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My son since he was a toddler always showed an interest in technology. It started with the Sky + remote and steadily progressed to being able to use my laptop to play games and search for his favourite shows and characters unaided (my beady eye is never far away though!). With this in mind I saw this last year on Amazon for just under £6.00, and felt this would be a very child friendly technologically based toy my son would enjoy for Christmas 2013.
Why did I buy this?
We had a Bob The Builder version of this tablet which was great quality, but neither of the kids were that interested because they don't really like or watch this character. I liked the shape and idea of it, but knew it wasn't right for them. When I saw this version, I felt it would be much suited to my son, and I could use the whole space and planet theme to my advantage as my son is a huge Doctor Who fan, and the two I could see working hand in hand.
What is it?
It's a child's tablet that helps them learn about different aspects of space, such as planets, solar systems, seasons, stars etc. Information provided is tested through a quiz function located on the tablet.
How does it look?
This is a square shaped almost flat in look tablet. Size is 8 inches in length, 8 inches in width and 0.5 inches in depth. Mainly black in colour.
On the front of the tablet, it's almost divided into three sections. You have at the top the words 'SOLAR SYSTEM', and directly underneath you have 8 small rectangular areas with a picture and the written word for each of the planets (Venus, Mars, Saturn, Neptune, Mercury, Earth, Jupiter and Uranus). On the far left you have a much larger rectangular shaped area compared to the others, with a picture and the written word for Sun. Very close to the top hand right corner is the button to press to turn tablet on or off.
The second section is where you change the functions of the tablet. This runs across the middle of the toy. You have the 'National Geographic' logo on the far left. Next to this you have a small circle with the word 'DISCOVERY' on the top of it. Another circle with the word 'QUIZ' and two more circles with the words 'TRUE' and 'FALSE'.
The third and last section has the word 'SPACE' at the top. At the bottom you can see a picture representation of the Earth in 4 different positions with the Sun in the middle, and how each of these positions is depicting the 4 seasons Earth experiences. It has the written words 'Spring', 'Summer', 'Autumn' and 'Winter' above each picture of Earth. Almost framing this scene are 9 rectangular shaped pictures, along with the word for each, of other things connected to space; Moon, Meteorites, Stars, Shooting Stars, Constellation, Pluto, Space Telescope, Space Shuttle and Astronaut.
The front of the tablet, except for the on/off button, is completely smooth and flat. All of the sections mentioned can be pressed, and has a basic touchscreen element to it.
Turn the tablet over and you can see at the top of it, a slightly rounded almost cylinder shaped area sticking out of it. This is where the batteries are placed, but also when the tablet is placed on a flat surface, provides a slight angled elevation for a more comfortable use.
Tablet has a recommended suitability age from 6 years old and up.
How to use
1.When you press the on/off button when first in use, the area around the Sun will light up, and you hear a short piece of music and then a voice will tell you to select a game. If you press-
2. Discovery- it will tell you to touch a picture. When some of the pictures are pressed, there is a sound effect type noise and then it will say what you have pressed e.g Mars. It will then tell you an interesting fact about it. Each picture provides afew different facts.
If you press-
3. Quiz-it will ask you specific questions e.g find Jupiter. If correct, it will say 'well done'. If incorrect it will say 'oops'. If the question requires a true or false answer, you will need to press the relevant button.
If you're not interested in the above features, when the tablet is turned on you can press any of the buttons and you will hear (depending on the button pressed) a sound effect followed by the name of what it is. It will though at some point as you to select a game.
What does my son think of this?
Despite my concerns about whether this would be seen as just another toy, and the fact it may come across to my son as a boring child version of a computer, he really has enjoyed using this. It's not something he plays with all of the time, but when he does get his hands on it, he enjoys using it, playing it and listening to all the facts.
I've noticed he finds it very easy to use and requires no assistance in playing with it, so he can be left to his own devices. He does let me know quite vocally facts he's found out such as winter is after autumn, a constellation is a group of stars etc. My son naturally is bright and can be very cocky with it, so being able to hear, learn and absorb information that isn't necessarily the norm for his reception age only fuels him even more!
This tablet is very lightweight yet has a slight thickness to it, which means my son can hold and play with this easily and comfortably. Even more so with his sister, who really enjoys pressing all the buttons just to hear different sounds and words.
The Doctor Who theme does come up. Although it is a form of fiction, from this show my son understands we live on Earth, there's other planets near Earth, there's something called space and space travel. So he finds it very easy to relate to this tablet.
What do I think?
This is an excellent child's tablet. The size and shape is perfect. It's not heavy or bulky but has a decent structure to it so it's robust but easy to use. I like the fact its square rather than rectangular in shape because it makes it more compact, and uses its physical space a lot better and more effectively.
The pictures on the tablet despite being quite small are clear, colourful but not done in a cartoon or childlike way. These appear very grown up and as true to life as I guess you can get without physically seeing them. It's so important for these pictures to be named, which they are. This is the perfect tool for my son to learn to spell, write and recognise new words which he may or may not be learning currently in reception. The lettering is small but clear. I would've preferred the words not to all have been in block capitals, so he's aware of how they are properly written, but block capitals is needed for the wording to stand out.
The layout is easy to understand and used, so done very well. Both myself and my son can get our head around it, and this means it's very easy to use.
The touchscreen type element to it makes my son feel very grown up using this. It feels as if it's quite a modern piece of technology and on a practical level means easy for me to keep clean (dry cloth used to wipe over). The sensitivity of each button/key is good. You don't have to press onto any of them hard, which is perfect for a child to use.
It would've been nice if there was some form of volume control, but the actual voice itself is clear, sharp and loud enough for everyone to hear, but not deafening. Sentences coming out of the tablet are quite concise and not complicated, but for a younger child e.g my daughter who is 2, most of it is going to go over her head because she's not at that development stage with her knowledge.
