Product Type: VTech baby products
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VTech Light-up Rhyme Gym
Member Name: cmh4135
VTech Light-up Rhyme Gym
Date: 18/10/06, updated on 18/10/06 (226 review reads)
Advantages: Grows with the child
Disadvantages: Annoying tinny music and doubtful success in "child-led" mode
My husband and I made a decision before our son was born that any toys had to enable the child to interact, encouraging creative play, rather than the kind of toys that play with themselves when switched on. I had assumed, therefore, that if we were to invest in such a product it would not have flashing lights, would not play annoying music and would not have self-moving parts. So, how did I come to buy the V-tech arch and do I regret it?
In short it was recommended by my sister and no I don’t regret it.
The arch is very simple. Two hanging targets, one with pictures of birds, the other bees (what is it with birds and bees on kids toys?) and a central sun with a huge smiley face on it. The sun rotates from side to side and lights up. Three additional light panels are located on the top of the arch and these flash on and off in a seemingly random fashion. The music that accompanies all of this is best described as “popular tunes” such as “You are my sunshine”, “Yankee Doodle” and “Can-Can” all played, sans words, in a tinny fashion.
For all of its simplicity this is a rather clever purchase. I have been surprised at how the arch has grown with my son, or should that be, how my son has grown with the arch? For the younger child the lights and movement of the sun provides visual stimulation. As the child grows the hanging targets start to feel the full force of the child’s swipe as the child learns to reach out. The targets make a satisfying rattling sound as they are hit, and, if hit hard enough, the sound of birds or bees can be heard! The height of the targets can be adjusted to suit the size of the child. At about 3 months my son then found out that he could catch hold of the targets and subject them to closer scrutiny. This does mean that he now rarely gets to hear the added sound effects of the birds or bees but you can really see him taking the detail of the pictures in.
All of the above interaction has been whilst using the “continuous play” mode. There is also a child-led mode where the sounds are only activated upon the child hitting the targets such that they are triggered. In the child-led mode not only do you get the songs that appear in the continuous-play mode, but also some rather cute ditties which help teach the child colours and numbers. Despite my son now being more manually adept we have not found the child-led mode to be as successful. The targets need to be hit in such a way that they make a plastic tab move. As the targets are suspended with webbing strips this is not actually as easy for the child as it could be as they can be hit sideways and not trigger the sounds. I suspect that as my son grows he will outgrow the arch before he is able to hit the targets straight! However, as the continuous play mode is so successful, this alone would not put me off recommending the arch.
My son’s eyes genuinely light up when he sees the arch and he can often be seen looking for it in the room. If he wants to play it does mean that I can have 15 or so minutes where he will be sufficiently occupied to do some of those “must do” jobs: a god-send for any parent.
Batteries are the bane of every parent’s life. The arch takes 3 AA batteries and we have found that rechargeables will give around 10 hours use. That’s really not that bad. The batteries are housed in a sealed compartment that can be undone with a 2p piece – quite useful that a screwdriver is not required. A warning that the batteries are running low is the arch repeating itself in an unusual manner and, finally, it will just give up the ghost.
The arch is easy to construct, the plastic pieces just slotting easily together (with a couple of screws to tighten). Unfortunately, once together it doesn't all come completely apart (least we couldn't do it) and so it can be a bit bulky to store.
This arch is everything I said I didn’t want for my child yet, in conjunction with more personally interactive play it has certainly won me over. It is genuinely enjoyed by my son and allows me a loo break without the house being screamed down. Yes, the music is annoying but there is a sufficient repertoire for me not to worry that much!
Available from Argos at around £20 this comes recommended.
Summary: A godsend toy that exceeded all my expectations