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Thursday, June 27, 2019

Leapfrog Violet Peek-A-Boo Lap Pup

I kept a handful of bub's plastic baby toys and one of baby girl's favourite's was her sister's old toy laptop, but it doesn't do anything so she gets bored of it quickly. I'd been thinking of getting her an interactive laptop style toy for a while, so it was perfect timing when the opportunity arose to test run the new Leapfrog Lap Pup. The Lap Pup comes in either Scout or Violet versions and is Leapfrog's latest toy laptop featuring over 50 different learning activities and songs. We chose Violet because despite having quite a few Lap Frog toys, we didn't have any Violet versions.


The main reason I wanted to try out the Lap Pup originally is the interactive coloured crayons. Baby girl has started showing a natural interest in colours lately... pointing out {aka guessing} the colour of cars that drive past or toys we're playing with. I've been reinforcing colours with her every time she asks or points one out, so I thought it'd be good to have a toy that also does this for her when she's playing independently. When she presses a crayon Violet says the colour then tells her items that are that colour. There's also games where Violet asks her to touch a specific coloured crayon.

As well as colours, Violet teaches shapes and numbers via the circle, square and triangle buttons. The shape buttons play different rhymes about shapes, colours and numbers. Violets name badge button also lets kids play a game of peek a boo with Violet where she moves her paws over her face and says different peek a boo phrases. This is probably the most worn out button because baby girl loves playing peek-a-boo {what toddler doesn't}.


Peek-A-Boo Violet loves to sing and without a doubt baby girl's favourite song is the alphabet song {she generally skips past all the others to replay it over and over}. She's like a little sponge, I mean all children are, but she really seems to be able to soak in everything around her and retain all this new knowledge, certainly much quicker than her sister did. Over the last few weeks she's taught herself how to sing the alphabet from mimicking Violet. Obviously she doesn't understand what the actual letters are, but she started out mumbling along to the song and now a few weeks later will randomly break into singing the alphabet, unprompted, while playing. She pronounces the letters quite clearly now too.

The Lap Pup is one of baby girl's favourite toys at the moment and she takes it everywhere. The handle makes it easy for her to carry around the house and it's compact enough to easily pack away in our toy basket {or be taken in the car for school drop off and pick up, or taken to grandma's house, or taken to the shops... she basically goes everywhere}. If you have a little one who's interested in learning their ABCs or colours, it's definitely a great investment. 

Peek-A-Boo LapPup Scout and Violet are suitable for infants from 6 months and available from June at Mr Toys Toyworld and other toy stores and online retailers. Find out more about the Lap Pup here.

Toni x

Disclosure - We were kindly gifted a Violet Lap Pup from Leapfrog for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are based on our experience playing with Violet. I did not receive payment for this review, however this post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase.
Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Make learning fun with educational games.

I've long been an advocate for learning through play. I believe kids naturally stay focused for longer, and subsequently learn more, when they're having fun... and what's more fun than playing?

I've fostered my kids passion for play and learning in many different ways over the years and their stand out favourites have always been sensory play and small world play. However, since my big girl started school she's been exposed to more structured ways of learning and she's getting more capable of doing structured play activities like board games. Board games provide an easy, structured, yet fun and engaging way for kids to play... with a lot of incidental learning thrown in. They're a gentle way to introduce them to playing with instructions in order to reach a desired outcome, however they also have an element of chance, so each time they're played the game will be slightly different.

I have fond memories of sitting around the dining room table playing games of rummy and scrabble with my family on school holidays and I'd love to create similar memories for my girls as they get older. I've started investing in board games and we have regular games afternoons to wind down after school. Obviously at 5yrs old we're not up to any complex games yet, so I've been researching and collecting some simple, educational board games for preschoolers {we'll move onto scrabble in a few years}.

Learning made fun with Orchard Toys

When I think of iconic educational games I automatically think of Orchard Toys. I first discovered the brand a few years ago, thanks to some teacher friends, and I've literally been counting down waiting for my 5yr old to be old enough to play some of the games. We would have a huge collection of Orchard Toys games already if it wasn't for her dad constantly reminding me she won't be old enough to play that for years, you don't need it yet. Well finally, after years of waiting, she's old enough for most of the games... and so our collection begins!

For those not familiar with the brand, Orchard Toys are a UK manufacturer of educational games and puzzles. Based in Norfolk, they've been around for 40 years, and now ship to over 50 different countries. They're recognised worldwide thanks to distinctive, colourful cartoon illustrations and known for high quality educational products.

Learning made fun is Orchard Toys motto and at the heart of product development. The company work in conjunction with teachers, educational professionals and children to ensure their games and jigsaws provide the perfect balance between educational benefits and play value {aka fun!}. Their product range covers a diverse number of interests including animals, fairies, pirates, dinosaurs and vehicles {amongst others} and various scenarios such as shopping, cooking, travelling, parties and solving mysteries. Each game or puzzle focuses on a certain developmental skill such as language, literacy, numbers, colours, shapes, cognitive skills, interpersonal skills, fine motor skills and imaginary play; with many products covering multiple skills. Below are a few of our favourite Orchard Toys games, how to play them and how they help build different skills through play.

