Sunday, January 24, 2010
A Review: V.Smile Cyber Pocket by Vtech
We are not video game people. Well, not yet at least.
We don't have an XBox. Or a Wii. I'm not even sure that I am spelling those things correctly. We just haven't really gone down the video game route yet.
But the infiltration has begun -- slowly but surely. My daughter received a Leapster L-Max as a present last year. And she loves it. I limit the amount of time that I let her play with it because the sound makes me batty, but she really enjoys it and is able to use it totally independently.
This same curious daughter returned home from a play date last week and informed me that she wanted a Wii for her birthday because her friend's older brother has one. And so it begins -- the coveting of other people's fancy toys.
I am not saying that video games or hand-held electronic toys have no value. I certainly think that limited, independent play with educational electronics is a nice alternative to say . . . . plopping the kids down on the couch to watch Sponge Bob Square Pants. And anyone who has ever traveled long distances by car or plane with a busy preschooler can also tell you that a little portable entertainment doesn't hurt.
I am trying to navigate my way through the world of kids and electronics as my children start to become interested in these sorts of things. I have some reservations -- but I am open to exploring the options out there.
So imagine my delight when Vtech Toys offered me the opportunity to review something called a V.Smile Cyber Pocket. I figured this might be something that my kids would like so I agreed to take a look.*
Although we didn't own any Vtech toys before this, I was familiar with their products. In fact, I think that Vtech does a great job of marketing their brand and their social media outreach to moms is first-rate.
When we opened our new Cyber Pocket (which retails for $49) both my three and five-year-old were eager to try it out with the Zayzoo: An Earth Adventure game that was included. This product is designed for kids ages 4-7 and my three year-old was pretty baffled by the whole thing so after he and I worked on it together for about ten minutes, he lost interest and abandoned it on favor of a set of wood blocks. Seriously.
My five year-old was more successful in her attempts to use the Cyber Pocket, although the stylus wasn't somewhat difficult to use and she was confused about what some of the buttons were for (and so was I frankly). The device includes activities for a wide variety of skill sets -- from spelling to math and music. After playing with the Cyber Pocket for awhile, she went to her room to retrieve her Leapster L-Max that she received as a gift for Christmas last year. She pointed out that the buttons and pen on the Leapster game were easier to use. Over the next few days, she continued to play with the Cyber Pocket and she started to get more familiar with the both the device and the game.
And then the Cyber Pocket totally stopped working. I changed the batteries, but still, nothing. When I told the Vtech folks about this problem, they couldn't have been nicer and overnighted me a new Cyber Pocket -- which has been working just fine for week now.
So what's my bottom line on the V.Smile Cyber Pocket? I continue to think that these types of hand-held electronics are a good thing for kids to use in a very limited way (I keep them up high so that my kids have to ask for my permission first). Our initial experience with the V.Smile Cyber Pocket has been a little bit disappointing but I think that it is something that my kids will enjoy more as they get older and more proficient at using the device on their own.
And although our experience with the V.Smile Cyber Pocket has been just so-so, I am definitely willing to consider their educational electronic products in the future as my kids become more interested in these sorts of things -- which seems inevitable because of older brothers and their fancy Wii systems.
* Vtech provided this item to me for review at no cost. And when the first one stopped working, they sent me another one. I was not paid for this review. This is just our experience with the V.Smile Cyber Pocket.