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V Smile
( V-Tech $49.99 Score: ) We plugged V Smile in and found it all to be so frenetic and certainly not age appropriate for 3's and up-as it is marked. We were playing the easy games and could not imagine how young kids will deal with the pace, content and levels of difficulty. The arcade formats may be easier to play because the joystick is bigger for small hands-but the skills involved are not intuitive…it's not like a touch screen where kids have more direct control with a finger or stylus. Threes, fours and most fives are not ready for letter sequences or spelling. Toys that push skills that are more appropriate for early school years give kids a poor sense of themselves as learners and apprehension about learning altogether. About the only age group the content is really right for would be the 6-7's --that is if what you want is to get them started on are arcade games that produce more agitation than education. We know this is getting a big play in the media, but we suggest you test it before you bring it home. A better choice from the same manufacturer is VTech's new and innovative Write N Learn Smartboard ($29.99). It is indeed a smart toy that works on letter and number skills in concrete ways that involve kids in writing and counting games. It recognizes the letters children write and names them! It has a magic quality that is sure to catch the attention of young players. This is a wise choice for a targeted audience that is learning to write and read. In other words, this is a smart toy that reinforces skills for late Kindergarten, first and second graders. It goes at your child's pace- not the stressful world of arcade gaming. UPDATE 2007 A console that also plugs into the TV and specializes in drill-and-review games that usually borrow from arcade formats. While seven year olds often enjoy reinforcing what they know, the pace of this product is way too fast to “learn” from and certainly way beyond the preschool crowd (its targeted audience). New for 2007 Art Studio and Dance Mat did not receive good ratings from our testing families. They complained that the games were not responsive and they disliked the graphics. (800) 521-2010.

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2007.


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