Pros: Teaches spelling; self correcting; has its own carrying case.
My children have always enjoyed toys that fall into the "educational" category just as much as those that fall into the silly, loud or just plain "annoying to parents" categories. When I saw the Cadaco Spell Time on the store shelf a few months back, I purchased it for my five year old son who was in Kindergarten.
Spell Time consists of fifteen cards, measuring about 7" by 11", each containing six words to spell. On the left hand side of the card is a picture of what should be spelled, and next to that are colored spaces with holes, one for each letter of the word. Onto these colored spaces fit corresponding colored plastic tiles, with "feet" on their backs which will only fit into their correct spots on the cards. According to the instructions this system is called "coding" and ensures that only the intended word can be spelled. This helps to boost self confidence in children since they can see if they have gotten the letter right, and if not, fix it right away.
The 78 plastic letter tiles are one of five colors: letters "a" through "f" are red, "g" through "l" are blue, "m" through "q" are yellow, "r" through "v" are green, and "w" through "z" are orange. The spots on the cards for each letter is the same color as the tile so that if a child needs a bit of help, he or she can limit her choices for a letter to a particular color. There are enough tiles to spell all the words on each card, but some cards do use up all of certain letters, so all of the tiles need to be replaced before starting the next card.
The tiles store in individual sections in the inside back cover, and the cards store on the inside front cover of the blue plastic carrying case. In the center, there is a yellow plastic "page" on which the card you want to use sits. This plastic piece has a handle that sticks out of the side, but also has six rows of indentations onto which the tiles sit. You can use this without the cards by having your child spell other words and putting the "feet" of the tiles directly in the indentations on the plastic.
Each of the fifteen word cards has a theme, such as food, animals, numbers or transportation. The pictures are colorful and very easy for an adult to identify and help a child if he or she is unsure what the picture is of. If you do get stuck on a picture, all of the words are listed by card number in the instruction booklet.
Spell Time is recommended for ages five and up, and I think that my son has just about outgrown it since he can spell each word on every card without blinking an eye. He still enjoys playing with it, as it gives him confidence that he can spell the words correctly, and I like that he is practicing his spelling. My four year old daughter, who will be entering Kindergarten in the fall, has recently taken a liking to this game and is working on her spelling and letter recognition as well as her hand-eye coordination in getting the letters into their correct spots.
None of the words are more than five letters long, and we have not noticed any that are not at least somewhat familiar to our everyday vocabulary. The oddest ones, to my son, have been the word "tap" next to a picture of a water faucet and the word "jug" next to a picture of what he insists is a pitcher.
In 1998, it was listed as a Best Vacation Product by Dr. Toy as well as given the Seal of Approval by the National Parenting Center. The tiles are small, so please be aware that they may pose a choking hazard for very young children.
With Spell Time, children can learn to spell 90 words with the self-correcting tiles and cards. The carrying case stores all the pieces inside and makes it easily portable. It has been a helpful learning tool in our household in assisting my children in learning to read, I could also see this as being a good "game" for a classroom or other educational environment in helping children who need extra practice with letter recognition and reading.