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The Vtech Tiny Tot Driver was a gift that Freddy received last Christmas from a friend of a friend and a toy that delighted him from the very first day. The Tiny Tot Driver is exactly the type of toy that a young child loves, full of flashing lights and extremely loud sounds, yet at the same time it's the kind of toy every parent dreads. Easy for the child to switch on, very loud with no way of lowering the volume, incredibly economical on batteries and prone to getting lonely. As far as this toy goes the household is completely split, with Freddy absolutely adoring it and me loathing it. So in the interests of fairness I'm going to break this review into two sections, the first being from my perspective and the second from mine. Then when it comes to giving a final rating, we'll split the difference.
==Here We Go - Mummy's View==
As it was opened over nine months ago, I can't exactly remember how well packaged this was, but as, unlike some other Christmas toys, it doesn't really stick in my mind, I'd say it wasn't that difficult. I seem to remember installing the first set of batteries, which was a simple matter of opening the compartment and placing the 2 AA batteries (which are still going strong) in their respective holes before closing the flap back up. What I particularly like about the battery compartment is that instead of having to hunt for the correct size cross-head screwdriver, this can be opened and closed using a coin. Once the screw is tightened the compartment is extremely secure, and even with nine months of very intensive use we have not yet had to replace the batteries.
The Tiny Tot Driver is a reasonably sized toy, not so large that it dominates the toy box, but still big enough to not be easily lost (which is a real shame). In fact it fits rather neatly on Freddy's highchair tray, or at least it did when Freddy was using a highchair. The main body of the driver is a lovely bright red, while there is a vivid yellow steering wheel complete with light up horn. Turning the steering wheel moves a little white bubble car at the back taking it through five different coloured buttons, which all feature different numbers and animals. The on/off switch is an easy to operate knob, which sets off an ignition sound when it is switched on, just like turning a key in a car. Following the driving theme there is an automatic style gear knob and even a wing mirror that can be adjusted to give a perfect view of the road behind you. There is also a set of traffic lights and another easy to operate slide switch for changing the driver's mode.
In all three modes the driver is very noisy, so much so that it can be heard through shut doors. It's also extremely repetitive, there are certain phrases that it seems to repeat ad nauseum. Personally on a scale of one to ten, I would put this at eleven in as far as the annoyance factor goes. Even worse this is one of those toys that gets lonely and plays tunes at random intervals if not played with. Oh and the buttons are very sensitive as well, so if it is switched on and something hits it in the toy box, it will play one of it's random tunes or phrases. (More often or not "Here We Go").
Although there are three modes, I do find it hard to work out which mode the driver is in unless I actually check. The sounds are all very similar, with the only real distinction being what noises are made when the wheel is turned. In animal mode the different animal noises are produced, while in 123, the numbers and in musical they play tunes. Only it also randomly plays tunes anyway and then there are the times when it names different places and I might hear "Our first stop is the school". I do like that each of the places are recognisable, but some of the tunes are quite random and don't really match the place. Further sounds are activated by pushing down on the horn, moving the gear stick and pressing on two buttons (one of which sets off another highly irritating phrase "1,2,3, fill her up please", while the other plays one of eleven tunes).
As far as durability goes, the Driver has proved to be extremely durable, having survived being thrown across the room, trodden on and drooled over with only very minimal cosmetic damage. The plastic surfaces are easy to wipe clean and we are still on that first set of batteries, even with nine months of daily play. The only minor problem I have with the durability aspect is that some of the decoration is in the form of stickers, even though these are very firmly stuck down, I don't know how resistant they are to determined peeling.
All in all, this from a parent's view point this is a very well made toy, chock-a-block with activities to keep a toddler amused. But it is also a very loud toy that quickly becomes irritating to adults, that I regularly feel like throwing through the window when I knock it and it starts that "Here we go" song one more time. Even so I'm willing to forgive the Driver all it's faults simply because Freddy loves it so much.....
==There's So Much To See - A Toddler's View==
Although the suggested minimum age for the Driver is one year, at nearly nine months Freddy was somewhat younger than this when he received it for Christmas. There's really nothing about the Driver that made it unsafe for him at that age, there are no small pieces to come off or sharp corners and the battery compartment has resisted all toddler attempts at opening. Personally I would put the lower age for this at about nine months, or when your baby is able to sit independently to play, as although they may not be able to access all the functions they will still have fun. As Freddy has a gross motor delay, he wasn't quite able to sit independently when he got this, but instead we would put it on the tray of his high chair so that he could reach all the different activities.
Almost from the day he was born, Freddy has loved music and found it a great motivator, so the fact that this toy plays so many tunes (and so loudly) meant that he was immediately given a reward for pressing buttons and pulling levers. To begin with he would simply press the horn, which would set off music and flashing lights, or pull on the gear stick, but over the months they way he plays with this has definitely evolved. Right from day one he loved looking at the baby in the mirror, but now he's even more enamoured with the mirror as he knows it's him and will often give himself kisses. (It's a very big step when a toddler realises who the baby in the mirror is).
