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Princess Polly’s Potty

One of the most demanding tasks faced by any parent, particularly the first time, is potty-training.  There is so much conflicting advice out there about how to go about it before you even start to deal with the practical issues of introducing a child to the potty, handling potty refusal, encouraging them to go without nagging, calming their anxieties and getting them to sit still long enough to let it out.

This book will not potty train your daughter for you, but it will help with some of the above.  It’s attractively drawn, girly without being excessively so (ok so it’s pink, but the vast majority of girls will go for that, and the gender division is obviously required by the subject matter) and sensitively and intelligently written.

Princess Polly and her baby sister wear nappies; her Mummy, Daddy and big brother do not.  “It’s ok for the baby to wear nappies,” says Polly, “but I want to be more grown-up than that.”  Princess Polly and her Mummy go out and choose some big girl pants and a potty (there is an opportunity for the potty trainee to pick their own favourite too) and then Polly learns how to use the potty properly.

The button on the front is an annoying but useful tool; you press it whenever Polly does something positive, and it works very well to help celebrate those all important early wee and poo successes.  The book sets out the rules for using the potty (hand washing, wiping etc) and shows Polly on the path to wearing pants.  She finds (like most children) that poo is more difficult that wee to handle, but eventually manages to do one on the potty.  She looks justifiably pleased with herself and shows it off proudly to the rest of the family.  Our three-year-old thought it looked rather like a brown sausage and was highly amused; something which you need when dealing with a process that many find scary and upsetting.

The book is educational, entertaining, ‘interactive’ and a good length to read whilst sitting on the potty waiting for something exciting to happen.  A great way to encourage young girls to learn – and there is also a boy’s version too.

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Baby Touch: Quack Quack; Playbook; Rhyme Book

The Baby Touch series was created by Ladybird books in 2005 and since then a number of books in the series have won awards. They are popular with both parents and educators for their bright, simple graphics, the variety of textures, the peekabo holes and the dialogue that they invite between parent and baby.  The Ladybird website suggests they are aimed at ages 0-2 but different books will be appropriate at different stages of that journey and with different children.

Quack Quack

This is more suitable for younger babies but is a good first word book. The animal tabs are a brilliant way to encourage babies of around 6 months and older to turn the pages themselves and the smiley faces of the various animals are very positive.  Each double page has a group of animals on the left with names and some noises, and a larger picture on the right with a textured area to touch.  The animals are grouped roughly into jungle animals, farm animals, sea creatures, pets and garden animals so will help babies starting to establish a sense of groups and categories.

The text clearly aims to encourage interaction between reader and child and to develop basic social skills.  Next to each tab is a little conversation.  “Hello, Lion. Roar!” “Miaow! Miaow! Hello, cat.” (I would like to award bonus marks for the proper spelling of miaow, which is satisfying!)  There are also built-in ‘instructions’: “Feel her soft wings”; “Baby, say “Ooo-ooo,” like a monkey.”  This is great for those who are not so confident with reading as in encourages the kind of talking that helps children develop language skills.  However it does come across as slightly patronising.

Playbook

This is a hard book to read as it leaps about all over the page and its non-linear approach makes it hard to work out what to read next.  Not one for children who like their books read the same way every time as you could never possibly remember! That said, it means there is a lot to explore and would make this of greater interest to slightly older toddlers and perhaps even those of two years plus.  There is no real theme to the book but there are some flaps, some nursery rhymes, some shapes, some textures, some holes and some animals to say hello to.  As the name suggests there are good things to play about with; plenty of things to count, for example, and various learning opportunities such as the colours of the rainbow, the basic shapes and some animal names.

Some things are very irritating, however. For some reason the ‘tall’ flower (which is fun as it has a mirror at the top) is paired with a ‘small’ one, instead of a ‘short’ one.  Only half of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is printed in the book.  The garden snail rhyme is, I think, printed wrongly.  There is a disembodied baby face which follows you disconcertingly from page to page and the final group of touchable textures makes a spurious distinction between ‘fluffy’ and ‘soft’.  The flaps, too, are poorly designed; they attach at very narrow points and are too easy for enthusiastic babies to rip.

Although you can see the premise behind this book and the play it attempts to encourage through its diverse choices of text and graphics on each page, the actual effect is too bitty and bewildering.  Young babies would simply be too distracted by the number of pictures in front of them, and for older babies the concepts are not really developed enough to make for useful learning.

Rhyme Book

This is an original way of presenting a rhyme book.  It contains five classic nursery rhymes with a large bright picture on one page and some porthole pictures on the other.  The idea is that children should spot the little pictures in the larger one – particularly good fun as some are furry!  The nursery rhymes are suitable for all ages but the picture spotting gives this book some longevity, or an activity you can do with an older sibling whilst reading to the baby.

In summary…

Overall this series has many positives.  A lot of thought has gone into each book and although the Playbook is not convincing all three have been enjoyed.  They encourage active reading and discussion between parent and child and are (for the most part) big, bright and sturdy.  Certainly it would be worth looking at other Baby Touch books to find ones that would suit your child.

What they do lack, however, is charm.  The pictures, by Fiona Land, feel like graphics, not illustrations, and to be honest the identically bland smiling faces become irritating very quickly  The learning feels a little forced, as if designed by committee (which it may well have been) and everything about them is just a little too obvious.

Excellent beginner books for babies that you can pick up and put down and leave with them to play about with.  Should probably be avoided with older toddlers who would be better served by books that develop their vocabularly in more interesting ways and introduce them to narrative.