary if you want.

4) Photo and Video Gallery – Where all the movies and pictures are stored, you can view from here and this is where you delete them from too.

5) Badges – Earn badges for completing challenges as you play, which you can swap for Leapworld tokens.

For me the Funlab is the star of the show, when they called it the Funlab they wern’t kidding! In the Funlab you will find 8 different games and challenges,

1:  Funimatic – You can draw on your pictures, add stamps, frames and mirror & kaleidoscope effects

2: Zapped ! – Highly addictive space shoot em up with which you can hone either you maths or spelling skills. The really cool part is that you add your own photos to the ships.

3: Card Creator – A series of fun photo frames that you can place your own face into to make some classic photos.

4:  Video Maestro – Make your own music video by choosing some music and then filming something to go along with it.

5:  Photo Journalist – Game where you have to take photos of a range of things like objects, emotions. Good for keeping the children busy for ages as they try to take photos of everything and complete the mission.

6:  Story Creator – Amazing tool where you can build your own stories by dragging words and taking photos. When you’ve finished you can watch your and listen to your story as a slideshow, very cool!

7: Photo Fracture – Splits your taken photos up into puzzles. You drag the pieces back into the correct spaces, and the Leapster will tell you the names of the shapes as you do.

8: Expansion Games – Think you will be able to by extra games from the Leaplet Store, but there are none available as yet.


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If you own a Leapster Explorer in my opinion the Video and Camera expansion is an absolute must. Even though we already own one of those Kiddie cameras, they’re is so much more to this than just a camera. The games are so much fun, and also so educational! Thomas has been busy zapping numbers, learning about shapes, developing storytelling skills, all without even knowing it.

Leapfrog Tag Reader – Review

Since Thomas has started school he’s become a real bookworm, always looking at books, constantly wanting to be read to. He’s even impressed me at the library by actually looking for books, rather the usual tale of me looking for books and him running around.

The only problem with this is that as yet he can’t read, he’s only 4 and is working hard on it in school, but typical Thomas, he has been getting dreadfully upset that he can’t read overnight, and is convinced that he’ll never be able to. The fact that he’s only been in school one term doesn’t console him.

Luckily for him, his mummy just happens to blog all about toys and also happens to have a very good relationship with the lovely people who are responsible for Leapfrog’s PR. When I told them of Thomas problem, they immediately agreed that the Tag reading system would be great for him and very kindly sent him a Tag and some books to get him well on his way.

The first thing you need to do when you first get the Tag out of the box (apart from adding batteries) is either install or boot up the Leapfrog Connect program. Once the program has recognised your Tag you need to go through the Audio Downloads catalogue and download the audio for the books that you have onto your Tag. This is really simple to do, and is very quick and hassle free. You can fit the audio for 10 books at a time onto your Tag, which is great as it means you don’t need to change cartridges or anything, you can just go from one book to another and the Tag will pick it up and know you’ve changed books.

Our experience with the Tag reader has been amazing, it’s amazing how much confidence this little gadget has given him. We received three books, Kung Fu Panda – Po’s Tasty Training, Disney Pixar Cars – Tractor Tipping and Ben 10 Alien Force – Wanted Kevin Levin. The Ben 10 book is aimed at readers 5-7, The other two are for 4-6 year olds.

With the books for younger readers the Tag reader has a few different modes, you can either let it read the whole story as it tells you when to turn the pages, read one page at a time, or press on each word individually to hear it spoken. At the moment Thomas is just letting the Tag read the pages to him, but I can see that as he progresses he can easily start reading the words himself and then just press to hear the ones he’s having trouble with.

The Ben 10 book for older readers is comic book style, with the Tag reading out either the pages or the characters speech bubbles, these books will not read individual words. Although this book is obviously too old for Thomas in terms of him being able to read it himself, he does very much enjoy it and will hopefully pick up words as he goes through it. I have it practically memorised as he’s read it so much, so something has to sink in even if it is subconsciously.

I was so surprised that all the books also come with lots of games and puzzles inside, I was under the impression initially that there was only a story in the books, so this came as a very pleasant bonus. The games are really very good to boot, watching Thomas with his Kung Fu Panda book picking out the right starting sounds was amazing. He instantly picked it up, and was concentrating extra hard on his answers, but also enjoying himself and beaming throughout the process. His favourite game is from the Ben 10 Alien force book where there is an amazing double page panel featuring all of Ben’s alien forms and you have to help Ben choose which one to turn into by listening to clues and work out which alien would be best for the task at hand.

