“ Brand: ELC / Age: 12 months+ / Type: Musical Toy „
Thirteen month old Freddy has lots of toys, many of them are all-singing, all-dancing electronic models, but he also has a number of low-tech, classic toys. The ELC My First Musical TV is one of these classic toys and is almost identical to a toy that I can be seen playing with in a photo taken almost forty years ago (although mine wasn't bought from the ELC).
==What's On The Box? - A Parent's View==
Rather refreshingly the ELC My First Musical TV (henceforth known as the TV) is supplied without packaging, meaning that as soon as a small label is removed it is ready to be played with. Formed from hard plastic, hardly surprisingly the TV looks just like a TV, but not a modern LCD TV. It looks rather more like a TV from the 70s, with it's screen set into the body on the left hand side, the clock in the top right corner and tuning dial in the bottom right. There is also a handy handle which allows the TV to be easily carried from room to room and two very shallow, flat feet that allow the TV to be stood on it's base.
Unlike electronic toys, this is has a very basic mechanism for creating both sound and a moving picture. Turning the tuning dial will wind the clockwork mechanism which then in turn causes the screen to move and a tune to play. While the tune is a little tinny (think musical box) it is recognisable as Old MacDonald and the screen shows a moving picture of different farm scenes. As with all of this type of toy the illusion of the animals moving is created by the use of a corrugated effect on the rear of the clear Perspex screen. I must say that the dial/clockwork mechanism is perhaps a tad hard to turn, I struggle a little as an adult. A full wind will last a good couple of minutes, and while the tune is repetitive it's not too loud and I actually prefer the slightly tinny effect to the sounds many of Freddy's electronic emit.
Having very few working parts and no batteries, the TV is very durable. Formed from rigid plastic it can (and has) easily survived being thrown on the floor and banged against the wall with just a few cosmetic scratches. The hand on the clock are a little bit on the flimsy side and are probably the only part of the TV that a very young child may damage. While the use of clockwork to power the screen and music means there are no batteries to replace, it does of course open the door to the spring being over wound. While this isn't a problem with younger children, as they get older and better at turning the dial it is something they will need to be educated about. As for cleaning, well all this needs is a wipe-down with a damp cloth.
As an adult I feel this is a refreshingly simple, yet classic toy that brings back memories (however vague) of my own childhood. There is plenty of photographic evidence that I enjoyed playing with a very similar toy right up until I was about three. The only real down-side for an adult is that it is quite difficult to wind up and each wind only lasts for a relatively short time, leading to regular demands for it to be re-wound. So I'm going to give this four stars out of five, from an adult's perspective, but as with any toy it's not just my opinion that counts.
==Where's The Remote? - A Child's View==
To be absolutely honest I knew that Freddy was going to love this even before we had bought it. When visiting a friend he had played with their child's musical TV, which while I different brand was almost identical and had held his attention for an amazing length of time with him keep returning to it throughout the afternoon. So when we saw this on the shelf in The Early Learning Centre for only £5 instead of the normal retail price of £10 we immediately picked it up.
As soon as he laid eyes on the TV Freddy's face lit up and he immediately wanted to hold it and did so not only for the rest of the visit to the ELC but for the whole of our trip in town, only reluctantly relinquishing it while it's label was scanned and removed. Being quite a bright little boy, Freddy immediately worked out that he needed to turn the dial to make it work, but frustratingly he doesn't quite have the strength or dexterity to turn it. This meant that he shouted at regular intervals for it to be re-wound after which he would stare at the screen completely entranced until the music stopped playing, when he would once more shout. While it was great to see the look on his face, I will admit that after the twentieth or so time of rewinding I was starting to become a little annoyed.
I did think that once he got home and was surrounded with all his other toys he would lose at least a little interest in the TV. But a month later this is still a toy that he enjoys playing with on a regular basis even though it actually features quite muted colours. Although he will quite happily sit and play with the clock hands and bang the TV against the floor, he still regularly demands that it's wound up. I have watched him trying to wind it up himself, but even though he does know exactly what to do he can't quite manage it and I don't think he will be able to do so for the foreseeable future. This is probably the only negative aspect about the TV from both mine and Freddy's viewpoint but he absolutely adores this TV and plays with it several times a day.
As well as simply winding the TV up and allowing Freddy to watch and listen to it, we also enjoy spending time exploring this together. We like to look at the pictures of the different animals as they move across the screen, making different sounds as well as naming them. We also sing along to the Old MacDonald tune, although a little disappointingly it doesn't play the whole tune.
All in all, from Freddy's point of view, I think he thinks this is a marvellous toy that is completely fascinating but occasionally frustrating. If he could speak, I believe that he would quite happily give this five stars out of five.
The Early Learning Centre bills this TV as being suitable for children of twelve months and over, and I would say that this is probably is about right. Although younger children would still enjoy watching the screen and listening to the music they are less able to express their desire for you to rewind it and are more likely to become extremely frustrated. Even children over a year are likely to become a little frustrated and will need a lot of help to fully access the TV. As to the upper age limit, I would imagine that this would still be played with until Freddy is about three.
As with all toys Freddy is not only having fun when he plays with this but he is also developing all important skills. As he attempts to turn the dial and succeeds in turning the clock hands he is improving his fine motor skills and dexterity. When watching the screen he is learning to anticipate when certain animals are going to appear on the screen and then when we play with it together Freddy is learning the names of the farm animals and sounds that they make.
As Freddy gets older, we'll also use the clock part of the TV to help introduce the concept of telling the time (a concept that seems to be a little harder to introduce in this age of digital clocks). The TV could also become a valuable part of his repotoire for role playing, I vaguely remember lining my toys up in front of the TV to watch cartoons.
Classic toys are classic for a reason and this is most definitely a classic toy. It is almost identical to a toy that I played with as a young toddler and is a toy that will be enjoyed by generations to come. While there are other versions of this toy available they generally have characters from current popular TV programmes on the screen and as such will age. By using a simple farmyard scene and a well known children's song, the ELC have ensured that this toy will be just as popular in twenty years time and it certainly feels durable enough to last that long. So I am recommending the ELC My First Musical TV to the parents of any inquisitive toddler and giving it a hearty four and half stars out of five (rounded up to five), as in my (and Freddy's) opinion it is a must have for any toy box.