The thing I like most about this toy is potentially how much can be learnt from it. It's very educational, and the perfect toy for an adult and a child to go through it together as both will learn something new. Its also something that my son could use afew years down the line without it dating or becoming irrelevant. The older her gets the more he will understand the ideas and information this tablet portrays.
It's very well made and doesn't look like the cheap price I paid for this.
Who is this for?
Any child that loves space, stars, planets. Or are heavily into sci fi like Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, that type of thing, as this can play off that.
Anyone that wants to buy a child's toy tablet but looking for something abit different and not the normal character based versions, or the ones that are quite varied with what they contain and you want something more specific it focuses on.
Depending on the child, age wise this could be used from the age of 4 comfortably. Even though the recommended age is 6 plus, my son is 4 and enjoys it and can use it well.
Rather than going for a proper internet/games based tablet, you may want to see in a cheaper way if a child deals with something like this first. Not just if they can use it, but how they look after it, do they interact with it, do they enjoy it. I know my son would love a proper tablet despite a decent one being a bit costly, but I would hate to buy him something like that and find it wasn't suitable for his needs and wants. This could be a cheap and easy starting point.
Who is this not for?
Really young children. My daughter likes messing around with this, but has no idea what it's talking about. Younger children are better suited to more character based versions with less information and more repetition of basic things, like colours, numbers, names etc.
A child that isn't into space or anything connected with it. I know some of my son's friends aren't interested in this type of thing, and would want to play with something that was more light in subject.
A child that is passed using toy tablets and just wants to crack on with proper technology! It happens to them all and it seems to happen sooner and sooner. I think we can just about cling to this because my son naturally enjoys the subject it is about, but if it wasn't for that he would want to use my laptop or his dad's IPAD.
Would I buy this again?
Yes I would. Its educational as my son has learnt quite afew things from this already without it draining his brain, he finds it fun, its well-made, easy to use and bought at a fantastic price.
After buying the dinosaur book from the national geographic toy range I decided to search to see what other educational toys they had. A quick search in Amazon showed a number of items but this space tablet caught my eye. It has a retail price of £23, and it was on sale for around £6. I decided to purchase it and this review discusses our experience with it.
The tablet is as you would expect a square piece of plastic with lots of different buttons on the front. Rather than 3d buttons it is a touch screen which is very fitting with my sons generation that are experienced with technology. It looks pretty impressive with bright colours, and a dark backdrop with stars printed all over it. When you press a button the particular area will light up and say the name of the planet or object you have selected.
The tablet is split into two sections. The top half is the solar system and includes buttons for all 8 planets and then a larger picture of the sun on the left hand side. Then in the middle of the tablet are the settings modes which include discovery, quiz and then a true and false button to answer the questions. Finally on the bottom half of the section is the space section. This has everything from the moon, shooting stars, the demoted dwarf planet Pluto to a space shuttle. It also has a small section that shows the positioning of earth to the sun for each season.
On first impressions it seems really impressive with all the starter facts any child would need to know when learning about space. It looks like it is going to be packed with information and my son really took to it when he opened it on his birthday. The voice is loud (too loud) and each fact is spoken in a clear and easy to understand voice. It does require two AA batteries, and they were provided with it when we purchased it in July and still work fine now without any slowing of the voice.
When you press each button you get a sound effect relating to that particular icon. For example when you press planet Earth you hear birds tweeting, or by pressing the astronaut you hear the famous words from Neil Armstrong's moon landing. Each button lists off about two statements on average and as there are around 19 pictures to choose from that is a fair amount of facts to start off with. The initial sounds give a wow factor, but it soon moves into a more slow paced learning experience.
When you press discovery mode you hear the same sound as you would in the trial mode as you turn the tablet on, but by pressing again you hear a fact about that particular thing. Some like the astronaut have a few different facts about who was the first in space and the year, then who was the first to leave their aircraft and so on. Others have very limited information such as the seasons just explain that winter is the coldest season, summer is the hottest, so very simple information that my six year old son already knew. Other facts are rather interesting, and for a second hold my sons attention.
In all honesty my son just found this tablet a little boring. He did get some use from it and I find he plays with it for short bursts but often. He finds it a bit too educational and lacking in the fun that he was expecting from it when he first saw it. He does like the quiz section, which will ask your child to either find a planet or the sun etc, or it will ask a question that your little one should know the answer too after listening to the facts. There are over 60 questions in total so more than enough to keep your child occupied This is the only part my son was really enthusiastic for because of the variety.
My son likes hands on learning rather than reading or writing, but my daughter loves to sit down and play with this. I think it all depends on what type of learner your child is. If they like to read facts and have them laid out straight in front of them they will enjoy this. If they are more of a hands on learner that like to explore everything and find their own answers you may find like my son they find this toy a little lacking.
My son still has not memorised all of the facts as it just does not hold his attention long enough, but if a child were to really sit down and play with it I think longevity could be a problem. The age recommendation is four years up to twelve years. I really think that the older recommendation would already know most of the information, so I would suggest it more for the younger age range maybe up to 8 years old.
The sounds effects are a little too loud, and while we like the information to be stated nice and clear we just find it can be a little too much sometimes. There is an off button, as if you leave it on the tablet will keep prompting little one to choose a mode or to touch a button. I just wish there was a volume control to lower the tone a little.
I would recommend this tablet as my children do like it. At around £5 this tablet has more than earned its value, but I do think the £23 retail price is maybe a little steep. I would suggest this to anyone with a child wanting to learn the basics about space, and it would make a fantastic Christmas present for any child beginning to show an interest. At time of writing it is still available on Amazon for £5.74.