Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year, what with planning, finances, family and the real concern that the hard-drive on the dvd might break before you are able to record 12 months worth of films.
We’ve taken one stress out of the equation at least, by planning ahead and buying presents early. Obviously, when I say ‘we’ I really mean ‘my partner who is a woman and therefore much better at organizing/planning/buying/thinking than me’. All the same, Sarah won’t mind if I write about some of her choices.
The first is an electronic toy that I think is going to enliven thousands of households this December, the VTech Innotab 2 . Our son Harry has an electronic learning toy similar to this, one which blends e-books with games with downloadable apps. He loves this and so we were looking at buying another for our daughter when the VTech Innotab 2 caught our attention. The first thing you notice about this is the size. Although the screen seems of equal size the actual toy is larger, with rubber edges and a moulded edge that is much better for young hands. With our son’s toy we had to buy an extra cover but the Innotab 2 immediately struck us as one step ahead. Sometimes smaller is better, but in this case the easy-to-hold design and safety edges are a definite improvement. The cartridges that you buy containing educational games, fun games and e-books are also moulded and click satisfyingly into the body of the piece. This makes it immediately easy to see if it’s missing, as young hands do have a tendency to pick at, and generally attempt to lose, any moving parts!
The Innotab is aimed at toddlers from the age of 4. Despite this we have know our 2 and a half year old daughter Caitlin will be able to access several of the incredible features, like the camera. The V-tech Kidizoom camera was a great hit last Christmas with my 7 year old Tom and the new Innotab features the swivel lens that enables kids to take pictures of others or themselves. This has proved to be hugely popular in our house and the Innotab’s adoption of this feature will probably mean the Kidizoom becomes redundant soon, especially as the photoshop options -including loads of fun templates that the kids love to use- and the video capacity of the Innotab are so great. An in-built calculator and a Contacts app that can contain the friends and family of the owner are just two extras that give the device an edge over competitors.
Caitlin loves reading and the next feature to really impress us about the Innotab is the downloadable content. The Learning Lodge Navigator is the website you access to find downloadable apps, e-books and videos. These include educational videos and pure entertainment such as Sesame Street or Peppa Pig. The Innotab also has a stand so that the device can be stood up when reviewing bought videos or homemade ones. Again, this little extra means a great deal as it will not only widen the audience for viewing (useful for households with more than one child) but it also means that the screen can be accessed during times when little hands are either too grubby or too jittery or too busy to do justice. A great little touch.
Caitlin loves reading books and the choice and variety on the Innotab 2’s site mean that she’s going to have loads of these to choose from. She’s already worked out how to access these on Harry’s handheld but the Innotab’s system seems even easier to use so I imagine this is going to be a big hit from the moment she unwraps it.
One particular area that really caught our attention for Caitlin is the ability to download music. She spends most of her day singing and dancing and this will be a feature that she’s able to access from Day One. With a copious memory that can also be expanded easily by the use of an extra SD card this is going to probably be the most used feature initially, if one that will forever be requiring us to mutter ‘Let’s just turn that down Caitlin’ as she whoops along to Humpty Dumpty for the 343rd time of a morning!
Buy for £64.99 from Amazon
Whenever I’m reviewing toys or games there usually comes a time when I look at the price and start to have some doubts about its accessibility. With the Innotab 2 even this is fantastic. There are well known shopping sites that are now selling this for around £65, which frankly is a great bargain. The system comes with lots of great freebies (including fantastic art programs that allow your child to muck about and be creative without the usual attendant 30 minutes spent tidying up and feverishly wiping tables and carpets) but it is true that you will need to buy game/e-book cartridges or apps to go on expanding the life of this toy. Luckily, these too are reasonably priced. Certainly, over the life of such a device I would imagine that the pleasure and learning derived from it would easily justify the money spent.
We are a house that has no games consoles as thus far we think that young kids can entertain themselves much more productively. Nevertheless, the VTech Innotab 2 offers something more than just an entertaining hand-held. It is genuinely entertaining, but also has so many other features that will hold the attention of any child who wishes to learn. It’s compact, relatively cheap, incredibly creative and is a device that will grow with our daughter, whilst helping her in so many areas of her burgeoning development. It’s absolute genius!
Buy The VTech InnoTab 2 from Amazon
Dave Fouracre aka Dave the Dad