I received this drum for my oldest son's first birthday. His grandmother bought it for him because his daddy is a drummer and she thought our son should have his own drum. I loved the idea, and was excited to take it out of it's packaging and watch my son bang away in excitement! He was excited right away, but he quickly lost interest, and for good reason...
Recommend this product?
BaDumDumDumm: The Basics
the Learn & Groove Alphabet Drum by LeapFrog is an bilingual (English and Spanish) interactive hand drum. The Look: The drum is a colourful hour-glass shape with sections of blue, green orange and red. The playable area of the drum is white, featuring an 8 by 5 grid (you can't see it) of red dots, which light up in various patterns when the product is in use. When the product is not in use, it will eventually stop making noise.
The Features:There are three basic features with this drum. Alphabet Learning is probably the best of the three features. Every time your child taps the drum, the next letter appears and the letter is spoken out loud in various children's voices. If a letter is not hit for an extended period of time, the music continues and your child is told, "let's play". The lights are slow moving in the phase. Song Mode features a "we sing and we dance when we play the drums" song. The lights feature fast moving, engaging pictures: a stick figure dancing, drums being hit, etc. When the song is over, the drums will quit until your child hits them again. Music Mode features a song without lyrics, where your child is encouraged to play along if the drum is left inactive. There seems to be more variety in shapes shown on the grid in this mode.
Alright, so we know what we bought now, how does it work? It's quite simple. There are only two things to talk about: the Playable Surface and the interaction in each mode. Let's talk about the little quirks as well, just for fun.
The playable surface is about 5 inches in diameter, sounds great, huh? Two major problems: the surface that actually activates the interaction is more like 1 inch square in the middle. My child hits it 1 out of 4 times. The other major problem? You have to really bang it hard for it to respond. I tried it out and it took me increasing my strength four times before it responded, I was hitting it pretty good by that time. Definitely not for those babies who have a softer touch.
BaBaDum Want interaction?
Alphabet mode is for you! You can definitely hear the letter called out each time your child hits the drum in this mode. The children speaking have strong, clear voices both in English and Spanish. Each letter shows up for three seconds (unless the drum is hit to go on to the next) and is very readable. The music does NOT stop when the letters are being called out, however, so there is some interference from hearing them perfectly.
Song and Music mode is not for you. It is very hard to encourage interaction when all you get is action. These two setting are so close, there is no point to distinguish between the two (and I almost wonder why they bothered). The singing and the music are too loud compared to the noise made by banging the drum. When my child actually manages to hit the small middle square, I can barely tell he has done it, and he has never reacted to hitting the center verses hitting the non-responsive area. I admit, it is entertaining to watch the red dot movement which is always active and eye catching (at least until it just becomes as annoying as the song).
Those little knit-picky quirks
Well, for starters we have some major sensitivity problems to work out. When you leave the drum on and it shuts off, it will respond to the smallest air movement. It has actually activated on me when I shut my son's door (not hitting the toy at all). Now, how can a toy that is so UNSENSITIVE to touch be so sensitive to motion?
Second: Why, oh why, is there no play-alone feature? It's a drum, and my son cannot get the satisfaction of hearing him self make up an electrical rhythm. If he ever does hear what he creates, it just sounds like it's interrupting the precreated rhythm of the song and music. They could have easily combined the song and music features into one (they aren't very different) and made the third feature a do-it-yourself mode.
DumDumBaDum That's about it!
-This drum is hard to use for a toddler - you have to bang hard and in the right place.
-It is loud - which can be an initial attraction, but leads to disinterest when the child cannot interact well.
-Minimal interaction - Only with the alphabet mode will your child realize he is doing anything to affect the drum.
Great Alphabet Learning - if you don't have an electronic toy to teach your child the alphabet, and feel the need for one, this one will do the trick, though there are no other learning perks, like phonics added.
Looks Attractive - This is in the music bin at my house. Every month when it comes out, my sons try to play with it for about 5 minutes.
Oh, for those interested, the OLDER version of this drum did have a play-alone feature. I am not sure when they changed this setting, but my review and opinion on this product would be completely turned around if you can procure the older version instead of the newer.
Amount Paid (US$): 19.99
Type of Toy: Baby Toy
Age Range of Child: 12 to 36 Months