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The Bounce and Play Giraffe is part of V-Tech's Jungle Gym series of toys ranging from a frog through to the giraffe that we own. The Jungle Gym range according to V-Tech claims to use innovative technology to enable these toys to react to the child playing with the toy, to make play unique and fun whilst learning age-appropriate concepts. The Bounce and Play Giraffe certainly claims to meet this criteria with the features and learning aids being advertised in large colourful text and pictures plastered over the external packaging.
In all honesty this is not the usual sort of toy that would catch my eye whilst thinking about buying for my daughter, despite this I was still pleasantly surprised when it bought as a gift from her grandparents. The toy looked great from what I could see of it through the box and from reading the blurb on the box. As rude as it may seem for the purposes of this review I have had a look at the price the Bounce and Play Giraffe and was surprised to find they can be purchased brand new for as little as £35 which I consider to be a reasonable price for a large brand name toy.
The advised age range on this toy is 18 - 36 months, although we found that the Bounce and Play Giraffe is probably a little large for the average 18 month old. When we first received this toy it was a case of our daughter being able to sit on the seat at the lowest setting and be able to reach either the pedals or the handle bars but not both. This made it a little unsafe as it always seemed as though she wasn't very well balanced but could still make full use of the screen. It was a good couple of months before she was able to reach the pedals as well but as the seat is adjustable it should be good until she reaches 3 years of age.
I would say that the age rating is a little on the young side but at 18 months most children should be able to have a bit of fun with the screen at least whilst they are growing into using this toy fully. Overall I would say that this toy has a good amount of life in it as far as toys go and certainly seems robust enough to survive a full 18 months of use and abuse.
Once I had broke into the packaging which was a chore in itself, due to cable ties and string, I was glad to find that there were only 8 pieces requiring assembly only one of which I would need a screwdriver for. There was quite a bit of waste due to the outer cardboard box being quite large, coupled with the fact that there was quite a bit of internal packaging including plastic bags; not ideal with an 18 month old running around who is interested in anything but her new toy, I would advise with the benefit of hindsight to assemble this when all is quite and the children aren't about.
It actually took me longer to unpack this than it did to build it as most of the pieces simply push together, some of them are a little stiff and require a bit of effort to locate properly but these parts have got the computer chip style connectors in that connect the pedals and seat to the screen on the head so that it knows when it is being used and can interact with the child. There are two base pieces into which the legs on the main body of the giraffe clip into, then the pedals and neck clip in turn clip into the body with the head/handles slotting securely at the end of the neck. The seat is the only piece that requires any real assembly and this is only a case of removing a screw from the body of the giraffe then sliding the seat into position and then replacing the screw to secure the seat. Once together the Bounce and Play Giraffe cannot be disassembled; despite the piece of mind that this gives that it will not fall apart whilst being played with, it also means it will not be the easiest toy to store for future children and will never ever fit back into the box in which it was supplied without the use of some serious brute strength and force.
Once together the Bounce and Play Giraffe actually looks quite the part, bright, colourful, chunky, robust, and interactive with the added bonus that it would hopefully keep our little one active and interested, whilst distracting her from actively destroying the house with the help of the dog. The LCD screen isn't exactly the most inspiring thing that I have seen but it is certainly enough to hold the interest of my daughter. There are 8 animal related buttons around the edge of the screen which all have a different function in each of the 5 different modes which are selected by a sliding selector underneath the main screen. There is also an On/Off button along with a couple of other buttons one of which slides and the other twists and are both interactive.
When we first received this toy I was already trying to think of which remotes I could steal the 3 x AA batteries from in order for my daughter to be able to play with it there and then as she had already seen it, and was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it was actually supplied with all the batteries I needed pre-installed.
There are the normal warnings and recommendations regarding batteries contained within the instructions, but the main one I feel that people may want to take into consideration is the fact that
V-Tech recommend against the use of rechargeable batteries. We have not yet had to change the original batteries in this toy and have had about three months of what I would say is medium use out of it, so the battery life is great considering they are running the screen, sound effects and music whenever the toy is turned on.
As touched on briefly above the Bounce and Play Giraffe is primarily designed to be an educational toy which helps children to learn the basics as well as helping to keep them active whilst doing so.
Race Mode:- Race mode enables the child playing to select an animal that they wish to race against and they receive a prize if they win the race, this is the only feature that I find to be a little bit of a let down as the pedals are not actually required, with bouncing on the seat or sliding button near the screen used to gain acceleration.
ABC Mode:- This is my favourite mode of all on this toy at the moment, I think mainly because it seems to the be the one that my daughter is currently learning the most from. Now getting on for 2 years old and now very chatty indeed, we have been trying to teach our daughter the sounds of individual letters with not a great deal of success due to the limited attention span of a child this young. However once sat on the giraffe she is transfixed by the screen and has already started to learn some letters, albeit not in the order of the alphabet yet, more like the order in which she finds them easiest.
When the pedals are turned or the twisting knob near the screen is turned the giraffe starts to play the alphabet song, and the screen scrolls through the alphabet sounding each letter and giving a description of an item beginning with that letter if it is stopped on. After 5 seconds or so of inactivity the toy plays the alphabet song on its so that the child can simply sit, listen and watch the alphabet scroll by. The screen will shake if the seat is bounced on which I feel helps to hold our daughters attention, and the eight animal buttons can be pressed to enable the child playing to find out which letter that animal starts with. I believe that the alphabet is probably best learnt by this sort of repetitive play so in my eyes is well worth its weight in gold and beats boring old Mum and Dad any day of the week.
Counting Mode:- As you may well have guessed this is a counting aid but not something as simple as you may expect from a child's toy. The idea is either to pedal until a certain amount of one animal has been found or use the knob that twists to achieve the same result. It is also possible to press the specific animals button a certain number of times to reach the required number, not only helping with counting but also with recognition skills. Once again in this mode the bouncing seat and the sliding button make the screen shake and images move which just helps to keep a child's attention for that little bit longer.
Animal Mode:- At present this is probably our daughters favourite function of this toy as animals and the noises that they make seem to be a constant source of amusement for her. The idea is to pedal until the specified animal that the toy has mentioned comes into view on the screen. It is also possible to press the buttons around the outside of the screen in this mode to discover what sound that specific animal makes.
Music Mode: - This is the most simple mode of this toy and simply repeats through a few songs, the faster that the child pedals the faster the tempo of the music. Our daughter finds it most amazing that the music matches the speed she is pedaling at and is actually the mode that encouraged her to use the pedals properly; in my eyes perfect training for when she is old enough for a real pushbike.
Overall despite the fact that this isn't the usual sort of toy I would purchase for my daughter I have been quite impressed with this toy. Yes there are a couple of small issues such as the pedals not being used for the racing and the excessive packaging that was difficult to remove, but the fact of the matter is that my daughter has had hours of fun on this, and it is the kiddies perception of this toy that I believe is the most important.
My daughter absolutely loves this toy and has taken it upon herself to choose as one of her favourites, now that she is tall enough to reach both pedals and handlebars she is perfectly stable on it and the toy does not move around underneath her due to the sturdy base. Since playing with this our daughter has picked up new letters, numbers, animal noises and the ability to operate pedals which in my book is well worth the £35 investment that my parents made in this toy for their grand-daughter.
Overall a great toy from V-Tech with just a few improvements that could be made hence the result of 4/5 stars from me.
Thanks for reading I hope this has been of some use.