As well as story books, Leapfrog have recently brought out some puzzle books, a Learn to read range of 12 books available in 2 6 book packs and also an amazing interactive map which I had the pleasure of trying out at Toy Fair.

The Learn to Read books are especially good for kids learning to read because as well as being able to read the words individually, you can also click and point to hear the separate letters which make up the words too. With your Tag Reader you get a brochure book called “Lets Play Tag” which has useable pages from a variety of Tag books, giving you a good idea of what to expect from the books, and which ones to get next.

Personally I’ve been loving the World Map game, and challenging my husband as to who can find the most countries before the time runs out. The Learn to Read Books and the World Map are definitely on the top of my list of things to get next!

The Tag Reading System has been a big hit with both of the boys, and has been used every day in the home and out in the car on a day out. Although you may think that it would get repetitive using the same books over and over, the games really help add longevity. Also Thomas loves that as he uses it so much he’s starting to remember the words, it’s really helped with his reading confidence. It’ a big thumbs up all around from me and the boys.


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Battle of the Kiddie iPad’s – LeapPad Explorer vs InnoPad

This autumn will see the launch of two new tablet computers onto the scene. These 2 however aren’t the new Apple or Microsoft models, no these are the latest kid friendly techno-toys from children’s educational gadget specialists Leapfrog and V-Tech.

The LeapPad Explorer is Leapfrog’s offering, a children’s learning tablet. The new device will be launching with an amazing 100+ titles available, consisting of e-books, games, videos, flash cards and more.

The LeapPad explorer will come with a built in camera, video recorder, microphone and Animation studio software. The 5″ colour touch screen will also feature a tilt sensor for games playing.

The LeapPad’s competitor for that coveted place on your kiddies Christmas list will be Vtech’s InnoPad.

The InnoPad is also a mini me version of mummy and daddy’s tablet computer.

Like the LeapPad Explorer, it will also have a 5″ colour touch screen but also some of it’s own innovative features like an MP3 player and personal voice alarm clock.

There will be no integrated camera in the InnoPad, but it will be fully compatiable with the Vtech Kidizoom 3D and Vtech Kidizoom Twist cameras.

Which device will win the race? I’m not quite sure until we’ve seen the finished devices I think it’s anyones game. I do think however Santa will be keeping close tabs on the outcome, as one of these two gadgets is bound to be the hottest toy for Christmas 2011!


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My trip to London Toy Fair 2011

Tuesday saw my first ever trip to the annual London Toy Fair, and as exhausting as it was I had a great time and met lots of lovely people. There were so many amazing products on display, it’s really hard to know where to start! So I’ve decided i’ll give you a little insight into my day by telling you about my favourite stands, and all the lovely goodies we have to look forward to from them this year.

Learning Curve – My first Toy Fair experience started off with a visit to the Learning Curve stand to meet with some other lovely mummy bloggers, and to have a sneak peak at the newest additions to the Chuggington range of trains and Playsets. We were very privileged to have a meeting with the Creator of Chuggington Don Toht, it was really interesting to have a chat about  how the idea for the show came along and generally talk all things Chuggington.

In terms of new toys my highlights from the Learning Curve stand were the new sets of Chuggington trains based around themes from memorable episodes, Like a very colourful Wilson from the Wilson and The Paint wagon episode, and a very snowy Brewster called Let It Snow Brewster inspired by the Snowstruck Wilson episode I think. Some new trains are being added to the series to such as Hoot and Toot in the diecast, and Puffer Pete and Zephie in the Interactive amongst others.

Also new from the Chuggington range is a new playset called the Chuggington Championship Set, which allows you to wind up the track and watch as your chosen chugger zooms around the course.

However Learning Curve’s stand was not only all about Chuggington, I was very excited to see the much anticipated (well by me anyway!) range of Special Agent Oso toys. Whirlybird, RR Rapide, Wolfy they are all there, and will be released just in time for the Easter holidays.

Playmobil – In my opinion one of the strongest stands of the show was Playmobil’s, everything I saw there was just so..cool! The thing I love the most about Playmobil is not only there amazing attention to detail (real working showers, light bulbs in the houses) but the fact that they make amazing playsets for both boys and girls. Having two boys I know how hard it is to find good quality playsets built with boys in mind, the brand new Playmobil Top Agents range is a prime example of how to make an amazing creative and imaginative toy range for boys.

