Parents who are looking for an educational approach to video game play, can look to the Vtech Vsmile Learning System and the Vtech Smile Motion gaming systems. The systems are easy to use---both plug right into the television and utilise fun games to provide preschoolers lessons in math, reading, science and spelling.
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Games for each system are set up either in "learning adventure mode" with arcade-style games or "learning zone," which features shorter skill-building games. The games have an easy or difficult setting as well.
Vtech Smile Motion takes the gaming a step further with a wireless, motion-activated play. Smile Motion is Vtech's "active learning system." Children can play the game with a wireless, motion-activated controller--it is like a Nintendo Wii for the preschool set. You can also set it to joystick mode to play the games the old-fashioned way.
While they are not the latest tech, the Vsmile joysticks have more features than the Smile motion controllers do. Children can work on their writing skills with the Vsmile system through a stylus and writing pad built into the joystick for players to practice proper letter stroke order. Little singing sensations will also love the plug-in microphone that is part of the Vsmile system for singalong fun.
Both Vsmile and Smile Motion have controllers that accommodate either the right- or left-handed child.
The cartridges for the Vtech systems are called Smartridges and are sold separately. There are different ones for Smile Motion and Vsmile. The Smartridges can be used in either system, however, only the Smile Motion system can fully utilise all the active learning features of the Smile Motion Smartridges.
Vtech breaks down age-appropriate games into three ability levels: Early Learners, ages 3 to 5; Junior Thinkers, ages 4 to 6; and Master Minds, ages 6 to 8. Games feature favourite television and cartoon characters including, Dora, Diego, SpongeBob, Scooby Doo, Cinderella and many more. However, the newest movie characters, from movies such as "Up" and "Monsters vs. Aliens" are only found in Smile Motion. All Smartridges contain nonviolent game action.
The Smartridges also work in the Vsmile Pocket, which is the hand-held game device.
Additional Play Options
The Vtech Smile Motion includes V.Link, an online component used to access additional computer games and track game scores. There is a V. Link Parent Center that allows parents to track their children's play time and success rate. Connecting to the computer is simple with V. Link's USB port plug.
Vsmile Art Studio plugs directly into the Vsmile Learning System. Young artists use a touch-sensitive drawing pad to draw shapes and lines, create pictures and experiment with mixing colours. Children can save and add animation to their artwork and prepare a slide show for TV. A few games, such as rainbow chase and making toys, are also included. The Art Studio is sold separately.
Also sold separately for the Vsmile Learning System is the Smart Keyboard. You can connect the unit directly to the Vsmile console to create a virtual computer world on the TV. Activities teach typing, spelling, letters, music and logic to children.
Additional joysticks and wireless controllers are available for both systems in either pink or orange. A second controller may come in handy because most games have a dual-player option.
The Vsmile Learning System and Vtech Smile Motion operate on batteries, however, AC adaptors can also be purchased for both systems. A plastic storage unit is available for the Vsmile Learning System to contain the console, Smartridges and joysticks.
Cost and Availability
Vtech Vsmile Learning System and the Vtech Smile Motion system, Smartridges and accessories can be found at discount retailers, toy stores and many online stores.
Currently the Vsmile Learning System and Smartridges are less expensive than the Vtech Smile Motion ones. The suggested retail price for the Vsmile Learning System is £25.90 and the Smartridges price at £12.90. They are excellent introductory systems for children who have not experienced video game technology.
Smile Motion is a great next step. The suggested retail price for the Vtech Smile Motion is £38.90 with the Smartridges costing £16.20. While it is not as sophisticated as the Nintendo Wii, it is much less expensive and just as functional for that price.
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