My daughter turned six a little under a month ago, which for her, meant one thing and one thing only - new toys! My daughters father and I split up when she was younger, but, still on good terms, we had a few phone calls to make sure we didn't both go buying the same thing . The Knowledge Notebook was her dads contribution to the present pile, and I must say I'm very impressed with his choice . I should point out that the product he purchased was a pink version, making it ideal for a little girl, but otherwise has all the same features.
Included in the package were :
- VTech Knowledge Notebook
- 2 User's manuals
- Real mouse
- Mouse pad
- Bonus cartridges: Super Adventure and Cyber Pet
- Planet VTech Membership Card
Now, the packaging, compared to the packaging on many children's toys, scored bonus points with me for actually being something that could be opened without a hacksaw ans several hammers . All too often kids toys are tied with those plastic coated bits of medal, which makes them both difficult, and in the case of children actually a little dangerous to wrap . No such worry here, and within a matter of seconds, the toy was out of the box .
The laptop itself, as well as the mouse, are a nice bright pink colour, with a slightly glossy shine. The laptop is opened by pressing in a button then lifting the lid . It looks like a real laptop, not a toy, and my daughter has been quite delighted with having a computer like mummys.
Now, the laptop comes with a backup battery already installed under a screwed in flap . This battery is there to save the data as you change the other batteries required, 3 AA batteries, which you pop in under a flap at the back, which does NOT need a screwdriver to open. I'm in two minds about this . One the one hand, it makes it easy to pop batteries in and out as and when needed. On the other, it just doesn't seem very safe around children . While my own daughter is,I like to hope, intelligent enough not to go popping out the batteries and popping them into her mouth, I know many friends who have more than one child , and I know if I had a younger child roaming the house I'd have big concerns .
Also on the underside of the laptop is a compartment for storing the additional game cartridges - very useful, as it stops them from getting lost and mislaid, something that has happened to a lot of the reader cartridges of one of my daughters other toys, the leap pad.
Popping the mouse into the laptop is simple - a USB style connector, simply plug in and go. However, the manual stresses to only do this when the laptop is turned off, I presume for safety reasons .
Opening it up, you'll see that the actual LCD screen isn't as big as the lid of the laptop. With that said, it's still clear enough for my daughter to be able to follow what's going on, and while the animations are in black and white, and quite reminscent of an old 80's game, my daughter again seems very happy .
There are over 80 activities on this laptop- far far too many to list them all. They are split into the following 8 categories :
Nature and Science
Each of these categories has a hotkey on the top of the keyboard, but can also be selected using the mouse to scroll through and click, or by navigating through the menu using the arrow keys and pressing enter. My daughter seems to prefer using the mouse, again I suspect in imitation of me and my computer usage .
There are a couple of other nifty features I should make mention of before going into more detail of the activities . There is a button on the keyboard marked Play Player that switches between one player and two player modes , although not all the activities are available in two player mode.
There is also a nice auto levelling feature, designed to make sure your child keeps learning - if the laptop detects from the scores of three games in a row that your child is finding an activity a little too easy, it will automatically level up and make it a little harder . The same also applies in reverse, so two children could share this and still have comfortable play .
There is even a button where a parent can obtain a progress report, and see which areas there child has been playing the most, and what progress has been made . I find this particularly interesting, as my daughter struggles a little with maths, but according to the progress report she is playing some of the maths oriented games and doing quite well .
As I mentioned a few paragraphs back, there are far too many activities for me to list them all, so, I'm going to limit myself to describing two from each category of learning.
This section helps children to learn a little French, through simple completion, repetition, and matching games .
A word in French will be displayed on the screen. Your task is to find the English word that matches it . This is probably a little tricky without some small knowledge of French perhaps, but after a couple of false guesses, it will tell you the correct answer, so you still get to learn the word.
Choose a French word to see its picture and hear it spoken aloud. This is something my daughter quite liked, and learning the words in this activity helped her in some of the others.
This section helps children improve their English skills, with activities that encourage correct use of capital letters, rhyming, spelling and other things .
Your task here is to pop the letters falling down the screen by typing them as fast as you can on the keyboard. Typing it pops the letter, and this game it quite fun!