As I was shown all of the vehicles, figures and features of the Top Agents series, I just couldn’t stop thinking “Wow, Thomas would love this” and “That is so cool, I can imagine what Thomas would do with that”. The idea behind the range is that there are two teams “The Spy Team” and “The Robo Gang”, The Robo gang are like every good villainous group trying to take over the world and it’s the Spy teams job to stop them. There has been so much thought put into the range, especially the high tech gadgets like the motion detectors, Metal detectors and even spy video camera mounted onto a truck. The Top Agents range was defiantely my best in show, well done Playmobil!

Meccano – I was very impressed with the Meccano stand, lots of variety with toys to suit all ages on display. My favourite product had to be the new Space Chaos range, which will be launching at the end of the month with the first wave of Dark Pirate and Silver Forces Drones, Patrol Ships, Raiders and bombers.

Set in the year 10110 Space Chaos is an intergalactic battle between the Dark Pirates and Silver Force, or more simply baddies against the goodies. The Dark Pirates are determined to conquer the galaxy by stealing and harnessing the power of the Green Crystal, and the Silver Force has to foil their plans.  Sounds like something we’ve heard before a thousand times, but Meccano have done a really good job of adding something new to the Space battle genre. For a start as it’s Meccano theres some impressive vehicles to be made before the battles can commence, and extras like lights and sounds, missile launchers, a trading card game and website,  all add another dimension to the sets.

Spinmaster – You already know I’m completely taken by Zoobles, love these cute little guys! However I was surprised to not only find something equally as cute, but  possibly even moreso. I’m talking about Gomu, a range of highly collectable little erasers which are sure to be this years big playground craze. To make it all even more collectable each Gomu has a G-score, so the more G-points the rarer and more desirable the eraser. Later on Spinmaster will be introducing Liceneced characters to the Gomu range, so you’ll be able to get everything from Star Wars to Disney Princess on top of your pencil!

Some other interesting new lines coming out towards the end of the year are Bizu and Fab Effex.

Bizu are beads which you make into charm bracelets and necklaces. The cool thing about these is that you can take the bracelet off and quickly twist it into a small toy animal like a cat, dog, zebra or monkey depending on which beads you’ve used. When you’ve finished playing pull up to untwist and place back onto your wrist.

Fab Effex is a reusable craft material which you can use to customise just about anything. The Fab Effex fabric will bend, shape, twist, wrap and stick to almost anything, so the styling possibilities are limitless.

Leapfrog – Finally in the afternoon I had the pleasure of a lovely long tour of the Leapfrog stand, wowing over all of the great goodies they had on show. The big Leapfrog product of the moment is still the amazing Leapster Explorer which I reviewed last year, but they still had plenty of new innovations on offer. One of which was the new Camera and Video recorder accessory for the Explorer which I managed to bag for review. The boys have been playing with it ever since I got home, so I’ll have a review of it posted up soon.

The spectacularly successful Tag reader has been worked into a very cool Tag interactive world mat game. It’s a two sided map which teaches you all about geography, languages, and world landmarks. You navigate your way around the map using your Tag reader and click on whatever takes your fancy ,learning everything from the travel time between major cities and how to say “hello” in different languages along the way.

The Tag reader has also had a slew of new books added to the already large library of titles. A new range of Learn to Read and Write books have been released, available in 3 box sets with 6 books in each. The Tag Learn to read books feature Leapfrog’s friendly Tad character, and the Learn to write books star my favourite Mr Pencil (I just love the Mr Pencil Doodleberg game).

Leapfrog hasn’t left the younger learners out though, Their range of toddler age toys was particularly strong this year. My pick of the bunch being the Count and Scan Shopper, this set is right up my street as I’ve always wanted a go on one of those barcode scanners. The set comprises of a chummy handheld barcode scanner, a very eco friendly canvas shopping bag, 9 scannable food items, and a scannable shopping list.

The adorable shapes and sharing picnic basket is suitable for little ones as young as 6 months, and is guaranteed to be a little girls favourite toy. However for a little boy the Fix and Learn Speedy would be an ideal gift. Speedy is a racing car which has an unfortunate knack of repeatedly breaking down, leaving it down to your little mechanic to keep tuning him back up.

And so came the end of an exceptionally long day, and the joyous prospect of another 3 1/2 hour coach journey home. Obviously this wasn’t everything I saw at Toy Fair this year as it was huge, but I just wanted to let you get a feel of my favourite stands and brands and what they have to offer for the year ahead.

