Christmas came a little early for Mia as she has been testing out the Bright Starts Having a Ball Get Rollin' Activity Table!
It comes with six coloured balls, just the right size for little hands, and textured (with animal faces) so that they are easy to grab. The center has a ramp and a hole where the balls swirl around and drop down to one of four legs with catchers at the bottom. I have found that with one ball in the catcher, if another goes down that leg it sometimes bounces out and rolls away. Here's a ball in action - you can see how focused Mia is on it! I like that the balls are light enough and small enough for her to have no trouble picking them up. They're very rolly, though - on our wood floors I find I'm chasing them around!
You can also see here the gears for turning, and the fish, which has coloured beads in it that tumble when it's spun. Each activity triggers a different song or phrase.
The table has two modes - play and learn - which switch back and forth depending on what page of the book is open. Mia LOVES flipping the page of the book (we read together a lot and she helps turn pages). She flips it back and forth, so we hear "Let's play!", "Let's learn!" over and over! Here she is with that page... you can see the look of concentration on her face!
Here also you can see the alligator, whose mouth flips up to reveal a hiding spot (sized just right for a ball or maybe a treat!). The alligator triggers sound effects, or "open/closed", "up/down", depending on what mode the table is in.
There's also an orange spinner, which can hold three balls - a red lever spins them madly around and they fly off in all directions. I'm SO glad Mia hasn't figured this one out yet, as she's not got the focus at her age to go around picking up the balls!
There's also a cute caterpillar that is also a shape/colour learning tool and acts as a musical keyboard, and the 1-2-3 numbers pop up and make sounds or say numbers when pressed.
You can use it without the legs for younger babies as well.
If there were anything I would change about it - the alphabet song that it sings says "zee" instead of "zed", and I wish for the Canadian market they would have changed that. I also wish that for Canada they would give a French option. **Edit: the French versions of all the Having a Ball toys should be out in the New Year!** And I wish the balls would always catch in the legs, and not occasionally roll out.
However, those are minor complaints. Mia spends more time playing with this than a lot of her other toys and I like that it has functions that entertain her now (at 9 1/2 months old), and she can grow into other elements of it. What she loves now are the book, alligator, fish, and banging it randomly to see the lights and hear the sounds. What she will grow into are the learning elements - numbers, alphabet, relating the sounds and songs to what she sees, as well as the more complex actions of the ball ramp, spinner, and gears. I think it will be fun once she realizes where the balls go once they drop through the center - and that they could fall into any of the four legs. I also like that it's not huge, it's a reasonable size.
The Bright Starts Having a Ball line has a bunch of fun toys (Santa's bringing Mia the Swirl and Roll Truck for Christmas! Shh!) and they are available in Canada (and the US) exclusively at Toys R Us. Visit Bright Starts for more information about the toys!
Bright Starts has generously sponsored a giveaway for my Canadian readers as well! They have sent me a Swirl and Roll Truck to give away!
I will be shipping this myself and I can't guarantee delivery in time for Christmas, but I will try.