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ELC are one of the best stores on the High street to provide educational toys for young children. Spell and learn is a game that I bought about five years ago to encourage my young son with his spelling. The game continues to be a big seller in ELC stores today. The game comes in a brightly coloured, sturdy cardboard box, which features pictures of the game components on the lid.
The idea of the game is very simple. The box is full of letter cards which have lower case letters on them. The letters are shaped so that they slot into each other like very simple jigsaw pieces. They have a recess on the left and a protrusion on the right, that slots into the next letter, as you can see from the picture above. The game also has picture cards which are the same shape as the letter cards. These cards show a picture of an animal or object, and then have the word written underneath in lower case. The object of the game is for the child to find the relevant letters and build them into the word featured on the picture card.
The game retails at £6 and the target market is children aged 3-6 years old. In my opinion, this game would be useful for children even younger than this, as you could use the individual cards to teach the child letter sounds, even before they are able to progress to the word building stage.
The way i like to play this game with very young children is to select a simple picture card and have the letters that make up the word already on the table in front of me, jumbled up. The child can then put the letters in the right order by copying the word on the picture card. Young children can also use the cards to spell their name. You can jumble up the letters in their name and get them to spell it in the right order. For older children, I would make the game a little harder by having all of the letter cards face up on the table. The child then has to find a particular letter. This helps them to recognise letters. Then you could progress to them finding all of the letters that make a word, or making their own words from a selection of letters.
As you can see, there are lots of ways to play this game and you are not limited to a set of rules. You are only limited by your imagination as to the different ways of playing the game. You could even use the letter cards face down on the table to play "pairs" or a similar matching game.
As well as using the game with my own children, I used the game when I volunteered at the local school, helping some young girls who had problems with reading and spelling. I found that when I used the game to teach, reather than just getting them to copy things down on paper, they were a lot more enthusiastic and engaged, as they didn't feel like they were "working" at all! They also used the letters to spell words off their spellings list.
I will just mention some gripes i have had with the game, now that I have mentioned the good stuff. Firstly, the game does not provide enough letter cards to spell all of the words on the picture cards. Sometimes you have to destroy a word you have made before you can create a new one, as there are limited amounts of certain letters. Even the letter "T" is rationed! This can be very frustrating for children, and they can get upset when you have to destroy one of the words they have made. Another problem that can sometimes happen, is that kids can have a tendency to spell some of the words backwards, because of the way the cards slot together!
All in all this is a good game, which has benefits that outweigh the flaws. There are lots of different ways to play the game, depending on the age of the child and their abilities.The price is a little too high in my opinion, and you could do similar games with a bunch of cheap plastic letters, or even make a version of this yourself out of cardboard! It is the kind of game that will keep a child's attention for about 20 minutes, but anything beyond that and they do start to get a bit bored with it.
As my youngest daughter was starting school this January and had been showing a lot of interest in reading and writing, I thought I would get her the ELC Spell and Learn game for Christmas. It is said to be suitable for 4 - 7 year olds and as she is nearly five I thought it would be ideal. As it turns out she went to school for half a day and then it was closed today and will be tomorrow too due to snow! She is really disappointed so I suggested we did some learning at home and got out the Spell and Lean game.
ELC do not actually describe this as a game but as a teaching activity. I think I would actually describe it more like a jigsaw puzzle. The set contains 168 interlocking cardboard pieces of which 140 are letters and the other 28 are pictures with the name of the object in the picture written underneath. The idea is that for each picture the child then finds the correct letters to spell the word and they interlock all of the letters together just like they would with a jigsaw puzzle.
Although, in essence, there is a lot that is good about this activity set and I am sure that it will help interested children to read and spell, I was not that impressed when we first opened the box. Firstly, it is quite daunting to be faced with a box full of these interlocking pieces. We emptied all of the contents that were in a plastic bag straight on the table and then realised that we would never find anything unless we spent some time sorting them all out - a task that was definitely beyond my little schoolgirl! I think that the set would benefit from having some sorting tray in which you could separate out the letters. As it is, they are all in piles over our kitchen table which is not very helpful when we want to sit down for a meal! Also all the letters are the same colour and if they were different colours they would be able to sort! I think that there should also be some distinction made between the letters p, q, b and d. The only way to tell which is which is by making sure that the interlinking piece is facing the right way - something that is quite tricky for a four year old!
My second complaint is that the card for all the pieces is quite thin and flimsy which means that the pieces do not interlock very well. This is true when you are making a word but even more problematic once you have finished one word and want to move it to one side in order to start on another one. I would have expected to be able to slide a completed word over my wooden table, but every time either my daughter or I try the word just breaks up which is most frustrating. Thicker sturdier card would easily have solved this problem.
