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According to an article I read, a xylophone (from the Greek words ξύλον -- xylon, "wood" + φωνή --phonē, "sound, voice",meaning "wooden sound") is a musical instrument in the percussion family that consists of wooden (not steel) bars struck by mallets. Each bar is an idiophone tuned to a pitch of a musical scale. So technically speaking as this Early LEarning Centre has metal bars instead of wooden bars it is not really a xylophone but we will over look that and just look at it as a nice musical instrument. This is actually classified as a bath toy and one that can be used in the water but we actually use it in and out of the bath and it's just as fun either way. The xylophone comes with 6 musical notes/bars that are on 6 different foam sections. The sections all come apart from one another and fit back together like puzzle pieces. This makes it quite fun to put together and take apart and if you like you can attach them not in order so have differing notes next to each other. The foam is quite spongy and the nice thing is that it floats in the water so this is a great toy for using in the bath. Each different foam is a different colour starting with orange which is the smallest and highest note and then yellow, red, green, blue and purple. This is a good way to introduce and teach colours as well. The note is written on the metal bar as well so you know what note you are playing. This is a nice inclusion and a good way to teach about notes also. This is good when it comes to playing the tunes that are provided with this xylophone. There are 5 song sheets which are written on a musical score but also include the colour of the bar and the note of the bar that you have to hit in order to play the note. This is good for kids and also adults who are not very musical. The song sheets stick to the side of the bath which is nice as you can place them there are then play the tunes in the bath. The xylophone also comes with two sticks in order to hit the metal bars. These sticks are quite sturdy and when struck, the bar provides a really nice clear note. This xylophone costs £10 from the Early Learning Centre and in my opinion is a really nice musical toy.
My young daughter and I have been attending a parent and child music class since she was a baby, which she enjoys immensely. They are fun music sessions based on the Kodaly method, which uses singing games and rhymes to enhance child development and help them learn musicianship skills. As a result of these classes, my daughter has become quite fond of music and is the proud owner of various toy musical instruments. One of her favourite is a water xylophone that she received for Christmas. The water xylophone is one of a range of innovative musical bath toys produced by a company called Cuckoo Alex. I first spotted this toy in TK Maxx, and it immediately caught my attention as it had a picture of a child happily playing the xylophone in the bath. Since my wee one loves music and enjoys bath time too, I figured that she would really like the water xylophone. It was also a real bargain at only £4 and as there were only two left I quickly purchased one. ---Packaging--- When she opened this particular present on Christmas morning, she was keen to get it out of the packaging so that she could give it a go. This took a matter of seconds as the packaging was rather flimsy and consisted of a piece of thin, clear plastic which came easily away from the insubstantial card backing. It was the type of packaging that you might expect from a pound shop purchase, and at this point I started to think that the contents might not be up to much and that perhaps that was why it had been so cheap. ---Contents--- The contents included a 6 piece xylophone, 2 plastic beaters and 2 waterproof songsheets. The xylophone has a foam base to which six coloured metal bars are attached. The notes that can be played are C, D, E, F, G and A and these are imprinted on the metal bars. The foam pieces are cleverly shaped like a jigsaw, which allows the six bars to be disconnected or joined together as the child wishes. The popular nursery rhymes on the double sided song sheets will be familiar to your child and include London Bridge is Falling Down, Baa Baa Black Sheep and Twinkle, Twinkle little star. I should mention at this point that technically speaking, this xylophone is not a xylophone at all but a metallophone as a xylophone should have wooden bars. I'll be honest - my musical knowledge is limited and I found all this information from the internet. I can see why the company decided to stick with the more commonly used xylophone as a name for this toy though. It is a name that most children will be familiar with and it certainly has a nicer ring to it than the name metallophone. ---Playing the Xylophone--- Playing the xylophone simply involves striking the metal bars with the 2 plastic beaters. It produces a pleasant ringing tone which is not overly loud. To my untrained ear the notes sound ok although probably not as accurate or tuneful as the beautiful chime bars that she plays at her music class. The notes on the song sheets are colour coded to match the colour of the corresponding xylophone piece. My wee one has attempted to play all of the tunes but needed my help at first. This was due to the song sheets being quite small which caused her to keep losing her place in the middle of a tune. I was pleased that such an