Wednesday, September 24, 2008

VTech V-Motion - V-ery Interesting

I'm convinced that all children are one part spastic animal beast, bouncing off of walls and climbing furniture every chance they get, and one part couch potato, zoned out and drooling in front of the television if allowed.

How the two co-exist in the same body, I'll never know.

What I do know is I'd like to harness the energy of one and rouse the other from its stupor. If only I could get the two to work together in harmony I might have a happy child. Maybe there would be less whining. Maybe there would be less manic meltdowns. Maybe Republicans and Democrats will start playing nice. Maybe my cat and dogs will start peacefully coexisting. Maybe...

Anyway. PBN asked me and my daughter to review the VTech V-Motion video game system - sorry - Active Learning System...

Can I just take a moment to shake my head at video games for a moment? They're either labeled "learning" or "educational" or they're Grand Theft Auto. Whatever happened to just having fun without a pop quiz or bloodshed?

But I digress.

... I was pretty excited to get my kid all learned and stuff while burning off some of that unrelenting preschooler energy. The V-Motion system is described as
"a brilliant breakthrough gaming console that combines wireless, motion-activated play, web connectivity and educational gaming into a system that plugs directly into your television!"
Great idea right? A sort of Wii for kids?

Sort of.
There is actual learning involved in VTech's V-Motion learning system (geared toward children ages 3-7): Counting, colors, shapes, and in more advanced games spelling, math and science. Once Chicky understood what was expected from her she really started getting into sorting colors and counting numbers. And as for the motion part, children are expected to think on their feet. Literally. The wireless controller is motion activated. The child playing is supposed to be an active participant in the game, encouraging kids to get off the couch and move around while using the motion-activated joystick.

However, before you rush out thinking this is something akin to Wii Fit, it's not. The movement needed to activate the controller was minimal in the games we played (the included game Action Mania), barely amounting to more than gently moving the controller from side to side. And if the kid really wants to veg out, he can just set the controller to joystick mode.

With all that said, the VTech V-Motion was a lot of fun even if the included game was not the sweat-inducing activity I was hoping for. Action Mania was a little challenging at first for my three year old but after playing it a few times she started to catch on to the more simplistic games (it does have a beginner and an intermediate level) and she really got into it. And my husband and I did see some actual learning happening; Chicky got much better at rattling off her numbers in correct order where before she would have to stop and think what came after the number 11.

(Of course, if she were older I would tell her that there is nothing after 11. That's as far as it goes. Because it's 11. But she's too young for This is Spinal Tap references.)

I'm curious to see if she would fare better with one of the other video games VTech offers with characters she would recognize - like the Wonder Pets, for example - but at $24.99 a pop per game cartridge (sorry, Smartridge) she'll have to wait for a special occasion, like Christmas. I liked that the VMotion has a cool web connect feature that allows the user to download bonus games. I also like that the controller is wireless and the system is very easy for a young child to maneuver through on her own.

I think with the V-Motion active learning system we'll have to wait and see how our daughter does with it in the future as right now she seems just a bit too young to get everything out of it. I have a hard time recommending this for a three year old but if you're looking for a gift idea for your favorite nephew or neice (the V-Motion system is $69.99, a little on the pricey side so make sure you really like the kid you're buying this for) who is older than, say, four years old the VMotion might be something you'll want to consider.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

"Ready for.." books. Positivity at its best.

"Are these books for her or for us?"

That was my husband's question upon reading "Ready for the Day" and "Ready for Bed" to our three year old daughter. And he was right; the books are just as much of a reminder to parents to be positive while dealing with the more challenging aspects of their toddler's or pre-schooler's personality as it is life lessons for children.

The two stories are interesting for kids, tackling topics that any boy or girl in that age group could easily understand - brushing teeth, deciding what breakfast food they would like, etc. - and speaking from our experience with the books, they were very engaging. The illustrations are colorful and the story held our daughter's attention and she often asks for them.

Okay, let's be honest. I've read each of these books 15 times in a row on some occasions. Easily.

But the underlying theme of positivity is what really stuck with me. Bedtime and first thing in the morning are probably the two most difficult times of the day in our house, with constant battles over mundane details (to me anyway) like what book to read and what clothes to wear. "Ready for the Day" and "Ready for Bed" reminds both me and my husband as well as our daughter about compromise and making correct decisions to cut down on the amount of drama in our lives.

After just one reading of "Ready for Bed", for instance, Chicky was much more willing to "take turns" brushing her teeth. Which really amounts to her asserting her independence enough to make her happy and me being able to brush dinner from between her tiny teeth. A win/win situation, if you ask me.

The situations in both books will be very familiar to any parent of a preschooler. Sometimes a gentle reminder to keep things positive is all both parties involved need to be successful and these books help with that. I'd say that "Ready for Bed" and "Ready for the Day" are books I'd have no trouble recommending to friends.


This was a review for the Parent Bloggers Network.

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