Now while I am at it, I have another gripe with this kit. The words that have to be made up seem quite random and considering that the lower target age is four, they don't seem entirely suitable in terms of word acquisition. There seems to be pretty much a word starting with each letter of the alphabet and although some of the words are phonetically plausible, other words such as penguin, balloons, tractor and yoghurt are less so. However, you don't have to just make these words and we have been asking our daughter to find the letters to spell simple CVC words such as cat, dog and pet. She really enjoys this and this is much more the sort of thing that she needs to help her at this stage.
That doesn't mean to say that she does not enjoy making the longer trickier words but she does not necessarily find it very easy. However, my six year old daughter can make up many words at speed!
So is there anything I do like about this set? Well I like the idea of it and I think that the picture cards are very appealing visually. I also like the font that is used which is very much like the font that you would find in many early reading books. It certainly helps children to look carefully at how words are constructed before attempting to spell them and this is very helpful for my six year old. However, I did not buy the Spell and Learn set for her and as far as my almost five year old is concerned it is much less useful. Therefore, I think my biggest complaint is the advertised age range which I think is far too broad. I think it would be much better to promote this as a learning activity for six to eight year olds.
As with many ELC products they do provide a number of learning tips that give ideas for wider usage and I do think that this is very handy. Overall though I am not overly impressed with this product and feel that there are probably better fun products on the market to help my daughter with her early reading. I did only pay £6 for this from the Early Learning Centre though but I wish that they had charge a couple of pounds more and used better quality card.
We bought the ELC spell & Learn jigsaw for our daughters fifth birthday. She had been in her reception class at school for a few months and we were obviously eager to encourage her reading and language skills in any way that we could.
The ELC Spell & Learn is basically a selection of picture puzzle pieces and then a selection of puzzle pieces with letters on. There are 28 pictures and 140 letters, this is enough letters to make all the words at once. I chose this jigsaw as opposed to others I had seen because you had a large selection of letters and could make many different words and wouldn't be restricted to the pictures provided. I felt this would help my daughter learn her letters and alphabet as well as being able to make the words that they were learning at school or from books she may have bought home with her.
When my daughter opened the gift on her birthday she was unimpressed and the jigsaw has sat in the back of the cupboard until today. During the school holidays I have decided on a TV ban because otherwise my children would happily sit there all day gazing at the box in the corner. So far the holiday weather has been terrible so we have had to find lots of indoor activities. Today I suggested the Spell and Learn jigsaw and after being reminded what it was my daughter was keen to have a look.
To be honest I was a little disappointed with the quality of the jigsaw pieces, they are very thin and could be bent easily. They are a decent size and they can just be pushed together and don't need to be fitted like a traditional jigsaw piece. This was a little problematic for us as we were playing the game on a carpeted floor and the pieces wouldn't stay together.
Before we started playing I sorted out all the letters into piles and then placed them on the floor in alphabetical order. I was shocked to find that there was only one M and no V or X at all. I then looked at the pictures and realised that there was not a different word for each letter of the alphabet as I had assumed but just some random everyday objects. The pictures have the name of each character underneath in lower case and the letters pieces are also in lower case. I had hoped that to encourage my daughter we could use the letters to make simple words like Mummy and Daddy but this was not possible with the letters available.
We set out the pictures in rows spaced out enough so that we could fill the words in between. At first both my five year old daughter and her three year old brother were very excited by the game. They each chose a word that they wanted to make and then used the picture piece to identify the letters that they needed and then went to the piles of alphabet pieces and selected their letters. My son has just started learning his name and some other letters and he found it easy to select even letters that he wasn't familiar with. After they had completed a couple of words each I could see they were beginning to tire of the game and were becoming frustrated that the words they had completed would not stay together because of the carpet. I then selected the letters needed to make a word and gave them to my daughter and she tried to arrange her letters into a recognisable word and locate the matching picture, My son couldn't manage this game and so decided to start taking the pieces apart and put them back on the letter piles.
After only about 10 minutes and only completing 7 of the 28 words my daughter decided she'd had enough and wanted to write her own words. She made her name and a few other names but then ran out of a letter that she needed and decided that she'd had enough and we put the jigsaw away.
I think the concept of the jigsaw is good and I thought that the game would be beneficial but I was a little disappointed with it. The pieces felt cheap because they were so thin and they didn't fit together at all well. The complete lack of some letters was very disappointing and the amount of letters that you do receive could be inhibiting when playing without the picture pieces.
On the whole I think the game could benefit a child who is learning to read and write but I think it would be much better if it was bought in line with the current key stages and phonics and maybe used the same characters as are used in schools. I think if this happened it could be used at home to stimulate learning when children are reluctant to read or practice their words from school.
I brought this for my son a few weeks ago from a jumble sale. At 30p I thought this was a bargain. I got this for him as he's five years old and he's just started school in Year One. At his school Year One's get weekly spellings to learn for testing each Friday. Before I brought this I noticed he was struggling with his letters and how to spell. This has brought a new fun way to help encourage him learn his spellings.
