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I have to admit, when Jacob was given the Vtech Fly and Learn Globe a year last Christmas, I was unsure as to how interested he would be in it. After all he was only 2 and a half and could not possibly have had any concept of the world. However, 15 months on, this is one of the toys that is brought out time and time again.
The globe itself is very eye catching. The sea areas are bright blue and each continent is a different colour. The land areas are raised away from the sea and points of interest such as the Alps or the animals which are dotted around, are raised again. This makes the toy very appealing for young children to touch. The buttons at the base of the globe are chunky and bright as is the joystick that the children use to guide a plane around the world.
It is quite a loud toy and there is no volume control but the voice is English. There is also some quite annoying music that is played until the child starts moving the joystick. And if you have that kind of child that loves to turn loud toys on and then leave them, then beware of this one. It does shut itself down eventually but takes about 2 minutes to do so by which time the music has probably driven you to distraction.
Turning the toy on starts the globe rotating and the child is invited to fly the plane. This is done by moving the joystick in which ever way the child wants to get to a destination. There is a see through plastic viewfinder attached to the front of the plane. Once the child can see something in the viewfinder they can click on the red button on the joystick to find out more about it. So, for example, the child finds the Kangaroo and they will be told that the Kangaroo lives in Australia.
There are several animals on each continent as well as a Killer Whale, Blue Whale and Giant Squid to find in the oceans or deserts, mountain ranges and rivers to learn more about. Everything that is labelled can be clicked on and each makes a sound. This might be the noise of the animal or a splash of the river, for example.
There are three modes of play, each focusing on something different. The first is the free mode, which is the one explained above where the child can fly to anything to find out more about it. This is the default mode when the toy is switched on and can be returned to at any time by pressing the Bright Flight button on the base of the globe.
Mode 2 is called Tricky Travels. In this mode the child is told where to fly the plane. This might be specific (Let’s fly to the Great Barrier Reef) or be more general (Let’s fly to a southern continent). Once the correct place has been found in the viewfinder a tinging sound is made to tell the child they are right. They are also told a fact about the place they have found as in Bright Flight. If they don’t get the right place then they are told to “Keep Flying” and have another go. They get three chances before it asks them to find somewhere else.
And Mode 3, Creature Feature, focuses on the animals. Again, following on from the format of the previous modes the child is asked to find a specific animal or an animal of their choice. This was the game that Jacob found easiest to master as there is no need for any specific knowledge or reading skills. The child just needs to be able to recognise and find animals. Having said that, there are two types of snake – the Cobra and the Boa Constrictor – so just telling the child to find a snake when they are asked to find the Cobra may not help. Of course, you can develop early reading skills by asking them to find a snake that begins with “C”.
Jacob has absolutely loved this toy and after having it for over a year, still finds plenty on it to occupy his time, and there can’t be many toys that do that for young children after more than 12 months. He enjoys the engine sound of the plane as it revs up to fly around the world and has started repeating the facts he has learnt from the globe back to us. He knows kangaroos live in Australia and he’s also worked out that Australia is a long way from the UK. He’s heard of Mount Everest and knows that there is a continent called Asia. He also still laughs at being called “Captain” when turning the toy on and off. Turning it on greets you with the phrase “Let’s explore our world, captain” and when it’s turned off you hear “Bye bye, captain.”
The recommended age for the toy is 3+ and this is something I would definitely agree with. The joystick, although chunky, takes a little bit of practice to master. A slight push too hard and you will go flying past the place you wanted to learn about and it wasn’t until Jacob had this sorted that he actually started to enjoy playing with the toy.
The globe retails at around £25 although I know Tesco are currently selling them for a bargain price of £16. It comes complete with 4 AA batteries which I haven’t replaced even once yet and for a toy that has had a lot of use over the best part of a year, I think this is pretty good.
Overall, recommended as an early introduction to the world, it’s animals and some of it’s geographical features.