I’ve been that mom, standing in the toy isle poking and playing with all the “smart” toys… for well over an hour. I’ve done it twice now – just before the holiday season, trying to decide if the options on the shelf really made sense. In both cases – I walked away empty-handed. Why? Many reasons – I didn’t want to be persuaded by fancy packaging, colorful options or buttons that light up and down. Cost was another factor – could there really be a justifiable reason for the large swing from one brand/toy to another? But sure enough the next holiday season came, with the upgraded models and there I stood in the Target isle poking and playing all over again. Were last year’s model the better bargain, or should I take the advise of many and just buy a grown-up tablet to share, which I did. (I’ll let you know how the sharing has been working in an another post… sigh.)

The technology is great IF you have the patience for it and extra patience for all the ads and nickle-n-dime approaches to apps on these “real” tablets. Needless to say, my daughter wasn’t the primary user. We wouldn’t allow her to take it in the car – she still has a tendency to toss things around; and we wouldn’t allow her to carry it from room to room. It is not a toy and it didn’t come with a safety bumper. Nonetheless, I’ll continue to find age appropriate apps and tools for her on the tablet and we’ll use it side-by-side for learning fun.

Now having said that – I finally got the opportunity I needed to truly test drive one of the leading brands in smart toys – VTech. During a recent media event, I had the great pleasure of meeting with a representative and getting a hands-on demo for the newly released InnoTab 2 Baby. The device was not on some demo setting or strapped to the store shelf but actually available to hold, play and maneuver. Better yet, as part of this media event we were issued one to take home and review… the real test would be Victoria’s reaction and ability to use the technology. You’ll see from our video below that she not only loved it – but didn’t want to deviate from her creative platform. After only a couple of instructions and 15 mins of play activities – she was set to go with the InnoTab 2 Baby, maneuvering around games and programs and to/from other programs.

I haven’t even fully installed all the programs that come with the device… we just opened, placed the batteries and handed it over… oh and that’s the other great thing – we CAN hand it over to a 3 year-old and not worry about her dropping it or being less than gentle. Her confidence has soared, as she feels like such a big girl doing the apps on her own.  We don’t hand her the device to be on her own, but some apps allow for that solo creative time, and that’s fine… we all need our space.  Others are better suited for family time and sharing.

Now after all this you’re probably wondering why am I going on and on about a baby’s learning toy. Where does this fit for Homeroom At Home? The simple answer is the tablet advances with your child. It is designed and preloaded for infants 12 months ( to include apps like coloring and baby sign language and word/picture games) but as your child develops and requires more challenge, the cartridges and online downloads allow you the flexibility to match your son/daughters needs.

And here’s another thing… since so many parents have a mix of school-age children and a younger ones… the InnoTab 2 Baby, given to your baby or toddler will reduce the need for sharing the old child’s smart toy devices. (While the cartridges remain inter-changable between both the original versions and this baby version.)

And speaking of cartridges – there are tons to choose from with new ones being created and developed regularly. Some of my favorite educationally enriched InnoTab software are Brave and Madagascar 3 and InnoTab Software – Cars 2, all for their Problem-Solving Skills, Vocabulary and Math/Logic skills. We look forward to showcasing these and other titles as a viable fun learning activity for your sons and daughters. And let’s not forget the hundreds of online apps you can download through the VTech app-store for even more learning-enrichment and fun.

VTech is a well-known toy manufacture and the brand behind the InnoTab children’s tablet. They graciously provided my family with a tablet for the purpose of reviewing and sharing our experience with the product. The opinions and thoughts expressed here are strictly my own.