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I regularly have to fly with my daughter (aged 22 months), so I am always looking out for small things to entertain her that will fit in my handbag. I came across these cards on Amazon and thought they would be ideal to keep her occupied on our next flight as they looked relatively small and Olivia is fond of her touchy feely books. They duly arrived and I handed them over to my little test subject.
A surprisingly sturdy box, easy for little fingers to open. Measuring 7.1 x 4.6 x 1.7 inches it was too big for my handbag and too rigid to squish (squishyness is essential when traveling with a child who likes to sit on your handbag!). It is however satisfyingly chunky and easy to carry, presenting no difficulties for my daughter to pick up and carry to me. It has a fold over flap which fastens with some firm Velcro at the front, meaning that whilst it is easy to open for children and adults, it wont open when held upside down and shaken repeatedly. The majority of the box is white, so I anticipated an almost instant grubbiness .but to my surprise and pleasure the chocolate/snot/miscellaneous gunge marks wiped off quickly and easily with the minimum of effort. It is also strong enough to be trodden on at least once whilst empty, although I wouldnt guarantee it would stand up to a repeated toddler assault. Pictures of the animals on the outside make the box itself interesting to a toddler, my daughter regularly picks up the box just to look at the different pictures. The side of the box is printed with the title as well so it is easily identifiable on a bookcase.
************What the makers claim************
Dorling Kindersley make these cards and are of course a well known and trusted publisher of childrens books. We own several DK books and we have been impressed with their quality and appeal to children, so we were pretty confident when buying these unseen.
The blurb on the back of the box claims that these cards will give your child a head start by developing their early language skills. They will keep children interested and engaged and involve parents through the suggested creative learning games and also the talking points on the back of each card.
The DK education consultant is quoted as saying These unique textured cards encourage children to learn key concepts as they look, play and talk.
The animals are:
There are 16 animal cards in the box and one parent guide card. Each card is about 7x4.5 inches and is made of very strong, thick card. It took quite a lot of effort before it would even start to bend, ideal when you are dealing with something for a toddler. The sides and corners have not been protected though, so while the front and back are wipable the sides are showing some signs of wear. They have also been chewed and are subsequently looking quite tatty around the edges, whereas similar cards which have put up with similar treatment are looking much more acceptable.
Each animal photograph is presented on a white background, with one computer generated item to give an idea of its context. The zebra for instance is standing in front of cartoon grass, and the cat has a ball of wool. This does serve the purpose of focusing the attention on the animal in question, but I found these computer generated additions annoying and my daughter found them confusing. Each animal card has a colourful border, with the same dotty pattern found on the green border on the box. This does give them an attractive and professional appearance and means that when it comes to tidy up time, its easy to see which cards go in which box!
The pictures are both portrait and landscape and the name of the animal is printed in large type next to the photo. On each card a small section has been cut away and a piece of material has been placed there to represent the fur, skin or shell of the creature represented. These sections really let the cards down, being small and relatively uninspired. In the case of the furry cards there was not really enough to stroke and I was singularly unimpressed with the duck and parrot sensations. The flatter, rubbery textures were all very similar and even I found it hard to tell them apart with my eyes closed (one of the suggested creative learning games mentioned).
On the back of the cards are a series of questions to talk about. The first one asks the child to identify the animal and the second is usually related to some observation about the animal e.g. the colour of the stripes or the texture of the material. The other points (up to five on a card) involve imitating animal movement or noises, identifying letter sounds and nursery rhymes associated with the animal or finding associations between the cards e.g. find other birds, find other animals beginning with T. These were quite useful but also very obvious the sort of things that most parents would do with their child when playing with these cards, often providing prompts rather than help. At 22 months my daughter would be hard pushed to identify animals by the initial letter or sort the cards by groups, so I assume these cards have quite a wide age range, perhaps from 12 months to 4 or 5 years old.
There are some Americanisms e.g. color instead of colour, but whilst mildly irritating they are easy to gloss over-your level of irritation will depend on how much of a language pedant you are. Also there are limited questions for the wild animals and I was disappointed at the general repetitiveness of the questions, there is little imagination and they seem at times quite strained. I also found an error on one of the cards; the turtle card asks you to touch the turtles shell, but the cutaway section on the other side is the turtles flipper.
Under the questions is a language section, which I was particularly pleased to see, as my daughter is learning both German and French as well as English. Its gives the animals name in four different languages- German, French, Spanish and Chinese, with the words spelt phonetically as well, for those of us who may struggle! I have found these incredibly useful as it means I dont have to reach for my dictionary with every card (my conversational French doesnt extend to turtle, puppy or dolphin) and it is broadening my vocabulary as well as my daughters. I am not sure how useful these would be to younger children, but for those just starting to experiment with language and asking questions about language I would imagine these would be very useful.
Also included is a simple guide to using the cards, a double sided card the same size as the others in the box. It suggests ideas for a younger age group such as naming the animals and making the noises, through to talking about the words and the sounds of the letters. There does seem to be a wide range of suggestions here for several key stages of development, but on two sides of card there is very little for Olivias age group. I can see myself using some of these ideas in a year or so though, but having bought it specifically because it says toddler, it is a little infuriating that there is so little for under 2 year olds.
I quite like these, my daughter brings them to me less often now than she did but she still gets some pleasure out of them. She can identify all the animals and make the relevant noises, but with only 16 cards they dont hold her attention for long. I am slightly concerned that when she is old enough for the more advanced activities she will consider these cards babyish; a concern based on the lack of interest I have observed in older children. When these were new though we would get up to 20 minutes of play out of them at a time, spreading them out and looking at the pictures/feeling the textures and they did help Olivia to identify certain animals that she hadnt seen before. However she got just as much enjoyment at posting them back into the box! If you are looking for animal flash cards these are as good as any others, the pictures are fairly interesting and engaging and they are sturdy and durable. My miserly side is convinced that it would have been cheaper to buy some stout card and print off animals from the internet. They were too big and sturdy to squish in my handbag so I ended up buying a multipack of stickers instead!!
************Others in the series*******************
On the box it gives other similar sets as:
Colours and Shapes
Numbers and Counting
I cannot comment on these however
*************ISBN and Price******************
Amazon have this for:£4.57
Marketplace starts at: £2.59
Buy this one with First Words for £9.14
It states on Amazon that there are 16 cards, but there are 17 if you include the parent guide card (I have recounted several times).
From Dk Publishing