A girl appears on the screen performing a number of activities . You have to pick the word that describes what the girl on the screen is doing. My daughter found this quite easy,.
Here you have a hungry dog . On the screen is a number that he wants to eat, and your job here is to feed him numbers that add up to the number he needs to eat . For example, if he needs to eat 21, you could feed him 9, 8 , 2 and 2 to make 21. This game I like, as it encourages problem solving skills, and each number has many ways of approaching it - I like to challenge my daughter to feed him using as few numbers as she can, or as many different numbers .
Here you get to go shopping, you choose an item you want to buy, and the price is displayed on the screen. You then need to select the right coins to get to the correct price, and again I like this because there is more than one coin combination to reach the correct price.
This section teaches children more about the world they live in - from pictures of the constellations, and world wonders .
Choose a constellation to see its shape- my daughter seemed to enjoy this section, and even asked me to look up some of the constellations on the internet so I could tell her more about them .
Here you make your own holiday plan by making a list of activity names . You have to remember the plan, because it then asks you questions about it , and the activities you chose .
Nature and Science
This section teaches lots about nature and science, such as what different animals like to eat, telling the time, and ways to protect the environment.
This displays pictures of animals and asks you to select the right name for them .
This displays a time on the screen, and you then move the hands on the clock face to make it show that time . Very good for my daughter, who is starting already to get better at telling the time .
Here you use the arrow keys to move the obstacles and make your way
through the sea, discovering lots of things as you go.
Here you try to clear the balls from the screen by clicking them or hitting "enter" as fast as you can.
Here you get to make funny face masks for a carnival! You use the mouse to move different eyes, mouths, hair and other items onto the face on the
Here you can choose one of nine tunes to play, and you can select the instruments that play them . The songs you can choose from are :
She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain
William Tell Overture
Spring Song Mendelssohn
Pop Goes the Weasel
When the Saints Go Marching In
I liked that some of these songs my daughter didn't already know - she liked a couple of them quite a lot, and I can tell you that listening to her playing 'The Entertainer' for the tenth time in a row might be annoying, but its a whole let better than her replaying Lady Gaga songs all the time .
This is a less activity led section, and instead is a place to store information, such as phone numbers, your likes and dislikes, and lists of your favourite things
The additional cartridges contain a cyberpet which can be fed, played with, and groomed, etc . It takes less attention than a tamagotchi, which is good, and she seems to quite like her pet .
In the other cartridge is a game that takes you to lots of different planets, all with different activities .
Don't forget, I've only described a few of the 80 activities on this laptop . Now, in addition to ALL this , you also get a card, giving you free access and membership via the internet to planet Vtech, a community website with even MORE games and activities. You can meet new friends here, and even create a character and build your own house . I have signed my daughter up for this and had a brief look around, and I think it's wonderful, although my daughter is still very busy with the laptop so hasn't paid it much attention yet. I do think its an excellent source of additional activities, and it will also help teach my daughter how to use a big girls PC!
Overall, my daughter really loves this PC . She feels quite grown up using it, and with so many activities, all with rising levels of difficulty as she continues to progress . It talks and makes lots of noise too, and she seems to adore any toy that makes lots of noise - so thank the lord this thing has a headphone socket, although headphones are not included.
Personally, I like it too . My daughter is having fun, and yet she's learning without knowing it . She's already started saying bonjour to people, and can count from one to ten in French. Her progress reports show she is getting a little better at maths, which was her one area she was behind in at school, and the activities are varied enough on this for her to do something new every day .
I've seen this ranging from 49.99 up to 54.99. Amazon sell it for 49.99 however they do not stock it in pink . Argos however do sell the pink one for 54.99,
This product is aimed at children 6 years and over . Vtech also sell one aimed at children 8 years and over two, which I may purchase at a later date .
So far, I've praised this to the rooftops - do I have any complaints ?
Well, yes, but only very tiny ones . I'm still not sure about the easily opened battery compartment, and I do find the noise a little trying after a while, so I'm definitely going to be buying her some headphones soon . These complaints are not big enough to warrant losing a star though, so this excellent educational toy gets the full 5 stars from me.