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I'm a married mum who loves chocolate & music & having an opinion on just about everything! E-Mail summermama@hotmail.co.uk

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Pal Scout - More Than Just a Cuddly Toy

Before The Boy was born, all throughout my pregnancy, I was adamant that he wouldn’t be one of those children whose bedrooms were swamped with a variety of cuddly toys or whose cot was overfilled with stuffed animals. I purchased him four cuddly toys from Sainsburys because they went well with the colours in the nursery, he had the tag blanket and the teddy bear that went with the “Please Look After Me” nursery range from Mothercare that we used in the nursery and my work colleagues brought me the mobile to match the range, which had dangling teddy bears on it. As far as I was concerned, that was enough.

In the last couple of weeks before his birth, suddenly we received an abundance of gifts from people, most of which were cuddly toys. We ended up with a giant Rupert Bear and an equal size black bear with red ribbon from a friend at work: An enormous Eeyore that is about the same size as our Boy Dog from my MIL: a variety of knitted things from MIL and more teddies and cuddly toys then arrived after his birth in a variety of shades from baby blue right through to navy, all of which had been lovingly picked out by people but none of which I particularly wanted to give space to!

However, by that point I was willing to admit that the reason most children end up with such an abundance of cuddly toys was not because their parents had been obsessively buying everything they could find, but due to the kind nature of family and friends who see these cute things and buy them with your baby in mind – and to be fair, you can’t moan at them for that, can you. So I smiled graciously with every new addition and they were all arranged in and around the cot/bed.

It wasn’t an issue when he was really tiny – he slept in the Moses basket in our room, so it didn’t matter that the cot was practically full up of soft toys. When he did transfer into the cot he was almost four months old so the excessive amount of toys didn’t hinder the amount of space he had, as he didn’t need a lot and he wasn’t moving about much so it wasn’t a concern. As time went on though, he moved about and needed more space, and the toys had virtually taken over. I’d go into his room when he awoke and find the toys littered over the floor where he’d thrown them out – or else he’d be hidden under a pile of them, which worried me, as I was concerned if that happened while he was asleep he could suffocate. So I purchase a big plastic toy box and shoved the cuddly toys into it.

A few remained in the cot – his favourites. This way he has something to snuggle into, because since he could move around the cot he’s been very fond of using a cuddly toy to snuggle with, normally the softest, plushest one he could find, and he’d fall asleep sucking his thumb, the other arm wrapped tightly around the toy keeping it pinned to his cheek and his fingers rubbing the soft fur. I was happy to leave a couple in the cot, and after a while packed some of the bigger ones away in the spare bedroom wardrobe (they just took up too much room, and he’s never been interested in playing with them).

With the lullaby function available on My Pal Scout, I decided immediately to try it, which meant putting it in the cot with The Boy, and I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about that – other toys I thought he’d like in there that he didn’t he quickly throws over the sides, and some I didn’t think he liked that much and packed into the toy box he rescues the next time he is able to and throws them into the cot, so the first day we had Scout and The Boy went for a nap, I put Scout in the cot with his lullaby setting on for 10 minutes, and waited to see what would happen. After waking from his nap and crying for me, I went into his room and found The Boy still cuddling Scout and having pressed the buttons was merrily chatting away to the plush green puppy. Within a few hours of being in the household, Scout had already been promoted to a cot toy, an acclaimed position that not all get to!

That night at bedtime I did the same thing, and the following morning rather than The Boy crying when he woke up and waking me up, I was awoken to the much nicer noise of The Boy giggling. When I checked the monitor I saw that while he was awake, he was quite content, cuddled up with Scout pressing buttons and chatting away. He stayed like that for a good ten or fifteen minutes, giving me time to wake up properly before launching out of bed, as is the usual start to my day.

Since then, Scout has been with The Boy at all times, and I do mean all times; he’ll dash out of a room, then come to a halt, spin around and run back, grab Scout and then continue to where he was originally headed. Scout has been sitting at the highchair with The Boy for mealtimes, and for each mouthful The Boy has, Scout gets one, too, as well as a drink, and when we’re changing The Boy’s nappy we put Scout at the end of the changing table and play the daytime songs that I sing along to. He’s also been introduced to all the other cuddly toys, and when it was time to pack away The Boy was very careful to put Scout in the rocking chair while he put the others back in the toy box!

