“ Brand: VTech / Age: 6 months / Type: Musical Toy „
When I first saw this toy which was a gift for my nine month old daughter I thought that she would be tioo young to get any use out of it and that it was a poor choice of present, at least for her currently and would be put away for a few months however amazingly she has taken to it and while I'm pretty sure it is more luck than ability that she gets any sort of response from it the My First Music Maker from Vitech has proved to be better than expected.
It comes supplied with two AA batteries however these did not last very long, replacing the batteries was easy enough but you do need a screw driver. To save the battery life the system shuts down after a short period of inactivity. The toy itself is a mass of bright colours with a nice easy to grip handle which is yellow in colour. The centre piece is a yellow star with a smiley face and either side of this there are buttons and a toggle, all of which can be pressed or moved to create sounds. These are all brightly coloured and do a range of functions from playing the sounds of particular instruments such as the guitar or the piano as well as a drum and cymbal. There are also about six tunes that it plays, well known ones like Twinkle Twinkle and Old MacDonald. While these songs are playing your baby can also activate the other sounds to play along in a cacophony of sound. More X Factor rehersals than the grand final but it keeps my little one amused.
It is quite a heavy toy, this is good in the fact that it will with stand a fair few bumps and knocks however you do have to be very observant as if it connects with your child if they swing it about then it will hurt, this is especially the case if you have two young ones playing together, my friends daughter who is 18 months managed to hit herself on the head with it and she did bruise. It will also need an adult to switch it on and off as the red switch is quite stiff. It is easy to wipe clean with the plastic surfaces.
These retail for around the £10 mark and I was surprised that it lived up to its 6 month to 3 years age range as I thought it would be too much for the younger end of that range however it has proven to be a popular addition to the nursery even if the noise does begin to grate on adult ears after a while.
CHRISTMAS COMES LATE (OR IS THAT EARLY?)
A belated visit to my cousin several weeks ago (we were supposed to meet up shortly after Christmas) resulted in the slightly unorthodox exchange of Christmas presents between our children over two months after the fact. Not that the kids minded - presents are obviously nice to get whenever. So it was that Baby H, blissfully counting sheep in Noddy land, found himself blessed with a new toy. My wife is obviously becoming wise to my eye for a reviewing opportunity, as when my cousin's wife offered to dispose of the packaging, my wife nonchalantly told her "No, don't worry about it - he'll probably want the packaging for his review." Gosh. Am I becoming THAT predictable?
WHAT IS IT?
"My First Music Maker" is, as the name suggests, a musical toy that introduces instruments, sounds and numbers to your baby. It has a bright yellow handle which is just the right size for little hands to grab onto and a series of simple buttons, lights, toggles and switches to manipulate, each of which performs a separate function. There are three satellite circles arranged around the main centre disc, which features a big yellow star with a happy face.
One of them has three instrument buttons (orange for guitar, blue for piano, and red for bells), another has a large blue toggle which is shaped like a thick cymbal, and there is also a mini red turntable with three settings. There is an on/off button under the big yellow star that also provides two volume settings - slightly irritating and highly irritating. The unit needs to be turned on or off by an adult, as little fingers will not have the strength required to manipulate the red toggle switch.
The Music Maker comes with two pre-installed AA batteries, but these are meant for demonstration purposes while the toy is still in the shop (i.e. you can "try before you buy") so these will need to be replaced relatively quickly after purchase. The battery compartment is on the bottom of the unit and is secured by a flat head screw.
Fortunately, when it is unscrewed, it has a retaining ring that keeps the screw from falling out (a thoughtful touch). We installed heavy duty alkaline AA batteries shortly after bringing it home and they have now lasted around six weeks of fairly regular use. The toy has an automatic shut-off feature which kicks-in after thirty seconds if no buttons are pressed, which also helps with battery life.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
As a toy, the Music Maker is quite captivating, providing enough variety in music, colour and design to keep a child occupied for some time. Baby H is just coming up on six months, so we thought the toy may be too advanced for him, but he has got to grips with how to make it work (although it seems sometimes that it is more by accident than design) and it keeps him thoroughly entertained.
When baby presses any of the three instrument buttons, its says the name of the instrument and makes a corresponding sound. Twisting the "turntable" starts one of six well-known melodies (ABC song, Hey Diddle Diddle, Old MacDonald, Mulberry Bush, Farmer in the Dell and Twinkle Twinkle).
The toy is multi-functional and interactive. Twisting the turntable once the song starts makes it go faster, you can play the cymbal and drum over the music, and pressing the instrument buttons changes the lead instrument. However, the toy will also randomly play if nothing is pressed until the automatic shut-off kicks in.
Any faults the Music Maker may have are not with its functionality, which is excellent, but there are some niggles with aspects of the design. The first thing that struck me was how robustly it is built. Given that it is suitable for babies that are six months onwards when rug rats get a kick out the noise things make when dropped or chucked on to the floor, VTech have correctly anticipated the rough handling the toy is likely to receive and have designed it appropriately.
However, the durability comes at a price - for a handheld, portable toy it is quite heavy (the two AA batteries don't help) so younger infants may need some help manipulating it and should be supervised. There are no sharp edges at all, so there is little to worry about from that safety angle. At the risk of wanting to have my cake and eat it, I would also liked to have seen the main handle, which is hollow at the bottom, moulded as a solid piece of plastic, as it has turned into quite an effective collector of grime and goo from sticky fingers. Fortunately, the hard, slightly glossy plastic is easy to wipe down and surface clean.
Another slight concern is the loudspeaker grille, which is located on the same "satellite" as the three instrument buttons, is necessarily open to air. Although it is designed to minimise the chance of damage from moisture - and by moisture, I mean drooling, teething babies - I thought it could have been placed somewhere a little less accessible.
Given the age range suggested for this toy (six to thirty months) it is very likely a large part of its target market will still be teething, and the various bits and bobs extruding from the main body are far too tempting for sore gums to pass up. This is a little worrying given that the instruction leaflet clearly states: "Do not expose the unit to moisture or water"!
Despite some minor niggles, the Music Maker stands up quite well as an infant toy. It is robustly built, provides a variety of different and captivating functions (lights, sounds, numbers, songs, bright colours and different textures) that keeps baby stimulated and entertained, as well as providing some obvious developmental benefits. Ours was a gift, but "My First Music Maker" is widely available from the usual baby-orientated outlets (ex. Mothercare, Boots and Kiddicare) for around £11.00, which represents decent value for money.