Dream Toys 2010

Yesterday saw the Toy Retailers Association announce it’s annual list of Dream Toys.

The TRA complied their predictions of the Top 12 toys in 7 different categories, and then the best from all the list were combined to create the Dream Dozen.

I was pleased to see plenty of my favourite products making it onto the Dream Dozen, like the Lego City Airport, Kidizoom Videocam, Moon Dough and the Paper Jamz Guitar.

Here’s the full list of all the winners:

The Dream Dozen

Lego City Airport

Fireman Sam Deluxe Fire Station

FurReal Go Go Walking Pup

Jet Pack Buzz Lightyear

Kidizoom VideoCam

Monopoly Revolution

Moon Dough Barn

Nerf N Strike Stampede ECS

Paper Jamz Guitar

Pumpaloons

Sylvanian Families Motorcycle and Sidecar

ZhuZhu Grooming Salon

Girls Top 12 Toys for Christmas

AniMagic Tender Care Twins

Baby Alive Bouncing Babbles

Baby Born Magic Feeding Doll

Barbie A Fashion Fairytale Doll

Barbie Puppy Swim School

Bratz Party Dolls

FurReal Go Go Walking Pup

JLS Collector Dolls

Moxie Girls Art-titude Dolls

Ocean In My Pocket Coral Reef

Sylvanian Families Motorcycle and Side Car

ZhuZhu Grooming Salon

Boys Top 12 Toys for Christmas

Armouron Action Set

Bakugan Maxus Dragonoid 7 -in- 1

Ben’s Mark 10 Car

Beyblade Super Vortex Battle Set

Doctor Who Eleventh Doctor Sonic Screwdriver

Hot Wheels Dr Bones Colour Lab

Jet Pack Buzz Lightyear

Kung Zhu Battle Arena

Star Wars: Clone Wars General Grievous Lightsaber

Star Wars: Hoth Wampa Cave

Toy Story Collection Sheriff Woody

UNSC Arctic Rocket Warthog

Pre-School Top 12 Toys for Christmas

All Around Chuggington Train Set

Duplo Toy Story The Great Train Chase

Playmobil Fire Engine

Fireman Sam Deluxe Fire Station Playset

Thomas Zip, Zoom & Logging Adventure

Kidizoom VideoCam

My Pal Scout

Peppa Pig Lullaby Peppa

Play To Learn Mr Colour Maker

Play To Learn Pic ‘n’ Pop

Storio

Toy Story Collection Lots ‘o’ Huggin Bear

Games Top 12 Toys for Christmas

‘Best of British’ Board Game

Boogle Flash

Cuponk

Elefun

Gator Golf

Harry Potter Hogwarts Lego Game

Jolly Octopus

Monopoly Revolution

Pig Goes Pop

Pumpaloons

Scrabble Trickster

Trivial Pursuit: Bet You Know It

Creative Play Top 12 Toys For Christmas

Bendaroos Creativity Centre

Lego City Airport

Lego City Cargo Truck

Crayola Color Explosion Glow Dome

Crayola Color Wonder Magic Light Brush

Disney Princess Snow Globe Maker

Harumika Designer Dress Form Set

Moon Dough Barn

Noteez

Play-Doh Puppies Playset

Toy Story 3 Woody & Buzz to the Rescue

Zubber Jewellery Maker

Cool Toyz Top 12 Toys For Christmas

Air Hogs Lazer Zero Gravity

Air Hogs Vectron Wave

Animatazz

Barbie Video Girl

Battle Machines

Bladez Micro Helicopter

Bop It!

Loopz

Nerf N Strike Stampede ECS

Paper Jamz Guitar

Technic Buggy

Zibits

I had a great time at the show, and as you can imagine was in my element playing with all the new toys and gadgets, I also got loads of new ideas for toys to cover in the future. So be prepared for a Toybuzz deluge, as it’s look like Dream Toys is going to keep me busy all the way up until the big day itself!

Top 10 Baby toys for Christmas 2010

Here are my predictions for whats going to be the most requested toys from Santa in the Christmas of 2010.

Babies and toddlers are mostly forgotten about when the big toy stores do their Top 10 must have Christmas gift lists. We want to make babies first Christmas special, but don’t want to waste money on toys that are too old or that wont get played with.

So with all that in mind here is the Toybuzz definitive list of perfect baby and pre-toddler friendly gifts, that are guaranteed to put a cheeky smile on your little bundle on Christmas day.

