The Magic Screen Learning Pal is approximately 12” tall, and resembles a child robot – very friendly and non-intimidating. His outer casing is composed mainly of teal-colored molded plastic, with firmly-stuffed plush hands. The face of the robot is much like an LED screen, with an outer translucent blue plastic screen and rows of small green lights. It’s ears are large buttons, one yellow, and the other orange. These buttons activate a variety of activity. The hands also activate activity by pressing them. They are color-coded as well, with one red and one green.
The “feet” are immovable, and help steady the robot with a rolling stabilizer, which must be attached to the back of the robot prior to play. This is the only assembly required, and consists of sliding the stabilizer into place and tightening the 4 small screws with a phillip’s head screwdriver. Just a couple of minutes is all that is required.
The back of the Magic Screen Learning Pal has a built-in carrying handle, though it is better suited for an adult. The robot is a little too heavy for a toddler to carry it in this manner. My little one bear-hugs it to carry it around.
The chest features a dial surrounded by 5 brightly-colored, numbered and familiarly shaped buttons:
1 – Yellow – Circle
2 – Red – Heart
3 – Blue – Triangle
4 – Green – Square
5 – Orange – Star
The child will turn the dial like an old rotary phone to choose different activity sets, and the shape buttons may be pressed as part of play as well.
The Magic Screen Learning Pal requires 3 “AA” batteries (included). The battery compartment is located on the robot’s back and is easily accessed with a small phillip’s head screwdriver. The tiny screw thankfully stays attached to the door. With my lightening-fast and grabby toddler, I find this a most appealing feature!
The power switch is located on the back of the head. There are 3 switch positions for basic level (1), advanced level (2), and off (center). There is no volume control, but the toy isn’t annoyingly loud to me. When you flip the switch on in either level, you are greeted with a sweet child’s voice: “Hello my friend. Let’s be pals!” This little dude also has an automatic shut-off features after 2 minutes of inactivity. During that 2 minutes, it gives subtle reminders by blinking, yawning, humming, whistling, etc. Very cute!
Now we get to the good stuff. The “basic” stage, geared for toddlers, features simple and fun learning activities. The robot isn’t quite as interactive in this stage, but gives toddlers a great learning experience. The “advanced” stage is more for pre-schoolers, with much more interaction and thought-provoking activities. To select an activity in either stage, turn the dial on front to the picture that corresponds to one of the 6 available activity sets.
Dialing up some fun. . .
Letters - Let’s learn the alphabet!
Basic stage – The robot sings the entire ABC Song when either hand is pressed. Press any of the shape buttons to hear the song in segments. Pressing either ear will advance the alphabet one letter at a time, while the robot says the letter. The letters appear on the face in capital form, to give a visual learning aid to the voice.
Advanced stage – The robot also sings the ABC song in this mode, and offers up a learning quiz game in addition. The quiz consists of the robot displaying a letter and asking if it is a certain letter. You guess by pressing the appropriate hand (green is yes, red is no). The robot will let you know if you are right or wrong, then asks another letter.
Music - Making music is sweet and fun!
Basic stage – The robot begins the music session by playing one of 2 tunes, activated by pressing either hand. To hear 5 more tunes, press any of the shape buttons, and pressing the ears creates lots of different sound effects. As the robot plays songs, it displays cute pictures on the screen, relevant to the song. Songs include:
Where, Oh Where has my Little Dog Gone
Let Me Call You Sweetheart
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Advanced stage – The advanced stage of this section allows you to make up your own songs and play them back. The shape buttons become musical notes. Press out your song, then press the green hand to play it back. There are also the same fun sound effects and 7 songs to enjoy (same songs as the Basic level).
Funny Faces - This is my favorite section in both learning modes. It allows children to explore emotions.
Basic stage – Press any of the shape buttons for a different emotion:
Circle – Sad
Heart – Happy
Triangle – Silly
Square – Sleepy
Star – Hiccups, Sneezes, and a polite “Excuse me!”
