Leapfrog Spinamals Alphabet (AlphaZoo)Toy Spinner
~~~ The Background ~~
This alphabet animals toy has a special place in our heart as it was the first thing that my father-in-law personally chose as a gift to his only grandchild. A very generous man, he'd previously given us money for us to buy many baby essentials. Apparently this item caught his eye when he was shopping with my husband and daughter (then aged eight months).
This toy was used daily from when Millie was eight months to approximately 15 months old.
~~~ This Product ~~~
Known as the AlphaZoo spinner in the USA, this well built battery-operated Leapfrog toy is aimed at children aged 12-36 months. It's a round, plastic device with letters and animals pictured on the revolving wheel and the outer housing which almost resembles a snail.
It teaches animals or the alphabet, depending on the mode selected. A yellow button is pressed to spin the wheel, which has a pointer/marker. When the wheel eventually stops spinning, the marker lands on a letter and it's corresponding animal. Most of the animals are very well known. Others, like "xray fish" are less so. The previously selected mode determines which recorded message is played - either the capital letter is stated or the animal and an apparently corresponding sound effect.
On that note I should mention that there are two volume settings: what are essentially loud and very loud options. These can be avoided by spinning the wheel by hand rather than the button
The technical details, as outlined on the website, are: Requires 2 AA batteries (included) and
product dimensions:9.0 x 3.0 x 10.0 inches.
~~~ My Experience ~~~
Millie found this toy very easy to play with. In the early days I had to help her press the yellow button to set the spinner off, but after a while she got the hang of it. She particularly enjoyed finding "Elephant" and listening to the accompanying trumpeting sound. Of course I have no idea if this product influenced her learning (unlike the awesome Signing Times DVDs that I will review at some stage). However I do know that she loved playing with it and showing it to younger infants. I should however emphasize that the expression "Spin spin a letter"** will be engrained onto our brains in perpetuity.
I am happy with this product. It's another useful way of engaging children in learning the alphabet as well as teaching fine and gross motor skills.
This is a robust toy that was very easy to wipe clean. I was able to sell it on for a very good price in near-pristine condition despite its intense use and many knocks.
Available from Amazon.co.uk for £13 (as at June 2013).
* Useless foot note.
In our home the endless "spin spin a letter" morphed into "spin spin a Millie" and continued into our bathtime expression of "swim swim a Millie", upon which M would attempt to swim laps in our bath.
For Christmas we were struggling on what to get our 2 year old daughter Emily as the problem we have is that a lot of things have been passed down from her older sister Sophie. Leapfrog is one of the companies that I really like for young childrens toys and so I put a search in on the Amazon site to see what I could buy from the Leapfrog brand that she didn't already have. This was a toy that I found on the site and was actually one that I hadn't seen previously in shops and so decided to buy it from Amazon. The toy cost me £15 last November time and had free delivery, I feel £15 is about an average price for this sort of young childrens toy and at the moment it is even better as it is currently selling for £11.99 with free delivery.
The toy came packaged in an open fronted box which as a parent I do tend to like as I feel it allows you to have a little play with the toy and decide if you think it will be suitable for your child before you purchase it, obviously buying online I wasn't able to have a play beforehand. On the box you are given the usual name of the company and the toy and told that the toy is suitable for 12-36 month olds, the age guide didn't put me off even though Emily was already over halfway through this age range as I feel a toy can be useful and enjoyed for much longer than the age guide anyway. The box tells you your child can learn the alphabet from Ant to Zebra, the toy has 2 play modes which are letters and animals and has over 50 learning sounds all of this helps to develop letter recognition, animal names and sounds, music and motor skills.
The toy is basically a white round plastic device which has a triangle joint onto it (not literally but that's the shape of it) it is raised in the middle and has a large bright yellow push button in the centre. Around the yellow push button is a blue circle which is embossed with clouds and has an arrow pointing to the point at which the picture will be announced and then the yellow push button is embossed with sun details. The main wheel of the toy has 28 sections on it each one brightly coloured in either yellow, green, pale blue, dark blue, purple, red and orange. Each section on the wheel has a letter of the alphabet with the final 2 sections having music symbols and stars and then underneath each of the letters there is a picture of an animal which starts with that letter. On the side of the toy there are 2 yellow sliders one of which lets you select whether you want number or animal mode and then the other slider turns the toy on and lets you select the volume as low or high which in my opinion is a godsend. The toy is really robust and has been stood on and thrown across the room in a temper when Emily couldn't work out why it wasn't making a noise (it wasn't actually turned on) and there is no damage to it what so ever no even a scratch and the toy still works perfectly.
No matter which mode you out the toy in when you turn it on it instructs in a rather squeaky voice "press the button to spin the letter / animal wheel" if you don't press the button within about 30 seconds it will again tell you to press the button followed by a little tune and then again after another 30 seconds and this keeps going which I find really annoying. When you press the bright yellow button the wheel will spin and then it sings "spin, spin a letter" which is just as annoying! If you land on a letter the toy will announce what the letter is called in upper case sounds rather than lower case which is what your child will be encouraged to learn first at school which seems a little strange to me. If you land on the musical symbols then you get the abc song sung at you if you land on the section with the stars on it then the toy will ask your child to find a particular letter of the alphabet although it doesn't actually tell your child if they have selected the correct letter which I feel is pretty poor.