Playmobil 123 Large Farm

Chunky pieces, bold bright colours, with rounded edges, washable, and with no small swallow-able pieces. The Playmobil 123 range of toys are suitable from 1 year old, and are perfect for little hands.

Have fun not only with the animals in the farm, but also playing inside the farmhouse.

Use the winch to transport supplies from outside up to the barn.

This charming farm set will be sure to spark your little ones imagination, and lead to some fun and all important creative play.


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VTech My First Tool Box

This fun Toddler Tool Box is perfect for Budding Bob the Builders and Handy Mannys from 18 months old.

Comes with four chunky tools ideal for those chubby little hands, A saw, Hammer, Screwdriver and Wrench.

Two modes of play help your baby learn Colours, Numbers and Shapes.

The bright lights and colours will also stimulate your babies senses and encourage baby to play and learn.


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Leapfrog Cook and Play Potsy

A good one for the little ones as it’s suitable from only 6 months, Potsy is more than just plastic food.

Potsy will teach your youngster colours, Counting, opposites, food facts and healthy eating and more.

Stirring the pot will make Potsy sing fun songs and rhymes. He also knows whether his lid is on or off.

Log onto the Leapfrog online learning path and you can see how your baby is learning through play, and what you can do to help her progress.


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Baby’s First doll and Pink Stroll Along Walker

One for the girls here and I can’t believe this idea has never been thought of before.

All girls love dollys and babies, and babies love walkers. It gives them independence when there at that stage when they want to be everywhere at once but are still a bit wobbly.

This combination of the two is just a match made in heaven.

The one problem with baby walkers is that once baby can walk confidently they quickly become redundant. However with this Fisher Price Stroller that wont be a concern as it will be loved for a lot longer as your little girls  first toy pushchair.

Theres even a first doll to go with the stroller which is suitable from birth. Which gives your little baby girl lots of time to get to know dolly before she starts pushing her around. The doll is even machine washable.

The doll is officially available separately from the stroller but some retailers are selling the Stroller and doll as a bundle, so be sure to check what your getting.


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Playskool Xplore ‘N’ Grow Ball and Gear Centre

For Jacob’s First Christmas I found it hard to choose between the Playskool Busy Gears set and the Playskool Busy Balls Popper.

In the end I went with the busy gears and he loved it, but now Playskool have made everything easier for parents and combined the too so we no longer have to choose.

Suitable from 9 months old your baby will have loads of fun watching the ball roll down the track and spin round, and will be fascinated by the twirling gears with accompanying lights and music.


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Leapfrog Learn and Groove Activity Centre

Now I know that the Learn and Groove Activity Centre is not a new toy for 2010, but in my opinion it’s still the best baby activity centre out there.

If you have an active baby like I did then this is possibly not only the best gift you can buy for your baby, but also for yourself too. My little boys were never big on sitting, the always wanted to be upright so this was perfect for them. Suitable from around 4 months once they can hold their heads up confidently until walking, your baby will get hours of fun and a great sense of independence from this toy.

It’s also hilarious to watch your 4 month old mixing and scratching at the record decks!


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Smart Trike Deluxe

Another toy that although not totally new this year I still feel deserves to be on here. There are so many incarnations of the Smart Trike now as it’s been so tremendously popular, but I’ve decided to plump for the Smart Trike Deluxe.

This great bike will see your child all the way from 9 month old baby up  to boisterous 3 year old toddler.

This 3 in 1 wonder bike first sees your little ones with a high backed seat, feet on the footrests and being pushed by mum or dad with the parent handle.

Once your now toddler has grasped peddling you can flip up the footrest to reveal the peddles, and then when confident you can finally remove the parent handle and off they go!

This Deluxe version comes with Removable Canopy, Handy bottle / cup  holder, Toy telephone and a bag for keeping all of those baby essentials in.


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Catch Me Car

This cute little car either comes with a friendly mouse driver or a playful rabbit.

Designed to help encourage baby to crawl the car will gleefully ride away from baby when the driver is cuddly driver is placed inside.

Lights, fun music and the brightly coloured fabric help to stimulate baby’s senses, and the different textures and patterns will keep baby amused for hours.

A fun little toy that baby will just love and will have her crawling around in no time.


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Roll ‘n’ Racers Spinning Sounds Speedway

Even though babies may be too small for a full blown garage, this fun car track will do the job nicely.

