If your child is bugging you for a laptop just like Mummy's, then here's a toy option that just might satisfy their craving. And if you're a work at home parent, with a child who likes to be just like you, this could fit the bill and keep them busy whilst you work.
The look of the VTech Advance Xtra really cannot be faulted – in stylish silver and blue, it looks just like a real laptop, with its own mouse and mouse pad included. There are some extra cartridges (Story Time and Sing Along), which are loaded into the side just like a proper grown up USB memory stick.
Batteries are also included, so it can be played with straight away.
The major disappointment with this toy is the screen – as you can see from the picture, it's much smaller than the available area. The graphics are fairly simplistic and pictures are in black and white only. Older children who are used to the sophisticated visuals of computer games may not be impressed, but younger children won't mind so much.
However, whilst the screen quality disappoints, this toy still manages to pack in an impressive 80 activities. It covers Key Stage 1 English, basic French, maths, science and logic skills. Arcade-style adventure games include memory challenges, strategy games and creative applications. There's a two player mode and three difficulty levels.
The Advanced Memory System guides children through the activities and automatically adjusts to their learning level. The Progress Report assesses how well your child is doing and encourages them along. All in all, it offers a lot for the RRP of £39.99.
I found the voice (even when it was a nice Scottish burr) and music element to be quite loud, though that didn't bother any of the children who played with it. There is a volume control for quieter play, but it didn't go silent enough for me. But sometimes the sign of a good toy is that children like it more than adults, since they're the ones it's aimed at. I showed this toy to a number of children who enjoyed the games and seemed to end up learning quite a lot in the process.
If your child needs encouraging with their school work, this could be the ideal way to do it. I think this toy is best suited to children aged 4 to 6 – those who've started school and need a bit of encouragement, right through to the ones who can't get enough of learning. And of course, for the advanced scholars who just can't wait to get their own computer.
The Vtech Advance Xtra is widely available in toyshops and online from retailers such as Amazon.