The Boy has always been very keen on music – when I was pregnant and listening to music he’d be wriggling about, and after his birth was no different; from a young age he has been the sort of child to listen to the start of a song very carefully to decide if he thinks he’ll like it or not, and if not he shakes his head and if he does he’ll dance. He loves ‘Show Me, Show Me’ on CBeebies when they practise their groovy moves and dance to music, and he’ll always join in – the same applies to the opening music of certain programs, and he’ll always dance if I put music on the radio or a music show on TV. In the car once he’s in the carseat and the radio comes on he’ll clap his hands, waggle his feet and wiggle about in the carseat like he’s dancing. Having music on Scout only serves to encourage his dancing, and he’ll start as soon as the music does, laughing and clapping as he’s doing so, which is a joy to see.

I think it says a lot for Scout that he has already been chosen by The Boy as one of the clear favourite toys … He will be joining us for our epic weekend away this weekend, though I’ll have to keep a very close eye on him I’m hoping that as he serves to entertain The Boy so well and The Boy is so keen on him that the two of them should be side by side on a constant basis, but just in case I am going to put his name on Scout’s label! We learned the hard way with the loss of his favourite ever cuddly toy a few months ago – he went out with it attached to a Toy Tie on the pushchair, and when he returned it was gone. The Hubby and I searched the town for two solid hours for it to no avail, I even made up ‘Missing’ posters and put them through shop letterboxes and handed them out to people with my contact details on it, and we heard nothing. Luckily for us on that occasion my good friend Mummy, Not Big Milk Thing found an identical cuddly toy on E-Bay that was delivered within a couple of days which averted what could otherwise have been a major disaster! But for that reason I will keep a very close eye on Scout while we’re away this weekend.

The Hubby had a look at Scout for the first time properly last night and came to the conclusion that “it’s pretty good really” – trust him to be understated! I will be recommending Scout and Violet to all my friends with suitable age children as I can see how attached The Boy has got so quickly and I think that shows a good toy that has been well produced with kids’ interests in mind. The Boy and Scout really have become best pals just like Scout’s song says!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Product Review: My Pal Scout - First Impressions

I was very excited to finally receive my parcel from Leapfrog yesterday morning. The courier arrived shortly before eleven, and I hurried to rip open the paper and confirm that My Pal Scout had safely arrived with us. I make it a rule not to open parcels in front of The Boy on the off chance that something is wrong and I have to send it back – I learned from the mistake of a good friend who brought her son a scooter at The Baby Show, when we got back to her house she told her three year old that she’d got him a scooter, showed him the box, he was thoroughly excited and then when the box was opened it was a pink scooter instead of the green one she’d thought she’d purchased! Of course by then her son was far too excited to not play with the scooter, so the pink one got used and then she couldn’t send it back for an exchange. Remembering this tale of woe, I stayed in the kitchen to unwrap Scout.

My Pal Scout is a plush green puppy (My Pal Violet is the purple version) To begin with, I like that Leapfrog have chosen green and purple as the colours, rather than the standard blue and pink options. Scout is suitable from six months to three years, with an RRP of £19.99. Scout comes with his own USB lead to plug him into your computer and personalise him specifically for your child, and the information you use is then used in Scout’s songs and in what he says to the child.

Immediately on arrival, Scout (and Violet) requires plugging into the computer for this, so if you get this as a gift I highly recommend taking it out of the packaging and doing this before the child sees it. Unfortunately where my computer is positioned The Boy can clearly see it from the front room, so as soon as I had Scout out of the box and was getting ready to plug him in, The Boy laid eyes on it.

Well, I wish I’d had the camera in my hand at that moment! The Boy’s eyes literally lit up, he gasped and smiled, stamped his feet and held both hands out reaching for Scout! He’s seen one before, a friend of his has one, and he’s always been fascinated by it whenever we’ve been to their house, so he knew the idea of Scout and couldn’t wait to get his hands on it! He had to wait, though, and that was quite difficult!

To begin with, you have to download the Leapfrog Connect Application if you’ve not already got any Leapfrog toys that require it. Depending on your system and your internet speed, downloading and applying this software varies in the time it takes to do, unfortunately for me it took a long time – half an hour of downloading software later I then faced a further forty minutes to install and begin running the software. By that point The Boy had thrown a fit about not being allowed to have Scout right away and lost interest, having wandered off to play with something else.