Shopping List Game + Shopping List Extras

The Shopping List game is probably the most well known and popular Orchard Toys game available and has been on our wish list for some time now.  Shopping List is a fun, engaging and age appropriate memory game where children have to find {and remember} where the groceries from their shopping list are in order to fill their shopping trolley or basket. The game comes with 4 different shopping lists, 2 shopping trolleys, 2 shopping baskets and 32 super cute individual grocery tiles. It's recommended for 3-7 year old children {and adults who are big kids at heart} and can be played by 2-4 players at a time.

How to Play:

Each player chooses a shopping list and either a shopping trolley or basket to collect their items into. The grocery tiles are placed upside down and each player takes turns turning over a tile until they've collected all items on their list. If a player picks an item that isn't on their list they turn it back over and play moves onto the next player. The first player to collect all items on their list is the winner.

How to extend play:

Games sometimes seem a little one dimensional as they have a particular way of playing and a specific outcome, however Shopping List can still be tweaked in a number of ways to change it up. If playing with less than 4 players, the game can be made easier by only using the tiles from the lists being used; or harder by using all tiles {making the game last longer}. Other ways to change the Shopping list game include:

> Adding the clothing extras pack or fruit and veg extras pack to allow up to 8 players by adding different lists and groceries to the game.
> Categorising food in different ways - e.g. by types {dairy, fruit, veg, packaged} or by colour.
> Matching the tiles with play food/empty packaging at home.
> Taking one of the shopping lists grocery shopping and getting the kids to find the items while in the store.

Learning Opportunities:

- Cognitive skills {memory & matching}
- Strategic thinking & problem solving
- Improves concentration & observational skills
- Hypothesising {where will the correct card be}
- Categorising groceries
- Pincer grip practice {picking up the tiles}
- Language development
- Reading comprehension
- Interpersonal skills {turn taking}
- Counting

What we think

The quality of the Shopping List game and extras packs are really good, all of the play pieces are on thick cardboard making them quite durable {even when rough little toddler hands get to them}. The cartoon style images are really cute and I love how the shopping lists are depicted on different pieces of paper, and even a smartphone version, making them familiar and realistic for kids. 

As Orchard Toys are UK based, some of the names of the items are different to what we use here in Australia, e.g. aubergines for eggplants, which has been a great way to expand on my 5yr old's language base and has opened up discussions about how foods and items can have different names in different parts of the world. I've noticed her concentration levels have increased as she tries hard to remember where her items are after I've flipped them over and put them back down. She loves playing the shopping list game and so do I, her favourite part is the little grocery tiles and how you get to collect all different items {the monster toy is the best apparently}.

Pop to the shops {International Edition}

Pop to the shops is a traditional board game where children get to travel to different shops to purchase different items. The game includes a jigsaw game base with 4 different shops, 4 characters, 48 different grocery items and play money. Throughout the game children get to take on the roles of both customer and shopkeeper both buying and selling items. There's also a designated banker in charge of the remaining coins. Pop to the shops is a great way to introduce children to money value {using 10c, 20c and 50c piece coins} and simple calculations as they work out how many coins are needed to purchase an item and how much change must be given to each customer.

How to Play:

Each player picks a character which determines their shop colour. Grocery tiles are placed upside down and each player chooses a tile, then rolls the dice to travel to the correct shop and purchase that item, ensuring they have enough money to do so. Once they've purchased an item they pick another grocery tile as their next item. The player that fills their shopping bag first is the winner.

Learning opportunities:

- Counting
- Money values
- Addition & Subtraction
- Language development
- Interpersonal skills {turn taking}
- Pincer grip practice {picking up the tiles}
- Imaginary play

What we think

Pop to the shops reminds me of a really simplified kids version of Monopoly. While playing the game you travel around the board {albeit in different directions, not clockwise} and collect money for passing a certain point from the bank. Instead of buying and selling property you buy items from different shops.

My favourite element of the game is the play money as it's been a great way to introduce my 5yr old to simple monetary value, without overwhelming her. The game only uses 10c, 20c and 50c cardboard coins and each items purchase value can be made with different derivatives of those coins, making the money calculations quite simple. My daughter is almost 6 and can count to 100, however she's not sure how to count in units of 10 or 20, so it's been a bit challenging for her and she's needed help to work out how many coins to use. I fully anticipated this though as while she knows what money is, until now she's had no understanding of it's monetary value. Despite needing help with the coins, she still really enjoys the game and asks to play it often.

We got our Orchard Toys games from Toy Universe an online only Australian kids toy store. Founded in 2011, Toy Universe was born out of a passion to provide high play value toys for newborns through to teenagers, at super affordable prices. Toy Universe is 100% Australian owned and source worldwide toys for Australian and New Zealand children from their regional warehouse in Sydney. They stock a wide variety of toys including games and jigsaws, dress ups, electronic games, action figures, animal figurines, outdoor toys and many other educational toys.

Toni x

Disclosure - We were kindly gifted the Orchard Toys games shown in this post from Toy Universe for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are based on our experience playing the games. I did not receive monetary compensation for this post.

*This post contains some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase.