“ Brand: LeapFrog / Type: Reading / Writing / Age: 4 Years+ „
The Leapfrog Phonics Pond is possibly a rather unusual toy for my son to have at just 16 months old, however I will explain a little further as to how he came to have this product. My mother currently teaches children who have fallen behind the rest of their class with reading and writing skills. Through a number of methods, including the teaching of phonics, she spends time with these children teaching them the skills that they need to bring them up to the educational level that they need to be. She has come to learn that the school that she teaches at are often rather wasteful with regards to toys and craft materials. Every so often they will clear out their store cupboards and quite literally throw into the bin all of the older toys or materials which they no longer feel that they have a need for. My mother therefore intercepted the staff one day and asked that she could take a look at some of these items and maybe salvage some for her grandson should they still be of a good, safe quality. It was then therefore that she came across the Leapfrog Phonics Pond, and being an obvious fan of the teaching of phonics to children, she reserved the toy and passed it onto my son.
Now for the purposes of this review I have scoured the internet for a general idea of price. This product is currently out of stock at Amazon.co.uk, though Shopwiki advises that the average price for this toy is around £14.99. Quite a bargain then in my eyes.
The Leapfrog Phonics Pond is maybe around the size of an A4 sheet of paper. It has a handle on the top and is decorated in a way which depicts a grassy verge around the outside of a pond. To the edge of the pond is the rather popular Leapfrog frog holding a fishing net. Inside the fishing net is a purple translucent fish with an LED behind it and above this fish are four more just the same. As the LED's flash one by one it therefore gives the impression that the fish is jumping into the frog's net.
Filling the pond are letters of the alphabet a-z in lower case. These letters are buttons which are situated on either a frog for a vowel or a fish for a consonant. Finally to the right hand side we have a help button depicted by a question mark and a little lever in the form of an ant which can be slid up and down in order to select a setting on the Leapfrog Phonics Pond.
I will briefly run through these setting as it will give an indication as to what this toy really entails and what it will teach your child. The first setting is rather self explanatory and after a long day it is rather a relief too, the 'Off' button. We then have the following options:
ABC - The Leapfrog Pond states "Let's play, press a letter to hear its name." We press a letter on the pond and are given its actual name, rather than its phonetic sound.
ABC? - The Leapfrog Pond states "Let's play, can you find the letter _?" We then try to find the letter requested and are congratulated if correct.
A ah - This setting is where the teaching of phonics starts to come into effect. The toy states "Let's learn the sound that letters make, press any letter to hear its sound." When selecting a letter we are then told its actual name followed by the sound it makes.
A ah? - This setting is rather similar and a predictable 'level up' for a child to undertake having learned the phonetic sounds in the previous setting. The toy states "Let's play, can you find the letter that says ___ as in ___" The first blank is the sound and the second is an example word that the sound is used us, for instance "nnnnn as in nut". The example word is rather helpful as sometimes the phonetic sounds are a little inaudible.
C-A-T - The Leapfrog Phonics Pond states "Lets spell, make the word ___ by pressing the letters _ _ _" This is a rather self explanatory mode whereby we are asked to spell out three letter words but are given the letters needed to create these words. The objective of this setting is therefore more focused on the recognition of particular letters rather than the actual spelling of the words themselves, though it does teach spelling with a helping hand at the same time.
?-?-? - Again this setting seems to be a predictable next level to the previous one. The product states "Let's play, press three letters to make your own word. As we select three letters the Phonics Pond states the name of these letters and then the word. If it is an actual word then the word is stated correctly and we are congratulated. If the three letters do not make an actual word the product will state the sounds one by one, a none congratulatory sound is emitted and we are then told "Great sounds, try again." This is obviously rather encouraging to the child as at no pint are they told that the word is incorrect but it is made clear that the three letters do not make an actual word.
The final setting depicts three musical notes and we are told "Let's play, press a letter to play music" and that's exactly what it does. As each letter is pressed a popular nursery rhyme or tune is emitted.
After examining this product I decided to let my 16 month old son play with it immediately. Though he will not fully understand and benefit from the majority of the modes, he may begin to recognise the shapes of the letters in front of him. This is after all the reason why as parents we are encouraged to give children books from an early age. He is also able to enjoy the sounds that each button makes, in particular the final music mode. This is a toy which I will always keep at hand as he grows older and who knows what age he may start to recognise the some of the meanings behind it.
In summary I believe that this is a very educational toy yet, as with most Leapfrog toys, it has a particularly fun approach to it. Children will not necessarily see it as a teaching aid alone, they will see it as a game with levels to achieve and skills to master. It saddens me a little that toys like this are quite simple being thrown out of schools and not placed in the hands of disadvantaged children or given to charity shops to be sold on. This toy is now a valuable addition to my son's collection and one which will teach him new skills as he grows older.
Leap's Phonics Pond combines sound, music and lights to help children learn letters, sounds and the spelling of three-letter words. Depending upon their developmental level, players choose one of six progressively challenging games.