The VTech Whiz Kid Learning System is an interactive gadget designed for kids ages three to six. It is a bit like an electronic tablet offering activity pages in two modes. You can use it by itself and interact with it using a stylus, or you can plug the Whiz Kid Learning System into a PC and interact using either the mouse or the stylus.
Out of the Box
The VTech Whiz Kid 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, Logical 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 Learning System is simple to use. Lift up the frame, insert a page and turn the system on. It 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 from a range of activities, including singing a song and counting objects.
Kid testers found the Whiz Kid Learning System easy to figure out and the pages to be interesting and engaging. Most of the things they touch with the stylus respond with some type of feedback.
Although they seemed to enjoy many of the interactive tasks, there were a few problem areas. Some of the 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 instructs the user to find the character with the black hair, but there is more than one character with black hair. Selecting one of these other characters with black hair resulted in a wrong choice, and at least one kid tester found this frustrating.
Whiz Kid Learning System's 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 have a seemingly never-ending background music.
Also useful, the stylus can be unplugged and stored in a hidden drawer in the system. Great for travel! There’s even a pocket in the back for storing the activity sheets.
VTech didn’t stop there. The Whiz Kid website offers great features. For example, lost or damaged activity pages can be printed from 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.
Connecting to a PC
The VTech Whiz Kid Learning System can plug into a computer using a USB connection. When connected, 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 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.
The Bottom Line
The Whiz Kid 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. 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. Also, 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.
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.