The raceway comes with two roller-ball cars so both you and baby can enjoy the fun together.

Press the button on the front to activate the spinning racetrack, and then watch as the cars spin around and spill out onto the exit ramp and crash through the chequered flag.


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Amazing Animals Roll Around Treehouse

Suitable for babies from 6 months old, the Amazing Animals Treehouse encourages babies to sit up and play.

Your baby will love playing with the three included chunky animals and really enjoy watching them have a great time sliding down the slide, riding the carousel and see-saw and swinging through the trees.

Each activity the animals do rewards your baby with fun sound effects and tunes.


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Leapfrog My Own Leaptop – Review

As soon as I heard about this new laptop for toddlers I really wanted to get one for Jacob, and lucky me (or should I say lucky Jacob) I was sent one by Leapfrog for review.

Now Jacob and Thomas have both had their fair share of kiddie laptops throughout the years, including two different Thomas the Tank ones, a Spider man one and a Hot Wheels one as well I think (wow not even I thought it was that many!) but the Leaptop is not just another one of these – it’s entirely different.

The thing that makes it so different is that before you give it to little ‘un you customise it so its just for them. When I gave it to Jacob his face literally lit up when he turned it on and Scout said “Hello Jacob!”.

Customising the Leaptop is easy as you get a USB cable included, you just need to download the Leapfrog Connect program and then select the options you want.

My sons favourite activity on the Leaptop is pressing the email button. The customised emails are so much fun, you get to add 3 emails to the Leaptop. You provide the names of the senders (either by clicking on one of the pre-loaded ones like Mummy, Daddy, Granny or by typing in the name) and then choose from a range of pre written messages. Jacob just presses this button all the time as he loves listening to the emails from Mummy and Daddy, and as it’s so simple to connect up and customise you can change it round every so often and give your toddler some new emails.

My Own Leaptop has 3 different function buttons (Email, Music Playlist, and Scout or Violet’s Blog), and three different modes of play (Alphabet, Music Maker and Animal)

With the Music Playlist you choose from a wide range of songs and tunes on the Leapfrog Connect program and decide which ones to add to your leaptop. You can have one song with singing and 5 other different tunes, which Scout or Violet dance along to (depending whether you have the green or Purple version of the Leaptop). I put “If you’re happy and you know it” on for Jacob as he loves that song.

Apart from the receiving and replying to Emails, Jacob loves using his Leaptop to read his friend Scouts blog! Yes you can read the daily goings on of Leapfrogs doggy Mascot and his best friend Violet. It’s mostly things like “Me and Violet went to the park” but Jacob really loves this, and I find it amusing every time he presses the “read my Blog” button.


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As with all of these baby laptops you get an Alphabet game where an animation pops up relating to the letter you press. Jacob loves that when you press the J Scout says “Jacob This is the first letter of your name” and then dances to a little celebratory song. I appreciate that as well as the voice repeating what letter you pressed, it also says it phonetically the way that the children learn letters in school.

The Animal guessing game is a fun and clever , your toddler presses a letter and then Scout will give you a clue to an animal starting with that letter. Pressing the Paw button makes Scout reveal the answer, and you get another jolly little animation too.

The musical game is something a little different from the norm, instead of the letters being used as the usual basic piano keyboard each row of letter makes a different set of noises. The bottom row is the regular piano keyboard noise, the next row is percussion instruments, and the top row is a range of funky sound effects. The sound effects also give you an awesome animation of an oscilloscope, Jacob is mesmerised by this and will watch the line cross the screen in all the different ways for ages.

The ability to customise the Leaptop is obviously it’s biggest selling point and it works so well it’s unbelievable, It’s exactly the kind of thing that little ones want so they can pretend to be just like Mummy and Daddy on their laptop. It’s very easy to do and works with both Windows and Macs. I also think that it’s great value for money, as I was expecting the price to be around £30 instead of £20. All in all a great toy and the Leapfrog My Own Leaptop is a definite Toybuzz best buy for toddlers this Christmas.

Leapster Explorer Review

Lucky person that I am, I got the opportunity this week to test out the newest addition to the Leapfrog family, the Leapster Explorer. Me and the kids were all incredibly excited to get our hands on Leapfrog’s latest gadget, and suffice to say no one was left disappointed.