Personally I would love to know what 12 month old is clever enough to be able to find the letters when asked. When you are in the animal mode the toy will sing "the animals have something to say" and then announce which animal you have landed on, if you land on the music symbols in this mode the toy plays the tune or should I say the first 2 lines of Old Macdonald. If you land on the section with the little stars pictured the toy will ask "what's this animal" this is then followed by a sound some of which are easy and some are really peculiar and you would never know which animal it is referring to, would you know what an Ant would sound like?!
Emily is able to play with the toy herself but she always forgets how to turn it on which personally I actually think is a good thing since the button to turn the toy on is also the volume control I would prefer her not to know how to work it. The button in the middle is pretty easy to push down and I would say a 12 month old should be able to push the button with little resistance. Emily loves the little tunes on the toy even though I find them really annoying and she will push the button down and then dance around before going back and pressing it again for the next one. Sophie doesn't play with this toy at all and she is 5 although she does play with some of Emily's toys this one is not attractive to her and I have never seen her even pick it up let alone play with it.
I think this toy is great, the toy is very colourful which of course means it is very attractive to young children and encourages them to play. I think the little pictures of the animals are cute and they are pretty simple pictures too which again is easier for young children to take in, the pictures range from everyday animals such as a Duck or Kitten to wild animals like a Lion and Elephant and then there is the more unknown animals as far as young children are concerned such as Jellyfish and a Vulture. The sounds of some of the animals are quite obscure and we only really point out the easy ones to Emily, we also like to use the toy and get her to guess which colour the toy will land on next which she loves when she gets it right and she will clap and cheer herself, for some reason her favourite colour to select seems to be red.
The batteries actually come included with this which is something that you don't get with a lot of toys now a days which I find disappointing. When the batteries need replacing the battery pack is on the underneath of the toy and it is protected by a screw so that your child cannot get into it, the toy takes 2 x AA batteries but we haven't had to replace them yet.
A little extra feature of the toy is that you can put it into parent mode whi9ch you get the instructions for and then you can set the toy with the first letter of your childs name so that when it is turned on it will say the letter and states "is the first letter of your name" this of course only works if only one child will play with the toy and isn't really an extra feature that would make me recommend the toy any more highly.
Emily will play with this toy quite a lot but she will only play with the toy for about 10 minutes at a time before she gets bored with it so for all it is entertaining it doesn't really hold her attention. I find the toy pretty annoying as the voice for speaking and singing is so high pitched and the toy is so repetitive. I would rate this toy 4 stars as I find some of the animal sounds too obscure and the fact that the toy asks questions but doesn't actually give the answers is really poor but other than that Emily enjoys the toy which is the main thing that counts really.
Over the last few months I have been looking after my niece (18 months old) regularly each week, but as my girls are nearly 5 and 7, I didn't have any age appropriate toys for her to play with and on one occasion when I found her trying to eat a Barbie (!) I decided to invest in a few toys that were hers and hers alone at my house! I didn't want to spend a fortune but I wanted a few different toys that she could play with on her regular visits to my house. When my girls were younger I was always happy with the Leapfrog range so when I saw the Spinimals toy at the really great price of £12 on Amazon I bought it for her. I specifically looked for toys that my girls hadn't had when they were little as I hate repeat buying something that I know we have already bought once! I hadn't even seen this before so I didn't know what to expect.
The Leapfrog Spinimals is a round plastic devise which allows the child to press the central button and spin to a letter. Wherever the blue pointer lands will cause a recorded message to play. There are two modes of play, letter mode and animal mode. Letter mode will play the letter and the appropriate word, and animal mode will play the animals name and the sound they make. I would imagine that most children will be the same but my niece loves animal mode and it always makes her giggle as the animal noises are played. The wheel can be rotated manually without pressing the button, so they can listen to a certain sound or letter that is a particular favourite. For some reason my nice loves h and w?! I've no idea why!
A game that can be played is when the machine asks the child to find a specific letter, but this needs to be played with an adult or older child present as it doesn't let the child know whether or not the answer was correct which I find a little silly, especially if they are playing with it unsupervised and they are at the older end of the recommended age group. The guidance on the box stated something along the lines of 'spin their way to early reading skills', which to be honest I find a little ambitious. Educational play with young children is really important for me, and I often spent a fortune on educational toys when my own girls were young. Of course this is stimulating for younger children, but I wouldn't say it helped their reading skills in any shape or form. It may loosely allow them to associate sounds with certain words but I wouldn't say they take any notice of the letter on the machine, especially not when it's next to a picture of something far more interesting! I would say that by the time they are able to start recognising letters to be able to read, they will probably want some far more 'grown up toy' that are readily available.
We have had no problems with the toy itself and it seems to be well made and definitely 'toddler proof'! There has been at least two incidents I can think of when it's fallen from tables, etc and it hasn't resulted in it breaking in any way.
A major gripe for me, as with most educational toys that make any kind of sound, is they do it in the most annoying way possible and this certainly isn't an exception. The voice used is extremely annoying and literally goes right through me as soon as my niece begins to play with it! I have learnt to block this out now however! There is a volume adjuster but with only two options (one is loud, the other is slightly louder!) it may as well not have even be added to the toy.
It can be personalised to each child (somewhat) too where you select the initial of your child's name by being in 'parent mode' (instructions are provided), and then each time the child switches the machine on it would say 'C (or whichever letter you have chosen), that's the first letter of your name'!
Batteries are included with this toy which is a rarity nowadays so definitely gains a star for this!
Appropriate from ages 12 to 36 months. I think this age group is perhaps too broad and I personally would recommend it for 12 to 24 months maximum.