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With the rush of Christmas fast approaching we were looking around for ways to spoil our daughter on her first Christmas and found the LeapFrog Learn and Groove DJ Activity station - ideal as both her parents are DJs.
It is a lovely activity station with 5 basic toy elements - record player, number piano, microphone, mirror ball and juke box which I will explain individually shortly.
Alex hates lying down now and wants to be upright all the time - a bit of a pain when you are trying to do other things such as the chore that is housework - and this is where the Learn and Groove come into its own. She is a small baby for her age so finding things that will help her sit/stand securely are few and far between but this station does give her a good amount of support without letting her slump forwards or backwards or slide down into an uncomfortable-looking position.
It look a bit like a space age version of the traditional sit-in walker but there are no wheels on this - much safer than the traditional versions that are so vilified by Health Visitors and Professionals everywhere. It is almost 'clam-like' in it's shape with a base shell, which the three legs fold down into during travel mode, that allows baby to push up and strengthen those leg muscles whilst keeping the weight off them. The station's legs are adjustable heightwise allowing room for growth as your baby grows. Finally, each leg has a small fold over clip whch allows you to alter the station from a static one to one which rocks with baby's movement.
The main downside with the overall staion is that it is quite awkward to change from travel to play mode and back. You have to unclip the top section from the legs, fold the legs into the centre and then re-clip the top unit. It is also quite bulky to store due to the toys - they do not fold flat so you need to be a little aware when stacking away that you are not in danger of breaking them.
But back to the positives which outweight the negatives.....
Let's break them down into their individual elements.....
The seat: Made of strong yet comfortable material this offers a good amount of support for your loved one. It can be fixed in place at each of the individual toys or can be left in rotate mode whch allows you to play peekaboo with you moving around the unit encouraging baby to turn themselves around to look at you - again helping to strengthen their leg muscles whilst building the play-bond between the pair of you.
The juke box: This is the unit that controls the station's sound mode. By flipping over the page you can switch between music and 'education'. Whilst being the control unit it is also a toy element with baby flipping the sturdy 'page' back and forth.
The mirror ball: Alex has been fascinated by the mirror ball due to its shiny angles and faces. If you press the mirror ball down it introduces opposites (plays music then says things like 'up' & 'down') and it can be spun (as you would expect a mirror ball to do) either by hand or by the seat rotating.
The microphone: Ideal as a teething toy it can be used to encourage baby to verbally communicate with you although I think this is the toy that needs the most interaction by mum, dad, brother, sister etc.
The piano keys: The piano consists of 5 push button keys each a different colour and numbered that even the smallest hands have no problem pressing. In music mode each key plays a different style of music with a very slightly grating voice saying salsa, cha cha, jazz, tango or swing thus introducing baby to a variety of musical styles form an early age. In 'education' mode the keys introduce numbers with that voice counting out loud. The part I was most impressed with about this was the fact that it only counted up to the number of the key pressed - for example if you pressed 3 it would say "3 - 1, 2, 3". -allowing you the opportunity to teach your baby through play. Many other units I have seen simply count all the numbers no matter which numbered button you press. In both modes the keys light up encouraging baby even more.
The record player: This is the part I love most (how sad am I lol) as you can literally 'spin the decks'. It consists of a record and record arm which you pull on to make the record spin underneath. In music mode it plays Old McDonald and in 'education' mode it sings a 'motown style ABC song' which is the traditional alphabet song but (and something I was impressed with) it teaches in the English phonetic rather than the American - i.e. zed not zee. There is also a little lift up flap (this is actually quite pointless I think) and a clicker 'volume control'.
In general the audible quality is quite good - there isn't the 'casio organ tinniness' of many children's toys - and there are two volume levels available by simply swithig the on switch to the required setting.
It is also supplied with a help card - suggestions of how you can use the station to encourage and stimulate your child - a very clever idea, I think, as it gves you, as a parent, things to think about and try.
Another plus to Leap fog.
It's retail price is normally about £90 but many of the well known providers such as ELC and Mothercare have been offering the station at £55 - £60 so I would suggest looking about before you hit the checkout button.
Right off to get my little lady out of her activity station where she has qute happily been sitting during the writing of this review -whch just goes to prove that it s a good item for keeping little one safe whilst mum does other things.
Addition: My daughter has played with the microphone so much it has now broken but after a quick telephone call to Leapfrog I have been tol they will send a replacement out as soon as possible although there may be a bit of a wait. Excellent customer service.
Next Addition: THe replacement microphone arrived last week (they did say it would be a bit of a wait) and with a couple of pinches taking the old one out and a push in of the new one and the learn and groove is as good as new. Alex now has a renewed interest in the learn and groove as the microphone was one of her favourite bits.