We’ve had a few Leapfrog products over the years in our house like the Sing and Spin Alphabet Zoo and the Learn and Groove Activity Station. However we haven’t had any of the previous Leapster incarnations (L-Max,Leapster, Leapster 2) as we decided to go with the then new V-Tech Cyber Pocket. So I was really interested to see how much the technology of these educational games handhelds had improved since then, and how well the Explorer performed.

This probably sounds a bit strange but as soon as I took the Leapster Explorer out of the box I fell in love with it, and that’s without even turning it on. It’s light, has a nice colour scheme (unlike some of the previous iterations) and feels very comfortable when you hold it.

When you do eventually turn it on you’ll discover it has the largest ever screen of all of the Leapfrog devices,. It’s a touch screen too, which your kids are probably already familiar with from the likes of your iPhone, Ipad or most probably Nintendo DS. The touch screen is very responsive and worked perfectly, you also notice how lovely and bright the display is.

Learning Path

I like that the Explorer can easily be used by up to 4 of your children. Each child has their own user profile and you just select which one you want to play when you start up.

The profiles are unique to each child, so you can set up one as being in pre-school, and one as being in Year 2 and depending on which profile is loaded certain games will vary their difficulty accordingly.

It also means that you can check all of your children’s progress on Leapfrog’s online learning path, and you will be able to see in detail what skills your children are learning. Just make sure that your kids change profiles when they change players.

Leaplets and Games

As well as playing games the traditional way by buying cartridges and slotting them into the back of the machine, you can also download games, videos and Ebooks onto your Leapster by the way of the Leaplet Store. To download a leaplet from the store you first need to buy a Leaplet card. They are just like the iTunes cards that we are all used to buying. Simply enter your code online into the Leaplet Store and you can download whatever you like the look of. Each boxed card comes with 2 Leaplet codes,  most Leaplets require only 1 code but some will require both.

A cartridge game is priced at approximately £20, whilst a 2 code Leaplet card will be around £10.

The games on the Leaplet store don’t have the big name characters that the stand alone games have, but all the ones me and the boys played were very entertaining. My favourite game was the Jewel Train, where you have to fix the train tracks so the train can collect all of the treasure and return to the station safely. I personally spent around 30 minutes playing this game as I loved it so much, especially the music.

Thomas was a big fan of the SugarBugs game. In this fun little title your in charge of brushing someones teeth, removing bits of food with a toothpick and flossing before the accompanying song finishes. All sounds pretty gross I’ll admit, but kids – especially my boys – love gross and it’s quite fun.

Jacob’s fave was probably the Harmonies game where a group of 5 singers perform various songs and you can touch each one and stop them singing their part of the harmony. It’s very simple, but really fun for the little ones. I’ve made a little movie to show them singing our personal favourite song Wheels on the Bus, we all laugh so much at this!

Another great game just perfect for Jacob was Pet Pad which comes installed on your Leapster. It’s like a simpler version of Nintendogs for pre-schoolers and he loves it. He’s always enjoyed playing Nintendogs on my DS, but apart from stroking the puppy and me showing him how to give him a shampoo theres too much writing and  menus for him to be able to play it.

With Pet Pad he can wash and shampoo his Cat called Bailey, feed her by simply dropping down food, and by practising his letter writing can teach his pet new tricks.

He also loves that his pet appears in a few of the Leaplet games, and on Leapworld, cheering Jacob on as he plays. Pet Pad is definately a big winner!

Apart from games, you will also find lots of other goodies in the Leaplet Store. You can  download a range of Leapfrog mini movies like the Leapfrog Letter Factory, Maths Circus and the Talking Words Factory. These movies all last around 30 minutes and kept Jacob’s attention whilst he watched. He’s watched it a few times already to be honest. The great thing is that the Explorer has a pause button which works on the videos as well as games. You can also move the slider across the bottom to where you left off  instead of starting the video from the beginning every time.

Another Leapfrog gadget that caught my eye but I never got round to purchasing is the Leapfrog Tag reading system. Well now I’m really lucky because the Tag e-Books are yet another set of Leaplets you can download from the store. We had a test of the Go Diego Go book and I was very impressed. You can click on individual words and they will be read out or you can just press the page button and the whole page will be read out to you. I’m sure the e-Books will help Thomas will his reading immensely as he’s just started Primary School and is absolutely bursting to learn to read.

