Product Type: Leapfrog baby toys
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Two Minutes Of Bedtime Music....
Leapfrog My Puppy Pal Scout
Member Name: sandemp
Leapfrog My Puppy Pal Scout
Date: 11/03/11, updated on 11/03/11 (94 review reads)
Advantages: Cuddly, batteries last ages, Freddy loves it
Disadvantages: Too loud for bed, not machine washable
When his Great Grandma asked what Freddy would like for Christmas one of our suggestions was the Leapfrog My Pal Scout. Although Freddy already had several Leapfrog toys, I'm not really sure what I expected from Scout, only ever having read reviews I knew that Scout could be personalised, but didn't realise just how big he is.
==Our Friend Scout==
Scout came packaged in an open-faced cardboard box, that was relatively easy open. The fact that I can't remember there being a particularly huge number of plastic ties that needed untwisting is a testament to how quick and easy he was to free ready for play. Although Scout can be played with as soon as he was removed from the box, your child will have far more fun if you spend a little time setting him up.
Scout himself is a surprisingly large soft toy, especially as he's advertised as being suitable for babies as young as six months old. Sitting about ten inches high, Scout is made of the most beautifully huggable, soft, pale green plush, with darker green ears and white nose, tummy and paws. With his child-like, friendly face, it's almost as if he's begging to be cuddled. There's a battery compartment on Scout's back that is hidden behind a Velcro flap. As an adult it's a little fiddly to get to the on/off switch, USB connector and screw closed battery compartment, which is reassuring as it means it's even harder for little hands. As well as switching Scout on and off the switch also allows us to choose between full and half volume. Scout takes three AA batteries, but a demonstration set is supplied and these are still going strong with over two months of daily use.
Before giving Scout to Freddy for the first time I connected him to my laptop via the rather short supplied USB lead to personalise him. Although the supplied USB lead is a little too short, it is a standard micro USB connection, so since then I've used an old camera lead that is rather longer, which makes it a little easier to connect Scout. Once Scout is connected, the required software is automatically installed, after which your internet browser of choice opens and takes you to the Leapfrog website, where you can download and personalise Scout to your heart's content. I can't say how easy this process is with other browsers, but I've encountered no difficulty using Firefox.
Among the different aspects that can be personalised there are a number of different songs for different occasions. As Freddy received this at Christmas, I loaded a couple of Christmas songs including Jingle Bells. But on his birthday next month, I'll be changing on of the songs to Happy Birthday. Most of this songs are actually tunes rather than songs, but they are all recognisable. You are also able to program Scout with your child's name, when I added Freddy's it gave me a choice of two spellings, but when I checked the sample it sounded right. Along with your child's name you can also program their favourite colour, animal and food all of which are incorporated into Scouts songs and phrases. Once Scout is programmed, he does need to be 'ejected' from the computer before disconnected so as not to damaged to internal flash drive, but this is easily done via a prompt on the website. And then Scout is ready to be played with.
Each of Scouts four paws will activate a different activity, well three of them really as one of his feet is an off button. The other foot will play two minutes of bedtime music, which tunes it plays depends on what you have downloaded, but all of the choices are slow and calming. Included in the choices for this selection is Brahms lullaby, which Freddy loves. One of the paws has a musical note and plays a selection of much more lively tunes, including one that involves spelling out your child's name and another that goes through your child's favourite things. Although, I must stress that again what tunes this plays depends on what choices you made when downloading. The final paw activates some activities, during one of which Scout makes animal noises and then asks the child what animal they think he's pretending to be. As well as playing the tunes and saying phrases, the bone on Scout's collar flashes.
Although there is a volume control, this really only gives a choice between loud and very loud. Even the lower volume is loud enough to be heard in another room, and if Scout is accidentally set off in the night then it's loud enough to startle a child awake. The higher volume is, naturally, far louder and loud enough to have woken me during the night even in another room through a closed door. So as far as I'm concerned this is a loveable toy, that is great for during the day, but not to be used in the cot at night unless switched off.
==Freddy's New Friend==
Freddy was nine months old when he received this for Christmas, which I would say is just the right age to start playing with Scout. I really think Scout is a little too large for younger babies, and they might have a little trouble pressing the buttons. At nine months old, Freddy was fascinated with Scout and the fact that it said his name (in a very child-like, English voice) as well as playing lots of music, but he found pressing the buttons just a little too difficult. We did originally allow him to Scout to bed with him, that is until we were woken up at four in the morning on several occasions. As Freddy would toss and turn in his cot he would accidentally set Scout off and that was not only waking us up, but also waking him. So if you buy this for your child (or someone else does) a big tip is do not allow your child to take this to bed with them.
It's only really been in the last couple of weeks that Freddy has been able to play with Scout independently and Scout is now a toy that Freddy will actively seek out. At eleven months, Freddy finds Scout a perfect size to hold and cuddle and he has no trouble pressing any of the buttons. Even though he will press the other buttons (and laugh at the phrases and songs), Freddy absolutely adores the two minutes of bedtime music. It's quite sweet to watch him examine each of the paws, before pressing the foot, setting the music off, then grinning as he give Scout a cuddle. As far as how long Scout keeps Freddy's attention, well it's long enough for me to start to get a little annoyed at the very childish voice, but not long enough to make me want to switch it off. At a rough guess, I'd say that Freddy plays with this for about a quarter of an hour at a time, but several times a day.
Although Freddy does love Scout, he also likes to suck on it's paws, sometimes making them quite soggy. I was a little worried that this would affect the electronics, but so far so good. It has meant that Scout is a little grubby though, and being an electronic toy, I can't stick it through the washing machine.
All in all, while Freddy can't actually tell me how much he loves Scout in words, he can show me by his actions. Freddy will regularly pull Scout out to play with, even if Scout is behind other toys and he has to make a real effort to get him (sometimes taking 5 minutes just to get hold of Scout). So I would say that Scout has made quite an impression and if Freddy could talk, he'd give him five out of five.
==Scout The Teacher==
As with any toy, Scout will help your baby learn new skills as they play with him, in fact Leapfrog are renowned for how educational their toys are. According to the Leapfrog website, Scout will help teach your child first words, daily routines, early number sense, animals and emotions and feelings. And I guess all this is true as depending on which phrases and songs Scout has been programmed with, all of these aspects are covered. But Scout will also help your child perfect their fine motor skills as they learn to press the paws and are rewarded with songs and phrases. Scout is also so cuddly that he makes a great comforter.
As to the recommended age group, well while Scout is safe enough for a baby six months or even younger, I personally think he's a little too large for these younger babies. At nine months, Scout was the perfect size for Freddy to hold and Freddy was just about perfecting the skills required to make him work. While now at eleven months old, Freddy is able to play with Scout independently, so I would say that Scout is perfect for babies from about nine months. As to the older limit, well that obviously depends on the child and while I could see a child of three taking Scout to bed with them as a comforter, I really couldn't see them playing with him much.
Although Scout is a well loved, much played with toy, it's not one that I think is worth paying the full recommended price of £19.99 for. He is very cuddly and I like the way that he can be personalised, with the sounds being changed again and again. But he is far too loud for me to allow Freddy to take him to bed. Also this is not a toy that I would recommend if you don't have access to the internet, as it's unique selling point is that it can be personalised and this cannot be done without an internet connection. But all in all, even with these minor quibbles I would still give Scout four stars out of five, simply because Freddy does love him so much.
Summary: Cuddly toy with a difference