Pros: Teaches multiple languages, improves fine motor skills
Cons: C Batteries!
A long time ago- before I had my daughter- I babysat for a little girl who had several Neurosmith products, including a Little Linguist. I was fascinated with the toy. That family moved away, and a couple of years later, I decided to try to find one. Not only was the product discontinued, but it was going for a fortune on Ebay!
Eventually, I broke down and bought one from Ebay. In an ironic twist, we stopped one at the local Childrens Orchard resale shop a couple of months later. It was missing several of the pieces, but it was also less than $10- much less than we paid on Ebay! (Of course we picked that one up too!)
This toy is medium sized. It consists of a big plastic unit with a raised dome surface. There is a small circular indentation on the top of the dome- an oculus, if you will. There are two big buttons on the side of the unit: one red button and one blue button.
There are also fifteen plastic figurines: a cat, a dog, a bird, a monkey, a lion, an elephant, a cow, a horse, a pig, a tree, a car, a train, a plane, a boat, a house.
The way that you play with this toy is that you place a figurine onto the indentation on the top of the dome. There are sensors on the bottom of the figurines and on the indentation. The machine will announce the name of the figurine. You can push the red button to hear the name of the item again or you can push the blue button to hear the sound that the item makes. This is fairly straightforward- the cat meows and the car beeps, but the tree sounds like wind.
My daughter is fourteen months old and this is one of her favorite toys. She loves to place the figurines onto the machine to hear what they are. She will often push each of the buttons several times to hear the name of the item and the sound that it makes before moving onto a new figurine. She will spend about 15 minutes at a time playing with this toy, which is usually more than she will spend with anything else.
The figurines are a good size. It is fairly easy for her small hands to grab one, pick it up, and move it over to the machine. I have noticed that the figurines with heads are easier to move that the vehicles which tend to be a little bulkier and tougher for her to pick up. I really love that playing with this helps her improve her fine motor skills too!
However, this is not just a baby toy. If there is no figurine in the unit, you can push either of the buttons and the machine will ask for one of the figurines (i.e. Pig). If you place the correct figurine, you will be rewarded with a chime. After you have correctly identified a figurine enough times, the machine will get a little more advanced and ask, Where is the pig? instead of just saying the word.
My daughter is not always interested in this mode. She prefers to find her favorite items (cat, dog, bird) and listen to the sounds that they make.
But wait- theres more! The machine operates with a cartridge. You can put in a different cartridge to play with the toy in a different language. As I have mentioned, I got this from Ebay, so I am not sure what the original package comes with, but we have cartridges for Spanish, French, and even Japanese. They also have sing-along English and sing-along Spanish, but there are no any other languages available to my knowledge. In my experience, additional cartridges tend to run about $10 and they are easier to find than the unit itself.
There are some minor quibbles. First of all, the unit takes 4 C batteries. Are they serious? This thing also eats batteries faster than some of our other battery-operated toys. Luckily, we can get batteries in bulk at Costco or BJs, so that certainly helps cut down on the cost.
Also, sometimes the connection between the sensors is a little off and when my daughter puts a figurine down, it doesnt say anything. This problem is easily solved by picking the figurine back up and putting it down again.
I am looking forward to many more years of use with this toy. When my daughter can identify all the items in English, we can look into moving onto a different language- giving this toy extend replay value.
Again, the Little Linguist is a discontinued toy, so your options are fairly limited. I would check out garage sales, childrens resale shops like Childrens Orchard or even Ebay. Ebay is probably going to be the most expensive option, but it is also most likely the easiest place to find one of these.
I highly recommend The Neurosmith Little Linguist for children one and up. My daughter really enjoys playing with this toy; not only is it educational and improves her vocabulary, but it is also great for her fine motor skills. I look forward to moving onto new languages- and I just might teach myself some Japanese with this thing!