The Fridge Works Magnetic Word Builder is another great product from the folks at LeapFrog. The idea behind this educational toy is that the letters and “jet” letter reader replace the old style magnetic letters on your refrigerator with an updated toy that helps guide your children’s spelling as well are read three letter words they spell for the toy. Recommended for children ages 4 to 7, it has the potential of building 325 words with a magnetic alphabet which includes all the letters from a through Z in addition to three more letters to build words like MOM and DAD.
I was excited when the Fridge Works Magnetic Word Builder arrived and my wife opened it up immediately so our three year old boy could play with it right away. Unfortunately it was late in the evening after we arrived from work and the boy was acting up, so no toy for him! Instead we waited for the weekend to introduce it to him.
He’d already been familiarized with many of the LeapFrog products and videos which had already given him a foundation for learning the alphabet, such as the Scribble and Write, the Phonics DVD collection and the LeapFrog Leapster 2, so he was ready for this toy. Once he got it, he fiddle around with it briefly without much success, but he has the type of personality that faces a challenge and takes it on slowly and methodically until finally getting it.
It really just took a few hours of playing with the word builder, ignoring it for a while, then playing with it again with encouragement from his mom and dad until he finally started building words on his own. For the first couple of days, he used the voice and light guided commands from the jet, and then several days later he started experimenting with his own words and even getting some interesting ones right on his own.
What I love about it is that on the words builder guided mode, the voice softly suggests to build a word and to start looking for the first, then second and finally third - accepting the right letters with a happy little jingle and a rewarding light, and a double tone for incorrect letters. At the end of a correctly spelled word, it reads the word, encourages the child with a compliment and finishes off with a happy tune and light show.
Once he graduated to the independent word builder, he asked for my help as we played together to put together words like MOM, DAD, ICE, EVE, SUN until he got a little more confident and stopped letting me play with him, though he still wanted me to watch. As he got more and more words right, the jet repeated the encouragement and light shows, but what was great is that it does a good job of not insulting the child as he continued to experiment and spell non-existent words. It would read the word as best it could then make a statement such as, “that sounds great.” And he clearly got the message that it wasn’t a word and moved on to make correct words, running over to me with a proud smile as he continued to make good words.
In a way, I do regret not going for the four letter word builder, although I didn't know one existed until I researched it more thoroughly for this review. So, I suggest getting the four letter builder, your kids are going to grow right into it!
In all, our boy really loves his Fridge Words Magnetic Word Builder. After getting used to the encouraging guide, he spells his own words and takes an experimental position on creating new words with the encouraging phrases and sounds of the toys.
Now that he's become a five year old, he still plays with the magnetic letters in our mini fridge in the upstairs bedroom, but without the builder. Now he makes larger words on his own, and his sister follows his lead. And though she missed the fun of learning with the builder, I think she has a much better teacher in her older brother!