By pressing the ears and hands, it makes tons of sounds and faces that go with the activated emotion. If it is sad, it cries, and you see big tears on the screen. Our tender-hearted Tyler hugs him when he cries.
Advanced stage – Press either hand to discover how the robot is feeling. Pressing the ears gives additional sounds and faces. Pressing the star in this mode produces either a wink, blink, hiccup, sneeze, or whistle. Pressing the shape buttons will cause the robot to make emotional sounds, and pressing again prompts him to say the name of the emotion.
Games - Simple, fun, and education games to play.
Basic stage – The Magic Screen Learning Pal plays hide and seek. Its face will disappear from the screen, and it’s your job to find it. Press the ears and shape buttons to find it. When you do, it says, “Peek-a-boo! You found me!” and hides again.
Advanced stage – Three different games are available in this mode. The robot will prompt you for which game and how to activate.
* Shape Match – The robot calls out a shape, and you must match it by pressing the correct shape button before it calls out another shape. If you get 10 in a row, you win! To give the game a little challenge, each round gets a little faster.
* Catch – A dot falls on the screen. You must press the ears to move the “catching cup” at the screen bottom back and forth. As with matching, each round is a little faster, and getting 10 in a row wins the game.
* Copy Cat - This is a little like a Simon game. The robot will light up either half of the screen in a building sequence. You must press the ears to copy the sequence. After 5 correct in a row, you win. Pressing any of the shape buttons will prompt the robot to repeat the sequence, if needed.
Numbers - Counting and recognizing numbers is really fun when you sing the counting song!
Basic stage – The robot sings a counting song. You can sing along, or press any of the shape buttons to hear the number on it. Press again to see that number in dots on the screen. Press a hand or an ear to show a number and count the dots.
Advanced stage – In addition to singing a counting song, you can also play a game. In the counting game, the robot will display a number of dots, and it’s your job to guess the correct number by pressing it on the shape buttons.
Shapes & Colors - Learning shapes and colors is really fun in either mode!
Basic stage – The Magic Screen Learning Pal says a little shape and colors poem, and tells you to press a button. It will identify the color on the first press, and the shape on the second press. It also tells you the colors of it’s ears and hands when pressed.
Advanced stage – Three different games are available in this mode:
* Color Spy – The robot spies a color, and you have to match it by pressing the appropriate shape button
* Shape Spy – Same premise as Color Spy, but with shapes.
* Shape Game – The robot will display a shape on the screen, then ask if it is a certain shape. Press the appropriate hand to give your answer (green is yes, red is no). It will either reward you or correct you.
The age recommendation is over 18 months to 5 years, and I feel that is appropriate. Operation isn’t overly complicated, and the two play levels provide a good grow-with-me aspect. The younger children won’t be in over their head with the Basic stage, and can move to the Advanced stage when they’re ready.
You really get some bang for your buck with this little guy. This is one of the lesser-priced robot toys. I paid $29 for it at Wal Mart. There are no extras to buy, like tapes or modules, which is a plus for us at this stage. The durable construction in addition to Tyler’s affection for it tells me this will be a long-lasting relationship.
We really like the Magic Screen Learning Pal. It is really sparking an interest to learn in our Tyler, more than most of his other developmental and learning toys. It is providing not only the basic learning foundations, but emotional and social development as well. Tyler seems to have bonded with the little dude, and it’s fun to see him have conversations and good pretend-play with it. I’m very proud of how he’s learned the first part of the ABC Song – he’s got A-G down pat, and hits other various letters throughout the song. His number sequencing skills are progressing nicely, as well as emotional recognition – matching the emotional reactions of the robot and “comforting” it when it cries.
In the time we’ve owned the Magic Screen Learning Pal, and watching Tyler’s interaction and learning progression with it, I am convinced this is one of the best developmental toys we’ve purchased. I give the Magic Screen Learning Pal a hearty 2 thumbs up!