Update - 4/21/03 - I have had lots of Customer Service Problems with this company and have just canceled my subscription. You can read the full details at the end of the review.
Recommend this product?
As a stay at home mom, I am always looking for fun ways to keep the kids and I entertained. If the activity has an educational component to it as well, all the better. About a year ago, I learned about Brighter Visions. At first I thought that this was just another book club, but decided to try them out. We have been Brighter Vision Fanatics ever since.
Brighter Visions has four different programs for ages 1-6.
My First Learning Adventure (for 1 year olds)
The Discovery Program (for 2 year olds)
The Bright Start program (for 3-4 year olds)
The Skill Builder Program (for 5-6 year olds)
Epinions does have categories for all 4 programs. We receive the Discovery program and that is what this epinion will be about.
The program is similar to a book club. You can go to their website at: http://www.brightervision.com/free-offer.html Tell them which set you would like to get and they will send you the first set for free. If you like it, you do nothing and they will just keep sending you sets every month (which you have to pay for). If you dont like it, you just send the invoice back canceling your subscription and you wont get any more from them. You still get to keep the first free set.
The sets cost $13.99 plus $1.99 for shipping/handling. So it costs $15.98 a month. However, for that they claim that you get $20 of materials every month. I am not sure if it would cost quite that much, but you definitely get your moneys worth.
So what does come in a set?
The sets are all about a certain monthly theme. We have gotten one on the seasons, colors, shapes and sizes, the farm, etc
The picture that epinions has up is the complete farm set, so that is the one I will focus on.
Each set comes with a high quality hardcover book. For the farm set, you can see it in the back there. It is called Going to Sleep on the Farm by Wendy Chevette Lewison and is just a wonderful story about how the animals on the farm all go to sleep. We received this book a few months ago and it is still a favorite in our house (as are all the books we have gotten from Brighter Visions). The book is always a very high quality book, which alone is probably worth about $10.
Each set also comes with a workbook with activities that are perfect for a 2 year old. The pages include sticker activities where you have to take the stickers found on pages in the middle of the book and put them on the appropriate spot on the page. It also includes matching games, board games, recognizing patterns, etc. The pages are big and bold and colorful and just perfect for a two year old. The workbook is published under the Brighter Visions label and I have never seen them sold anywhere else. Nor have I really seen any other comparable activity book on the market for this age group. My daughter loves doing the activities that are found in them every month.
Each set also includes a cassette tape of songs/games also all about the monthly theme. Unfortunately my daughter went through a let's destroy all cassettes I can find and most of these were destroyed before we even got to listen to them. But she seems to have outgrown that now (FINALLY!) and I have heard the past few. The tape on seasons included some Raffi songs, and they have been lots of fun to listen to. I play them in the car when we are out doing errands. The best part is that once you get really tired of the cassette and dont ever want to hear it again its OK. A new one comes in the mail.
Each month you also get a hands-on activity. The best part about this is that not only do they tell you how to do the activity, they give you ALL the materials to do it. So, you can see in the farm set, it was a whole bunch of 2-piece puzzle where you had to put the mommy animal together with the baby animal. But there have also been sets where we made a place mat and a windsock, and did some sponge painting. With the sponge painting, for example, they included the sponge shapes, jars of tempura paint, and a piece of white paper to paint on. I literally had to do nothing but take it out of the box. It is little details like that that tell a lot about a company.
There is also a strip or 2 of stickers in each set as well. These are just normal stickers but are on the same theme as well. So, for the farm set they were stickers of different farm animals. With my little sticker bandit these are usually all over the house within a day.
Finally, it comes with a parent newsletter. The newsletter tells what is in the box, explains the theme and what they will be learning about that month. It also gives lots of ideas on how to extend that theme into your everyday lives so that they begin to relate the concepts to the world around them.
All in all, I have found this to be a very high quality product, which gives us a monthly burst of new things to do. Hannah recognizes the box now when it arrives and insists that I open it immediately.
A final note about the company: when I first signed up it seemed that the activities were way out of Hannahs league. And I really couldnt figure out why they thought a 2yo should be able to do some of the stuff they wanted her to do. I was beginning to think Hannah was really behind. On the 3rd shipment I received, it said that the art activity was not for children under 3! I thought to myself, Self, why would they put an activity that she wasnt able to do in a kit designed for 2 year olds? So, I called them. It turned out that they had Hannahs age in the computer wrong and they thought she was 5! So, they were sending her the 5-year-old set. They told me to keep that set for free, and then they sent me a 2-year-old set for free as well. This is the kind of customer service that makes them a company to do business with.
All in all, we have been very happy with our Brighter Visions Discovery Sets and I plan on continuing to receive them as long as we are able.
For more information (and to order your free set) go to www.brightervisions.com
Update 4/21/03 - As you can see from my original review I had nothing but glowing things to say about Brighter Visions and their customer service department. However in recent months things seemed to have changed and I have canceled my subscription.
It started in January. My daughter received her monthly kit and it was a repeat of a month we had already received. I had wanted to call them anyway, since my daughter had turned 3 the month before and I wanted to change her to the 3yo program.
I called and explained the problem, and they promised to send me a Return Authorization number and shipping label. They also said that they would send her the first month of the 3yo program for free. Sounds good, right? Problem is neither one ever happened.
The next month another kit arrived. My husband had also paid for the January kit not realizing I didn't want him to (the sticky note I put on it fell off). I tried calling them a few times but the line was always busy. I sent them an e-mail and got no response. In March another kit arrived, again for the younger child. My daughter wasn't complaining, but I was still trying to get through their phone lines with no one ever answering. I swear they turned their phone lines off, as I had never had a problem getting through before.
Last week the April kit arrived, and again it was a repeat of a set we had already received. I tried calling them again but never got through. Finally I sent them an e-mail (again!) as high priority with the subject line in all caps to cancel my account.
This finally got through to them and 4 days later (although in due fairness it was over a holiday weekend) they finally got back to me and said that they would in fact cancel my account and that the charge for the last month was credited. The fact that they still owe me for January's repeat set as well, seems to have slipped their mind - although I did mention it in my last e-mail - but I am not going to fight them over $15.
Let's just hope that they have really cancelled it, because I am not paying them anymore money!
Although the materials were great and my daughter really enjoyed them, I feel like these are fairly major problems. I have dropped my rating from 5 to 3 stars, and regrettably I do not feel like I can continue to recommend them.
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Amount Paid (US$): 15.98
Type of Toy: Educational
Age Range of Child: 12 to 36 Months