Product Type: VTech baby toys
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A First Music Maker For Budding Baby DJ's
VTech My First Music Maker
Member Name: Hishyeness
VTech My First Music Maker
Date: 15/03/10, updated on 15/03/10 (129 review reads)
Advantages: Robust build. Lots of variety. Engaging and developmental.
Disadvantages: A few minor design flaws make supervision a must for its youngest users.
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.
Summary: An excellent first music toy let down by one or two minor design niggles.