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My daughter has the Letter Factory App on her LeapPad and she loves the song so I decided to get her this for her Birthday. It cost me £13.50 from Tesco Direct three weeks ago. This letter factory is a newer version of the original by Leapfrog which was stuck to the fridge but had nowhere to store the letters. The factory is for children aged 2 and over. The letter factory is basically a rectangular box which is transparent blue and stores the 26 letter of the alphabet. The lid of the box is a speaker and a spot for the letters to be pressed into for your child to learn phonics. The box has a carry handle printed with letters of the alphabet which folds down when the factory is in use. There is also a button on the front which when pressed sings the alphabet song which helps children to remember what they have learned. There is a power on/off switch which also doubles up as a volume switch the volume has two levels low and high. The letter factory is decorated with pictures of Tad the frog who sings the alphabet song. This toy needs 3 x AAA batteries which are included. When my daughter opened this she was very excited and couldn't wait to have a go. The letters are smaller than I expected but they are the right size for toddlers hands. My daughter was thrilled when she placed a letter in the unit and it started singing the song she loves. This unit is for teaching phonics so it is very repetitive when a tile is placed in the reader it tells your child the letter and then it sings a song telling your child the sound the letter makes. Some letters make two sounds like E saying e and eh which the unit tells your child. My daughter loves this toy since she has had it we have played with it daily and I find myself singing the song around the house. It doesn't do an awful lot for a toy but it is an excellent learning tool. The factory also has a British voice so you get proper pronunciation of the letters. This is a great toy for learning and my daughter is recognising the letters already and she can tell me the sounds of some before even placing the tile on the reader. For the money this is a bargain I would give this full marks.
My son started being really interested in his letters and the alphabet at around 2 and a half years of age, having fully mastered his number recognition. As he is my first child, I was unsure what toys and learning aids were available for his age to nurture his interest and, at the same time, keep it fun rather than too studious. Therefore, I spoke to my mummy friends and also searched online for ideas and, eventually, came across this Letter Factory Phonics by LeapFrog in an online deal forum. Persuaded by the good reviews, my previous good experience with LeapFrog toys and the 'bargain' price, I purchased it for my son. At the time it was £10 on Amazon, it currently prices at £15 (December 2013). THE TOY The toy is essentially a small plastic bucket/box. It is pale blue in colour and transparent, with a sticker on the front with two cartoon frogs and a few letters on. On top of the base is a white 'lid' which contains the sound part of the toy. There is also a yellow plastic carry handle attached to the blue box, this has the letters of the alphabet printed on it. Inside the box, there are letter tiles for every letter of the alphabet (in lower case). The letters are in a variety of colours - red, blue, green and yellow - but all are on a white tile of the same shape. The letters are raised so you can feel the shape of them if you run your finger over the tile. These can be pushed into a slot of the same shape in the white lid and pushed down to activate the music. This is in the form of a song that states the letter and also the sound it makes (i.e. the phonics) There is also a yellow button on the lid that, when pushed, plays the alphabet song. On the side of the lid there is a yellow sliding switch which turns the toy on and allows you to select from two volume settings. The toy requires 3 AAA batteries - which are included in the toy when you purchase, so it works as soon as you unpack it (always a bonus when you have a toddler waiting). It is suitable for children from two years of age. PLAYTIME My son was instantly intrigued by the toy and the simplicity of it really seemed to appeal to him. He could instantly see what he needed to do and began placing the letter tiles in the correct place and pushing them down. This was easy for him to do and, at two and a half, he possessed all the manipulative skills and co-ordination levels necessary to do this effectively first time. He was also able to identify that they had to go in a certain way (the tiles are straight on one edge and curved on the opposite, so will only fit in one way) to ensure that the letters are the right way up and the music plays. The songs on the toy really appeal to him and he loves pushing the letter tiles or the yellow button to set them off. The songs have a nice rhythm which he enjoys dancing to and they are very simple so he can sing along with the words too. I would say that this keeps him amused for 15-20 minutes at a time until he gets bored of the music - there is not a great deal to do and this can become monotonous, especially as all the letters have the same basic song. It is therefore a handy toy to get out to pass a few minutes here and there. He hasn't yet got bored with the toy though and we have now had it for a few months - he gets it out most days - therefore it does have some longevity. My son also likes to use the letter tiles independently for sorting and spelling too. He will sort them into piles of each colour or use them to spell his name or we will use them together to spell basic words. Obviously there is only one of each letter so it is of limited use for this but it is a good activity nevertheless. My son's only frustration with the toy is that, if left untouched for 15 seconds, it automatically turns off - however, this is a good feature in my opinion as it conserves the batteries. The tiles, the pot and the white music part are all very durable and stand up to my son's play well. The pot is also quite thin and compact in size and lightweight, even when filled with tiles. This, together with the convenient carry handle that is attached, means that my son can help himself to this toy and move it around the house - he can also take it with him to play at his grandparents house as it is so lightweight. This is also a good feature for storage in our, already overstocked, toy cabinets. MY OPINION I think this is a lovely educational toy for helping younger children learn their letters and phonics. I like the fact that the song incorporates the name of the letter as you or I would know it as well as the sound it makes i.e. phonics - this will help my son when he moves on to reading and I certainly see no harm in him learning both at an early age. Another plus for me is that the alphabet song correctly pronounces 'Z' as zed rather than zee as some toys do, so I do not have to constantly correct it when my son plays with it. The voice is a little irritating to me (as I have also found with other LeapFrog toys) but this doesn't bother my son and the two volume settings mean that, if set at the lowest one, I can usually block this out as he plays! This is a very basic toy but, again, this isn't necessarily a negative for me. it is nice to have a variety of toys in our collection and one that takes very little to set up is always a welcome addition. Some of the letters could be pronounced a bit more clearly but, again, this is a small negative as my son seems to understand what is being said well. Overall, I am pleased with the purchase and think it is worth what we paid for it - as it is so basic, I would struggle to say it was worth much more. I think this will last my son a decent length of time too. It has supported his interest in letters well and he can easily identify all the letters now but still enjoys playing with this toy. I would definitely recommend this toy as a good teacher of phonics that is engaging to young children.
"26 singing letters bring the alphabet to life with the Leapfrog Letter Factory Phonics. Based on the award-winning Fridge Phonics, but now in a portable on the go console. Little learners place letter tiles in the ""factory"" to hear songs that teach the corresponding letter names and sounds. Utilizes a system that is supported by teachers and has helped more than 7 million children practice phonics in a fun way. Tactile play with the individual letter tiles helps reinforce the curriculum. Parents can connect to the online Leapfrog Learning Path for customized learning insights and ideas to expand the learning."