About 'Toy Review Tuesday': Every Tuesday, I write about our experience with a toy, while trying to incorporate thoughts on how it may help a child with Down syndrome. This review is not to be construed as an endorsement of the product nor do I intend to put pressure on parents to purchase the toys reviewed. Questions, sharing your own experience, or any other helpful insights are welcome in the comment section.
Music, lights, and mirrors are a few of Matthew's loves. Needless to say, the Little Superstar Sing-Along Stage by Fisher Price was a home-run Christmas gift last year from Matthew's Grandpa and Grandma. He was 14 months old. As soon as we took it out of the box, he commando crawled right up to it, pushed on the drum (it's the big round orange button in the front). It has 2 music settings: a sing-along mode that plays 5 songs and a build-a-song mode that plays a pretty jazzy tune. Another nice feature is volume control. With the way the base is designed, it's not tippy at all. Matthew has safely pulled up on it a few times.
Cause and Effect
As with most toys that light up and/or play music at the push of a button, the Sing-Along Stage reinforces the meaning of cause and effect. Each button makes a different instrument sound. To activate the guitar, Matthew runs his hand over the roller center of the guitar. To activate the xylophone and the drum, he simply pushes on the corresponding buttons. To activate the trumpet (and this was the last one Matthew learned to do), he pulls a lever downwards. Shaking the microphone also activates the music.
Your Turn, My Turn
We also used this toy to practice turn-taking. As you may know, turn-taking is one of the pre-literacy skills babies/toddlers need to learn. If you think about it, we take turns when communicating. One speaks while the other listens. I'd hold and shake the microphone to activate the music then give it to Matthew and say "Matthew's turn". He'll shake the microphone and then I'll ask him to give me the microphone and say, "Mommy's turn." We go back and forth like this a few times.
In Early Communication Skills for Children with Down Syndrome, Libby Kumin writes, "Research has found that mirror play increases a child's sound-making." Mirror play gives Matthew visual feedback of how he moves his hands and his mouth as he babbles and makes sounds.
Listening Skills and Receptive Language
I can tell Matthew listens to the lyrics of the songs. Before he got this toy, I usually sang "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands" to him when teaching him how to clap his hands. The very first time he heard the song play on this toy, he clapped his hands without any prompting from me. No kidding! I was so proud of him. I didn't know the other songs very well but thanks to the included lyric cards I'm able to sing along and teach Matthew different actions to certain songs, such as "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes".
Along with teaching him to wave "hi" and "bye", I have also been teaching him to blow kisses. One day, I was watching him at his mirror play. He blew himself a kiss in the mirror when he heard the line "blow you a kiss" in the Peek-a-boo song. Again, no prompting from me. This shows me how much he understands as his receptive language continues to develop.
Each button activates the music with the specific instrument sound corresponding to the button. As Matthew grows with this toy, this will be one of the ways to introduce the sounds different instruments make and practice listening skills. Of course, we're limited to 4 instruments here but don't worry, it's not the only musical toy that my little musician owns.
Given that Matthew has played with this toy several minutes a day, every single day since we got it, I'd say this is a winner.
As of today, approximate retail price is $49.99. For more product details, please visit amazon.com.