Name: Clare from Mudpie Fridays
Age of child: 5 years
Product Testing: Alpha Catch™ Phonics Game
Clare is married with two boys, Monkey aged 5 and Kipper who is 15 months. Mudpie Fridays is a parenting and lifestyle blog that documents her parenthood balancing act between motherhood and corporate career girl. Clare shares crafting and learning activities, ideas for days out as well as product and toy reviews. Clare’s aim for Mudpie Fridays is to be a one stop shop for inspiration for all parents.
What were your first thoughts when the toy arrived?
On opening the box we really liked the different colours of the balls, they are very visually appealing. Monkey was already talking about starting with his favourite colour – blue. Getting them out of the box he started to stick the balls together with the Velcro, sounding out the letters as he went. The balls are well stuffed with the letters clearly marked. I like how there are capitals as well as lower case letters. This is something we have found missing with other phonic toys on the market.
How did you use it?
Monkey is 5 and has just completed the end of his reception year, so knows the phonic sounds well. I wish we had discovered this when he first started school as it would have been perfect for him. He loves anything physical and so learning through play works really well for him.
We predominately played two games one where we take it in turns to throw and catch and the person catching has to think of a word beginning with that letter. I was surprised by just how many he knew asking in particular for the harder letters of the alphabet. We also played a version where the person catching had to think of words ending in that letter which was much harder for him (and me…. I couldn’t think of one ending with a v sound.) He preferred the first version but it does mean as he gets bigger we will be able to continue to use it. I will also be putting a limit on the number of letters in the words to help encourage his vocabulary.
I also played a version of the first game with him where we looked at his ‘word house words’. These are the sight words he learnt in his first year at school. This enabled him to refresh his memory of them in a fun way and started helping him to learn to spell them, which is what he will be doing in year one.
What are the educational benefits?
There are lots! Other than the obvious ones of learning phonics as well as lower and upper case letters, there are also the gross motor skills, practicing taking turns, communication and game playing. It helps with vocabulary skills as well as many of the games involve choosing words. This game also encourages imagination through making up your own games too.
What did you like/dislike about the toy?
I really liked the fact that Monkey didn’t realise he was learning while he was playing, or if he did it didn’t bother him. It’s been hard work to encourage him to continue with his reading, letters and numbers over the summer holidays so anything which enables this scored highly in my book. It’s extremely interactive and physical which helps. I also really like that essentially the games are only limited by your little ones imagination. Monkey enjoyed making up his own games with it as well as following those in the activity guide. Alpha Catch is well made; the fabric for the mitts is thick and finished nicely. There is lots of velcro on the balls which makes them easier to catch for the younger players.
The only thing that I found disappointing is that the mitts are too small for my hands, and I have reasonably small hands, which means it is more difficult for me to play with him. I would suggest having two of the current size and then two a bit bigger as many parents would play this sort of game with their child especially on the lower age range.
What is the long term appeal?
As I mentioned earlier its only limit is really the child’s imagination as they can make up games to go with the letter balls. Some of the games in the activity guide, especially around vowels, are too advanced for Monkey at the moment. I think you could probably use this toy all the way through the EYFS, KS1 and KS2 with the same great benefits. Monkey loves it and has asked to play it with his friends when they visit. I also think that once he’s back at school we will be able to use it to supplement his homework.
Is it unique?
I’ve definitely not seen anything like this on the market elsewhere. It’s the perfect combination of physical exertion and phonics/letter skills. I would like to see a math/number version too please
Would you recommend it to a friend?
Yes I would and will be buying some for presents at Christmas time
The final score:
Fun Factor: 5/5
Educational Benefits: 5/5
Ease of use: 5/5