In my opinion as a mum the best thing about the Leaplets is that they are all stored in the Explorers memory, so are always on hand. It’ll be great to go on a long car journey, or for the boys to take it to Grans house without having to worry about taking a bag full of games to play too. It also means no constant in and out changing of cartridges. I’m not dismissing the cartridges as the games are longer and have better graphics and gameplay than the simpler Leaplet games, but all of the different Leaplets add a lot to the Explorer experience and sets it apart from other consoles.

Leapworld

Leapworld is a safe online virtual world for your kids to explore and enjoy with you having to worry. Playing the games on your Explorer earns you tokens to use in Leapworld. You can use the coins to but extras like food, toys and shampoo for your virtual pet from the Pet Pad game, or Micromods which gain you extras like different costumes and levels for other Leapster games.

Whilst you travel around Leapworld there are plenty of mini games to play which also earn you tokens.

I also found a place where I could load up some of the pictures that Thomas and Jacob had created in our Mr Pencil games and was able to send them to the printer from there. Jacob was very happy to see his virtual masterpiece take pride of place on the fridge door.

Although I wasn’t initially sold on the idea of having to log onto LeapWorld every day or so to spend our tokens on buying our pet Cat Bailey some food, Thomas has loved it. We’ve probably been on it for about 10 minutes a day and in that time he’s bought his supplies and played a few games. If anything it just adds more longevity to your Explorer.

My only peeve would be the slow loading times between pages. It did take quite a long time to move from screen to screen.

Learning Games

You may ask the question..Why don’t I just buy a Nintendo DS or Ipad? Well my answer is the quality of the games. Both Thomas and Jacob love playing on the DS and would both be quite happy to stick with that, but I’m not as happy. Although there are more and more DS games nowadays aimed more toward Toddlers and Pre-schoolers, most don’t really have any educational value at all. It’s more about having the toddler friendly cartoon character over than everything else.

The Leapster Explorer games may have the same well known TV and film characters, but they are used to actually teach your kids something whilst they play. Whether that be numbers, problem solving, basic letters and spelling, your child will learn something from every game.

Accessories

Due out in October is a Camera peripheral which will allow you to take digital photos and video with the Explorer. It’ll allow your youngsters to fulfil photo challenges, edit videos, add their own artistic flair to their photographs, and even upload them and use their photos in actual games. All sounds very cool, and I can’t wait to try it out myself

Also due out towards the end of the month is a carry case for the Leapster Explorer, one for the girls Pink Version which has handles and looks like a lovely little handbag. A plain green one for the boys or less girly girls, which thankfully doesn’t look like a handbag and is just a zipped pouch.

Conclusion

As I mentioned as a family we’ve got the Nintendo DS, and a few other consoles (PSP, Wii, etc.) over the years, but as a console for  children the Leapster Explorer can stand with it’s head held up high with the best of them.

The Explorer games are all very educational as well as fun. Plus theres not only the games you also get  the videos, e-Books and flash cards as well.

The Leapster Explorers recommended age guide is 4 to 9, and for these ages I think it’s perfect. Any older and they will probably want a bit more of a challenge and the latest games in 3D graphics, but for the younger gamers it’s the best option. The kids get to have a blast playing, and us parents can be happy that unconsciously there doing some subliminal homework.


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New Vtech gadget, Storio the Ebook Reader.

Read My new Full Review of the Storio here:

Trust me to be behind with the times, I’ve only just started thinking about getting Thomas and Jacob the Leapfrog Tag and Tag Junior and now all of a sudden the Storio comes along.

Vtech’s newest gadget the Storio is described by them as an animated reading system, I would say more like my first Kindle, although quite a bit jazzier.The Storio has been designed to be an interactive storybook, enabling your child to read the story, watch the story and play reading games featuring key words and definitions relating to the story.

Even better than a Kindle, the Storio has a colour touch screen and a qwerty keyboard.

Apart from the included story which comes with the Storio, additional titles will also be available for purchase.

Parents will be able to monitor their child’s learning by printing out progress reports and reading certificates, sounds suspiciously like the Leapfrog learning path to me but a good feature nonetheless.

The Storio obviously isn’t the Leapfrog tag, it does so much more. However they do primarily do similar things, read out the story and hopefully help your child with learning to read at the same time. It has made me think twice about buying the Tag system now as I was seriously going to go out and buy one at the end of the week. I may go and have a look at the Tag and check it out, and maybe wait for some more info on the Storio before I decide.

The Vtech Storio has been announced with an early Fall 2010 release date and will retail at approximately $59.99, so that’ll be £59.99 in the UK then.

Read My new Full Review of the Storio here:


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