I may have mentioned it before, but I do love Smyths. It’s great to be able to buy all my Christmas presents for the children in our family in one place, and it also helps that I can browse the catalogue weeks beforehand to help me decide what I want to buy.
Smyths stocks a great selection of toys from well-known brands, but they also have some great ranges of their own, such as the Big Steps range. The toys in this range are for indoor play and are aimed at encouraging creativity, boosting motor skills and helping children to take a Big Step (get it?) into a world of discovery.
I was recently asked if I would like to review a toy from the Big Steps’ new pre-school line. On the condition that it would have nothing whatsoever to do with My Little Pony or unicorns (because we have more than enough of those all over the house, thank you very much), I happily agreed.
We were sent the Big Steps Write ‘n’ Learn Drawing Board to try out. At first sight, this toy reminded me of Magnadoodle, which I used to love as a child. Just as with Magnadoodle, you use a stylus to draw on the magnetic board, and once you’re finished, you pull along the tab at the bottom to erase your picture.
But the Write ‘n’ Learn Drawing Board is so much more than just a magnetic drawing board. It comes with 6 interactive play modes which help little ones to recognise letters and numbers, while also encouraging them to practice their writing, drawing and music skills in a fun way.
The LCD screen at the top displays animations to complement the spoken instructions and questions, and the letter and number buttons underneath can be used to practice recognition of letters and numbers, or to play musical notes, depending on the play mode.
The six play modes
Little B has had a great time trying out each of the play modes on the Write ‘n’ Learn Drawing Board. The six play modes are: ABC 123, abc 123, drawing mode, spelling mode, quiz time mode and music mode.
ABC 123 and abc 123
In these play modes, the child is asked to press either a letter or a number button. The voice will tell them which letter or number they have pressed. The LCD screen then shows them how to write the letter so that they can practice it on the drawing board. This feature is great for preschoolers who are just starting to learn their letters and numbers. It gives them a new way to practice, and if they get it wrong the first time, they can simply pull the tab to erase everything and start again.
Little B really enjoyed the drawing mode. As before, this mode asks the child to press a letter or number, and the voice tells them what that letter or number is. If it’s a letter, it then names an item beginning with that letter. The LCD screen displays a picture of the item and demonstrates how to draw it, step by step. If it’s a number, the screen will display the number as a picture. This drawing mode is therefore not only a fun way to practice drawing, but also another great way to introduce preschoolers to spelling and to practice their recognition of letters and numbers.
This mode asks the child to press a letter or number again, and this time, a voice spells out a word that begins with that letter (or spells out the number). The LCD screen shows the spelling and a picture relating to that word, or in the case of a number, it shows the number in its written and numerical form. Little B was probably least interested in this mode, probably because she’s not quite at this stage yet. That said, it won’t be long before she’ll be needing to practice her spelling, so I’m sure it will come in handy in the next few months!
Quiz time mode
Again, some of the questions in this mode were a bit too advanced for Little B. She could find letters on the board when asked, but as she’s not yet at an age where she can read and write, she wasn’t able to find the missing letters in words, and certainly wasn’t able to spell words. Again however, this is something she will have to learn in the near future, so it’s good to know we have the Big Steps Write ‘n’ Learn Drawing Board to practice this when the time comes!
This was certainly Little B’s favourite. In music mode, the letters and numbers turn into musical notes. The letters, when pressed in alphabetical order, play the tune of the ABC song, which I thought was a brilliant way to get little ones thinking about what they are singing, and to help them to recognise the letters of the alphabet in a fun and easy way.
Overall, we really liked the Big Steps Write ‘n’ Learn Drawing Board. While the spelling mode and some aspects of the quiz mode are a bit too advanced for Little B at the moment, I know she’ll grow into them very soon.
At only £14.99, I’d definitely recommend the Big Steps Write ‘n’ Learn Drawing Board as a fun way of encouraging preschoolers to practice their letter and number recognition, and to help them as they begin to learn how to write and spell. You can buy the Big Steps Write ‘n’ Learn Drawing Board on the Smyths Toys website here or you can have a look at all the other lovely toys in the Big Steps range here.
We were sent a Big Steps Write ‘n’ Learn Drawing Board in return for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.