inexpensive toy had song sheets included with it. However I do feel that the song sheets could have been made a bit bigger given the age guide of 3 and upwards, as the size makes it quite difficult for a younger child to follow. Initially, my daughter found this quite discouraging as she is at an age where she wants to be independent and was frustrated that she needed my help to guide her with this. However, with a bit of encouragement she has persevered and she now proudly plays these tunes all by herself. She also enjoys using the xylophone to play out a rhythm, where she will follow the timing of a tune but not the correct notes. This would sound awful on some other musical instruments but is actually quite bearable on this little toy xylophone. The fact that the xylophone can be separated into 6 individual pieces has come in very useful when friends or cousins have come over. There are no arguments as to who is going to get to play this particular toy first. Recently when her two cousins were visiting, they split the xylophone into three. Each child had two xylophone bars and we managed to find an extra beater from a drum set that worked just as well as the two xylophone beaters. They happily played alongside each other for quite a while, beating out their favourite nursery rhymes as they san along. It was a lovely sight - and sound (honest)- to see them all play together without the usual bickering that goes on between them. ---In the Bath--- Initially, my daughter hadn't realised that this was also a water toy as in her eagerness to open it, she hadn't noticed the picture of the child playing with it in the bath. When I saw how much enjoyment she was getting out of the xylophone, I decided not to mention it just yet but keep that surprise for later. When she had owned the toy for about a month, I told my daughter that this particular musical instrument could be taken into the bath too. She was surprised but delighted and immediately wanted to have a bath to try out her water xylophone. She placed it in the water and attempted to play it but it kept moving about and floating away from her. When she did manage to beat it, the noise was dull and tinny. I suggested that she stick the xylophone to the tiles to play it as had been illustrated on the back of the packaging. This worked for a short while before it slipped down the wall. It was also awkward for my daughter to play the xylophone in this vertical position. So far, the performance of this toy in the water was quite disappointing. However, not to be deterred, my daughter has found another interesting way to play with her xylophone. She disconnects the notes and puts them into a swimming race. She does this by lining them up at one end of the bath and making waves to get them moving to the other side. She will do a bit of commentating and announce the winners at the end of the race. My daughter never seems to tire of this game and I suspect this is because she devised it all by herself. ---Do I recommend this toy?--- My daughter has lots of fun playing her xylophone and likes the fact that it can be shared with other children, allowing them all to play music together and hopefully develop their team skills. Musical activities are said to enhance many areas of child development, including language, motor skills, memory and concentration. I would say that the xylophone has certainly helped my daughter in some of those areas. From a parent's point of view, the xylophone makes a reasonably pleasant noise - a lot more bearable than many electronic toys on the market nowadays. However, I do think it would have been better if the xylophone had eight notes rather than six, as I have found that the number of tunes that can be played a bit limited. Larger song sheets would also make it easier for a child to follow the notes. Although the water xylophone doesn't work very well in the water as a musical toy, my wee one has still found it fun to play with in her own inventive way. Despite my initial reservations regarding the robustness of this toy, it is still looking good after frequent sessions in the bath. Given the amount of use it has had and will continue to have it has proved to be very good value for money. I think the age recommendation of age 3 and upwards is about right. The foam base would prove to be a choking hazard for younger children. The musical bars are also quite narrow at only 2cm, which would make it hard for a younger child to hit accurately. ---Price and Availability--- I hadn't realised what a bargain I'd found until I looked the availability of this toy up on the internet. It's available on Amazon for £11.94 including delivery, which is three times as much as I paid for it. Interestingly, it's also available on the Early Learning Centre website for £10 but it would cost £4.95 to get it delivered so it would be better to buy it at an Early Learning Centre store and avoid delivery costs. I think that £10 is still quite a reasonable price for this toy despite its limitations in the water. Although there are quite a few choices of xylophones for this price, they usually come in one piece. The beauty of the Cuckoo Alex Tub Tunes Water Xylophone is the possibilities that come with being able to disconnect it into pieces. Given the many advantages and few disadvantages of this xylophone I thoroughly recommend it and think it deserves a respectable four stars. Many thanks for reading. It may also be posted on other review sites.