I’m not one of those pushy moms who’s always worried about what percentile their child fits into for various skills. I’m not out to prove that my kid is “gifted” or force him to be an overachiever. I’m more interested in making sure that he’s happy and healthy, and is, well, being a kid. After all, he’s just 5 years old!
That being said, however, I do see the value in educational toys that promote learning, which is why I recently purchased the LeapFrog Word Whammer. The Word Whammer is billed as a “machine that teaches how letter sounds blend together to make words.” Basically, it’s a toy that helps kids learn to spell simple three-letter words.
The Word Whammer comes with a base and a set of 32 letters (A-Z, plus a few doubles so kids can spell words like “mom” and “dad”. The base is magnetized, allowing it to be placed on the fridge for easy access (though my son just plays with this toy on the floor). The letters are magnetized as well, and fit nicely into one of three spaces in the base.
The Word Whammer can identify which letters are placed into the slots, thus allowing the toy to help kids build words.
There are three different modes of play to choose from. First, is the Letter Hunt, in which kids just place random letters into the slots. The Word Whammer reads the letter and then voices the phonetic sounds of the letters.
The second play mode is called Word Builder. This allows kids to put any three letters they like into the Word Whammer to try to spell their own words. If the kid spells a real word, the Word Whammer reads the word out loud. If the three letters don’t make a word, the Word Whammer just voices the phonetic sounds again.
The third play mode is called Word Hunt. In this mode, the Word Whammer prompts kids to spell words by saying, “Let’s hunt for the letters that spell the word ‘rib’. R-I-B, rib.” This is the mode that my son spends the most time playing right now.
The Word Whammer is recommended for kids aged 3 years and up, so I obviously purchased it a little late for my son. But it’s still a good buy for a child that age, especially since he’s still in preschool and hasn’t started kindergarten yet. He already knows the alphabet, so spelling short words like this is the next logical step in his reading development.
The words generated in Word Hunt mode are totally random, which means it takes a lot of playing time to get a repeat. And of course the only way to learn how to spell is by repetition, so I took it upon myself to type out a list of common words (mom, dad, dog, cat, car, etc.) that my son can spell over and over again. He has those words down pat already, so I’ll probably continue promoting spelling this way instead of waiting for Word Whammer to call out all of these words.
Overall, I think this is a fantastic toy that is sure to help kids learn the alphabet, phonics, and spelling. It was well worth the $19.99 that I paid for it at Amazon.com, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to all parents with young kids who are just starting to learn their letters!