Out of the Box
The Learning System comes with a “Wondertown” cartridge and 20 double-sided, plastic coated activity pages. The activities promote learning in the three primary areas of Language Development, Logic Thinking and Cognitive Development. Each page takes place in a different part of Wondertown from the beach to the playground to the supermarket. Most of the pages have activities that will appeal to kids throughout the appropriate age range. Parents should keep in mind that older children may be bored by some of the activities, such as tracing letters and simple spelling.
Ease of Use
The Whiz Kid PC Learning System is simple to use. Lift up the frame, insert a page and turn the system on. The System recognizes each page and responds with appropriate prompts to get kids exploring. Children can use the stylus to explore the page or choose one of the interactive options. On a basic level, kids can usually point at an item on the page and get a response from the system. As they spend more time with it, they can choose a variety of activities that range from singing a song to counting objects.
Kid testers found the Whiz Kid easy to figure out. Most of the things they touch with the stylus respond with some type of feedback and they found the pages to be interesting and engaging. Although they seemed to enjoy many of the interactive tasks, there were a few problem areas. Some of the System prompts were hard for the kids to hear and some of them seemed a bit misleading. For example, one of the activities is designed for kids to use the process of elimination to find a particular character on the page. The game says to find the character with the black hair, but there is more than one character with black hair. The feedback from the game is that the child has made a wrong choice, which at least one kid tester found frustrating.
Whiz Kid PC Learning System A+ Features
As a parent, I have to give kudos to VTech for some clever design features. The System has volume control as well as a headphone jack. Both are a must as the Wondertown game pages seem to have never-ending background music. The stylus can be unplugged and stored in a hidden drawer in the System. Great for travel! There’s even a storage pocket in the back for the activity sheets when they aren’t being used.
VTech didn’t stop there. You can print lost/damaged activity pages from the Whiz Kid website. You can also download additional activities from the site. The company offers replacement parts, as well, so you don’t have to worry about losing the stylus.
Things to Consider
The Whiz Kid PC Learning System can plug into a computer using a USB connection. The current activity page is displayed on the monitor and the characters and objects are animated. Although the kids will no doubt enjoy this, I found it a bit confusing. The sound from the Learning System conflicted with the sound from the PC, and I was torn between using the stylus and the mouse. Since there are plenty of software packages available for the computer, I wouldn’t even tell the kids about the PC connection. If they’re occupied with the Learning System, someone else can use the computer! Besides, the portability of the PC Learning System makes it ideal entertainment for car trips, vacations, doctor’s office waiting rooms, etc. One more reason to celebrate the volume control and headphone jack…
There are a few things I would change. The System has voice prompts when there is no page in the frame or after a period of inactivity. The prompts continue until a page is placed in the frame, or the child presses something with the stylus. It’s incredibly annoying and does nothing to encourage a child to progress with the game. One or two prompts would suffice. The background music is too loud compared to the voice prompts and game sounds. I’d like to see it turn off for some of the activities and turned down for others.
The Bottom Line
The Whiz Kid PC Learning System is a solid electronic toy with a nice balance between fun and education. The design elements get top marks. The included activity cards have a nice variety of tasks, although some of the cards are more engaging than others. There are a few minor drawbacks, but they don’t take away from the quality of the System overall. For parents who are looking for an educational toy, this is a good choice. I recommend it for the lower end of the age range so they’ll be able to enjoy it for a few years.
Additional activity packs include kid favorites: Dora the Explorer, Spiderman, Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder and Scooby Doo.