While setting off many of the tunes and lights was a hit and miss affair when he first received the Driver, Freddy is now very precise in how he plays with it. He finds it easy to switch the Driver on and in theory he should find it easy to switch off again, but as with most toddlers, he never does. This means that we are regularly treated to the Driver telling us that it's lonely, as if it hasn't been played with for ten seconds it breaks into song and then if it still hasn't been played with after another ten seconds it says "bye bye" and then hibernates until a button is pressed, lever pushed or the steering wheel turned. Often the very fact that the Driver has told the world it's lonely is enough for Freddy to return to playing with it, other times it's just darned annoying (especially if I'm trying to attract Freddy's attention".
At nearly eighteen months, Freddy is obviously beginning to decide exactly what he does and doesn't like and how he likes to play with toys. He finds it easy to change between modes, but really does prefer that the Driver is in counting mode and if I do change the mode, he changes it back again. He knows exactly which button sets off the songs, and he knows which of the songs he likes and will press the button until it plays his favourite. He'll then dance for the duration before cycling through the tunes once more to play it again. While Freddy finds this very entertaining, I must admit that it does start to get to me after a while, hearing the same tune over and over.
As Freddy's role play skills have slowly emerged he's also started pretending to drive turning the steering wheel, beeping the horn and pressing the radio, while "brumming". This is really sweet to watch and the delight on his face as he drives to Nana's is worth all the noise. All in all this is a toy that Freddy loves and plays with for short periods of time many times a day, every day. From the very first day he loved the sounds and flashing lights and over the last nine months he regularly found new and more sophisticated ways to play with it. If he could express himself well enough I'm sure he would give it five stars out of five, but as it is you'll have to accept that the words "Mine Dar" mean that he loves it.
==Stop At School - Educational View==
Although a baby/toddler/child will learn no matter what you give them to play with (even a pan and spoon), Vtech do pride themselves on manufacturing educational electronic toys and I must say they've done a pretty good job with the Tiny Tot Driver. Vtech themselves state this will help your child develop in various ways and as I whole-heartedly agree with them, I'll break this down into the categories they use.
Fine Motor - Vtech state this will help your child improve their fine motor skills, and I must say from what I've watched it certainly does. The variety of different buttons, switches and levers coupled with the instant rewards of music and lights really does encourage your child to push, pull and slide. When Freddy first started playing with this he could only really push the buttons and pull on the gear stick, with anything else being accidental. Now he proficient at turning the steering wheel, turning the ignition and sliding the mode control.
Discovery and Exploration - Vtech state that this toy will heighten curiosity and encourage exploration. Again I totally agree, as this does so much it definitely encourages Freddy to explore all the different buttons to find out what they do.
Role Play - Oh I so have seen how this encourages role play over the last nine months, as Freddy has gone from simply pressing buttons to pretending to drive the car and I can only see this role play progressing as he gets older.
Sensory Development - Although I'm not quite as enthusiastic about this aspect, I do have to agree that it does provide some sensory stimulation in the form of the lights and sounds. I just wouldn't say it's done nearly as much to aid Freddy's sensory develop as other toys have done.
Language Development - I've always been very wary of toy manufacturer's claims that a toy aids language development as there is no replacement for simply talking to your child. But I must say that the voice used is friendly, English (as opposed to American) and clear and I have heard Freddy attempt to copy words occasionally.
Imitative Play - Really I would have included this in with Role Play, as according to Vtech this is copying observed actions which encourages social and emotional skills. Sorry but isn't that exactly what Role Play is, copying what adults do (in this case driving)?
As to the recommended age group, well as I've already said this was given to Freddy well below the minimum recommended age of one year and he was able to play with it and they was nothing about it that I would consider unsafe. The upper age limit of three years, is perhaps a little on the over-optimistic side, although I can imagine Freddy playing quite happily with this until he is over the age of two, I do think it will become a little less loved after he starts pre-school and discovers the delights of toys designed for older age groups.
I can't say that I was overly enamoured when Freddy received yet another noisy toy for Christmas in the form of the Vtech Tiny Tots Driver. Nine months on after watching the sheer joy on his face as he's developed and played with it, I have to admit I've changed my mind and am now rather grateful to the family friend who bought it. With a recommended retail price of £14.99 this toy makes a perfect present for an older baby or younger toddler and will provide fun for months to come. I'm therefore giving the Vtech Tiny Tots Driver five stars out of five as even though it's a loud toy that sometimes annoys me, it's also a toy that continues to give Freddy pleasure every day.
Vtech Tiny Tot Driver
When my brother was 1 we spotted this fun looking little toy whilst out Christmas shopping and couldn't resist it. The toy as shown in the picture above has a bright blue steering wheel, which has a yellow horn in the middle. When rotated the steering wheel plays the tune of 'London bridge is falling down' and when the horn button is pressed a 'honk honk' noise is heard.
The bottom of the toy is made from robust bright red plastic and there is a slider switch, which gives two volume options (quiet and loud). This is brilliantly hidden underneath the toy so if baby is playing with it in his or her cot you can leave it set on the quieter setting and you don't get deafened by the baby monitor!
