Product Type: ELC Child Development
Newest Review: ... with these letters as she grows. Obviously the letters can be brought from ELC for £6 a tub which I feel is great value for such a well... more
Makes Literacy Fun
ELC Magnetic Letters
Member Name: sandemp
ELC Magnetic Letters
Advantages: Well made, lovely colours, lots of letters, storage tub, semi-cursive style
Disadvantages: They can get everywhere
==a,b,c,d,e,f,g.....An Adult's View==
Within a squat, see through, screw lid tub there are a total of 105 plastic letters each backed with a pair of magnets. Each of the letters is formed of a shiny plastic and there are at least three of each letter on the English alphabet, with in some cases up to eight of a particular letter. For obvious reasons there are more of the more commonly used letters, so there are more of each of the vowels, "r", "s","t" etc. What really surprised me though is how many "m"s there are, a total of eight. I'm not sure if the mix of letters you receive is random though. The letters are all different colours, ranging from yellow to cream to orange to green to red to blue and what I particularly like about these colours are that they are bright without being garish. What I think is particularly impressive about these letters, especially when compared with other brands, is that they have been moulded in the semi-cursive style that your child will most likely be taught when they first learn to write at school rather than the more common printed style. This means the letters have the little tails that are the first stage towards "joined-up" writing and they are far better for a child to copy when starting to write. The mix of letters is also good, there is enough variety to allow most words and even short sentences to be spelled out.
Each of the letters is a good size and even though the recommended age is 3-6 years, even the smallest of them is slightly too large to swallow and cause a choking hazard. The magnets are extremely securely housed in the rear of the letters, as part of my testing for the Freddy-proof test, I have attempted to prise some free and been completely unsuccessful. The magnets are also a good strength, they securely hold the letters to the surface of a magnetic metal (steel/iron, they won't work on aluminium as it's not magnetic) such as a fridge door, radiator or magnetic board, but not so securely that the child cannot remove them. (I wouldn't actually recommend using them on a radiator though as it's best to teach children radiators shouldn't be touched in case they're hot).
The tub the letters comes in follows a classic ELC design which has been used to house many different products over the years. The transparent plastic makes it easy to see what is inside and the tubs themselves can easily be stacked for storage. The screw top lid is easy for even little hands to open and then do back up again and does not easily come loose. The tub is also very sturdy, although we've not had this particular one for long, I do still have tubs from twenty years ago that are going strong and now stuffed with art equipment long after the original contents have been lost. On opening the lid, the tub is surprisingly full, which does make picking out particular letters quite difficult especially as being magnetic the letters do tend to stick together. I did try the approach of tipping all the letters out to make it a little easier to find the ones I wanted, but they take up a surprising amount of space and got everywhere. It could be considered an advantage that if a child tips these out they will literally spread all over the floor, but as they are so brightly coloured they are easy to pick out even among other toys.
Purely taking the construction and presentation aspects into account, I would say that this tub of letters appears to be an excellent buy. The tub is durable enough to hold them for years to come and fits in well with several other ELC products and the magnets themselves simply exude quality. But looks aren't everything...
==Now I Know My a,b,c - The Magnets in Use==
Although Freddy is under the minimum recommended age and has a developmental delay that puts him even lower than this, I see no reason why I should not encourage him to participate in fun using tools such as these letters. In fact I believe that be surrounding him with toys such this I am helping him learn the all important pre-reading and writing skills without him even knowing it. Although he would love to be allowed free access to these magnets, they are something that he is only allowed when strictly supervised, partly because he is the kind of child who tries to eat anything, but mostly so that they are a treat and we make the most of their learning potential.
We use these magnets in various ways, depending on Freddy's mood and how long we have to play, but one thing we don't do is use a fridge as our surface. Freddy has an easel with a magnetic whiteboard which we will use though, and the magnets do an admirable job at sticking to this. One of our favourite activities using the whiteboard is that I pick out the letters in his name and then help him put them in order, sounding out each letter as I go. This is a great way for Freddy to start learning the letters and sounds that make up his name and with a little (well lot of) work and repetition I think we are finally starting to see some progress. There are also some times when I help him draw round the letters on the board, which helps with his hand-eye coordination. Freddy also loves to move the letters round on the board, remove them, put them back and feels very proud of himself when he lines them up, no matter what order they are in.
Other times we won't even use a magnetic surface to play with these, instead, I'll sit him at the table and put some in front of him to simply look at and explore, while giving a running commentary. I'll talk about which letter he is holding, what sound it makes, what words it is in and what it looks like, while Freddy just has fun exploring. While I can't outright prove it, I do believe that this is helping to imprint this into his mind, which will hopefully make things easier for him when he starts learning to read and write. During these play sessions, I'll also help him trace his finger around the letters in the direction that they'd be formed if he was writing. Again there's a good chance that some of this will sink in and make the process of learning to write easier in the future. We've also discovered that the letters are great for making imprints in play dough (well ELC Soft Stuff).
One of the little games we've played with some of these magnetic letter that proved brilliant fun (for Freddy anyway) is when we experiment to see what they will stick to. I know he is too young to actually understand the principles of magnetism, but it was a great little science project seeing whether they would stick to the wall, wood, glass etc. Once Freddy gets older I'll start to explain why the magnet sticks to some things and not others but at the moment we simply enjoy discovering what they will stick too. As he starts to develop more pre-reading and writing skills I'll probably allow him freer access to these and start encouraging him to spell out simple words and even see if he can copy words from books etc. I'll also use them to spell words on his board and encourage him to copy them with his whiteboard pens, to help him learn to form letters and that's why I think it's so great that the letters are moulded the way they are.
Both Freddy and I love using these letters as tools to learning while having fun and I think they way they are designed makes them that much better than other cheaper versions. In fact I think they are so great that I've already bought the matching numbers set and will very shortly be buying the Upper case.
==Next Time Won't You Sing With Me - Final Words==
This is a great tub of magnetic numbers that are not only durable and fun to play with but are also an invaluable tool when helping your child with develop their pre-reading and writing skills or even to help them improve their spelling. They stick well to any magnetic (or iron based) surface and are colourful enough to attract almost any child's attention. The way they're moulded is also great as even children with visual difficulties will be able to feel them and they are the "correct" shape as far as learning to write goes. So I have no hesitation giving them five stars out of five and recommending them to anyone who is looking for fun tools to assist a child to develop their literacy skills.
Summary: A great tub of magnetic letters that are fun while also also helping your child improve their litera