When we were in the process of moving house my daughter's toys got put away gradually and one of the earlier toys to be put away was this Vtech Sort and Learn car, which she had stopped playing with at the time. I happened to bring it out again recently since we are now living in our new house and still opening boxes and my daughter has played with it constantly since. THis toy can be bought on the likes of Amazon for around £25, which I think it overpriced, however, I picked this up in TK Maxx for £8 which was a much more reasonable price.
This Vtech car is aimed at children from 12 -36 months. It has various features which make it an attractive choice of toy for a child. Firstly, there is the pull along cord, so as a child is getting on their feet this may be quite a novelty being able to pull this car behind them. When my daughter got this toy, she was well passed that stage of pulling the car along, but it is a good feature for younger children. Secondly, there is a choice of music or language - there are three different coloured buttons like a keyboard at the front of the car, which can either by played as music or played as words, where there traffic light colours are repeated and instruction for what to do. These piano style keys at the front essentially teach colours and language, so it could definitely be classed as an educational toy. When the car is turned on, there are also flashing lights at the side of the car to make it more lifelike.
When my daughter first got this toy she played with the keys and since she loves music she would much prefer the musical notes. However, now that I have brought it out again and it is like new to her, the real fascination is with the 5 different shapes that come with this toy car as it can be used as a shape sorter, giving it another great feature. The five shapes (square, heart, star, triangle and circle) are stored in the inside of the car, and there is a little boot at the back of the car to keep them within but it can be pulled down when a child wants to play with them. THe shape holes are on both sides of the car looking like windows and on the roof of the car, so everything about the appearance of this toy has been well thought out. The shapes themselves are of a good size making them easily manipulated by a small child and are brightly coloured with the numbers 1 to 5 on them. As much as my daughter likes this part of the toy, this is also where the only real problem comes in - the shapes are rather difficult to get through the holes (for a child, not for an adult). There are little round buttons on the edge of each of the holes that the shape needs to press down upon when it is being slotted through the hole in order to get it fully through, and this is the part my daughter finds very difficult. She knows the name of the shape and where it is to go but she cannot always get it through, simply because the angle she is maybe putting the shape in doesn't quite press the little round button in enough. So therefore instead of being a toy that she can play with independently she has to get me to help her put the shape through, making it slightly less appealing, as she likes to do things for herself at the moment!
It is a pity about the shape element of the toy as everything else about it is very good, but my daughter has other shape sorted toys and there has never been this problem with any of them. A good toy but pity about the shape sorter.
This is another toy that my son Logan received for Christmas 2009 that has become a favourite and had quite a bit of use.
=== The toy itself ===
It's main function is as a shape sorter, the main body is in the shape of a car, kind of a black taxi cab shape, but bright, custard yellow with a thick white bumper, green wheels with red hub caps and blue windows. The windows have two shaped holes either side, a heart, a circle, a square and a triangle. On the roof of the car is a blue sunroof, the hole in this is in the shape of a star. Also on the roof is a royal blue on/off switch and a cut out section with a slider which you move accross to choose the music mode or ABC mode. Maybe a little bizzarely, a blue plastic dog sits at the front of the car in the driving seat and the front hood consists of three chunky piano like keys, the red one has 'stop' printed on, the yellow one in the middle 'slow' and the green one 'go'. Either side of the keys are the headlights, which are red and flash when the car is turned on and in time to the music and generally when the car is used. The car also has a yellow string at the front and can be pulled along, but the string can be stored in the battery compartment, which is a nice safety feature. You will need a flat head screwdriver or a small coin to open the compartment and the toy takes 2 AA batteries which are included, another plus from me! The car is a hatchback and the boot door opens and clips underneath to help when removing the shapes. The five shapes obviously correspond to the shaped holes in the car windows. They are in bright colours, red, yellow, green, orange and blue. They also have a patterned top with a number (1 - 5) printed in the center.
Apart from all the obvious educational benefits from this toy, such as learning shapes, colours and numbers, one of the other main plus points for me is that the female voice is in English. She sings the 'theme' tune in rhyme ( to 'Mary had a little Lamb' or 'London Bridge is Falling Down' - which ever is your preference) which goes:
'Make the road a safer place,
All hold hands, please don't race,
Stop and listen, look both ways,
When you're crossing!'
So another educational benefit very in keeping with its design is road saftey, great for us as we live on our towns main street and I have been known to sing the lines as we are crossing over to our house. (Not too loudly!)
Other rhymes are played in very jolly instrumental versions, such as 'pop goes the weasel', 'Oh my Darling Clementyne', 'Mary had a Little Lamb', 'Nick Nack Paddy Whack' and there is one more but I have no idea what it is!
There are a few encouraging (if a little cheesy) phrases too, such as 'sing along!', 'Remember to put your seat belt on!' and 'Let's go on a learning journey' as well as helpful ones when using the toys shapes or piano keys.
These phrases and rhymes are activated when the car is turned on and then followed up as the car is used. If the car isn't used for a few seconds, it tries to get your attentioin a couple of times by giving out random phrases or tunes before giving up with a hearty 'Bye, Bye!'.
=== Number Mode ===
When pushing the shapes through in number mode, the car tells you what shape it is you are using the first time and second time around gives an example of that shape and thirdly goes on to give a visual idea in accordance with the car, i.e 1: 'Circle' 2: 'A circle is round' 3: 'The wheels are round'
In this mode the car tells you the colour of the piano key you press
=== Music Mode ===
In this mode, again firstly it tells you the name of the shape you are using and then secondly plays one of the tunes.
The Piano keys actually play notes in this mode
=== Personal Opinion ===
The car is definitely bright and cheerful in both appearance and sound. The sound is very clear which is great, if it's going to be telling your child things they should at least be able to understand it, which is why I like that the voice has a 'normal' English accent. The string is long enough for any toddler to be able to comfortably pull the car along without stooping but it's worth noting that it is fairly heavy so skirting boards and furniture (and innocent passers by) may get knocked about a bit and take my word for it, it will bruise! The shapes are fairly easy to get through the holes, although there are buttons on the inside edge which depress and give out the sounds, they are rounded they give very easily. Logan is now 21 months and has understood that the shapes can be posted through these holes and has had the dexterity to try and ram them through for a fair few months now, but has only just started to realise that each item is actually a different shape and that brute force alone will not win. Unfortunately, it was several months ago that he also noticed that all the shapes fit if he shoves them through the boot door, which kind of takes away the whole point of the toy! He does seem to like it when I push the shapes through the correct holes and will clap and dance to the music. He doesn't really give much attention to the piano keys though although I do use them to try and teach him about colours, much to his annoyance as he much prefers the shapes.
=== Availability? ===
Logans was a gift , but I've personally seen it in Toys R Us and on Amazon for between £19.99 - £29.99. It's been out a while now and my friend picked one up from a car boot sale recently for a £1!
=== Recommended? ===
On the whole, I think with all the educational activities on offer, the lovely clear (english) sound and it's 'drag around the room' ability, you are getting a fair bit for the money. Ours is looking very good for the use it's had, it's easy to keep clean with a quick wipe using a damp cloth and we haven't needed to replaced the batteries since we received it over a year ago. Most importantly Logan is still enjoying playing with it, that makes it a winner in my book!