The top part of the toy is made from white plastic, to the left is the steering wheel and below this are three brightly coloured shaped buttons; one is of a red fire engine, one is of a yellow bus and one is of a green train. Just to the right of these rather fun looking buttons is a blue ignition key with three possible positions. To the right of this, are four bright yellow square shaped buttons, one has a picture of a fireman on it, one has a picture of a bus driver, one has a picture of a random boy waving and the other has a picture of a train driver. Above these buttons is a bright green gear lever, which can be, moved forward to make revving noises or backwards to make a bleeping reverse sound. Above this are three brightly coloured lights, which flash during play (these are in the colours of traffic lights).
As I mentioned above, the ignition key has three possible settings, the central setting is to switch the toy off, the other two settings allow the buttons to play different things. In the setting which is marked with a musical note, the yellow buttons play various tunes:
The fireman button plays 'row row row your boat'
The bus driver button plays 'yankee doodle'
The waving boy button plays ' the wheels on the bus'
The train driver button plays a tune, which I recognise but cannot name!
When the fire engine button is pressed it says the colour 'red' and then plays another little tune. The bus button says the word 'yellow' and then plays a tune and the train button says the word 'green' and then plays another tune.
When the ignition key is turned to the mode, which is marked with a smiley face, the buttons play different things from the previous mode:
The fireman button makes a fire engine noise and a woman's voice says 'emergency, emergency!'
The bus driver button plays a little tune and then says 'lets drive'.
The waving boy button plays a honking horn noise and then a boys voice says 'hello'.
The train driver button makes a great train horn noise and then the voice says 'all aboard'.
When the fire engine button is pressed it says 'fire engine' and then plays a fire engine noise. The bus button says the word 'bus' and then plays a honking horn noise and the train button says the word 'train' and then plays the train horn noise.
Now I've had a play I guess its time to do a bit of evaluating!
The toy is made by Vtech, who are generally pretty good with quality so that's definitely a positive start and in the last four years this little toy has been very well played with but still looks as good as new, being easy to clean helps with that aspect! The toy has suffered its fair share of bumps and knocks as well as being dropped but is still in one piece. In terms of safety, there are no sharp bits or detachable bits so there's no risk of choking or injury. The toy is lightweight and compact which makes it suitable for taking in the car (if you can cope with the revving and beeping noises whilst trying to drive!), we actually took it on holiday with us to Scotland, as it was easy to take and provided lots of entertainment. The bright colours make it look more interesting and the variety of sounds and tunes proved positive too. The toy is light weight which also means that if the toddler drops it on their feet or someone else's it doesn't hurt (trust me that is a useful thing in a toy!!)
There are only a couple of negatives I can think of, one being that there could be a few more features which would make it even more fun and the other being that the ignition key is easily turned and if the toy is put in a toy box it can easily turn itself on if it gets knocked and you spend aged trying to track down what is making these strange noises!
All in all I think the toy was good value for money, it cost £12.99 and it takes two AA batteries which seem to last forever which is good! The toy is aimed at the 12-36 month age group although I think children slightly below and slightly above this age group would also enjoy the toy. I was surprised at just how much my brother has enjoyed playing with this toy and I would definitely recommend it as a compact but fun toy, which is very well made, and safe.
Now my brother is too old for this toy we have found a new use for it - my dog loves it! She will spend ages pressing the buttons with her nose and nudging the steering wheel with her paws. Crazy but at least we have got out moneys worth!!
I bought this for James when he was 3 months old, OK maybe that was a bit early but it played tunes which he really loved, and had flashing lights too which captured his attention, he soon leaned that by hitting it wildly he could get them to play and flash!. The toy itself sits on any flat surface, has a large bright blue steering wheel, easily gripped by the smallest of hands, and has a large bright yellow ‘horn’ button in the centre of the wheel. Even though we no longer have the toy I can still hear it! There are 3 vehicle buttons, a red fire engine, yellow bus and green train on the panel below the steering wheel. When pressed in mode 1 they will say the name and colour of the vehicle, most trains and buses are now yellow or green! Mode 2 gives you the sound that the vehicles make. There are also four large yellow buttons that correspond with the vehicles, fireman, bus conductor and train driver. These buttons when in mode 2 also play tunes, to which the 3 traffic light lights flash in time to. There is a large, bright blue key to turn the toy off or to modes one or two, this key can not be removed so it is not a choking hazard. The best thing for James about this toy was the gear stick! When pushed forward it makes a revving noise and he used to really go to town with this, when pulled backwards the toy beeps as is reversing. The toy is light and transportable, James always took his in the car wherever we went as it fitted nicely on his lap. He even got into using the horn at appropriate times ( not that I use mine an awful lot you understand!), which gave me much amusement! The toy takes 2 AA batteries, and do last for a good while, even when in use everyday for prolonged periods. This is a great toy for either a boy or girl and is very durable and hard wearing. Being thrown around by a two year old is test enough for that!
Electronic role playing driver with realistic car sound effects. Teaches colours, vehicles and introduces phrases and characters. Turning wheel and moveable gear-stick for developing motor skills.