Once it was ready to go, I plugged in the USB cable to my PC and the other end into the box on Scout, and it registered the connection and asked for the name of the child that owns this product. Once you’ve done that you go ahead and set up the rest of the personalisation. The first screen brings up a range of names that closest match what you’ve typed in, and you go through these to get the correct pronunciation of your child’s name. Then you enter the birth month and year, and the developmental stage of the child. After that, you have to really start thinking, because it asks for the child’s favourite food, favourite animal, and favourite colour! A lot of thought has obviously gone into this part as there was a huge variety of things to choose from. I decided on cake being the favourite food as The Boy is very partial to a bit of cake (just like The Hubby!) and dog as his favourite animal purely based on how much he adores our Hairy Hounds of Hell and how excited he gets when we’re out if he sees a dog. For his favourite colour, I was stumped; he’s never shown preference to a particular colour before, how on earth should I pick? In the end I randomly selected blue! Finally you choose five daytime songs and five lullaby songs – again, this is from a very long list, so make sure you’ve got some time to sit and go through this properly! I chose daytime songs that were bouncy, funky and familiar – ABC, Babaloo, Down In Jamaica, She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain and Treasure. For the lullabies I chose calming, peaceful tunes - Beethoven Pastoral, Brahms Lullaby, Gentle, Peace and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Once I’d done that and all the changes had been saved to Scout, we were ready to go …

Scout has a patch on each of his four paws. There is a pink bouncing ball patch to mark the ‘activities’ paw; a green music note for the ‘daytime songs’ paw; a blue moon and stars for the lullabies paw and a red on/off paw. Scout’s songs include a song about the child, where Scout spells the child’s name; a song about the favourite things you’ve selected (so we end up singing a song about wanting a blue dog that eats cake!) There’s a lovely song ‘Me And My Pal (child’s name)’ which never fails to bring a smile to The Boy. The voice of Scout is perfect in my opinion – clear, English speaking, gentle and childlike, it sounds friendly and encourages the child to think about responding by asking questions of the child, such as “My favourite colour is *colour* - Is that your favourite colour, too?”

Scout is a friendly puppy who likes to ask for cuddles, which The Boy is very obliging about and more than happy to provide! Scout is so brightly coloured, soft and well made that it is a gorgeous addition to any child’s toy collection, with the added bonus of being so interactive. One thing I absolutely love is that Scout’s lullaby button can be pressed once for two minutes of songs, twice for five minutes, or three times for ten minutes of lullabies. This feature is fantastic, and when he went for a nap yesterday and today and when he went to sleep last night, I set Scout to play lullabies for ten minutes and each time The Boy has cuddled up with his new friend and been asleep by the end of the ten minutes.

I will continue to write more about Scout as time goes on, but my first impressions of this product are very good and I wish I’d got a Scout for The Boy months ago. As it is advertised as suitable from six months, by the time The Boy was a year old I worried that Scout would be a bit babyish – after all, some of the stuff he has is meant to be from 6-36 months and he wasn’t interested by the time he was a year old, so I was a bit dubious, but you get out of Scout what you put in, and as the developmental stage can be changed Scout grows with your child, preventing it from being too babyish too quickly. He is already very taken with Scout, and since it arrived and I finished personalising it The Boy has had Scout by his side. I highly recommend this product for anyone with a young child not only for educational but also for entertainment, I can see Scout coming on a lot of adventures with us in the future!


Suitable from 6-36 months – Can change developmental stage as child learns and keep track of their learning with the Leapfrog Learning Path (online)
Can be used alongside a variety of other Leapfrog products to continue encouraging your child to learn
Brightly coloured, well made plush toy – so much more than just a cuddly toy, but still nice for little people to cuddle
Very good value for money. USB lead included and nice clear instructions on how to set up.


Took a while for me to download software and install
USB lead very short – my computer tower is floor level so this means poor Scout has to sit on the floor while he’s plugged in, so I had to put him in a plastic bag to stop him getting hairy and stop the Hairy Hounds running off with him!
The box that contains the information is a very tight squeeze to get into Scout once you've finished personalising it and want to give it to the child - it took me a while to wedge it in the gap and do up the velcro over it.
Not sure how easy it would be to personalise it for a six month old baby!

Every time Scout says The Boy’s name he smiles and claps and is utterly delighted; he seems captivated by this perky puppy, and the fact that it combines some of his favourite things together (technology, a dog, and a blue light flashing in the ‘Scout’ name tag) makes him like it even more. I think we have a new favourite toy in our household! Yay for Leapfrog and yay for Scout!