Product Type: VTech baby toys
Newest Review: ... that your baby will be fascinated by it as it moves, has lights and sound and it will encourage them to crawl towards it as it keeps movin... more
Great for mini weightlifters
Crawl and Learn Bright Lights Ball
Member Name: sandemp
Crawl and Learn Bright Lights Ball
Advantages: Freddy likes it
Disadvantages: Too heavy, frustrating for younger babies, a weapon in the hands of a toddler
The Vtech Crawl And Learn Bright Lights Ball was given to Freddy at Christmas last year when he was almost nine months old. At the time Freddy was unable to sit unaided let alone crawl, and so this was a toy that he found delightful and yet immensely frustrating. Six months later and this is a toy that Freddy has just about got to grips with but also one that I as an adult find has some serious flaws.
==Roll, Roll The Ball==
Billed as being suitable for babies over six months on paper the Vtech Crawl And Learn Ball sounds like a fantastic toy. It certainly ticks the box in as far as being brightly coloured with lots of activities goes. Being manufactured by Vtech it goes without saying that this is an electronic toy that has aspirations to educate your child. Requiring three AA batteries (why the odd number, does Vtech not realise that I hate odd batteries being left stuck in a drawer), this ball features lights, sounds and movement. The ball is easy to switch on and has two volume levels, Freddy has little difficulty pushing the slide switch across, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of difference between the two volume levels, both of which are loud enough to hear without being so loud as to drown out everything else. Once the ball is switched on it immediately bursts into song singing "roll, roll, roll the ball" to the tune of row the boat. Way to go Vtech, confuse my child who absolutely adores row the boat (especially the scream in the second verse). As well as singing the ball also flashes it's lights at this point and begins moving randomly as a weight moves in it's inner workings.
Before I go any further, I'm really going to have a mini-rant about the weight. At just over 400g this ball is far too heavy for the recommended age group. For the youngest of babies (6 months-1year) it's simply too heavy for them to be able to lift confidently. When he first received this at 9months, Freddy was unable to sit independently and so would lay on his back holding the ball above him. But the ball was so heavy that he could only hold it for a couple of minutes meaning that he would get frustrated and I would have a heart attack as I watched him expecting him to drop it on his face at any moment. And if he had of dropped it, it would have hurt as not only is it heavy but it is also made of hard plastic, so be prepared for bruises. Once baby starts reaching toddler hood and begins to learn to throw and kick, then the ball becomes only just short of lethal. Should it be thrown across the room and come into contact with anything breakable then the worst definitely could happen and if it is dropped on your toe it definitely hurts.
Right that's that rant over (don't worry there is another one to come), on to the better aspects of the ball. Starting with the six buttons around the circumference. These buttons are all large, easy to press and set off a number of different sounds as well as flashing lights. Three of these buttons are different shapes and colours with numbers on them while the other three are animals. Pressing on the buttons sets off a number of different sounds, including animals noises, numbers, colours shapes and a very irritating song (flashing lights and music too, it's fun playing games with you) as well as setting off the motor. While the idea of the ball moving randomly is great, there are a couple of problems. Firstly the actual motor is very loud and almost drowns out the music (especially on the lower volume).
The second problem is that for the baby who hasn't conquered crawling the random movement becomes quite frustrating as the ball moves out of their reach. Freddy used to get quite upset that the ball would move just as he was playing with it. It would have been a good idea if that movement could have been switched off. Then once the child has started to learn to roll a ball, they can be very confused when this ball doesn't go where they expect. Even when switched off the ball doesn't roll in a straight line and I have occasionally caught Freddy looking very confused as it simply rolls back towards him.
When he first received this, Freddy's favourite part was the top of the ball which features a large yellow light surrounded by silky tags and topped by a ladybird that can be spun. Spinning the ladybird once more sets off lights, sounds and movement and even now Freddy loves to sit and spin the ladybird. The silky tags add a tactile element to the ball, but to be honest the only use Freddy has found for them is to pull the ball towards him.
Before I get onto my next mini-rant I'm going give the ball a little praise, what I really like about the sounds is that the voice is clearly English, with English pronounciation. Personally I hate toys that speak with an American voice (Fisher Price anyone?) as they pronounce many words differently to us and even have different words for the same thing (cookie/biscuit). Although it is often drowned out by the motor, the voice is also quite distinct and very friendly.
And onto my next rant, which is about the batteries. Firstly I must say that the battery compartment is firmly sealed and unlike many toys it doesn't use cross-head screws. This means that it's a lot easier to open without having to hunt out a screwdriver as the screw heads are actually large enough to undo with a knife if necessary. Once installed the three AA batteries last a reasonable amount of time, a decent set of Duracell last about three months. Again I'm going to say, what's with the three batteries, do toy manufacturer's have shares in battery manufacturers or something, what with all those odd batteries. A clue Vtech, AA batteries come in packs of four, so either use two batteries or four not three.
While some of the songs are annoying when the batteries still have full life, this ball becomes extraordinarily irritating as the batteries start to wear down, with the voices slowing like a record played at the wrong speed and an interminable whirring that seems to last for ever. Of course I could simply change the batteries, but try convincing a fourteen month that they need changing when the ball is still making noises (of a sort). I would have preferred that once the batteries run down it just stopped working (as many other of his electronic toys do) rather than it try and keep going. I would also have liked for this toy to switch off automatically when not played with for a period of time, or at least to keep quiet. I swear this ball gets lonely as every now and again it bursts into song in the hope that Freddy will come and play.
Vtech would like us to think that this ball is especially educational, what with it saying shapes, numbers and colours singing songs and moving to encourage the baby to reach and crawl. And I suppose that as far as the encouraging baby to crawl it's true, Freddy will crawl across the room to get to the ball. But at the same time he'll crawl across the room for any number of other toys, including the ball I bought him for a pound from the pound shop. In fact that cheap and cheerful ball is far more fun as far as Freddy is concerned, because he can throw it across the room and then chase it. As for all the buttons, yes they do reward emerging fine motor skills, but again so do many other toys and I'm certainly not convinced that the numbers, colours and shapes are really going implant themselves into a six month old baby's brain. In fact I'd go as far as to say that the lack of context means that it's actually less about teaching than it is about making parent's feel they are doing more for their child.
This ball was bought as a gift for Freddy by his Nana and I'm so glad I didn't buy it myself because I'd be kicking myself by now. With an average price of £14.99 this is a brilliant idea that simply has too many problems. Of course the main problem is the weight, the ball is just too heavy to be practical and Vtech really don't seem to have thought about how children in the recommended age group treat their toys. If a toddler sees a ball then they are going to either throw or kick it, and it's not nice being at the receiving end of this. As far as the younger babies go, it's simply too heavy for them to hold and therefore becomes frustrating and possibly even dangerous. The repetitive noises (especially one particular song) also become quite mind numbing for adults, which is a slight problem as I would never allow Freddy to play with this unsupervised as there is far too much of a risk of something getting broken as he throws it.
So in case you haven't guessed I really dislike this toy, but at the same time Freddy loves it. He really gets quite excited when he sees it and will play with it several times a day for a fairly extended period. This makes making a recommendation really difficult, because I as a parent would only give this one star out of five, but I'm pretty sure that as a child, Freddy would give it five. So I'm going to split the difference and give it three stars out of five and recommend that you only buy it if you are willing to accept the possible dangers and the need to quite closely supervise your child while they play with it. (A much better idea is to simply buy your toddler an actual ball, after with that they can roll it, throw it, kick and chase it and you can join in too).
Summary: Buy a football instead