Pros: Excellent first block set
I purchased the Alpha Block Sorter with the Parents (as in Parents magazine) logo at Target for my now eight month old daughter a few months ago. I was attracted to the simplicity of soft cloth blocks that would offer stimulation with brightly colored pictures as well as the number and letter concepts depicted on each side the 8 cubes.
The Activity Gym Collects Dust in the Corner
Before my daughter was born, I purchased an activity gym complete with annoying electronic music and spinning plastic pieces. It's a pain to get out and sit her in front of for maybe 10 minutes of play. I'm hoping we'll still get use out of it in the future because it does transform into an easel, but for now it collects dust in the corner of her room.
It didn't take me long to figure out that simpler toys that require your child to do more are best. I'm big on avoiding empty calories in playtime though, and I like toys that will provide stimulation at various stages of my daughter's development. Even if my daughter refused to take one more look at these blocks, I feel I got my money's worth. The smaller pieces that fit inside several of the blocks would have been worth the price alone. They occupy her far more at this age than any of her Lamaze toys do and they're the perfect size for her to keep on the trays of her high chair or standing activity center without falling off.
Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself now. Let me tell you about the product itself.
What You Get
This is a set of 8 soft cloth blocks that come packaged in one of those zippered plastic bags that pillows and blankets come in. I know more than a few women who would be tempted to buy this for the plastic bag alone. I don't use the bag to stow the blocks though, because they're always out and in use!
Nearly every panel on each cube features a brightly colored picture that either corresponds to numerical or alphabetical concepts. Pictures include a cat with the letter "C" on it, eight red hearts with the number 8, a penguin with the letter "P", and so on and so forth.
Housed in a few of the blocks are hard shaped objects that can be used as teethers or rattles. One clear triangular piece is a favorite, with multi-colored beads inside that my daughter loves to shake. Another has a simple blue key. At first, I was nervous about the beads and the key coming out of the plastic, but after many hours of shaking and slamming them around, I'm no longer concerned. The pieces don't show any wear at all and the plastic hasn't cracked or become cloudy with rinsing in hot bleach water from time to time. The teethers are made of a softer rubberized plastic that is texturized with various shapes.
The set is extremely easy to clean. My daughter is in day care 3 days a week, and has already suffered through numerous colds. I'm trying to keep her toys as clean as possible but it isn't as easy as it seems, either because of time or because of the makeup of her toys. I can throw the blocks into the wash now and again and they don't lose their shape. The hard objects can be thrown into a bucket with cleanser and then rinsed clean.
I like to stack these blocks for my daughter while she's sitting and say the names of whatever the picture is. Then she knocks them down or examines the picture. I've tried saying, "where is the kitty cat?" or "where is the snake?" but she hasn't quite understood that game yet. I'm working on it. If you're playing a recognition game with 8 cubes, it's too much for the littlest ones so I recommend sticking with just a few of them until your baby begins to learn what the pictures are. We don't work with the numerical ones yet, but I count as I stack. I'm trying to count in general around her, particularly to three or four, since I can do that with the scoops of her formula as well as the blocks stacked up to the point where she usually knocks the stack over.
I look forward to making the most of these blocks as my daughter begins to learn concepts. I also try to connect the pictures to things around her, like the picture of the penguin with her stuffed penguin which is usually laying around nearby. But I tend to overthink things a bit and am just anxious to do things with my baby that help her to learn and grow. Even if you prefer to let your child play independently at all times, these blocks will be stimulating.
These blocks have provided one of the very few activities I can do with my baby. Really, knocking them down is probably her favorite part of the experience and maybe looking at the kitty cat but I feel there's great potential to grow into the toy. I would highly recommend this set to any mother of a baby four months of age or older. The set is safe, durable, educational and stimulating.
Five out of five stars.