Toy name: VTech Learn and Discover Driver
Price range: $15-$20
Suggested age range: 6 mo – 18 mo
Needs batteries? Yes, 2 AA batteries required
I am the oldest of seven kids, and the last three of us were boys. I was in middle and high school when they came along, so I got to see how they liked to play.
As toddlers, all three LOVED the toy console that imitated the driver’s seat of a car, complete with a pretend dashboard, keys and levers and buttons to manipulate, a horn to honk, and best of all, a steering wheel! They were happy at first to just push all the buttons and switches, and later moved on to elaborate pretend games of driving cars, trucks, or buses.
The new generation of kids has their driving toys as well. The VTech Learn and Discover Driver is the best-selling one currently, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does it have the steering wheel and plenty of levers and buttons, it also talks, sings, and makes vehicle noises!
The dashboard-style setup works best on a carpeted or fabric surface to keep the toy from sliding around. Kids like to play with it sitting on the floor or standing in front of a sofa or ottoman with the Driver on it. The bright colors and many intriguing buttons and switches invite the child to touch and interact with the toy. There is a steering wheel that rotates 360 degrees, a mirror, a joystick/shifter lever, horn, ignition key, and a sliding switch shaped like a car.
One nice touch is that the ignition key is also the on/off button for the power, so the child can turn it on by himself as part of the play, rather than someone else having to power it up for him. But that’s just the beginning of the interactivity of this toy.
The VTech Learn and Discover Driver is programmed with over 20 sounds, sayings and music. The youngest kids playing with this toy will simply enjoy the cause and effect of moving and touching things and having the toy respond with different noises. But there is more to discover as the child gets older, because there are learning games with different “routes” to drive, as well as ones involving identifying animals and colors. There are also multiple sing along song snippets.
The toy requires two AA batteries. It comes with batteries installed so it works out of the box, but there is no telling how much of their charge the batteries lost while the toy was on the shelf. VTech recommends replacing them with new ones after purchase, but the ones that come with it should work for at least a little while. The batteries (or the charge on a rechargeable battery) lasts a long time according to several of the user reviews.
The manufacturer’s recommended age range for the VTech Learn and Discover Driver is 6-18 months of age, and that is certainly a good range for starting to play with this toy and being able to interact with it. But many kids, especially the ones who love anything to do with cars and driving, will continue to play with this toy through toddler and early school years. Well into grade school, my brothers played a game of “bus driver”, lining up the dining room chairs, with the bus driver seated in the front chair, driving toy on his lap. Cooperative siblings sat in the other chairs as passengers who got on and off the bus, and occasionally acted up, causing the “driver” to look in the rear view mirror and give stern warnings.
Several parents did complain in reviews that this toy is on the loud side, and a few found all the sounds and music annoying. The switch that lets kids turn the toy on by themselves is not such an advantage if they decide to play at 6 AM!
One mom’s way of solving this: she instituted “quiet time” and “game time” with the toy by removing the batteries most of the time. Since her son loved to play with the toy when he got up in the morning, the batteries would come out at bedtime. Getting the batteries and having all the lights and noises thus became a special treat and not a constant annoyance. I like this creative thinking!