Although it is specifically designed for learning to spell the words for the pictures included in the box, I've found it can also be used to help my son study for his weekly tests. All I do is lay out all the individual letters on the floor. I then tell him the word; for example "top". He then has to look through all the letters and find the correct ones and arrange them in the right order.
Each individual letter is about 4cm square and fits together like a puzzle side by side to form words. In this box there are 120 interlocking pieces and 92 of these are letters and the other 28 are pictures. Underneath each of the pictures is the correct spelling for what it is. The child then uses this to find the letters to be able to spell the word.
Although this is not the the only way I use this for it's still a great confidence boosting way to encourage young children with spelling and letter recognition.
It says it's recommended for 4 years and over. It is produced by the Early Learning Centre and I like their range of toys and puzzles with are educational and entertaining at the same time.
This is still available from ELC for £6 and I would recommend to any children starting school who's learning to spell and write.
Early Learning Centres have been around for a long time now and they are well known for making sure that a toy is suitable because of learning through imagination and play. They have a wide range of products from wooden play sets to jigsaws and various games that encourage children in a back to basics way.
***What's In The Box***
It tells you on the front of the box that there are 28 picture cards and 92 letter pieces inside. Each piece is roughly a two-inch square with a jigsaw style shape to them on the left and right sides so that any two letters or pictures can be joined up together.
The picture cards all have the word spelled out underneath the picture and this is to help children learn to spell the words. Each of the 92 letters is written in lower case with large red lettering. These really stand out well against the all white background.
There is also a little slip of paper with some learning tips to help a parent's understanding what this toy can be used for.
The only instructions really are that you can play this game in two ways. The first is by getting a young child to look for the letters on each picture card and build up words. The second way is by picking a card and asking your child to spell it. When they get it right the picture card can be fitted on to the word.
This game is obviously to encourage the recognition of letters and then to help with spelling, as the child gets older. It is also useful for a child learning to read, through the phonics system and the letters can be sounded out along with the words.
On the slip inside the box it says that you should encourage your child to make a sentence using the word they are working with and discuss what the word means. It also suggests picking twenty random letters and seeing how many words the child can make from these, writing them down as they go along.
Another good way for children to learn is by inventing their own stories and fuelling their imaginations. By using the pictures, children can build up a story and expand on what happens through questions that a parent can ask them. This also encourages your child to talk openly and learn through discussion.
I have to say that I didn't really read the back of the box when I bought this and I was expecting there to be enough letters to make all the words on the pictures. Unfortunately this is not the case and in fact there are no j, v or x letters included at all so you can't use this in a full alphabet way of learning.
When my son opened the box he was very excited, as he is really coming along brilliantly with his reading and thought this would be great fun. Problems came about though when he had only made up a couple of words and then ran out of letters needed for the next one. The main problem causing this is because there are only two of the pictures that are three lettered words and nine pictures that have four letters in them.
The remaining seventeen picture cards are made up of twelve words that have five letters and five words that have seven letters. Even starting with the smallest words, it's not long before you run into problems and have to take apart the previously built words.
Popular letters like d, f and m have limited resources here and even using the smaller words I could only make up nine cards properly without running out of letters. I think this is badly designed because children love to make up long lines of words and with limited letters this is very difficult and they can become frustrated very quickly, especially if they are trying to tell a story too.
I expected this to be a little like a Junior Scrabble card game that we have where there are corresponding letters for all the picture cards but sadly this is not the case and while there are an abundance of letters such as o and c, others sadly come up very short so the extra letters are not really of use.
Not having the entire alphabet also limits the game of making up words with their suggestion of picking 20 letters at a time. Surely it would be more useful if children had the chance to use more unusual letters such as j, v and x.
My son still likes playing with letter games and does enjoy trying to spell the words out but I feel that the age of 4-7 is quite broad and some of the seven letter words such as penguin and yoghurt would be quite challenging for a lot of kids in this age bracket. He is able to spell out the three and four letter words easily enough but does really struggle at the moment with the larger words so they aren't really suitable yet.
One thing that is quite good about this set though is the picture cards themselves. They have clear pictures and if used alone without the letters then the story side of things can be brought into play in an easier way. Because of the way they link up you can pick pictures at random and have your child try to make a story with them, building them together as they do so. You can then discuss their ideas as they go along and ask them questions that scope further than the pictures. Using imagination is such a good thing for children and this really helps to develop it.
I am a bit disappointed with this though and feel a bit let down although it will teach me to read the back of the box properly before buying something in the future. I probably wouldn't recommend this one so much as I'm sure there are better aids outs there.
***Price & Availability***
This toy was bought in store at an Early Learning Centre and cost £6.
Match the picture to the correct word!