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Last year whilst trying to figure out what to buy my kids for Christmas, I was browsing through the Boots website, and they had the usual 3 for 2 offer on toys. So I found a toy for each child, and then of course I had to find a third toy to get use of the offer. I could not find anything that would suit either of them, until I stumbled upon these Vtech Walkie Talkies (or KidiTalkie as Vtech have now labelled them). I had a quick read of the description and decided they would be a good buy for the kids, with 3+ being the recommended age I thought my children aged 3 & 4 would have a lot of fun with them.
In the pack you get two walkie talkies, one blue and one orange, both are identical apart from the colour. The units look very child friendly with them being chunky and rubberised (designed to withstand dropping), with a large display and easy to push buttons on the front. Not only are they walkie talkies, but they have 3 built in games, and the ability to send messages, pictures and e-cards between the devices. So if the kids get bored of asking each other what they are doing and where they are in the house, they can send each other messages or play the games.
When my kids opened these on Christmas Day I was pretty keen to set them up and have a go (I mean who doesn’t love walkie talkies?!), but the kids didn’t seem particularly interested, they were just another toy to add to ever growing toy mountain. But once all the mess and hysteria was out of the way, we got them out and once the children realised what they were they were pretty excited, and my eldest dashed upstairs to talk through the device to her sister eagerly waiting downstairs.
They Need To Be Set Up
However, we first had to set them up before they could be used. Luckily this was easy, set up consisted of choosing your profile a picture – a choice of faces, boys & girls; choosing your group – each device has to be the same group, there are 4 groups in total; choosing your language; mail alert sound; and finally volume. So as you can see there is nothing too difficult here and it took us 5 minutes to get them synced and ready to go.
The first problem we encountered was the children not realising how a walkie talkie works. The button on the side (as with most walkie talkies) has to be pressed down and held down while you talk, and then to hear the other person talk you have to release this button. My kids took a while to grasp this, and my youngest (age 3) still hasn’t quite cottoned on to how this works. The button is quite hard to press, and sometimes it is difficult to determine whether you have it pressed or not – so the children struggle with this. And when you press it ready to talk you have to wait until the display changes to a little phone emitting a signal before the device is ready for you to talk through, so often my daughter will press and speak immediately and from the other end you only hear the tail end of what she was saying. And sometimes my 3 year old will have the button pressed down permanently, so there is simply no chance of a two way conversation.
Playing and Communication
So if the two girls are left on their own to play with these, then arguments and tantrums usually follow because my 3 year old just doesn’t understand how they work. However, my 4 year old has mastered the art of communicating through the walkie talkies and it is possible for myself and her to have a good conversation, most of the time, if she remembers to wait to speak once the display has changed. The problem is that my daughter seems to think she has to shout through the device, which distorts her voice and I struggle to understand what she is saying! There is no need to shout, and if you speak normally your voice will come out quite clear through the other end, albeit with the usual crackle of a walkie talkie. While you are communicating, a girl will appear on the screen (the face you chose in set up) and she does various things like wave at you, read a book, eat an apple, but once the person on the other end speaks, she will open and close her mouth as if she is speaking to you (I presume this is the lip sync technology advertised on the box).
So once we had established that we could communicate effectively through them, I began to figure out what else they could do. Around the bottom half of the device is a range of buttons, 6 in total which allow you to do a number of things.
One allows you to access your mailbox, which is empty until someone on the other device sends you a message. 4 of the buttons allow you to choose a message or animation to send to the other device; you have a choice of a Card, Emotion, Gift or a Wish. Each type has a variety of things for you to choose from, for instance if you press the Card button you get a choice of about 20 different animated messages such as ‘Best Friends’, ‘Hugs’ etc. So then you choose what you want, press OK to see the animation and press OK again to send. The other walkie talkie will be alerted to an incoming message by a bleep, and the girl on the screen will be holding an envelope. They then press OK to read it and the screen will display the message you sent. It’s all very simple and basic, but my 4 year old loves this aspect of the walkie talkies, and we once spent a whole journey to a relative’s house sending each other messages. Some of the messages or gifts have an added aspect of asking you to blow on the message and an extended version of this message will appear – it’s all very exciting if you are 4 years old.
And finally there is the games button, and on here there are 3 games to play. These are very primitive but also very easy to play for a 4 year old child. They involve matching shapes, odd one out and finding a ball under a cup. Very limited but pretty good to say these are meant to be walkie talkies not games consoles. It’s just an added feature that allows a variation on the enjoyment of the devices.
Well first of all I think the recommended age is wrong, a 3 year old is simply too young for these devices, I would say a child has to be at least 4 and possibly 5 before they can understand how these work. My daughter is almost 5 and I would say she is at the right age to get full enjoyment from them. My 3 year old has no idea how to communicate effectively and also no clue on sending and receiving messages, even with guidance from an adult, or another child.
However, despite the age being wrong (in my opinion) I think these are pretty good. Once my kids get a bit older, they will get loads more enjoyment from the walkie talkies. For now, they are pretty restricted in what they can achieve as a twosome, the only way my 4 year old can gain anything from them is through me or my husband playing with her, but often adults are not as good as other children. I think that once summer time arrives, my youngest will hopefully have mastered using them a bit more and they will be able to play in garden, in the playhouse, in and out of our house and have a whole host of fun, but for now we they are quite limited.
Despite my kids not having a complete understanding of the walkie talkies, I think they are a great product. They are well made, robust and difficult to damage! The range is 1km, which I’ll be honest and say we have not tested yet, but we have had them a fair distance apart and the sound quality is still good. The idea behind them is great, because not only are they just for speech communication, you can also send messages and play games, which can be very entertaining on long car journeys.
I would definitely recommend them, but I would say they are ideal for 5 years and upwards, not 3 year olds who would just find it too frustrating.
Each unit requires 3 x AA batteries, which are not supplied. Available from Tesco, Argos, Amazon, all in the region of £30.